ROCKLAND — A Thomaston man was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing another inmate at the prison farm in Warren in 2018.

Zachary Titus with his attorney Steven Peterson during a plea hearing in December in the Knox County court. Stephen Betts/The Courier-Gazette

Justice Bruce Mallonee sentenced 36-year-old Zachary Titus to 18 years in prison with all but eight years suspended during a hearing Friday in Knox County Superior Court. Titus will serve four years probation after his release.

Titus pleaded guilty on Dec. 17 to manslaughter in exchange for dismissal of a murder charge in connection with the June 24, 2018, strangulation of 28-year-old Dana R. Bartlett at the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren.

Titus was serving a two-year prison term for felony theft at the time of Bartlett’s death. That two-year sentence was completed in September 2020, but he remained in custody after waiving his right to a bail hearing in the Bartlett case.

The only issue to be settled Friday was how much additional time Titus would spend in prison.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea sought an additional 12 years, while defense attorneys Steven Peterson and Naomi Cohen asked for five. Manslaughter has a 30-year maximum sentence.

Zainea listed several aggravating factors, including the impact Bartlett’s death had on his family. The prosecutor also said that Bartlett had suffered as Titus kept him in a choke-hold.

The assistant attorney general said Titus initially denied he killed Bartlett and has yet to show any remorse.

Zainea said a final aggravating factor is Titus’ criminal record, which includes gross sexual assault in 1999 and a domestic violence assault in 2009. Titus also has numerous lesser convictions including writing bad checks, burglary of a motor vehicle and drug possession.

Witnesses said Bartlett initiated the fight that led to his death. It began as an argument about stolen cigarettes, according to court documents.

Titus went to a corrections officer on June 24, 2018, and said Bartlett needed help, according to an affidavit filed in February 2019 by State Police Detective Joshua Birmingham. The officer performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and administered Narcan to Bartlett, not knowing what had occurred. The officer and emergency medical personnel were unable to revive him, the affidavit said.

Witnesses later said they saw Titus put Bartlett in a choke-hold during the fatal altercation.

Titus said during the hearing that he had often talked with Bartlett, and that Bartlett had encouraged him to get his high school equivalency, which Titus later received.

“I’m sorry for the death of Dana. I wish I could have met him outside the Department of Corrections,” Titus said.

Titus is also under investigation for trafficking in prison contraband at the Knox County Jail, the prosecutor said.

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