AUGUSTA — Cpl. Eugene Cole of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office was shot and killed during the early morning hours of April 25 while on patrol in Norridgewock, just minutes after apparently stopping to check on John D. Williams, who had duffel bags and a bullet proof vest after being dropped off at a driveway around 1 a.m.

A friend says Williams called him 15 minutes later, saying he had just shot the corporal and that either Williams had snuck up on Cole or vice versa — the friend couldn’t remember which.

Those details emerged Monday in a police affidavit filed in court as Williams, 29, of Madison, made an initial appearance at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta on a charge of murder. Cole was killed by a single gunshot wound to the neck that perforated his spinal cord, according to the criminal complaint filed Monday against Williams.

While the affidavit does not explicitly spell out a possible motive for the killing, the newly released details suggest that it was a moment of happenstance: an officer on duty conducting a routine check on a person whom a friend said appeared “tweaked” and who was on edge about a court appearance in Massachusetts on drug charges.

Williams did not enter a plea Monday to the charge of intentional or knowing murder in death of Cole, a 13-year police veteran who was the first Maine police officer to die in a shooting in nearly 30 years. Justice Robert Mullen ordered a psychological examination on Williams and ordered him held without bail.

The case is to be moved to Cumberland County, where his court appointed attorney, Patrick Nickerson, said he would be more likely to get a fair trial with all the media coverage of Cole’s murder in central Maine. The hearing took less than five minutes once dozens of media personnel filed into the courtroom, followed by court and county personnel and uniformed deputies.

Mullen said Williams faces 25 years to life in prison if he is found guilty. Williams told the judge he understood the charge against him.

Three members of Cole’s family, accompanied by victim advocate Michelle Cram from the Maine Attorney General’s Office, were in the courtroom at the Capital Judicial Center on Monday to watch the hearing.

Williams appeared to be exhausted, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and a blue shirt and flanked by his court-appointed lawyers. He was arrested Saturday afternoon following a four-day manhunt that involved more than 200 law enforcement officials from local, state and federal agencies.

Meanwhile, Williams’ girlfriend, Kristina Pomerleau, 32, of Norridgewock, was still incarcerated Monday at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison. Pomerleau was arrested in Norridgewock on Saturday, April 21 — four days before the shooting of Cole — on charges of unlawful furnishing of scheduled drugs, possession of scheduled drugs, operating after suspension and possession of a suspended license. Her arrest followed a traffic stop Saturday at 5:13 p.m. on Skowhegan Road in Norridgewock, in which Cpl. Cole was listed as among three responding officers in a sheriff’s department police log.

A police affidavit detailing what happened with Pomerleau’s arrest has not been available because a judge had impounded it Thursday morning, at the request of the district attorney’s office.

In a separate incident, Williams was arrested in Massachusetts last month on firearm and driving-related charges following a traffic stop, and was scheduled to appear Wednesday last week — the same day as the Norridgewock shooting took place — in a Massachusetts courtroom. Pomerleau was a passenger in the vehicle during that traffic stop and was issued a summons for possession of Percocet.

EARLY MORNING ENCOUNTER

Cole’s last phone call to another Somerset County deputy ended abruptly at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, April 25, according to the Maine State Police complaint written by Detective Jason Andrews.

Police say Williams shot and killed Cole, then stole his cruiser and stole from a convenience store.

The affidavit seeking an arrest warrant for Williams is unclear about how exactly the two men encountered one another early that morning.

According to the police document, John Williams told Christopher “Chris” Williams, 39 — who told police he was not related to the suspect — in a call at 1:15 a.m. April 25 that he had shot Cole in the head, according to the complaint filed by Maine State Police Detective Jason Anderson of the Major Crimes Unit.

Chris Williams said he gave John Williams a ride to Indian Ridge Apartments in Skowhegan where friends Brittany Roseberry, 26, and Christopher Shulenski, 31, met John Williams and brought him to a house in Norridgewock, according to the police affidavit. Shulenski later told police that John Williams had several bags with him and placed items in the trunk of their car, and was with two other men.

Roseberry and Shulenski noted that Williams had a bullet-proof vest with him.

On the drive to Norridgewock, they saw a Somerset County Sheriff’s Department pickup truck parked at the gas pumps at the Cumberland Farms store. Shulenski said in an interview with the Morning Sentinel that Williams was acting paranoid and nervous and “wasn’t talking about killing anybody or no problems with the cops. He was talking about maybe going and robbing a (drug) dealer to get his girlfriend out of jail. I really just thought it was talk.”

They drove him to a house in Norridgewock, at 16 Mercer Road, where Williams had lived while growing up. There, Williams placed some of the items in a silver SUV parked in the driveway, according to the document.

 

Shulenski told police that while they were in the driveway of the house in Norridgewock, they saw a Somerset County sheriff’s pickup truck drive by the home — no exact time is indicated in the affidavit, which suggests the sheriff’s truck was driven by Cole. They said the sheriff’s truck was driving slowly and they saw the truck’s brake lights go on.

“Shulenski stated that John (Williams) told him that he should not leave, but Shulenski said that he was legal and had no concerns,” the affidavit states. “Shulenski and Roseberry left Norridgewock and returned to Skowhegan.”

Cole was talking with a Somerset County sheriff’s deputy on his cellphone when, at 1 a.m., the “call was abruptly ended and appeared to have lost service or connection,” according to the affidavit.

