The Portland man charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend in Acadia National Park last week nearly killed an ex-girlfriend more than 10 years ago and was physically and sexually abusive to a second romantic partner, the women said.

Nicole Mokeme Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Police last week secured an arrest warrant for Raymond Lester, 35. Nicole Mokeme, 35, his girlfriend of three years, was found dead at the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor, where she had organized a retreat for Black Mainers.

Police allege Lester fatally struck Mokeme with his BMW SUV then fled in the same vehicle and is now on the run.

In interviews, two previous girlfriends, Ashley Crissinger, 33, and Ashley Foote, 30, said Lester was a controlling boyfriend whose physical abuse escalated over time, culminating in assaults that triggered the end of their respective relationships.

Both women came forward to tell their stories in the hope that they would help secure justice for Mokeme.

They told similar stories: They were teenagers and younger than Lester when they met him. He could be a loving and affectionate partner, but had a mean, sadistic side when he did not get what he wanted. When their relationships got serious and he moved in, Lester abused them emotionally and assaulted them physically, they said.


“He is a classic abuser,” said Foote, 30, who dated Lester for about six months around 2011. A case manager at a substance use rehab facility in Sarasota, Florida, she now counsels women on the warning signs of domestic violence.

Before Lester met Foote, he dated Crissinger for four years and they had three children together. Lester was abusive to both her and the infants, who were taken by the state when they were still under 2-years-old following a daylong ordeal with Lester, Crissinger said.

She said she was 14 or 15 when she first met Lester, who was two years older. They were still in high school in Portland, and within a couple of months, they were a couple, she said. Crissinger said Lester made mean comments and would lock her in a room as a joke, but she didn’t read much into it.

She said she and Lester had a baby together when she was 18 and moved in together shortly after. Almost immediately after the birth of their son, Lester became emotionless and cold toward the child, she said. He would watch, unmoved, as the baby cried for hours, refusing to soothe him or react.


Soon he began physically abusing Crissinger.


“It was little at first, but it was pretty immediate,” Crissinger said. “Grabbing my arm if I tried to walk away. He’d slap me, or a lot of times the choking.”

Less than a year later, the couple had twins, Crissinger said. Rather than ignore them as he had his first child, Lester screamed and yelled when the twin girls cried, she said.

In 2008, when their son was a year old and the twins were still infants, Crissinger said, Lester came home around 3 a.m. after being away from the apartment for days. He had been smoking crack and was agitated, she said.

Crissinger had been up tending to the twins when he came in, and almost immediately he began to berate her and pick a fight. As they argued, Crissinger said, Lester picked up each infant and, one after the other, swung them by their ankles and tossed them onto a futon. Later, Crissinger found out he had fractured their skulls, and doctors found each had other broken bones in various states of healing.

One daughter’s head began to swell immediately, Crissinger said. She gathered the three children and fled the living room into the couple’s bedroom. As she hid, Crissinger said, Lester called his father, who showed up with a cable-style bike lock, which Lester used to lock her in the bedroom.

She stayed there for more than a day as Lester and his father smoked crack in the living room, Crissinger said. She escaped by climbing out a third-story window and into a hallway window, and returned with a friend, who ripped the lock and the doorknob off the bedroom door to get the children out.


When she went to Maine Medical Center with the babies, state caseworkers took custody of the children, but they did not pursue charges against Lester, despite Crissinger’s pleas for help, she said. They did not believe her because Lester told the caseworkers that Crissinger, who had been diagnosed previously with bipolar disorder, was mentally unstable and an unreliable narrator, she said.

Crissinger was granted a protection from abuse order in 2010 against Lester, and described at that time the abuse against their twins and herself and how Lester threatened to kill her if she told authorities.


“I tried to leave him and tell what he had done but I took it back and went back with him because he threatened to blame me and kill me if I didn’t,” Crissinger wrote in her May 24, 2010, affidavit describing why she needed court protection. “Out of fear I gave in.”

Lester was charged with violating the protection order in January 2011 and served five days in jail, according to his criminal history report.

A short time later, when Crissinger was staying with a relative, Lester let himself into her bedroom as she slept, cornered her and accused her of cheating on him with his brother. She picked up a hammer to defend herself, but Lester took it from her and hit her in the face with it, breaking her jaw and then strangled her until she lost consciousness, she said.


“I remember it hurt and I tried to fight back, but he was still on top of me,” Crissinger said. “It was like I was underwater and I couldn’t move.”

She woke up hours later and went to the hospital, and Lester was charged with felony domestic violence assault because of his prior record of convictions.

Police and doctors told her that Lester might kill her if she did not leave him.

“That was kind of a breaking point for me,” Crissinger said. “It got to the point where I was more afraid of what appeasing him and pacifying him was going to cause. I somehow got away from it.”

