PORTLAND, Maine —
Several members of Corporal Eugene Cole’s family including his wife were in the Cumberland County Superior courtroom Monday morning as the trial of accused murderer John Williams got underway.
Williams is accused of shooting and killing Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy Eugene Cole on April 25, 2018, in Norridgewock. Williams then led authorities on a three-day manhunt where he eluded more than 200 law enforcement officers as he hid in the Maine woods in a one-room cabin.
Wiliams, 30, who has pleaded not guilty to killing Cole who was 61-years-old when he was killed. Justice Robert Mullen swore in jury members telling them to have an open mind about the case and instructing them not to discuss the case even with each other until it has concluded.
The prosecution began opening statements recalling the night Cpl. Cole was killed. “When he should have been returning to his home, Cpl. Cole was lying on the ground of the dooryard of 16 Mercer Road in Norridgewock, the back of his pants dirt covered...his boots embedded with dried mud, his issued flashlight lying on the pathway to the residence, and a gunshot wound to the right side of his neck apparent to the first responding officers.” The prosecution said the gunshot wound that was analyzed by the Medical Examiner’s Office was determined to be placed directly on Cole’s neck.
The weapon used to shoot Cpl. Cole was his own, a Ruger 9MM that the prosecution showed the jury in their opening statement.
The prosecution said Williams pulled away from Cole and he lost his footing slipping to the ground when Williams instinctively grabbed his 9MM, pointed it at Cole’s head and shot him.
John Williams’s attorney Verne Paradie told the jury they are not going to dispute almost all of the facts the state presents other than how the shooting occurred and that Williams “did not intend to cause the death of Cpl.Cole.” Paradie said Williams told people he was “smoking crack like he was breathing air” in the days leading up to Cole’s murder.
Dispatcher Matthew Billian was the first witness to take the stand. He remembered talking to an employee of Cumberland Farms in Norridgewock who said she was robbed and that the man was driving a sheriff's truck with a license plate 1312 which was later determined to be Cpl. Eugene Cole’s truck.
Kimberly Sirois is the woman who discovered Cole’s body in her yard on the morning of April 25, 2018. She told the jury that John was like a son to her. Williams came to live with her family when he was in 8th grade and Sirios’ oldest son Justin and Wiliams were friends. Sirois told the court she opened the door and saw Cole’s body on her front lawn.
“I went outside, walked up to him and asked if he was ok. He was not ok. I screamed, yelled and cried,” Sirois remembered.
Game Warden Lt. Kevin Adam, who was called in to look for Cole, said: “when the homeowner went into the house I quickly came over to Cole to check his pulse, he was cold to the touch and wasn’t moving.”
Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, Maine’s Chief Medical Examiner told the court that the bullet which killed Cpl. Cole went through the right side of his neck and out the left. “The range of fire was close, the muzzle of the gun was on his skin.”
Chris Shulenski, a friend and former coworker of John Williams described the night before Cole was shot. “I bought drugs from John. He was not himself. Later he called at midnight looking for a ride home.”
Police say Williams confessed to killing Cole. A judge ruled that only the first 90 minutes of Williams confession can be used at trial after Paradie tried to argue that the arresting officers beat the confession out of Williams.
If convicted, Williams could face upwards of 25 years to life in prison.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.