SKOWHEGAN — As a defense attorney for almost 30 years in Somerset County, Skowhegan lawyer John Alsop represented the hardest of accused criminals.

There was Hubert Hartley, charged with his half-brother Henry Lombard in the Thanksgiving Day 1990 murder of two men on Back Road in Fairfield. There was Guy Hunnewell III, Shannon Atwood and Bruce Morris.

There was Jay Mercier, who was found guilty in 2012 of the murder of 20-year-old Rita St. Peter in July 1980. At the time, it had been the state’s oldest cold-case homicide to be solved.

Now, Alsop, 61, is moving across the aisle to prosecute criminal cases as an assistant attorney general. He was hired last week.

“I’m excited about it,” Alsop said Tuesday. “I welcome the opportunity to do this kind of work, representing the state. I enjoy working on larger cases in the public interest so I’m looking forward to my job.”

Alsop give up his private practice in Skowhegan and his position as probate judge in Skowhegan, which he held for 17 years, to make the move.

His first assignment is the state’s case against Jesse Marquis, the 38-year-old man arrested in connection with the May 31 shooting and stabbing death of his longtime girlfriend, Amy Theriault, in Aroostook County. The state medical examiner ruled Theriault’s death a homicide. She died of a gunshot wound to the chest and multiple stab wounds to the chest and neck.

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who also is switching roles to become a Superior Court judge this summer, said the attorney general’s office needed someone who had the experience to take on the big cases right away.

Alsop takes over for former prosecutor Andrew Benson, who is now a District Court judge.

“He brings a great deal of experience to the courtroom,” Stokes said of Alsop. “One of the things we wanted to make sure we did with Andrew leaving — we were losing a very experienced trial attorney — so we made it clear in our advertising that this was not an entry-level position; it was someone that we needed to have hitting the ground running, who’s familiar with the courtroom, is comfortable in the courtroom and is able to try a case immediately.”

Alsop grew up in Avon, Conn., and came to Maine to attend Colby College in Waterville. He graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in 1978 and went into private practice. He worked as an assistant district attorney in Somerset County from 1981-86 and went back into private practice with partner Andrew Ketterer, who later served six years as Maine attorney general.

Most recently, Alsop has worked with law partner Philip Mohlar in Skowhegan. The firm was representing 23-year-old Jason Cote of Palmyra, who is charged with beating another man to death with a pipe last July in Detroit. Alsop said Mohlar will take over that case.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Sept. 15, with the trial starting after that. Alsop will not be part of the prosecution, he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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