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John Williams found guilty of murdering Cpl. Eugene Cole

A jury on Tuesday found John Williams guilty of murder in the April 2018 fatal shooting of Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole.

Liam Nee (NEWS CENTER Maine), Shannon Moss (NEWS CENTER Maine), Dustin Wlodkowski (NEWS CENTER Maine)

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Published: 1:40 PM EDT June 18, 2019
Updated: 7:20 PM EDT June 18, 2019

The man accused of murdering a sheriff's deputy last April was found guilty by a jury Tuesday in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole was shot and killed on April 25, 2018, in Norridgewock. After a manhunt, Williams was captured and charged.

Both sides of the case agreed at the trial's onset that Williams fired the shot, but the defense claimed he was sleep-deprived and on drugs at the time.

Day six of the murder trial started with closing arguments.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese told the jury that for the past week the state demonstrated without all doubt that Williams is guilty of murder.

"John Williams knows exactly what happens when you put the muzzle of a 9 mm to a man's neck and pull the trigger," she said. "The target is eliminated. He did what he intended to do."

Deputy AG Marchese pointed to scientific witness testimony and Williams' own confession to police that he knowingly and intentionally shot and killed Cpl. Cole because he didn't want to go back to jail. 

Marchese read from Williams' confession: "I pulled my pistol and got the jump on him and shot him.I shot him in the head when he was on the ground.

Williams' defense attorney Vern Paradie asked the jury to remember Williams' excessive drug use at the time, and to consider there was no way Williams could have intentionally killed Cole.

"He didn't mean to," he said. "He told [state witness] Dr. O'Grady it was like I was watching myself in third person, everything was happening so fast, then after I snapped back to reality like a rubber band."

Paradie also wanted the jury to question the state's reenactment of Cole's shooting. The defense didn't agree with the state's forensic evidence that Cole was shot execution style.

"In regards to the reenactment, you decide if you want to give it weight. But I strongly suggest you don't," Paradie said.

The trial was postponed Monday because Paradie was considering calling a witness to counter the state's theory on how close Williams was when he shot Cole. That witness wasn't available until Tuesday, but Paradie ultimately chose not to put the witness on the stand.

After closing arguments, the case was handed to jury. They took less than four hours to reach a verdict.

Williams did not visibly react to the verdict, which was unanimous among jurors. Many of Cole's family members, meanwhile, could be seen tearing up.

As part of the verdict announcement, each juror was asked to repeat their individual decision on the murder charge.

"I hope you feel good by what you've accomplished," Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen told the jurors, thanking them for giving their time to the trial.

Williams will continue to be held without bail until his sentencing, which is expected to be in September.

The prosecution will ask the judge to hand down a life sentence. In Maine, there is no chance for probation or parole with a life sentence.

The defense will ask for the minimum, which his 25 years. Paradie also said he will use the state's reenactment of Cole's shooting as grounds for appeal.

Marchese said she thought Williams' confession was the most compelling piece of evidence in the case against him. Additionally, she said the dash cam video "basically confirmed" that it was Williams who committed the homicide.

"You never know what goes on in the mind of anyone," Marchese said. "We wanted to make sure that the jury understood that by putting the trigger up against the neck of Cpl. Cole, he intended to kill him. That wasn't just a confused, drugged-out person. He did what he wanted to do."

Tom Cole, Eugene's brother, said that although no one wins in a situation like this, the verdict brought a bit of closure for him and his family. He said he would continue to pray for Williams' family, too – "they're hurting."

Cole said he and his family had confidence in what the state brought forward.

He thanked the entire state community for their support.

"Hopefully we can start to sleep at night again," Cole said. "Maybe it won't be out there as much; maybe some of the wounds can start healing, cause it seems like this year as one wound starts to mend it's ripped back open, so hopefully now we'll be able to mend a bit."

Cole also thanked the jurors. When you listen to all the evidence presented, Cole said, they used their common sense. They listened and did their job, he said.

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