SKOWHEGAN — A Palmyra man convicted in December of murdering another man in July 2013 in Detroit is scheduled to be sentenced Friday morning in Somerset County Superior Court.

Jason Cote, 25, was found guilty by a jury of murdering Ricky Cole, 47, in Cole’s mobile home using a metal pipe and then stomping on his head.

Cote faces 25 years to life in prison and, through his attorneys, is seeking a sentence of 30 years in prison with appropriate probation.

The jury in December rejected Cote’s defense that he had acted in self-defense when he killed Cole. Cote’s attorneys said Cole had threatened Cote repeatedly with a knife, and witnesses testified during the five-day trial that they often saw Cole with a “big knife.” But state police investigators said they never found the knife, and Cote’s defense team never produced the knife as evidence of self-defense at the trial.

Cote testified that he threw the knife into the woods after he killed Cole.

His lawyer, Stephen Smith, said he had no comment Wednesday when asked if he or any member of Cote’s defense team ever had gone into the woods to look for the knife.

Smith said on Wednesday that it “really didn’t matter if we had or didn’t have the knife. His testimony was that there was a knife and he had to defend himself against Ricky.

“Whether it was found or not is totally irrelevant.”

In his sentencing memorandum to the judge, which will be presented in court Friday, Smith writes that after the fight that resulted in Cole’s death, Cote “removed Ricky’s pants and took those along with a comforter, the metal pipe, Ricky’s cellphone and the knife.

“Jason threw the comforter, metal pipe and Ricky’s pants into a nearby pond, which were later recovered by the police. Jason threw Ricky’s cellphone and the knife into the woods. Those items were not recovered by the police.”

Cote’s own clothes — which were stained with Cole’s blood — later were found under a vacant mobile home next to his own home in Palmyra.

Cote was questioned by police on three occasions, and each time he denied involvement in Cole’s death.

Smith states in the memorandum that Cole was a known drug dealer in the Detroit area. He sold his prescription medications to many people, including Cote, who said he was addicted to methylphenidate, a stimulant used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder that goes by commercial names Ritalin and Concerta, and the sedative alprazolam, which goes by the commercial name Xanax and is used to treat anxiety. Smith said Cote would fall into debt to Cole for drug payments, but he eventually would catch up by either paying cash or working, such as mowing Cole’s lawn, and settle the debt.

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 Cole’s life, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said, noting that despite the threats, Cole never had hurt Cote previously.

In March 2013, Cole’s home was destroyed by fire, and firearms were found charred inside the home. As a convicted felon, Cole was not allowed to possess firearms, so he told investigators that the guns were Cote’s.

Cote went along with the story initially, but soon changed his mind when threatened with prosecution for providing false statements to a federal agent. He agreed to cooperate by saying that the guns belonged to Cole. Cote said he was afraid to go to jail.

Cole learned of Cote’s cooperation with the federal investigation and on July 17, the day of the murder, he asked Cote to come to his home to mow the lawn in exchange for drugs.

“Several hours later, Ricky reached back out to Jason by text message through a third party,” according to Smith’s memorandum. “Ricky asked Jason to come back to his residence later that night.”

Cole raised the topic of the federal investigation and asked Cote if he was more afraid of going to jail than he was of him, according to Smith’s memorandum. When the topic was being discussed, Cole became visibly angry.

“Ricky’s anger intensified and he picked up a knife and began to pace towards Jason and away from him while asking the question whether Jason was more afraid of jail than he was of Ricky,” Smith writes in his court memorandum.

Cote then grabbed a pipe and struck Cole, killing him.

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 during the trial.

The jury rejected Cote’s claim of self-defense and found him guilty of murder. The jury did not specify whether it found him guilty of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder. The facts, Smith writes, are most consistent with depraved indifference murder, not intentional or knowing murder.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.