Over and over, the jury looked at photographs of Alicia Gaston’s left hand.

Her slender fingers. Her gold wedding band. Her blood.

Alicia Gaston Press Herald file photo

Over and over, two experts pointed to the photographs to support competing theories about her death. They were the last witnesses in the trial of Noah Gaston, who shot and killed his wife on Jan. 14, 2016. He is charged with murder and manslaughter. The state and the defense rested their cases Tuesday, and jury deliberations will begin Wednesday.

Gaston did not testify. He told police he thought his 34-year old wife was an intruder in their Windham home, but the state has said he intended to kill Alicia Gaston, or at least knew he was shooting at her. The two sides presented different findings Tuesday about the distance between shooter and victim, which has emerged as a central question in the trial.

The state’s final witness was Kimberly James, a senior lab scientist at the Maine State Crime Laboratory in Augusta.

James testified about her conclusion that Alicia Gaston’s hand was no more than 18 inches from the muzzle of her husband’s shotgun when he fired. The fatal shot appears to have grazed the woman’s hand before it hit her abdomen, and James based her opinion on that hand wound, as well as markings from that first contact. In particular, she said a black mark on Alicia Gaston’s ring finger was soot expelled from the shotgun. Tests on Gaston’s shotgun showed soot would not have been visible in that way if the target was more than 18 inches from the muzzle.


Because the shot hit the woman’s hand first, James said it would have influenced its path. So she did not use the main wound to estimate the distance between Alicia Gaston’s abdomen and the muzzle of the shotgun, even though the spread pattern of birdshot can help determine the distance of a target.

“Once it hit her hand, the pattern was disrupted,” James said. “There’s an intervening object that no longer makes that a true pattern.”

Noah Gaston

The only witness called by the defense was Dr. Jonathan Arden, a forensic pathologist who used to work as a government medical examiner and is now a private consultant. Arden agreed with a finding by Maine Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Mark Flomenbaum that the wound path was right to left, front to back and slightly downward. But Flomenbaum had not estimated the distance traveled by the fatal shot. Arden did, and he disagreed with James.

He said the contact with Alicia Gaston’s hand was not significant in a practical way, and the black mark on her finger was not soot expelled into the air from the shotgun, but rather a transfer from the shot cup itself as it passed. He estimated Alicia Gaston’s abdomen and the muzzle of the shotgun were between 1 and 2 yards apart.

“These pellets had started to separate,” Arden said about the birdshot. “They hadn’t gotten very, very far apart, but they had started to separate.”

The attorneys from both sides lobbed technical questions about the pattern that pellets can make on the edge of a gunshot wound, and the pattern left on the skin by gunpowder. Both can be indicators of distance, but the scientists gave them different weight in their conclusions. The attorneys also both tried to discredit the experts for not having done the right tests, or enough of them.

Noah Gaston sat silently through the trial. On Tuesday afternoon, he huddled with his attorneys for a whispered conversation before a guard escorted him from the courtroom. He has been in custody at the Cumberland County Jail since his arrest in January 2016.

On his left hand, he wore his own gold wedding band.

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