AUGUSTA — David B. Silva Jr. will spend the next 43 years in prison for robbing and killing the Readfield man who sheltered him and his girlfriend and setting the home ablaze as a coverup.
Silva, 34, formerly of Carver, Mass., pleaded guilty Friday morning in Kennebec County Superior Court to charges of murder, robbery, arson and theft, all connected with the 2011 slaying of 53-year-old Robert A. Orr.
Silva’s attorney William Maselli told the judge that Silva was pleading guilty under the Alford doctrine, meaning he acknowledged the likelihood the state could prove its case, but Silva wasn’t admitting he committed the crimes.
Janet Orr carried her late husband’s photo with her when she walked to a lectern to address the judge on Friday. She was one of about 50 family and friends who attended the hearing.
“Almost 23 months ago my husband was murdered by a man he thought was a friend,” she said. She added that she and her husband had planned to spend their retirement years together in Maine.
Authorities said Orr was shot in the head with one of his own guns as he sat in his living room on Feb. 8, 2011. Orr’s remains were discovered in the basement the next day as investigators sifted through the debris of his flattened 447 Church Road home.
He had allowed Silva and Silva’s girlfriend, Lindsay Spence, to rent a room in the home on Church Road for several weeks before the killing.
Silva opted to plead guilty to the charges rather than face a jury trial, which was scheduled to take place in February in Franklin County Superior Court. He had faced a life sentence if convicted at trial.
Silva also pleaded guilty to assault on a corrections officer, criminal mischief and terrorizing for incidents last July while Silva was being held at Kennebec County jail. Assistant District Attorney Joelle Pratt, who prosecuted those charges, said Silva head-butted a corrections officer in the chest and threaten to kill another officer as they were donning hazmat suits to clean feces Silva had smeared in his cell.
The guilty pleas also mean Silva will not face federal prosecution. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson told the judge there had been negotiations among federal and other state officials with regard to the plea.
The 43-year sentence was recommended by both the prosecutor, Benson, and Silva’s defense attorneys, Maselli and Steve Brochu. Justice Michaela Murphy agreed to impose it, saying she understood that there were risks to both sides if the case went to trial because there were disputed facts, witness credibility issues and other factors.
Benson said the murder was both premeditated and for pecuniary gain. He described a series of phone calls in which Silva told people in Massachusetts he was getting a truckload of guns and coming to Massachusetts soon.
Benson said in one call, Silva said that “Orr was treating him badly and he would end up doing something to him, ‘shooting or killing him or something.'”
Investigators said Silva shot Orr, leaving his slumped body in a chair and pouring gasoline around the interior of the house before fleeing with Spence, of Plymouth, Mass.
Spence — who initially lied to police about what she knew, according to court documents — was not charged. Silva took Orr’s firearms, his truck, his dog and his TV, Benson said, and Spence drove her own vehicle. The truck and the dog were found abandoned on a beach and the guns were traded for heroin, Benson said.
Orr’s family and friends told the judge in court that they blame Spence as well as Silva for Orr’s death.
Orr’s sister, Nancy Mooney, said she befriended Spence at work and helped both Spence and Silva find housing at the Orr home, where she was also living at the time.
Friday she told Silva, “I hope you suffer every day for the rest of your miserable excuse of a life … I hope you rot and burn in hell for what you and Lindsay have done.”
Orr’s stepson Richard Barisano said of Silva, “I never thought it was possible to despise someone so much.” He said the family has had to wait two years for justice.
“Finally, I am glad the defendant is here to admit his guilt and try to save his soul — if he still has one,” Barisano said.
Silva said nothing in court on Friday except to tell the judge he was pleading guilty voluntarily and understood there was no appeal of either the sentence or the convictions.
He showed no emotion as he listened to Orr’s family and friends, some of whom he had known.
During his first court appearance on the murder charge in March 2011, Silva was in tears, and as he was led away he said, “I have nothing to say, except I’m sorry.” Later, Silva said that did not mean he was guilty.
His attorney at the time told the judge that Silva was defending himself when he shot Orr.
Silva has a lengthy record and has been behind bars in Massachusetts, California, Georgia and Ohio. Since turning 16, his longest stretch of freedom was between 2008 — when he was released from a California prison after being convicted of false imprisonment with violence — and his February 2011 arrest on the murder charge.
Silva, whose knuckles are tattooed SKIN HEAD, railed against jail conditions in an interview in June 2011, saying his cell was searched up to three times a day, he was forced to shower at 11 p.m. when there was no more hot water, there was a scarcity of legal literature and he was once Tasered while in handcuffs.
He has had a series of three court-appointed attorneys representing him in the murder case.
Betty Adams — 621-5631