SKOWHEGAN — Jason Cote murdered Ricky Cole in 2013 by using a metal pipe and then stomping on his head, a jury in Somerset County Superior Court found Thursday.

Cote, of Palmyra, who was 22 at the time of the killing and is now 25, showed little reaction as the verdict convicting him of murder was read following about two and a half hours of deliberation by the 12-person jury. Friends and family of both Cote and Cole shed tears and gave each other hugs.

In issuing the verdict, the jury rejected arguments by Cote, who testified in his own defense Wednesday, and his attorneys, who said Cole’s death was the result of Cote acting in self-defense. They contended that Cole had threatened Cote repeatedly with a knife. But police never found the knife, which Cote said he threw into the woods after the altercation, and it was not produced as evidence in the courtroom.

Outside the Somerset County Superior Court on Thursday afternoon, Cole’s family members stood in the rain and talked about their lost loved one, a brother and son. Members of Cote’s family declined to comment.

“We’re just glad justice is getting served,” said Tom Cole, Ricky Cole’s brother, of Rochester, New Hampshire. “Two and a half years is a long time, and we’re hoping everything works out in the best for us and hopefully (Cote) gets what he deserves,” he said. “Justice is going to get served.”

A murder conviction carries a penalty of 25 years to life in prison.

Cole and other family members said they hope that Cote is sentenced to life in prison. The sentencing, which will take place later, has not been scheduled. Cote will remain held without bail until then.

“Even if he gets life, his family is still going to be able to see him. We have to see our brother, my dad has to see his son, by a cemetery. It’s not fair,” Tom Cole said.

Carmen Stanton, Ricky Cole’s sister, also said that despite a portrait prosecutors and attorneys painted of Cole as an intimidating drug dealer with a history of making threats against others, that was not the person they knew.

“He was a good guy,” said Stanton, of North Conway, New Hampshire. “He wasn’t the guy they said he was. He was a great guy and a great father.”

The jury entered into deliberations shortly after noon and came back with the guilty verdict about 2:30 p.m. The decision followed the morning’s closing arguments, which focused on the manner in which Cole died and whether Cote was justified in using deadly force — possibly as self-defense — against him.

Attorneys for both sides described Cole’s intimidating personality, including the “R.I.P.” tattoo across his neck, his reputation as a drug dealer and a manslaughter conviction he had for killing two people while driving drunk in New Hampshire. They talked about threats he made to kill people and an imaginary friend, Vern, who told him to hurt or kill people.

Those characteristics may have caused Cote to fear Cole, but they did not entitle him to take his life, said Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, noting that despite the threats Cole, never had hurt Cote previously.

“I suspect you may not like Ricky Cole or his lifestyle,” she told the jury on Thursday. “But this trial isn’t about who you like or don’t like. It’s about evaluating the evidence presented to you.”

One of Cote’s attorneys, Stephen Smith, in his closing argument, referred to Cote’s account of what transpired as a “struggle between two men” in which he was lucky to come out alive. On Wednesday, Cote testified that Cole had asked him to come to his home in Detroit on July 17 to talk and had promised him drugs in return.

“I chose to go there because I was a drug addict and I wasn’t going to say no to doing drugs,” he said.

That same day a federal agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had subpoenaed Cote, asking him to testify against Cole in an investigation about weapons charges. In court testimony Wednesday, Cote said Cole had asked him to “take the rap” for the guns that Cole possessed illegally, but Cote said he had told Cole that he was concerned he would be arrested by the bureau for lying to a federal agent.

Cote testified that the discussion turned violent when Cole picked up the metal pipe, and then a knife, and used them to threaten Cote.

“Ricky Cole was pacing back and forth with a knife. He was angry, angry at Jason because he knows the ATF had been at Jay’s house that day,” Smith said. “Jay was in a very bad situation, with Ricky Cole swinging pipes, waving around knives.

“What’s he going to do?”

Zainea, in turn, argued that Cote had opportunities to leave the situation but didn’t. After he had struck Cole and Cole was lying on the floor, still alive, Cote continued to beat him.

“He didn’t have time to think, ‘Is (Cole) bleeding?’ ‘What should I do next?’ This wasn’t a movie. It was real life, and he was afraid for his life,” Smith told the jury.

Blood splatter in the house indicated that Cote had swung at Cole as many as four times after he was lying on the floor and that he had a skull fracture possibly caused by someone stomping on his head, according to experts who testified earlier in the trial.

After the beating, Cote took Cole’s pants, a comforter in the house, his cellphone, the knife and the pipe and left. He threw the pants, comforter and pipe into a pond on the property, and police recovered them the next day. His own clothes — which were stained with Cole’s blood — were found under a vacant mobile home next to his own in Palmyra.

Cote attributed his actions after the beating to shock, saying he didn’t even remember taking the comforter until he appeared in court, and that he didn’t know why he had taken Cole’s pants. In three interviews with police recorded in July 2013, Cote never once said he had gotten into a fight with Cole, though he had said to friends that night that he “did something (expletive) up.”

The following day Cote also told a friend that he slit Cole’s throat, the friend, Heidi Woodbury, testified.

Cote said that as an illicit drug user, he was afraid of police and thought that they would not believe him, so he initially lied.

“Even if he was in shock and felt he hadn’t been treated well by police, surely he could have told his good friend that he killed Ricky in self-defense,” Zainea said. “Instead he told Heidi Woodbury, when she asked him, ‘Did you cut him from his throat to his groin?’ ‘No, I slit his throat.'”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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