Aristotle Stilley hugs attorney Stephen Shea after a jury found him not guilty of murder in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Thursday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A young man who spent the last three years in jail was acquitted Thursday of murder and aggravated assault charges tied to a shooting eight years ago. 

A jury found Aristotle Stilley, 27, not guilty after a week of testimony and roughly nine hours of deliberation.

David Anderson Photo courtesy of Anderson family

Stilley embraced both of his lawyers before he was taken out of the courtroom to be processed out of the Cumberland County Jail. “I’ll see you soon,” he told his brother as he passed him in the gallery.

Stilley has been behind bars since he was arrested in California in the fall of 2020 and has maintained his innocence the entire time.

“He gets to have a life,” Tina Nadeau, one of his lawyers, said after the verdict. “He gets to see his 4-year-old daughter, who was younger than 8 months old when he was arrested. He gets to finally hold his daughter for the first time in 3 ½ years.”

The jury was tasked with deciding whether the state had presented enough evidence to say beyond a reasonable doubt that that Stilley was “almost certainly” the elusive gunman who shot into a third-floor apartment on Gilman Street the night of March 15, 2016, killing 36-year-old David Anderson and wounding 21-year-old Abdirahman Abdullahi.


Anderson, known to friends as “Shycago,” was mentioned very little during the trial other than to describe how he died.

He was staying with a friend who was renting apartment 305, prosecutors said. An obituary noted he was born in Dover, New Hampshire, and said he was remembered “as a loving son, loving brother and a good friend.”

Assistant Attorneys General Bud Ellis and Leanne Robbin declined to discuss the verdict as they left the courthouse.


The jury was not swayed by the state’s case, which relied exclusively on circumstantial evidence. No one who witnessed the shooting could identify the shooter, whose face was covered. Police recovered no clothing fibers, hair, DNA evidence or items belonging to Stilley that could be used to place him at the scene, save for six blue bullets that appeared to match the ones his girlfriend had purchased.

Stilley’s attorneys, Nadeau and Stephen Shea, said he had never been to the Gilman Street apartment, which police were investigating before the shooting for suspected drug trafficking, and he didn’t know anyone there.


Aristotle Stilley, center, and his lawyers, Tina Nadeau and Stephen Shea, listen as the jury foreman announces a not guilty verdict in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Thursday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Prosecutors told the jury in opening arguments that they would show them the calls Stilley made to a man connected to Gilman Street, but the jury never learned more about those calls. They only reviewed phone records that showed Stilley’s phone traveling from Saco to the area around Gilman Street the night of the shooting.

Stilley had no known ties to the Gilman Street apartment or anyone who was inside. Prosecutors didn’t even have a best guess as to why Stilley would want to shoot the people inside.

“What motivated the defendant to go there that night? We can’t tell you,” Ellis said in his closing arguments. “There are certain things that remain unknown.”

The person who the state said would implicate Stilley in the shooting, his long-time partner Naja Lake, recanted her statements on the second day of trial, saying she had been pressured by police when she made them.

Lake said Portland Detective Jeff Tully, who was the lead investigator in the case against Stilley, told her that he could help her get her daughter back from state custody in California.

Prosecutors called this “ludicrous.” When Lake recanted last week, they suggested that she was still trying to protect Stilley, whom she talks to regularly.


Jeff Tully, the lead Portland police detective in the death investigation of David Anderson, listens as Justice MaryGay Kennedy delivers instructions to the jury prior to their deliberations in Aristotle Stilley’s murder trial in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Wednesday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Tully said on the stand that he told Lake police could help connect her to services that might help.

“The jury and everyone in that courtroom heard the words out of Jeff Tully’s mouth,” Nadeau said in an interview after the verdict. “I hope she can get some closure from this more than eight-year ordeal. I hope she can find some peace.”


Nadeau and Shea argued that the state’s investigation was incomplete and that they found more evidence contradicting their case against Stilley than confirming it.

His DNA profile was excluded from a swab taken from the alleged murder weapon, Lake’s .40 caliber Hi-Point gun that was found two months after the shooting, almost 2 miles from Gilman Street.

And police never definitively concluded the gun was the one used at the shooting. A Maine State Police lab scientist asked police if they could send bullets from the crime scene to a lab in Canada for better testing, but police decided not to.


Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin addresses the jury during her opening statement in the murder trial against Aristotle Stilley, who was charged with killing David Anderson by shooting through the door of an apartment at 88 Gilman St. in 2016. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Police did find another man’s DNA profile on the gun, but haven’t been able to identify him.

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency was actually surveilling the Gilman Street apartment before the shooting for suspected drug trafficking, court records show.

Police even received a tip that there was going to be gun violence about 10 hours before the attack happened. Stilley’s lawyers said police failed to act, and that report didn’t come up at trial.

“There’s this whole underworld that was very much connected to apartment 305 at 88 Gilman St. and the people inside,” said Nadeau. “I think a lot of information was provided by various people around that neighborhood that should have been taken seriously.”

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