Zachary Phach, center, listens to Justice John O’Neil during a pretrial motion hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland in June. Phach has agreed to plead guilty to several charges. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The man accused of pulling the trigger in a deadly 2012 shooting has pleaded guilty to one count of felony murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Zachary Phach, 33, entered the plea Tuesday morning – 11 years to the day after Matthew Blanchard’s death. Prosecutors made their offer “at the 11th hour” Monday night, his attorney Timothy Zerillo said.

The court was preparing to begin jury selection for a trial next week.

“Our point of view is that we got this offer because we were ready to go, ready to try the case and ready to put on a good defense case,” Zerillo said Tuesday.

Phach was accused of killing Blanchard during a shooting in downtown Portland that injured two of his brothers.

Phach will serve 12 years of a 30-year prison sentence, according to a plea agreement his attorneys reached with prosecutors from the Office of the Maine Attorney General.


Cumberland County Superior Court Justice John O’Neil is scheduled to sentence Phach on Dec. 11.

A spokesperson for Assistant Attorneys General Bud Ellis and Lara Nomani confirmed the terms of the plea agreement but declined to comment on the case.

Matthew Blanchard

Phach was arrested in California early in 2021 and brought back to the Cumberland County Jail. He was charged with murder and attempted murder in the shootings of Blanchard and his brothers, who all were walking in downtown Portland when the attack occurred early on July 11, 2012.

Prosecutors agreed to drop several charges against Phach, including aggravated attempted murder, two counts of elevated aggravated assault, and conspiracy to commit intentional murder, in exchange for the plea. 

They also agreed to reduce the original charge of intentional or knowing murder to a lesser felony murder charge. 

A person is guilty of felony murder if a death is caused while committing or trying to commit a felony, such as robbery, burglary or kidnapping. Felony murder has more lenient sentencing guidelines, with a maximum of 30 years and the possibility of early release. Knowing or intentional murder carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 25 years in prison, judges are unable to suspend any portion of the sentences and those convicted cannot earn early release.


Phach was one of two defendants arrested for Blanchard’s death. Khang Tran, 29, also was indicted in 2021 on several charges including murder, aggravated attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy. Prosecutors dropped most of the charges against Tran last fall after he pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy and was sentenced to four years in prison.

At the time of the shooting, police said the killing appeared to be random. But when they announced the arrests almost a decade later, police said Tran directed Phach to bring a gun to the area so they could settle a “beef” with Blanchard and his brothers.

Police identified Phach as a suspect through a jailhouse informant in 2014. Last week, the judge denied requests to throw out evidence from that informant, which Phach’s attorneys argued was not credible.

Interim Portland Police Chief Robert Martin said in a statement Tuesday that he was proud of the department’s work in the case.

“This plea will not bring back Matt, I hope that it will bring closure for the Blanchard family,” Martin said. “These arrests and guilty pleas are the result of hundreds of hours of work by dozens of investigators, over the past 11 years. I want to assure the families of our other unsolved homicides that we are working to bring closure for them. An unsolved homicide case is never closed and will always remain assigned to a detective.”

Blanchard was living in Gray but staying in Portland at the time of the shooting, unable to spend time in an apartment that he had shared with his girlfriend, who had died two weeks earlier in a car accident. Blanchard was driving and had fallen asleep at the wheel.

He was still recovering from the crash when he died, wearing a cast on his foot and pushing himself with a bicycle. He and his brothers were shot at around 1 a.m., after Blanchard had bought snacks from a store near the corner of Congress and India streets.

Blanchard was shot in the chest and pronounced dead at Maine Medical Center. Two of his brothers were treated for non-life-threatening injuries and another brother was not wounded, although their father told the Portland Press Herald in 2021 that the young men will “never be fully recovered from what happened.”

Blanchard’s family couldn’t be reached Tuesday to comment on the plea agreement.

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