Witnesses say defendant was calm, coherent after Cushing shooting
Rockland — Seven witnesses for the state said Oct. 21 during a hearing in Knox County Superior Court that accused killer Andrew Kierstead seemed calm and coherent after a shooting more than a year ago that killed Richard Mills at his home in Cushing.
Defense attorney Steven C. Peterson of West Rockport filed a motion to exclude statements made to police by Kierstead, contending statements made by his client the night of the murder were not voluntary as he was intoxicated on drugs and alcohol and not of sound conscious state.
Kierstead, 41, was arrested in September 2012 and indicted by a Knox County grand jury for the murder of 48-year-old Mills.
According to a police affidavit, Kierstead said he fired a shotgun repeatedly at Mills outside the victim’s home at 40 Far Meadow Lane because the victim had hooked him on drugs and had been supplying him for 10 or 15 years, but then shut him off for not paying money owed.
Three medical emergency personnel that responded to the scene testified Kierstead appeared to be calm, but seemed shocked at what had happened, repeatedly saying he could not believe what he had done. All said he was able to speak with them, and understand their questions. They said he was alert, responsive and did not appear to be intoxicated, although one medical witness said they smelled alcohol on him.
Kierstead said he attempted to commit suicide after he shot Mills by taking all the drugs he could find inside Mills' residence, an estimated 20 to 25 methadone and vicodin pills.
Inside the residence, officers found a suicide note, one empty methadone pill bottle, one empty hydrocodone bottle, one hydrocodone bottle containing four tablets and one hydrocodone bottle containing 27 tablets, according to an affidavit.
The three medical responders who took the stand each took basic vital signs, including measuring Kierstead's pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen levels in his blood the night of the incident. They asked him routine questions to determine his responsiveness, and none believed he appeared to be in medical distress. He was not taken to the hospital by Cushing ambulance.
EMT Helen Darmara, who wrote the report of what occurred at the scene said she could smell alcohol on Kierstead, and wrote in the report she thought he may have overdosed on alcohol. She clarified that what she wrote as an impression of him possibly overdosing on alcohol is part of a restricted set of responses she is able to choose from. She added she was being cautious. She said he was coherent while she spoke with him and that his physical and mental state did not match what he said he had taken for intoxicants. She said indications of a drug overdose include suppressed blood pressure, pulse and pupil restriction. She said he did not need further medical treatment.
Knox County dispatcher Melissa Olson, who received Kierstead's 911 call, said he was calm when he said Mills had been shot. He also told her the gun was on the kitchen table and that he did not believe the victim was alive. She testified Kierstead had said that he had tried to kill himself and the situation was a nightmare.
Lt. Reginald Walker, of the Knox County Sheriff's Office, who read Kierstead his first Miranda warning, said the defendant was responsive to questions and was willing to talk. He said Kierstead's speech was not slurred and that he was alert. He said Kierstead did become emotional when talking about what happened that night during the 40-minute interview at the scene. Walker had worked previously as a special agent for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. In his experience with people intoxicated on methadone and vicodin, he said users, depending on the dose, are lethargic and sleepy. He testified Kierstead did not exhibit those signs.
Walker said he and Deputy Nathaniel Jack had later started talking about hunting. Kierstead could hear them, and asked them to stop talking about shooting, he said.
Lt. Kirk Guerrette and Jack of the Knox County Sheriff's Office were the first officers on scene. They found Kierstead sitting on Mills' porch with a beer next to him, smoking a cigarette. Guerrette said Kierstead was compliant with orders, and surrendered himself to Jack, who placed him in handcuffs. Guerrette said Kierstead was able to walk normally, and noticed nothing unusual about his gait or pattern of speech to suggest he was intoxicated.
Detective Jason Andrews of Maine State Police said he also interviewed Kierstead, and did not notice anything unusual about his speech or walk to indicate he was unable or incapable of speaking with police. Andrews said he did smell alcohol on him and noticed the defendant's eyes were bloodshot and glassy. Kierstead told him he needed help with his addiction. Andrews said while he and Kierstead were walking toward Andrews' vehicle, Kierstead vomited. When Andrews' asked if he was alright, he said he was OK, and they drove to the Rockland Police Station. Kierstead vomited again outside of the station, but said he was still O.K.
On the drive to the police station, Kierstead told Andrews he couldn't believe what had happened, and said he "wasn't brought up that way." He also said he was afraid he had broken his mother's heart.
In the interview transcript, Peterson said Kierstead told Andrews and another investigator the shooting was a blank in his mind.
Andrews said there was nothing to indicate Kierstead was mentally or physically unsound until the defendant said he wanted to die toward the end of the interview. Kierstead was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center for an evaluation just after 1 a.m., a result of the statements he made to police about wanting to die.
Peterson also filed a motion to move the trial to another location, citing extensive pre-trial media coverage in print, online and on television may cause a potential prejudice of jurors.
The sole witness for the defense will testify Tuesday, Oct. 29.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or by email at email@example.com.
594-4401 ext. 118
Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.
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