Around the same time, in roughly 2010 or 2011, when Lester’s relationship with Crissinger ended, he began seeing Foote.

She met Lester when she was 16 years old. He was 21.


He flirted with her and pursued her, but she rebuffed him at first. It wasn’t until she was 19 and Lester was about 24 that they got together, Foote said. They started chatting and flirting on Facebook.

“He was very charming, and I was open to it,” Foote said. “We talked for several months, and we finally went out and started dating from there.”


They moved in together fast, she said. Lester didn’t have a place to stay, and Foote, then a student at Southern Maine Community College, had a job and an apartment. At first, it was good, she said. She thought Lester was the best thing in the world.

But after about two months, she realized he was selling crack-cocaine and heroin, and using drugs as well.

Lester became more controlling, too. He insisted she quit her job because he made enough money selling drugs. He began to isolate her from her family and friends and insisted she stop communicating with them because they wanted to turn her against him. She stopped going to school and came to depend on Lester for more and more.


“It was almost like I was under a spell,” Foote said. “Slowly but surely, I didn’t have anyone to talk to but him.”

Foote also said Lester spent a lot of time with his dad, and said they used drugs together.

“He would come back and be all over the place and very irritable and like a different person,” Foote said.

She saw his capacity for violent, aggressive behavior one night when Lester came home after being away for several days. He seemed agitated, like he had not slept, and she suspected he had been on a drug binge.

“He came back, he was so strung out, he accused me of having sex with his brother and cheating on him,” Foote said. “He threw me into the wall and started screaming at me to get undressed.”

Foote, crying and scared, complied. She said Lester “inspected” her body for signs she had been with another man, and then had sex with her, although she didn’t want to.


“I was crying, and telling him to stop, and asking him what was wrong with him, why was he acting like that,” Foote said. “We had sex, and then after, he cried and apologized, said how sorry he was, things like that. I felt disgusting. I just wanted to take a shower and go to bed.”


Their relationship ended when police raided the apartment looking for drugs, but found none. During the raid, Lester saw a police officer comment on a bruise on her face and hand Foote his business card. Lester accused her of cheating on him with the officer and cornered her, enraged. She was terrified, Foote said.

The next morning she awoke before him, and felt an overwhelming urge to flee.

“He was sleeping and I packed a small bag and ran,” Foote said. “Something inside of me was saying I just needed to pack a small bag and go as far away from that house as I could go. So that’s what I did.”

Foote said it was the most terrifying relationship of her life.


“I know that his behavior and his patterns and the way he manipulates is so he can gain control over whoever he’s with and abuse them,” Foote said. “And honestly, I think that he is a very dark person, and he has a very dark side, and he’s evil.”

The descriptions of Lester’s behavior fit with what domestic violence advocates in Maine say is a pattern of how intimate partner violence can escalate into more serious crimes, including killing a spouse or girlfriend. In the last 20 years, about half of all murders in Maine have been connected to domestic violence.

Lester’s five domestic violence related convictions – four convictions for assault and one for violating a protection order – spanned 2008 to 2011, before Maine legislators passed two laws designed to prevent escalating patterns of abuse. One of those laws, enacted in 2015, requires police or jail staff, before bail is set, to conduct a risk assessment designed to help predict if someone will commit a new domestic violence crime.

The second law, passed in 2017, encourages judges to sentence convicted abusers to batterer intervention programs, which are evidence-based treatment regimens that help break cycles of abuse.


Francine Garland Stark, the executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said that the aspects of Lester’s relationships that Foote and Crissinger described fit the pattern of controlling behavior common to almost all domestic abusers, and that about just over half of the people in Maine who have been convicted of murder that involves domestic violence in the last two decades have a history of repeatedly assaulting their partners.


“When we see domestic violence homicide, we see (the perpetrators) have a history of abusing other partners, as well,” she said.

Stark has questions about how Lester’s cases moved through the criminal justice system, and highlighted how his arrests and convictions predate laws enacted to elevate domestic violence crimes and enhance scrutiny of alleged perpetrators.

Domestic violence strangulation, for instance, was classified as its own type of felony in 2014, after Lester’s arrest for that conduct, with a far-longer potential sentence.

In 2018, the state set aside funding to pay for indigent abusers to attend batterer intervention programs, and in 2021, legislators passed a law that requires judges to give a reason for not sentencing a domestic violence abuser to an intervention as part of a sentence.

Stark said it is a community responsibility to do more to call out early signs of problematic behavior.

“These tragedies are sort of the culmination of often years of behavior that really is a pattern of this person acting in a way that puts their partners in a position of fear – and they use all kinds of tactics to coerce obedience and compliance along the way,” Stark said.

“How do we create community in which men understand they cannot be this way, and they don’t have this right to determine whether women live or die?”

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