AUGUSTA — A jury convicted Justin Pillsbury of murder Thursday in the November 2013 stabbing death of his girlfriend.

The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours before returning the verdict just before 5 p.m. at the Capital Judicial Center on the fourth day of Pillsbury’s trial.

Pillsbury, 41, was charged with stabbing his 24-year-old girlfriend, Jillian T. Jones, to death on Nov. 13, 2013.

Pillsbury’s attorneys had argued that he acted in self-defense and killed Jones after she came at him with a knife in Michael St. Pierre’s apartment at 32 Crosby St. in Augusta. Police found four bloodied knives, with Pillsbury’s DNA on three and a mixture of his and her DNA on the fourth.

Prosecutors said Pillsbury was jealous and killed Jones after the couple argued about Jones’ communicating with another man on her cellphone. Her body was found on the floor in the bathroom. Rescue personnel found Pillsbury facedown on the floor of the kitchen after stabbing himself in the neck.

Justice Michaela Murphy told jurors Thursday that they could find Pillsbury guilty of murder or manslaughter, or could decide he acted in self-defense and find him not guilty.

About 3 p.m., the jury returned to the courtroom to hear parts of the taped interview in which Pillsbury talked about Jones holding a knife in the bathroom, as well as parts of his testimony.

In that testimony, Pillsbury said Jones was violent when drinking hard alcohol. He testified that during one fight in summer 2013, Jones bit his eyelid and would have torn it off if he had not grabbed her around the neck.

Pillsbury, who has been in jail since his arrest on Nov. 15, 2013, wore a dark suit, a light shirt and a tie while testifying for almost two hours Thursday.

Pillsbury said he stabbed Jones only after she came after him with a knife, cutting him above the eye and on the hand and forearm as he tried to disarm her.

“I didn’t intend to kill the love of my life,” Pillsbury testified. “I was intoxicated.”

Pillsbury said he didn’t recall everything that occurred as he struggled with Jones.

“I didn’t remember the little details; what I remember is I killed her,” Pillsbury said on the witness stand.

“It started out as a joking type of thing,” Pillsbury said, describing his taking her cellphone and her demanding it back from him. He said it became serious after she stabbed him.

In response to a question from Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, Pillsbury acknowledged that at 6-foot-4 and about 200 pounds, he was about a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than Jones.

Pillsbury said he had moved to Augusta from his Benton apartment two weeks earlier to be closer to his construction work in Augusta. He said he was staying with St. Pierre until he could get his own apartment and that Jones stayed with him during the week. Jones, who grew up in Bingham, was attending beauty school in Waterville.

In his closing argument, Macomber told jurors they had to decide which version of events to believe.

“What you have here is a tale of two Justins – the version he told to Detective (Christopher) Tremblay and the version he told to you folks on the stand,” he said.

Macomber said a trail of Pillsbury’s blood on a door shows that Pillsbury was trying to get into the bathroom to kill Jones.

“Justin Pillsbury was not acting in self-defense,” Macomber argued. “He didn’t believe that she was going to kill him. He didn’t believe that he had to kill her to defend himself, and he’s the one that provoked the encounter that night.”

Macomber said the stories differ in that Pillsbury told detectives he demanded she unlock her phone, but on the stand he testified that his grabbing her phone started as a joke and changed only after she got upset because he would not return it to her.

In his closing argument for the defense, attorney Stephen Smith said the knife fight occurred rapidly when both Pillsbury and Jones were drunk and that Jones came after Pillsbury with a knife in the bathroom.

“Justin didn’t choose to have her come at him with a knife while he was drunk,” Smith argued. “He simply had to do the best he could with the situation at hand, and frankly, the best he could was what he had to do, and that was neutralize that threat.”

Smith said Jones had proved violent on prior occasions.

“When she came at him with that knife, the choices became very narrow, very limited,” Smith said.

Smith said grief drove Pillsbury to attempt to kill himself afterward.

Thursday’s proceedings were watched by about 40 people sitting in the public area of the courtroom.

Jones’ family and friends were in the first two rows behind the prosecutor. Pillsbury’s sister sat on a front bench behind the defendant. Family and friends indicated they did not wish to comment after the verdict.

A sentencing hearing will be held at a later date.


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