AUGUSTA — A 26-year-old Jay man whose murder trial ended in a hung jury pleaded guilty Monday to the lesser charge of manslaughter in connection with a dispute over a $200 marijuana debt.

Timothy S. Danforth’s case had been moved to Kennebec County after a mistrial was declared in Franklin County. The plea hearing Monday took place at the Capital Judicial Center and the case was postponed until April 18 for sentencing.

Danforth was charged in the shotgun slaying of Michael Reis, 24, of New Sharon, early on June 1, 2016, at the home of Danforth’s father, Robert Danforth, in Wilton. Timothy Danforth was indicted in Aug. 17, 2016, on a charge of “intentional or knowing murder.”

He has been free on bail since early December 2016.

On Monday, Justice William Stokes told Danforth that the manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, and then asked him a series of questions to be sure his plea was voluntary. Danforth did not speak other than answering “yes.”

The prosecutor said the anticipated sentence is 15 years with up to six years of that to be served initially, and the remainder suspended while Danforth serves four years of probation.


Defense attorneys Sarah Glynn and Jeffrey Wilson will argue for Danforth to spend less than six years behind bars initially.

About 20 people, including family members and friends of Reis and Danforth, watched the plea hearing from the benches in the small courtroom.

Asked for comment following the manslaughter plea hearing, Joe Bissonnette of New Sharon, who with his wife Christine, raised Reis, said, “Not right now.”

The two defense attorneys also said they had no comment.

At the trial, Danforth’s attorneys argued that the shooting was in self-defense, defense of his property and defense of others. The jury was taken to view the shooting scene, a rented trailer on Weld Road.

Danforth did not testify at his trial, which took place Sept. 25, 2017-Oct. 2, 2017, in Farmington.


Reis was with a half dozen people who had apparently gone to Robert Danforth’s home regarding a $200 marijuana debt owed by an 18-year-old to Robert Danforth.

The defense said the people had brought a baseball bat, golf clubs, wrenches and brass knuckles with them.

In a motion filed with the court seeking a jury viewing, defense attorney Wilson wrote that Reis had “rushed from the blind side of the trailer and attacked the Danforths as they stood on their front porch. Mr. Reis did not stop his attack even after Mr. Danforth tried to stop Mr. Reis with shotgun shots to Mr. Reis’ foot and knee. The only thing that stopped Mr. Reis was a shot to the shoulder. Mr. Reis died from loss of blood on the way to the hospital.”

At Monday’s hearing, the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis, outlined the state’s case against Timothy Danforth, saying a gun-toting Timothy Danforth told Trevon Goodwin a day previously that he wanted beat up Zachary Uhlman, who apparently owed the drug debt.

Ellis said there were a number of threatening comments made in an ongoing battle of text messages between Robert Danforth and supporters of Uhlman.

Ellis said Timothy Danforth was aware of the dispute and that various weapons were placed around the Danforth home showing preparation.


Late on May 31, 2016, Matt Kerr, one of those in the vehicle that parked on the road near the Danforth trailer, went first, saying he would act as mediator. He was met by a gunshot.

Then after telling the others he wanted to help Kerr, Reis walked down the driveway.

“At that point he was moving slowly, he had no weapons,” Ellis told the judge. “There were a couple witnesses who testified that his hands were up as he entered the driveway and walked towards the house,”

Those with the vehicle then heard three quick gunshots, and drove down the street, where they found Kerr dragging the injured Reis to the end of the driveway, Ellis said. They drove Reis to the hospital in the vehicle.

Ellis noted that at the trial, Dr. Mark Flomenbaum testified that the fatal shot was the third one that went into Reis’ lung.

“I understand that there were elements of the state’s evidence that were hotly disputed by the defense,” Stokes said.


However, defense attorneys acknowledged to him on Monday that if a jury believed the state’s case, it could find Danforth guilty of manslaughter.

After the trial, Stokes had allowed lawyers to send jurors a letter asking, among other things, about the 11-1 deadlock cited in two notes addressed to the court. It asked “whether the 11 votes were for murder, manslaughter or not guilty, and whether the one vote was for murder, manslaughter or not guilty.” The results of that survey were to be kept confidential.

A new trial had been scheduled in Kennebec County, with jury selection to take place at the end of this week. Prior to the Franklin County trial, the state had offered Danforth a chance to plead to manslaughter, but he had declined.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams

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