Kierstead sentencing set for Feb. 25

By Juliette Laaka | Feb 20, 2014
Andrew J. Kierstead during his trial in November.

Rockland — The 41-year-old Tenants Harbor man convicted in the 2012 shooting death of his friend will be sentenced for the crime Tuesday, Feb. 25.

A Knox County jury deliberated for four hours in November before finding Andrew J. Kierstead guilty of murdering Richard Mills of Cushing.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said in closing arguments in November Kierstead made a deadly decision when he shot 48-year-old Mills five times at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun after the two men argued about unpaid debt and drugs.

Zainea argued when Kierstead shot Mills, his friend, it was the result of conscious choices he made to get what he wanted — drugs. Mills, who was prescribed opiates for a disability, supplied Kierstead's addiction. When Kierstead was unable to pay an outstanding $250 debt, Mills refused to front him more pills.

"Actions speak louder than words, and actions will tell you what you need to know about people," Zainea said.

The state recounted during the trial how Kierstead went to Mills' home on Far Meadow Lane in Cushing, and after an argument inside the house, the men went to work on Kierstead's truck, which was making an odd noise. She said Kierstead lured Mills outside with the story of the strange ticking noise in the motor. While Mills was leaned over the hood, looking at the engine, Kierstead retrieved a loaded 12-gauge shotgun from the cab of his truck and shot Mills five times.

In a recorded interview with police, Kierstead said he did not plan to kill Mills, that he just wanted to "spook him." Later in the interview, when asked if he intended to kill Mills at the time he grabbed the gun from the cab of his truck, there is a long pause before Kierstead answers with a single yes.

Defense attorney Steve Peterson said he and his client do not dispute a lot of facts of the case, but claim Kierstead was not of sound conscious state when he shot Mills. He said his client, well before the shooting, had been drinking heavily, attempting to self medicate. Peterson said his client was unable to form intent to kill Mills because he was not in a rational state of mind, due to effects of opiate withdrawal and alcohol consumption.

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. When he awoke several hours after the shooting, Kierstead did not know where he was or what he had done, Peterson said. Kierstead, in an interview with police, said described the scene as a nightmare. The defense added that somebody thinking clearly would not attempt to commit suicide.

When police asked what made him kill Mills, Kierstead said addiction. Peterson said the crime was not murder, but manslaughter.

Zainea said if Kierstead was able to form an intent to kill himself, acting in a goal driven way, then he certainly could form intent to murder Mills. "Addiction is an excuse, but not an excuse for murder," she said.

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at

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