Jurors in the murder trial of Merrill “Mike” Kimball watched a video re-enactment on Thursday in which Kimball gave police his version of the fatal shooting at a North Yarmouth bee farm in 2013.

“I was afraid for my life. I thought I was going to get really beat up or killed, or both, or whatever, so I defended myself,” Kimball, then 70, said in the video recorded at Brown’s Bee Farm on Nov. 4, 2013, nearly a month after the shooting.

The jury watched the video in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland on the fourth day of Kimball’s trial. Kimball has maintained that he acted in self-defense when he fired three shots at 63-year-old Leon Kelley after Kelley attacked him.

“I don’t know who he was. I had never seen this guy before. He was big, in my face, nose-to-nose almost. His hands were huge,” Kimball said in the video, describing his first encounter with Kelley at the bee farm around 3 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2013.

In the video, jurors watched Kimball backpedal out of the parking lot of the bee farm sales shop onto Honeycomb Drive, speaking to the camera. He said Kelley shoved him once, then kept shoving him four or five times as Kimball continued to back up.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop showed the video while Dr. Richard Beauchesne, an orthopedic surgeon, testified about a partial knee replacement surgery he performed on Kimball in March 2013.

Kimball’s attorney, Daniel Lilley, was present when the video was recorded and can be heard talking at the beginning of the recording. Alsop at first wanted to play the video without sound but agreed to play it with sound after Lilley objected.

Beauchesne testified under questioning by Alsop that Kimball, despite his physical limitations from the knee surgery, could have continued backing up on Honeycomb Drive.

Under questioning by Lilley, Beauchesne said he could see Kimball was limping in the video.

The prosecution contends Kimball “overreacted” by shooting Kelley and could have continued retreating as Kelley, who was 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 285 pounds, came at him.

WITNESSES ACCOUNTS DIFFER

Kelley, of Georgetown, and Kimball, of Yarmouth, had never met before that day, but the shooting followed a bitter, ongoing rift between the families of the two men over the bee business built by Stan Brown, a 95-year-old master beekeeper well-known in the state’s small beekeeping community.

Kimball’s wife, Karen Thurlow-Kimball, managed the farm and sold the honey. The two families had been at odds ever since Brown included Thurlow-Kimball in his will, leaving the bee business to her, along with four acres of his 10-acre property.

Brown’s daughters – including Kelley’s wife – and other members of the family were concerned that Thurlow-Kimball was taking advantage of their father as his memory began to fade.

Thursday was the first time the jury heard Kimball’s version of what happened leading up to the shooting. Previous witnesses from Kelley’s family have given differing accounts.

Kelley’s wife, Kathleen Kelley, who was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher at the time of the shooting, said Kimball was the aggressor and that he shoved her husband, not the other way around.

Kelley’s stepdaughter, Robin Rawnsley-Dutil, said she saw Kelley grab Kimball by the shoulder, spin him around and move him down the parking lot toward Honeycomb Drive.

Kelley’s stepson, Craig Rawnsley, said he was busy using his hand to hold back Thurlow-Kimball’s son, Damon Carroll, and did not see the initial conflict between Kelley and Kimball.

Thurlow-Kimball and Carroll are listed on the prosecution’s witness list, but they have not yet testified.

FIRST OFFICER ON THE SCENE

After Beauchesne’s testimony, Maine State Police Trooper John Kyle gave his account of what Kimball said to him just after the shooting. Kyle was one of the first officers to arrive and put Kimball in handcuffs as investigators tried to sort out what happened.

Kyle said he didn’t question Kimball, but Kimball made a few statements on his own.

“The man attacked me. The man pushed me back. I was in fear for my life. I nearly fell down, and he kept coming,” Kyle said, repeating Kimball’s words to him, which were captured on his police cruiser’s onboard camera.

Kyle said Kimball, who was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, seemed calm and asked about Kelley’s condition, though he did not know Kelley’s name at that time.

” ‘I don’t know who that guy is. Do you? I never saw him before in my life,’ ” Kyle said, repeating Kimball’s words to him.

Kyle said Kimball spent more than an hour in handcuffs before being released when officers decided not to arrest him.

State police Detective Christopher Farley, who interviewed Kimball after the handcuffs were removed, testified that he knew Kelley was dead by the time he took Kimball’s statement but didn’t tell Kimball that.

While Farley was on the witness stand, attorneys played the audio recording of his interview with Kimball in which Kimball tells him the same things he told Kyle.

Farley asked Kimball in the interview whether he had been drinking, and Kimball responded that he drank two rum and cokes after getting off his boat around 1 p.m.

Kimball’s friend, Randall Longmaid, who lives on Cousins Island, testified that Kimball came over to his house around 12:45 p.m., hours before the shooting, to watch part of a Patriots game on television. Longmaid said he remembers serving Kimball two drinks before Kimball left about an hour later.

Witness testimony is expected to continue Friday and into early next week.

Kimball was never arrested in the case and remains free on bail after being indicted on the murder charge in November 2013.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of murder. If convicted of manslaughter, he faces up to 30 years in prison. Kimball rejected a plea offer before the start of the trial. The terms of the offer have not been disclosed.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: scottddolan


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