Raymond Lester listens as a witness testifies on the first day of his trial in 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 — Witnesses taking the stand Thursday on the second day of the trial of murder suspect Raymond Lester testified that he was behaving aggressively and driving dangerously during the June 2022 retreat when Nicole Mokeme was killed.

Lester is accused of running over 35-year-old Mokeme of South Portland with his SUV at the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor on June 18 of last year.

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

Jenny Paige Steele of Friends of Acadia, who led a kayak tour at Mokeme’s Black Excellence retreat, testified that Lester’s mood changed drastically over a short time.

“I remember Raymond just looking at the sky and talking about how lovely it was out there. Then something changed dramatically within 20 minutes,” Steele said. “Something happened, and he just snapped emotionally speaking.”

Steele said Lester’s bad mood and aggression toward Mokeme made the kayak trip uncomfortable.

“I just heard a lot of cursing and a lot of yelling. He was screaming ‘(expletive) you, (expletive) this, (expletive) that,’ ” Steele continued. “I heard a lot of expletives and a lot of yelling. He was very angry, contorted, she was just sitting with her face completely stonewall-faced.”


Lester is represented by Bangor defense attorney Caitlyn Smith and Ellsworth attorney William Ashe. Assistant Attorneys General Leanne Robbin and Bud Ellis represent the state, and Hancock County Superior Court Justice Robert Murray is presiding over the trial.

The trial resumed for its second day with Maine State Police Detective Joshua Lander being called to the witness stand, where he described photos he had taken with a surveillance drone. The photos depicted tire marks in the area where Mokeme was found dead.

Next on the stand was Gillian Sinnott, a South Portland restaurant server who lived in the same apartment building as Mokeme. She told the jury that Lester was a frequent visitor to Mokeme’s apartment and that his visits were not always pleasant based on what she heard through the wall. Sinnott said that shouting and door-slamming were frequent occurrences, and that arguments often ended with Lester’s vehicle peeling out of the driveway.

“Arguing – you couldn’t hear any specific words that were being said – more or less the tone which became more aggressive. There were arguments that I heard, then (door) slamming, then quiet, and it would repeat,” Sinnott said. “The arguing and then the slam, and then you would hear the car pull out.”

Desiree Bargas and David Patrick worked with Mokeme organizing the retreat where she was killed. Both testified that Lester was driving erratically and listening to loud music during the retreat.

“Raymond was in a vehicle off in the distance separated from everybody else,” Bargas said. “There was loud, obnoxious music being played. The same song over and over.”


“This was really violent music, and it was on replay,” Patrick said.

Bargas told the court that Lester had nearly crashed into her vehicle in the parking lot at the Schoodic Institute. “Somebody almost hit my car, and that somebody was Raymond,” said Bargas.

Patrick testified that his children, aged 3 and 6 at the time, had almost been struck by Lester in his vehicle.

“Just driving way too fast for what’s appropriate there,” Patrick said. “He was driving erratically, pretty dangerously, almost hit my kids, and left.”

Bradley Hughes testified that he tried to speak to Lester about his driving during the retreat.

“I don’t think at the time that he recognized I was talking to him,” Hughes said. “He was slurring his speech; I could tell he was drunk. I could smell alcohol on his breath. The way he was driving was not safe.”

Several witnesses said they had confronted Lester about his behavior, but that he had acted aggressively in response.

“I said, ‘Please stop playing this music, my parents are here.’ He just made it louder and continued to look at me straight in the face,” recalled Hanna Naji, a longtime friend of Mokeme. “He almost hit a bunch of us. We felt like we had to leave.”

The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 3.

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