A former Benton man serving a life prison sentence for murdering a Waterville woman more than two decades ago has filed for a postconviction review, alleging that a potential plea bargain was not communicated properly at the time he was found guilty.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Maine Attorney General has filed a motion to dismiss the case in response. A hearing on the motion was held Tuesday morning at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

Robert Wayne Lonardo, 62, was found guilty of the 1994 murder of Marianne Pembrook, who was strangled and shot when she interrupted the burglary of her Waterville home.

Lonardo is serving his life sentence at Maine State Prison.

Lonardo’s attorney, Andrew Campbell, said they are asking for a postconviction review of the case. Lonardo’s attorney at the time of his 1995 conviction, John Nale, did not “properly communicate” a plea offer of 60 years in prison that was made at the time, according to Campbell.

If Lonardo had been aware of the 60-year offer, he would’ve taken it, Campbell said. That would have put Lonardo in prison until the year 2055 — when he’d be about 100 years old. But Campbell thinks his client could have been released early under such a sentence, around age 76.


“At least then he’d be out to see the light of day before he dies,” Campbell said in an interview after the hearing.

Donald Macomber, the assistant attorney general, is asking the court to dismiss the review, saying that too much time has passed so Lonardo can’t benefit from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Missouri v. Frye. The 2012 ruling upheld Galin Frye’s right to a postconviction review after he said that his attorney never had communicated the plea bargain offers to him.

Superior Court Judge Michaela Murphy said Campbell has asked the court to hear testimony about the timeline of events, and that Lonardo doesn’t have to rely on the Supreme Court ruling.

Murphy asked Lonardo if he gave the state permission to speak with his previous attorney, Nale, about their communications about plea deals. Usually, any communications between Lonardo and Nale, an attorney at Nale Law Offices in Waterville, would be considered confidential.

Lonardo said he didn’t object to the attorney general talking to Nale about the allegations.

Murphy deferred any ruling on the state’s motion to dismiss until a time yet to be scheduled in June.


Lonardo was found guilty in a nonjury trial in 1995 in Lincoln Superior Court in Wiscasset. Prosecutors said he shot Pembrook, 47, fatally with a stolen pistol when she entered her home during the botched burglary, the Portland Press Herald reported at the time. Lonardo had testified that he was high on drugs and alcohol and that he had no intention of hurting anyone, saying his gun discharged in a moment of panic.

A former Maine State Police detective said the powder residue left on Pembrook’s left side allowed him to estimate that she was shot from no farther away than 4 feet with a .380-caliber Davis Industries semiautomatic pistol. While three bullets were found at the scene, the weapon never was recovered.

Lonardo was charged with murder, robbery and burglary, among other things. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239


Twitter: @madelinestamour

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