SKOWHEGAN — A Bingham man may be going back to prison for violating his probation on a 2001 manslaughter conviction after police found a loaded handgun, beer and marijuana Sunday afternoon at his home during a routine probation check.

Bruce W. Morris, 66, was convicted in the bludgeoning death in March 2000 of Karl T. “Stone” Goeman.

Goeman’s family members claimed that the death was a hate crime because Goeman was an American Indian and had suffered prejudice before because of his heritage. Morris and his lawyer said alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder from service in Vietnam were the cause, not hate or race.

In a plea agreement reducing the charge from murder to manslaughter in 2001, Morris was sentenced to 25 years in prison with all but 12 years suspended and six years’ probation when he was released.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, who attended the crime scene in 2000 as commander of state police in Somerset County, said Monday that Morris was released from the state prison on Nov. 12, 2010, and is on probation.

As a convicted felon, Morris is prohibited from possessing a firearm. That charge is a Class C felony and is considered new criminal conduct. His probation could also be revoked in part or in whole for having a firearm, meaning he could return to prison to serve the suspended portion of his sentence, which is about 12 1/2 years.

His probation also stipulates that he not possess illegal drugs or alcohol.

Probation Officer Craig Ladd said he was notified Sunday by state police that a Ruger P85 9mm handgun with 10 live rounds in the magazine was found in a back room at Morris’ home on Brighton Road in Bingham. Another full magazine and two boxes of ammunition also were found along with bottles of beer and about 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

Morris, who has not had a probation violation since his release from prison, told police on Sunday that the gun was left at his house by his brother and was not his. He said the beer and pot were left behind by friends who had been at his home to play music over the weekend.

Ladd placed a probation hold on Morris, who remains held without bail at the Somerset County Jail awaiting a probation hearing this week. Ladd would not predict what the recommendation would be on Morris’ probation violation.

Ladd said “a prison sentence is highly likely given the fact that it’s a new felony crime.”

“That’s certainly on the table, but it’ll be up to a judge,” he said. “He has had no violations since he got out, but this is a pretty significant one and that does impact our recommendation.”

When Goeman was killed in March 2000, Morris and Goeman had been drinking at Morris’ cabin on Brighton Road in Bingham when a fight erupted, according to newspaper archives.

Goeman, 51, an ironworker from Bingham, died of “multiple traumatic injuries” after being struck at least 11 times with the flat of an ax and the stock of a gun, according to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy. Goeman’s skull was caved in. He had a broken arm, a fractured leg and broken ribs. There were cuts, apparently made by an ax head, on his arm and scalp.

Ax blows to his torso left bruised imprints of the ax head and handle on his flesh, a deputy state medical examiner said during a probable cause hearing in May 2000.

Detectives recovered two axes at the cabin, one of which had blood on it. They found a shotgun with a broken stock and blood on the barrel in a woodshed.

Morris told investigators that after the fight, he left Goeman sitting up and moaning outside on the ground and went back inside to take a nap.

Morris, a Vietnam veteran whom the court determined suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that manifested itself in alcohol abuse, claimed self-defense, saying Goeman came toward him with a knife.

At Morris’ sentencing in Somerset County Superior Court in April 2001, Goeman’s family said the attack was a murderous hate crime because Goeman was an American Indian.

A brother, Stonehorse Goeman, told the court that his older brother’s death was nothing less than a hate crime — a case of “another drunken Indian fed booze, beaten and butchered,” according to a newspaper account.

Morris’ attorney, John Alsop of Skowhegan, who is now a prosecutor with the Maine attorney general’s office, told Justice Donald H. Marden that his client was deeply remorseful for Goeman’s death.

“This has nothing to do with race or hate,” Alsop said. “It has a heck of lot to do with alcohol. What has been driving this case from the beginning is the brutality. It’s a fairly classic PTSD response. There was no motive, no prior antagonism. He just went berserk.”

Morris has not entered a plea on the felony possession of a firearm charge. He would have completed his probation in Nov. 2016, according to Ladd.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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