SKOWHEGAN — Robert Nelson, the man charged with the murder of Everett L. Cameron in Anson three years ago, was found guilty Tuesday in Somerset County Superior Court.
Superior Court Justice John Nivison, who decided the case in the jury-waived trial, said even without a murder weapon, DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts, the state’s circumstantial evidence against Nelson, 41, of Norridgewock, was sufficient to prove him guilty.
“Mr. Nelson had the means and the motive to kill Mr. Cameron and the state has proven beyond reasonable doubt his guilt,” he said.
Nivison said that Cameron’s death was “clearly a homicide that was drug related.”
Defense lawyer Phil Mohlar argued in his closing statement that Cameron, who was 60, was killed for his drugs and that there was not evidence to conclude Nelson was the murderer.
Nelson faces 25 years to life in prison for the murder and will be sentenced at a later date.
Outside the courthouse, Nicole Sacre, of Pittston, Cameron’s daughter, wiped away tears as she stood in the cold rain, talking about her father.
“One of the hardest parts of this was seeing our father portrayed as a drug dealer. His death is a testimony to the sad state of the prescription medicine problem in our state and the lengths people will go to to get them,” she said. “Our family would really like to see authorities address this epidemic.”
Cameron’s son, Everett J. Cameron Sr., of Anson, said, “My father was a very good man. Everything was taken from me the day he died. My father was my best friend and my son also lost his grandfather.”
Mohlar said he and Nelson were surprised and disappointed by the guilty verdict and that they are considering appealing the case, though they weren’t sure yet on what grounds.
Cameron was found dead, a gunshot wound to his head, in his pickup truck on Town Farm Road in Anson, on Oct. 31, 2009.
During the seven-day trial Nelson maintained that he was innocent while prosecutors said he killed Cameron over a drug debt of $35.
Nivison explained his decision, which came two weeks after closing arguments, by providing the court with an account of Nelson’s day pieced together from state evidence and Nelson’s statements to police and family members during the course of the investigation.
Nivison said that Nelson was a drug addict who was under the influence of drugs and alcohol on the day of the murder, when he met with Cameron to get oxycodone pills.
Nivison said that beginning on the night of the murder, Nelson made statements indicatating his guilt, including a statement to his father about avoiding police and a story he fabricated about why there might be gunpowder residue on his hands.
Nivison also said other circumstantial evidence proved Nelson was guilty.
Nivison said the estimated time of Cameron’s death given by the state medical examiner, cellphone records showing that Nelson was the last person to have contact with Cameron and a neighbor’s testimony of a gunshot heard around the time Cameron was believed to have died placed Nelson at the scene.
The defense’s arguments that there was no DNA evidence and that there were others who may have had the same motive and access to Cameron and could have killed him were not enough to provide reasonable doubt, Nivison said.
While others may have had access to Cameron, a known drug dealer, on the day of his death, witness testimony proved that he was planning to meet with Nelson that day and not many others, the judge said.
He said the lack of DNA evidence in the case was not important, since Nelson admitted to having been at the scene.
Nivison also weighed the credibility of witnesses, including nearly 30 witnesses called by the state and the only witness called by the defense, Robert Nelson himself.
Nivison said that many of those testifying on behalf of the state, including family members and several of Nelson’s current and ex-girlfriends, were “highly credible and also people one would think were predisposed to side with him.”
The testimony of Nelson’s family to his behavior at his daughter’s birthday party on the day of the murder, that he was high on drugs and alcohol to an extent they had never seen before, was indicative of guilt, said Nivison.
He said that Nelson’s testimony wasn’t credible because of inconsistent statements he made during the investigation and because it was unlikely he would be able to recall specific details he offered the court, such as exactly when he took certain pills on the day of the murder, given the amount of drugs and alcohol he consumed that day.
The testimony of witnesses also showed that Nelson had different accounts of that day, Nivison said. For example, Nelson’s then-girlfriend Katie White said Nelson told her he was going to pay Cameron, but Nelson told police he did not plan to pay him that day, Nivison said.
Nelson also faces up to five years for of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, to which he pleaded guilty earlier in the month.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368