ALFRED – Timothy Ortiz acted in self-defense when he shot Jonathan Methot two years ago inside a Biddeford apartment being used as a drug den, the man’s lawyer told a jury Wednesday.

In their opening statements, Ortiz’ defense lawyer, Mark Peltier, and Robert Ellis, an assistant attorney general and one of the prosecutors in the murder case, told nearly identical stories about the events leading up to the shooting that killed Methot.

But they diverged on the motive.

Methot, 30, lived a West Cutts Street duplex with his mother. The other half of the duplex was an apartment where drugs were sold and used, Peltier and Ellis said. Ortiz, from New York City, frequently stayed at the apartment, Methot’s mother, Cheryl Methot, told a reporter shortly after the shooting.

On Sept. 25, Methot – upset over a $40 drug transaction earlier in the evening – went next door to argue, both lawyers said. Methot had $1,600 in his wallet at the time, Peltier said.

Ortiz was not in the apartment. Bethany Cox, who had been hired as a driver by Ortiz, sent Ortiz a text to tell him about the dispute, and when Ortiz got back inside the apartment, he became embroiled in it, the lawyers said, and Methot put his hands around Ortiz’s neck. The two lawyers agreed that Cox got between the two and was able to get them to back off slightly, but Peltier said Methot never took his hands from Oritz’ neck.

Ortiz then took a .357 cal. Ruger handgun from his waistband and pointed it at Methot over Cox’s head, fired and missed and then fired twice more, Ellis said. One of the shots hit Methot in the face, severing his carotid artery, Ellis said.

People ran from the apartment, Ellis said, and a friend of Methot’s dragged him onto the porch, where he died within minutes.

Ortiz later told Cox, “don’t cry for him, he used you as a shield,” Ellis said.

Ortiz was arrested later that day in Portland, where he was held initially on a probation violation related to sex trafficking and drug charges in New York. He was charged with murder four days later.

Peltier told the jury that, outside of police and experts, most of the testimony in the case will come from people who were using and selling drugs at the time of the shooting.

“Don’t get lost in their stories,” Peltier told the jury. “Timothy took the actions he took to defend himself.”

Ellis admitted the state’s case will not be without blemishes. He told the jury that DNA and ballistics evidence may not be clear-cut. But he said prosecutors are sure that Ortiz’s motive in the shooting was to try to “settle the score” over the $40 deal.

Jurors were picked Tuesday. The state is expected to wrap up its case Friday or early next week. Ortiz’s lawyers expect to need a couple of days for their case, so the jury will likely have the case by the middle of next week. Peltier said he hasn’t decided whether to have his client testify.

If convicted, Ortiz could face a sentence of 25 years to life. The case is being tried in York County Superior Court.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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