A Portland man charged with murder in the hit-and-run death of his girlfriend last summer is scheduled for jury trial this week.

Raymond Lester, 37, is accused of killing Nicole Mokeme with his SUV at Acadia National Park in June 2022.

Nicole Mokeme was the founder of Rise and Shine Youth Retreat in Bowdoin. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Mokeme, who lived in South Portland, was well-known for her work empowering Black and Indigenous people through nature.

Jury selection began Monday in Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth and opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning. It’s unclear how long the trial will last.

Lester was charged in late June 2022, but it wasn’t until about a month later that the U.S. Marshals Service arrested him in Cancun, Mexico.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Maine Attorney General, which is prosecuting Lester, declined to discuss the trial and Lester’s case Monday.


Lester’s defense attorneys, William Ashe and Caitlyn Smith, did not respond to an email Monday asking to discuss Lester’s trial.

Mokeme and Lester were attending a Black Excellence Retreat that Mokeme organized at the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor when she was killed.

Raymond Lester Courtesy of Hancock County Jail

Mokeme, 35, organized countless retreats and other similar events through her organization, Rise and Shine Youth Retreat. She was featured by the Portland Press Herald in 2020 as a “Mainer to be Thankful For.” She told the Press Herald at the time how she fell in love with camping during her first trip and started weekend camping getaways for teens of color.

Police found Mokeme’s body early on the morning of June 19 after receiving a 911 call around 6:20 a.m., according to a U.S. Marshals Service affidavit for Lester’s arrest.

She was lying on a paved walking path with “obvious trauma” to her lower back and legs, according to the affidavit. There were several pieces of black plastic near her body and tire tracks leading from the parking lot to the walking trail where Mokeme was found.

Officers spoke with several people who attended the retreat who said Lester had been drunk the previous night, the affidavit states, driving “dangerously fast” around the campgrounds in a “newer style” black SUV, playing loud music and drinking. He was nowhere to be found the next morning.


Some of the witnesses who spoke with police said they tried to talk to Lester while he was driving, the affidavit says.

Another witness told police they had seen Mokeme on her phone “with a worried look on her face,” the affidavit states. They were gathered around a fire pit when she left to make a call around 10:30 p.m., the witness said.

They didn’t see her again until her body was found the next day.

People who attended the retreat told police that Lester had told them he needed to be in Portland on June 19 for work, according to the affidavit, but they thought he was planning to come back.

But his SUV was spotted in Canton, Massachusetts, that afternoon, according to the affidavit.

Authorities tracked Lester’s cellphone to Warwick, Rhode Island, the next day. Police in Georgia and Texas later tracked the SUV in their states, using license plate readers.


After Lester was arrested in Mexico, he was brought back to Maine and was being held at the Hancock County Jail before his trial.

Ashe was appointed to represent him in August after Lester’s original attorneys, Steven Juskewitch and Tina Nadeau, withdrew from the case, according to court records.

Nadeau declined to comment on why she withdrew from Lester’s case, and Juskewitch did not return a phone call Monday afternoon.

Court records show that Lester wrote Superior Justice Robert Murray letters “in regards to his attorneys” in July. Murray impounded those letters on July 17, according to court records, and they were not publicly available on Oct. 18.

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