BANGOR — Stephanie Gebo, a 37-year-old mother of two who was shot to death in her own bedroom, was fearful of her former boyfriend’s jealous rage. Sleeping with a gun for protection, Gebo shot Robert Burton when he broke into her bedroom window. He seized the gun and returned fire, leaving her for dead with three bullets in her back.

The pain of that loss has haunted her father, Vance Ginn. But as he stood outside a courthouse Thursday afternoon on a sun-splashed fall day, he was able to feel something other than pain as he held back tears.

He was joyous: a guilty verdict had been returned against his daughter’s killer.

“The court system did its job today,” said a teary-eyed Ginn, wearing a shirt with a photo of “my girl” as other people hooted, hollered and honked horns in celebration. “Finally justice has been done for my daughter, and finally I can have tears of joy instead of hurt.”

Burton was found guilty of murder Thursday in the June 2015 shooting death of Gebo inside her home in Parkman, where they had lived as a couple for more than two years. Burton fled after the shooting without seeking medical attention for himself and without calling 911 for Gebo. He turned himself in to police more than two months after what authorities said was the longest and most costly manhunt in state history.

His trial, which lasted nine days and featured Burton testifying on the witness stand, concluded just before noon Thursday when the jury of five women and seven men finished deliberating for more than six hours over two days, ultimately rejecting the defendant’s arguments claiming self-defense and no intention to kill.


When the verdict was returned, Burton sat silent. The color in his face had drained away; his skin was ashen. He showed no emotion as all 12 jurors said “guilty” aloud, leaving the courtroom silent and still. Burton later hugged his attorneys before being led away, back to his jail cell.

Gebo’s family and friends were advised not to express any outward signs of emotion in the courtroom, and they saved the hooting and hollering and horn-tooting for the street outside.

Stephen Gebo, of Parkman, who was married to Stephanie and is the father of their children, Sidney, now 15, and Connor, now 12, said he was “overjoyed” with the verdict. Sidney attended the trial but did declined to comment.

“I’m overjoyed with the fact that now my kids can rest and Stephanie’s family can rest,” he said outside the courthouse. “I’m not going to say anything more. I’m going to leave it up to Connor and Sidney during sentencing.”

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said the state will seek a sentence of life imprisonment. No date has been set for sentencing.

Vance Ginn said he plans to hold a news conference the day of sentencing. He wants to bring awareness to the need for an ankle bracelet program for domestic violence offenders in Maine, although it’s not clear whether Burton would have qualified at the time of the killing for needing such a bracelet.


Burton, who had a felony conviction for domestic violence before moving in with Gebo, also faces a separate charge of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. He faces an additional five years in prison on that charge. Justice Robert Mullen, who presided over the nearly two-week murder trial, will rule on that charge at a later date.

Burton’s father, Roger Burton, and his wife, Sandra, who sat behind the defendant’s table in support of their son every day of the trial, declined to speak with reporters Thursday afternoon as they left the courthouse.

Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras said the defense team and their client were disappointed with the verdict. He said they will appeal the murder conviction.

“But as Mr. Burton said in the end,” Tzovarras said, “he feels he can hold his head up high because he knows he didn’t intend or try to kill Stephanie, and he got to tell the jury that and everyone heard his side of the story.”

Ginn also rejected any assertions that Burton was, deep down, “a good boy.”

“No, he’s not a good boy. He was never a good boy, and now this proves just how bad his life has always been,” Ginn said.



Gebo had broken up with Burton the previous weekend and was killed the day after Burton’s probation ended for a domestic violence conviction that had sent him to prison for 10 years.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors told the jury that Burton was a malevolent force as he climbed in through Gebo’s bedroom window armed with a knife and black duct tape to bind her until she “admits her wickedness” for cheating on him sexually with other men.

Alsop said Burton’s frame of mind was like a “drawer of knives” when he shot and killed his former girlfriend in a jealous rage, that his anger was palatable.

Alsop pointed out that Burton wrestled the gun from Gebo and then had a choice. “Once he has the gun, he can leave; but he doesn’t. He kills her,” Alsop said. “He has no right to self-defense.”

Gebo had told friends and coworkers that “I have a gun and I’m prepared to use it.”


She was afraid of Burton, she told them.

Gebo shot Burton through a pillow from her bed, striking him in the upper torso, from which he bled profusely.

Burton then turned the gun on her, shooting her three times in the back.

Burton fled after the shooting without seeking medical attention for himself and without calling 911 for Gebo. The Maine State Police’s Major Crimes Unit investigated the case and canvassed the greater Penobscot and Somerset County region, looking for the wanted man.

He turned himself in to police 68 days later.

Burton testified on the stand that sometime during the first 30 days he was on the run, he visited his boyhood friend George Miles briefly in Abbot. He said Miles gave him an old tent and an old sleeping bag and told him he could take produce from his garden plot, but to not wipe it out. Burton told Miles that he wanted to turn himself in, but he was afraid he’d be shot by police.


Burton said he was in the woods and overheard state troopers say that the word from the top command was to shoot him on sight.

Eventually Burton walked into the Piscataquis County Jail in Dover-Foxcroft and told the guard: “I’m Robert Burton. I’m here to turn myself in.”


The prosecution team painted a picture of Burton as an obsessive, jealous man who suspected his former girlfriend had been cheating on him when he murdered her.

But the defense team throughout the trial attempted to discredit the investigation to cast reasonable doubt for the jury on Burton’s guilt, saying that there were holes in the case and that police had rushed to judgment in charging Burton with murder before all the evidence was collected. They argued that if Burton had died that day, Gebo would have been on trial.

Burton had been invited to visit that night and acted in self-defense after Stephanie Gebo shot him with a handgun she kept within reach in her bedroom, the defense team argued.


Tzovarras said the gun went off accidentally. Robert Burton survived. Stephanie Gebo did not.

“Mr. Burton acted in self-defense in this case,” he told the jury, urging them to look at the law and come back with a not guilty verdict.

Tzovarras said that if Burton had wanted to kill Gebo, “don’t you think he would have shot her in the head? He’s not looking to kill Stephanie. He’s not trying to kill Stephanie.”

“It’s as bad to convict someone who is not guilty as it is to have been part of the death of Stephanie Gebo,” he said before the jury began deliberating Wednesday.

Tzovarras said he thought presenting the jury with a mock mattress, box spring and gun — in order to have Burton act out what he said happened that night in June 2015 — didn’t seem to be effective, but neither did it backfire on his defense. He said the prosecution’s claim that what Burton testified this week was “pure fiction” was actually the exact opposite of fiction.

“He would say it was pure nonfiction. Unfortunately, the jury just didn’t acquit him,” he said.


The case went to the jury at the Penobscot Judicial Center just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday after the prosecution and defense presented their closing arguments. Mullen released three alternates from the jury, leaving five women and seven men to render a verdict. Jurors deliberated for about four hours Wednesday before asking to go home for the night, and they resumed Thursday at 9 a.m., returning with a verdict just before noon.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop told the jury that most of what Burton said on the stand was “pure fiction,” and that Gebo had every right to defend her home from criminal trespass.

Alsop reiterated that statement outside the courthouse after the verdict Thursday, saying it was a strong case against Burton with a lot of evidence of guilt.

“Yes, it was pure fiction,” Alsop told reporters outside the Penobscot Judicial Center. “It didn’t match up with any of the evidence in the case, and it was, on its own terms, incredible.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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