Raymond Lester enters Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth on Wednesday. Lester is accused of killing Nicole Mokeme with his car in Acadia National Park in 2022. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

ELLSWORTH — A dozen jurors stepped off a coach bus into a chilly fall day at Acadia National Park on Wednesday.

It was an unconventional start to what is scheduled to be a seven-day trial of Raymond Lester, who is charged with murder in the hit-and-run death of his former girlfriend, Nicole Mokeme.

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

Led by Hancock County Superior Justice Robert Murray, jurors saw the building where Mokeme had stayed during the Juneteenth weekend in 2022 and the walking trail where her body was found early on the morning of June 19.

Mokeme, 35, was attending a Black Excellence retreat she had helped organize. She was surrounded by a community of people she had known for years and their families. During the day, they walked the streets of Bar Harbor and went sailing. At night, they enjoyed each other’s company around a campfire near their bunkhouse.

Prosecutors say Lester, 37, ran over Mokeme with his SUV on June 18, 2022, before fleeing the campsite and evading police for nearly a month before he was arrested in Cancun, Mexico.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin described Mokeme’s retreat as a chance for Black, brown and Indigenous people to gather, relax and enjoy one of the most beautiful places in the state.


“It should have been a joyful occasion,” Robbin said. But Lester’s presence hung over them like a “dark cloud,” she said.

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

The night before Mokeme’s body was found, Lester was driving around the park in his black SUV, playing a “violent” rap song and drinking Grey Goose vodka straight from the bottle, Robbin said.

Lester’s defense attorney, Caitlyn Smith, told jurors that the state’s case is all speculative. She said no one witnessed Mokeme’s death, let alone Lester hitting her with his car and intentionally killing her.

The state’s case is also complicated by the fact that police have never recovered the car they say he used to kill Mokeme.

Maine State Police Sgt. Micah Perkins said Wednesday that the car could have blood stains or fingerprints that could have led to a DNA match. Detective Chad Lindsey said police also would have been able to determine if the plastic they found fit the car, like missing puzzle pieces.


Lester pleaded not guilty to the charge in October. To find Lester guilty, Smith said, prosecutors have to prove Lester was the one who hit Mokeme, that he was there the night she died and that he killed her intentionally.

Prosecutors are expected to call dozens of witnesses during trial, including people who attended the retreat and the officers who investigated her death.


Robbin spent most of Wednesday familiarizing jurors with the Schoodic Institute and the way Mokeme’s body was found – face down, no shoes, surrounded by pieces of plastic. There were tire tracks leading from the trail where she was found to a parking lot.

Ryan Henry, one of more than a dozen Massachusetts Maritime Academy cadets who were attending a separate event at the Schoodic Institute that week, testified that he was out early that morning when he spotted what he thought was a pile of clothes along the road.

“Then I got closer and discovered it was a body,” said Henry.


He didn’t have cell service and couldn’t call 911, so he said he ran back to get his professors.

Schoodic EMS Chief Ken Monroe was one of the first people on the scene. He testified Wednesday that Mokeme’s body was “cold to the touch.”

Soon investigators with Maine State Police arrived and found her head covering in the woods and her sandals a few feet behind her.


In opening statements, Robbin said Mokeme was last seen alive late the night of June 18, 2022, cleaning the pavilion. Robbin said prosecutors had reviewed Mokeme’s phone records, and learned she made one call that night to Lester. Robbin didn’t say whether he answered or what they discussed.

When police arrived the next day, others at the retreat had tried to find Mokeme and Lester, before they knew she was dead, Robbin said.


Lester was already gone.

Robbin said he likely left the park around midnight, leaving his personal belongings unpacked in the room he was sharing with Mokeme. She said shards from a vodka bottle were scattered around the road leaving the park.

His SUV was spotted outside Boston shortly before 4 p.m. on June 19. He was in Warwick, Rhode Island, about an hour later, according to cellphone data. Robbin said he left his phone at a Walmart there.

Police in Georgia and Texas later tracked the SUV in their states using license plate readers.

Jurors will return to Hancock County Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Prosecutors said Wednesday afternoon that they expect to call as witnesses one more state trooper and several people who were at the retreat.

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