The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has upheld the conviction of an Anson man who murdered another man during a drug deal in 2009.
Robert Nelson, 43, shot Everett L. Cameron when the two met to exchange money and oxycodone pills on Town Farm Road in Anson. After the shooting, Nelson left the scene and arrived at the birthday party of his daughter high on the pills.
Trial judge John Nivison convicted Nelson at the end of the six-day non-jury trial. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Nelson’s lawyer argued that the conviction should be overturned because of insufficient evidence. The gun that killed Cameron was never found and there was no forensic evidence tying Nelson to the murder. The case was also appealed on the basis that investigators did not pursue alternative suspects.
But the high court rejected the appeal in a decision issued Thursday.
“Contrary to Nelson’s contentions, there is ample competent evidence, including all reasonable inferences, on which a reasonable fact-finder could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Nelson committed each element of murder,” wrote the panel of six judges that handed down the decision.
Virginia Hayden, Cameron’s girlfriend, said Thursday that she was pleased with the decision and that it will help giver her some peace of mind.
Nelson maintained throughout the trial in November and December 2012 that he did not kill Cameron. According to the appeal, Nelson chose to appeal only the conviction of murder and not his prison sentence.
At the time of the killing, Cameron was a 60-year-old lymphoma patient who would regularly sell some of his pills to make money. He had recently refilled his prescription for the pain reliever oxycontin and had plans to meet with three people, including Nelson, on the morning of Oct. 31, 2009.
Nelson owed Cameron $35 and said he met with him to say he didn’t have the money.
Cameron’s body was found about two hours after Nelson’s car was seen on the road and records show that the two exchanged phone calls.
“That evidence leaves open the possibility that Mr. Cameron was killed during a window of time when Robert Nelson could not have been the killer,” states the appeal, written by Nelson’s attorney, Phil Mohlar. “Any number of people could have come and met with Everett Cameron during that time period and one of them could have killed him.”
State police who investigated the case were able to identify Nelson as the last person that Cameron had contact with on his cellphone through the phone records, and through interviews with neighbors police learned that his car had been seen on the road not long before a gun shot was heard. Mohlar contended that state police did not broaden their investigation “as additional interviews and forensic testing failed to corroborate their initial belief that Robert Nelson killed Everett Cameron.”
“Instead they tried to make the evidence that they did find fit their theory of the case,” he wrote.
During the trial, reports from the Maine State Crime Lab revealed that DNA swabs taken from the glove compartment and empty pill bottles in Cameron’s car did not yield forensic evidence that could be linked to Nelson. The DNA of two unknown men was never run through state databases for further information or compared to samples from other drug customers of Cameron’s.
After meeting with Cameron, Nelson arrived at his daughter’s birthday party high on oxycodon pills, while the pills that Cameron had left the house with that day were missing from his shirt pocket.
On the night of the murder, Nelson lied to state police about the possibility of having gun residue on his hands, making up an elaborate story about target shooting with a friend in a nearby gravel pit. The story — which Nelson later confessed was untrue — was an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Nelson was already a convicted felon and possessed a firearm but was not allowed to do so.
Nivison, the judge, ruled that Nelson’s story made no sense and said that Nelson should have confessed to police earlier. Nelson came clean after a conversation was secretly recorded in which a friend convinced him to do.
Ultimately, Nivison decided that the state’s circumstantial evidence against Nelson was sufficient to prove him guilty, even without a murder weapon, DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts.
“Mr. Nelson had the means and the motive to kill Mr. Cameron and the state has proven beyond reasonable doubt his guilt,” Nivison said before convicting Nelson. Cameron’s death, he said, was “clearly a homicide that was drug related.”
Rachel Ohm — firstname.lastname@example.org