AUGUSTA — A jury on Thursday convicted Justin Pillsbury of murder in the November 2013 stabbing death of his girlfriend.

The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours before returning the verdict just before 5 p.m. at the Capital Judicial Center, the fourth day of Pillsbury’s trial.

Pillsbury, 41, was charged with murdering his 24-year-old girlfriend, Jillian T. Jones, by stabbing her on Nov. 13, 2013, in an apartment in Augusta.

Justice Michaela Murphy told jurors that they could find Pillsbury guilty of murder or guilty of manslaughter. She also said they could find that he acted in self-defense, and if so, they needed to find him not guilty.

About 3 p.m., the jury returned to the courtroom to hear parts of the taped interview in which Pillsbury talked about Jones was holding a knife in the bathroom. The jury also heard the court reporter read back Pillsbury’s testimony Thursday on that same issue.

In that testimony, Pillsbury painted a picture of Jones as violent when she was drinking hard alcohol.

On the witness stand, Pillsbury said during one fight, Jones bit his eyelid and would have torn it off with her teeth if he had not grabbed her around the neck.

He said she stood on his bed in the apartment above his mother’s home in Benton and “karate-kicked” a window out.

Pillsbury said Jones trashed that same apartment.

Those events occurred in summer 2013, before Pillsbury stabbed Jones to death in an apartment on Crosby Street as the two struggled over her cellphone.

“I didn’t intend to kill the love of my life,” Pillsbury told Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber. “I was intoxicated.”

Pillsbury, who has been in jail since his arrest Nov. 15, 2013, wore a dark suit, a light shirt and a tie while testifying Thursday.

His voice was louder and firmer than it sounded on audio recordings from November 2013 that had been played for jurors a day earlier.

Pillsbury spent almost two hours testifying, saying he stabbed Jones only after she came after him with a knife, cutting him above the eye and on the hand and forearm as he tried to disarm her.

Pillsbury said he didn’t recall everything that occurred as he struggled with Jones, especially when he was interviewed by police about it two days later in a hospital bed where he was recovering from self-inflicted wounds to his neck.

“I didn’t remember the little details; what I remember is I killed her,” Pillsbury said on the witness stand.

“It started out as a joking type of thing,” Pillsbury said, describing his taking her cellphone and her demanding it back from him.

He said it became serious after she stabbed him above the eye, causing him to be unable to see out of it.

Pillsbury’s attorneys have said Pillsbury acted in self-defense when he killed Jones in the bathroom of the apartment.

Pillsbury said he was trying to neutralize the threat and get the knife out of her hands.

In response to a question from Macomber, Pillsbury agreed that he was about a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than Jones. Pillsbury said he is 6-foot-4 and at the time weighed about 200 pounds.

Macomber had Pillsbury come out of the witness box at one point and stand near the other prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam, as Macomber used a measuring tape to determine her height.

Defense attorney Stephen Smith objected to that, drawing a sidebar conference with the judge.

Finally Pillsbury testified that Elam was about the height of Jones.

Pillsbury said he had moved to Augusta two weeks earlier from his Benton apartment in order to be closer to his construction work in Augusta. He said he was staying with Michael St. Pierre until he could get his own apartment and that Jones stayed with him during the week. Jones, who had grown up in Bingham, was attending beauty school in Waterville.

In his closing argument, Macomber told jurors they had to decide which version of events to believe.

“What you have here is a tale of two Justins — the version he told to Detective (Christopher) Tremblay and the version he told to you folks on the stand,” he said.

Macomber said a trail of Pillsbury’s blood on a door shows that Pillsbury was trying to get into the bathroom to kill Jones.

“Justin Pillsbury was not acting in self-defense,” Macomber argued. “He didn’t believe that she was going to kill him. He didn’t believe that he had to kill her to defend himself, and he’s the one that provoked the encounter that night. Justin Pillsbury is guilty of murder.”

Macomber said the stories differ in that Pillsbury told detectives he demanded she unlock her phone, but on the stand he testified that his grabbing her phone started as a joke and changed only after she got upset because he would not return it to her.

“If you believe what he told Detective Tremblay two days after the murder, he intended to kill her,” Macomber said. He punctuated his argument by playing short clips of the interview that took place as Pillsbury was in the hospital bed on Nov. 15, 2013, just before his arrest.

Macomber said Pillsbury was jealous and believed Jones was communicating on her cellphone with another man.

In the closing argument for the defense, Smith said the knife fight occurred rapidly when both Pillsbury and Jones were drunk and that Jones came after Pillsbury with a knife in the bathroom.

“Justin didn’t choose to have her come at him with a knife while he was drunk,” Smith argued. “He simply had to do the best he could with the situation at hand, and frankly, the best he could was what he had to do, and that was neutralize that threat.”

Smith said Jones had proved violent on prior occasions, but she wasn’t holding a knife then.

“When she came at him with that knife, the choices became very narrow, very limited,” Smith said.

Smith said grief drove Pillsbury to attempt to kill himself.

Smith illustrated his closing by holding up enlargements of photos of Pillsbury’s injuries after they were treated.

He told jurors to remember that Pillsbury’s blood was throughout the apartment, while Jones’ blood was primarily in the bathroom.

Thursday’s proceedings were watched by about 40 people sitting in the public area of the courtroom.

Jones’ family and friends were in the first two rows behind the prosecutor. Pillsbury’s sister sat on a front bench behind the defendant. Family and friends indicated they did not wish to comment after the verdict.

A number of court personnel and other attorneys heard Pillsbury’s testimony and closing arguments.

On Tuesday, St. Pierre, the man who lived in the apartment where Jones was killed, testified that he came home about 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 2013, and found Jones dead in the bathroom and Pillsbury bleeding heavily.

St. Pierre testified — under a grant of immunity from prosecution — that he helped sharpen a knife so Pillsbury could better use it to kill himself.

St. Pierre and others testified they had been drinking vodka and tequila with the couple earlier in the evening but left before the couple’s argument.

On Monday, the state’s former chief medical examiner testified that Jones suffered 12 stab wounds, with the fatal ones piercing major blood vessels in her neck.

Forensic DNA analysts testified that Pillsbury’s blood was found on four knives in the apartment and that a mixture of Pillsbury’s and Jones’ blood was found on one knife.

A sentencing hearing will be held at a later date.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.