Jury selection is scheduled for Sept. 21 in the murder trial of Robert Burton, of Abbot, charged with killing his former girlfriend in June 2015 and leading police on one of the longest manhunts in state history.

Burton’s murder trial is due to begin Sept. 25 at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

Burton, 40, is charged with murder in the death of Stephanie Gebo in the town of Parkman, in Piscataquis County. He pleaded not guilty in December 2015 to the charge of murder in Piscataquis County Superior Court in Dover-Foxcroft and was indicted by a grand jury in October.

Burton, a convicted felon who is not allowed to have a gun, also entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Gebo was killed the day after the end of Burton’s probation for a domestic violence conviction that sent him to prison for 10 years. Gebo’s children told police that Burton had lived with them for about two years at 46 Kulas Road in Parkman and that he had moved out May 31 to live with his parents. He allegedly returned June 5 and shot Gebo to death.

Legislation proposing that a person who commits murder in an act of domestic violence be given a harsher sentence than the law currently allows — in a bill sponsored by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash — received unanimous support Thursday in the state Senate, according to a release from the Maine Senate Democratic Office. The bipartisan bill now goes to the House of Representatives for an initial vote and possible final enactment. But that statute would not apply to Burton. If convicted of murder, he would be sentenced according to the law in effect at the time of the crime.

When a judge sentences a murderer, current law requires that the murderer be handed a sentence of life imprisonment or at least 25 years in jail, according to the release. Jackson’s bill — L.D. 449, to be known as “Amy’s Law” — would add domestic violence as an aggravating factor for which a judge must add “special weight” in determining the length of the sentence. Jackson submitted the bill on behalf of a constituent, Barbara Theriault, of St. Francis, whose daughter, Amy Theriault, was shot and stabbed to death by her longtime boyfriend in 2014.

Gebo, 37, a single mother of two, was shot to death with a pistol, according to police. She had broken up with Burton a week earlier and was so afraid of him that she had changed the house locks and slept with a handgun under her pillow, police said. Gebo’s fear for herself and her children was recounted in an affidavit written by state police Detective Thomas Pickering.

According to the affidavit, Detective Micah Perkins found four shell casings from a 9 mm handgun and an open window in the bedroom where Gebo’s body was found. Medical Examiner Margaret Greenwald, who conducted the autopsy on Gebo on June 7, 2015, found multiple gunshot wounds to the lungs, spinal area and trachea and determined the death was a homicide.

Gebo’s body was discovered by her 13-year-old daughter. The girl got her brother out of bed, then called 911. As she was calling, she saw a camouflage backpack and jacket outside that she recognized as Burton’s. Inside the backpack police said they later found a knife, duct tape and medication in bottles prescribed to Burton. Police said they also found Burton’s cellphone in the jacket.

Gebo, unresponsive in her first-floor bedroom, had suffered several gunshot wounds and had been tied up with duct tape, according to police.

Burton’s father, Roger, told police that he spoke with his son on June 4, and the younger Burton was upset and “at the end of his rope,” saying he had discovered messages on Gebo’s old phone and he suspected she was cheating on him.

Burton was on the run for 68 days, making it one of the longest manhunts in state history. Authorities think he had been living in the woods before he gave himself up at the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department, saying he was afraid he was going to be shot by police.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop is prosecuting the case. He would not comment on the case Thursday.

Burton is represented by Hunter Tzovarras, of Bangor. Contacted by phone Thursday, Tzovarras confirmed the late September trial date and said nothing new has happened in the case since proceedings were postponed in August 2016, when Burton sought to replace Jeffrey Toothaker as his lawyer. Burton filed a handwritten motion, received in the Penobscot court, complaining about his attorney and seeking new legal representation.

Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen, who is presiding over the case, discussed the motion with Burton and Toothaker and granted the motion for new counsel. The trial was moved from Dover-Foxcroft in Piscataquis County to Bangor in Penobscot County because of concerns about pre-trial publicity.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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