The staircase was built to be an exact replica of the place where Alicia Gaston died nearly four years ago, and it towered in the Portland courtroom where her husband is now on trial.

Noah Gaston has said he mistook her for an intruder that dark January morning, but prosecutors have said he intended to kill her, or at least knew he was shooting at his 34-year-old wife. He is charged with murder and manslaughter.

Alicia Gaston Press Herald file photo

Later Monday, the jury visited the real staircase in the Windham home where the shooting took place, but the unusual model of the stairway was allowed in the courtroom that morning as a demonstrative aid. Both sides tried to use it to advance their theories of the case.

Maine State Police Detective Larry Rose climbed the stairs with a blue replica of the shotgun. The prosecutor and defense attorney asked him to stand in different positions on the landing, and they stretched a string from the end of the muzzle to show the path of the projectile. During their questions, a central dispute emerged about which hand Gaston used to pull the trigger of the gun, because how he held the gun could have changed his view of his wife’s approaching figure on the stairs.

Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam positioned Rose with the shotgun on the left side of his body because Gaston is left-handed. Colored ribbons on the string marked the possible distances between the victim and the muzzle of the fake gun. A blue one indicated 18 inches, which would have likely placed the young mother only one or two steps down from the landing at the top of the steps. That position is the state’s theory based on other pieces of evidence, including blood spatter. A red ribbon indicated 4 feet, which was one of the numbers Gaston used in police interviews when he estimated the space between himself and his wife.

But Elam tried to show that the narrow staircase and the possible trajectories of the shot made that distance impossible in most scenarios.

Noah Gaston

“Is there any way a person on the first or second step could be 4 feet away from the muzzle of the gun?” Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam asked as Rose stood in one spot.

“No,” Rose answered as he held the mock gun.

Defense attorney Rob Andrews asked Rose to hold the shotgun on the right side of his body instead. He argued that even though Noah Gaston is left-handed, the gun is made for right-handed people and he would have fired it that way. He asked Rose to stand in a different spot on the landing, which would not have been possible if he was using his left hand to pull the trigger.

“At 4 feet, could a person be on the stairwell?” Andrews asked.

“They could be, at this angle,” Rose answered.

Maine State Police Detective Larry Rose holds a mock shotgun as if firing with his right hand while standing on a replica of the staircase in the Windham home where Noah Gaston shot and killed his wife, Alicia Gaston. Defense attorney Rob Andrews holds a string to show the potential path of the shot. Megan Gray/Staff Writer

Similar questions continued when Maine State Police Sgt. Chris Farley took the witness stand. Farley was a detective and one of the investigators at the time of the shooting. He participated in an unsuccessful attempt to videotape the lighting conditions in the house before sunrise. The shooting happened about an hour before sunrise.

Farley also helped with another demonstration at the house using a forensic mannequin and a rod representing the wound path.

Andrews, the defense attorney, questioned him about those efforts, asking him how they came to place the mannequin so close to the landing. Farley testified that it was unlikely the victim was actually 4 to 6 feet from the muzzle of the gun, based on the measurements of the stairs and the landing.

“You didn’t do anything to figure out what hand he was using to hold that shotgun, either?” Andrews asked.

Maine State Police Detectives Ethel Ross, left, and Larry Rose leave the house at 37 Brookhaven Drive in Windham on Monday. Jurors in Noah Gaston’s trial were led through the house by a court officer after attorneys, Justice Michaela Murphy and other court personnel toured the house. Ross and Rose investigated the shooting. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“My goal when we put the rod in the wound path was to depict the flight path coming out of a shotgun,” Farley answered. “I was not trying to determine right- or left-handed.”

“Because you didn’t recognize the significance that would have … on what a person would have been able to see,” Andrews said.

But Elam repeatedly pulled up a still photo captured during the police interview with Gaston on Jan. 14, 2016, the morning he shot Alicia Gaston. Still wearing his plaid pajama bottoms, Gaston was explaining his version of events to the investigators. At one point, he mimed raising the gun.

He positioned his left hand closer to his face, as if that pointer finger were on the trigger.

“Is he demonstrating shooting right-handed or left-handed?” Elam asked Farley.

“Left-handed,” the sergeant answered.

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