ALFRED — A Limington man who was accused of murdering his neighbor with a machete was found guilty Friday, nearly four years after police found the victim’s body under a pile of deer hides and debris.

In closing arguments in York County Superior Court on Friday, Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis displays the machete that police allege Bruce Akers used to kill his neighbor Douglas Flint in Limington in 2016. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Bruce Akers’ trial for the 2016 killing of Douglas Flint lasted five days in York County Superior Court. Akers, 61, did not react when the jury foreperson announced the verdict Friday afternoon, but Flint’s family members applauded and cries. The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for more than four hours.

Family members reported Flint missing in June 2016. Police searched Akers’ property in Limington and found Flint’s mangled body. He was 55.

Akers faces of a minimum of 25 years to life in prison. He will be sentenced at a later date.

The prosecutor accused Akers of killing Flint with a machete during a fight over allegations of stolen alcohol. The defense attorneys argued that the state did not prove that Akers was the person who killed Flint, focusing on their claim that Akers was experiencing a major mental illness at that time.

Akers does have a history of mental health diagnoses and psychiatric hospitalization, which took on a central role in the trial.

The difference between murder and manslaughter under Maine law is in the required state of mind. To reach the murder conviction, the state had to prove that Akers acted intentionally or knowingly to cause Flint’s death. Manslaughter is a lesser but included offense, and that conviction requires the state to prove that the defendant acted recklessly or with criminal negligence to cause that death.

The judge read both definitions to the jury before they began their deliberations, and he also explained the law related to abnormal condition of the mind. If the jury believed Akers killed Flint, they also needed to decide whether he had a mental illness and whether it affected his thinking at the time.

Bruce Akers and his attorney Kristine Hanly watch as jurors are polled individually by a court clerk about their verdict in York County Superior Court on Friday. The jury found Akers guilty of murdering his neighbor Douglas Flint. Akers’ state of mind at the time of the killing was a primary question in the case. A psychiatrist for the defense said that Akers had a “break from reality,” while a experts called by the state disagreed. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“The ultimate question is not whether Mr. Akers had an abnormal condition of the mind, but whether he acted intentionally or knowingly on June 9, 2016,” Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas said.

The jurors heard testimony from Flint’s relatives, law enforcement who investigated the case and scientists from the Maine State Police Crime Lab. But two full days of the trial were dedicated to mental health professionals who offered conflicting opinions on the case.

The attorneys delivered their closing arguments Friday morning.

Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis said Akers acted in a fit of rage when he struck Flint more than a dozen times with a machete. He emphasized that a psychiatrist and three psychologists who evaluated Akers for the state did not believe he was experiencing delusions or psychosis at that time.

“This is a man who acted intentionally with each one of his chops,” Ellis said.

The prosecutor told the jury to consider the things Akers did in the 24 hours after Flint’s slaying. He said Akers hid the body so the relatives that came and went from Flint’s house would not see it, did laundry to clean his bloody clothes and then visited his sons to distribute his property between them.

“This is a thought process,” Ellis said. “This is judgment. This is no break from reality.”

Defense attorney Valerie Randall said the police investigation was flawed and incomplete. But she focused most of her closing argument on the evidence about Akers’ mental health. A psychiatrist who testified for the defense said Akers has bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and he experiences paranoia to the point of delusion.

“His symptoms, his persecutory paranoid delusions, particularly when combined with consumption of alcohol, would have had a significant impact on his mental state,” Randall said.

She also asked the jury to think about the statements Akers made in a recorded conversation with police before his arrest. She characterized his statements as bizarre and rambling, and she highlighted a story he told about a neighbor poisoning his dogs. That conversation is evidence of the distorted reality in which he lived, Randall told the jury.

“You don’t need to be an expert to know that Bruce Akers was severely mentally ill,” the defense attorney said.

Two hours into their deliberations, the jury sent a question to the judge. Before police arrested Akers, he had complained of chest pain, so they took him to the emergency room at Maine Medical Center. Multiple witnesses testified about a record from his discharge, which referenced paranoid thinking, and the jury asked if they could see that paper. The judge told them that the record itself was not an exhibit in the case, so they would need to rely on testimony about what it said.

The victim’s family members left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. They hugged the prosecutors and police investigators before they exited. Outside the courthouse, Ellis said he felt gratified for the family.

“It was really about his state of mind, and our position was that he knew exactly what he was doing,” Ellis said. “He snapped, as I said in court. He went nuts and killed the man – using the vernacular, not the medical sense.”

Randall and co-counsel attorney Kristine Hanly left with their client when he was escorted out of the courtroom by a jail guard.

“Even though the trial is over, we still have a long road ahead, especially given that the mental health issues raised at trial will be an important aspect at sentencing in this case,” Randall wrote in an email Friday night.

She said Akers has not yet decided whether he wants to appeal, but the defense preserved the right to do so on a number of issues. She cited a motion to suppress and a request to modify the jury instructions related to abnormal condition of the mind, which were both denied.

Akers did not testify or speak at all in front of the jury. He sat quietly through the entire trial, occasionally taking notes or whispering with his two attorneys. His flat expression did not change.

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