Chris Williams told police that John Williams called him after 1 a.m. — the affidavit uses both times of 1:15 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. — and “John told Chris that he had shot (Cole) in the head. John requested to meet with Chris on the Martin Stream Road in Norridgewock.”

During that call, “John told him Cpl. Cole snuck up on him, or John snuck up on Cpl. Cole (he couldn’t remember which) and John shot Cpl. Cole.”

SHOOTING AFTERMATH

Cole’s marked Somerset County Sheriff’s pickup truck was reported at about 1:45 a.m. that day at the Cumberland Farms convenience store on Main Street in Norridgewock. A clerk there reported a man — later identified as John Williams — grabbed a pack of cigarettes and left without paying before departing in the cruiser. The clerk saw “the butt end of a handgun in the male subject’s waistband,” Andrews wrote, suggesting that’s why the incident was reported as a robbery.

Later, when Chris Williams met up with John Williams standing in the road on Martin Stream Road, John Williams took out a “crack pipe began smoking drugs.”

“Chris said John demanded Chris’ cellphone and car, so Chris gave John his cellphone, denied him his car, and told John to get out,” the affidavit states. Chris Williams told police “he continued to drive on the Martin Stream Road, where he encountered a Fairfield Police Officer and told him what happened.”

Cole’s marked police truck was found at 5:08 a.m. at 508 Martin Stream Road.

Cole’s body was located about 7:30 a.m. that day at the home of Kimberly Sirois at 16 Mercer Road, Norridgewock, where Williams reportedly had lived until Christmas 2017.

Sirois told police she looked out her back door and saw the officer’s body lying in her yard.

Sirois said in a brief phone interview Monday that she wasn’t aware Williams was planning to come to her house Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and didn’t know what brought him or Cole there.

“I know nothing,” she said when reached by phone. “We were asleep all night.”

The affidavit states that Sirois went out to check on the body and call 911, but she noticed police officers across the street at the Fire Department and yelled at them.

“There was an obvious gunshot wound to Cpl. Cole’s head,” according to the police affidavit. The Office of Chief Medical Examiner confirmed the report.

What followed over the next four days was a sprawling, frantic manhunt involving armed police officers, sheriff’s deputies and game wardens from all over Maine and from New Hampshire and Massachusetts as well as federal authorities from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Border Patrol and the U.S. Marshals Service. It ended with Williams’ arrest Saturday on Norridgewock Road in Fairfield, not far from the search grid, marking a wide area around Martin Stream Road.

FINAL HOURS

In a Facebook post Monday morning, Cole’s wife of 41 years, Sheryl, described in newly-disclosed detail her husband’s final hours. She wrote that Cole got up from his recliner around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, saying he had to get ready for work and would be on duty at 4 p.m.

He started using an electric razor to shave his face, sitting back in his chair.

“He knows how much it annoyed me when he did this — and he did it every single day,” Sheryl Cole wrote. “Yet, he would look at me with an expression of fake shock on his face while I was glaring at him, and say ‘What?’, as if he didn’t know. Then he’d continue to shave, and place the razor on the end table beside his chair. (something else that really annoyed me.) In a few minutes, he’d headed back to the bathroom to shower.

“He then continued to get ready, putting on his vest, putting on his uniform, making sure all his brass was just so, and pulling on his ever-so-shiny boots. He’d check himself in the mirror several times before telling me, ‘Okay, Hon. I gotta go.’ He gave miss (sic) a hug and kiss goodbye, and said, ‘I love you.’ I said, ‘Really? You’re just gonna leave that razor sitting on the stand in the living room?! That’s gross!’ He would just tell me he’d put it away later. I told him I loved him and to be safe, as I did everyday, and his response, as it is everyday — ‘Absolutely.'”

Sheryl Cole wrote that she watched and waved as he drove away.

Between 6 and 6:30 p.m., her husband returned home for a few minutes.

“He talked about the full moon and how it brought all the ‘crazies’ out. We talked a little, and abruptly he’d give me a hurried kiss and say he had to go,” she wrote. “On his way out, he spotted the razor still sitting where he left it, and gave me a look like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Anyway, we said our ritual goodbye, ending with me saying (or yelling) ‘Be safe’ and him responding, ‘Absolutely.’

“The next time I saw my husband, he was laying in a casket.”

“The last five days have been the purest form of hell and torture,” she wrote. “The waiting when they couldn’t find his body, the finality when they did, and the uncertainty of the days that followed.”

‘MOST SERIOUS CASES’

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, the state prosecutors, have now requested a Harnish hearing to determine if Williams will be eligible for bail.

Marchese, meeting with reporters outside the courthouse Monday afternoon, said she would not discuss details of the case against Williams.

“I don’t expect any further charges — the most important charge is the murder charge,” Marchese said. “The change of venue is just to ensure that Mr. Williams gets a fair trial. He’s still being held in the state prison — I don’t expect that to change.”

Marchese said she has handled other murder cases, but this one is different.

“All murder cases are serious, but when you have the murder of a law enforcement officer, it is one of the most serious cases that we’ve handled,” she said. “Under Maine law, we are entitled to and will be asking for a life sentence if he is convicted.”

Dawn DiBlasi, the Somerset County administrator who was present for the hearing Monday, said Cole was a much loved and respected law enforcement officer.

“Even the criminals in the jail respect him,” she said, noting that Williams was finally located only a mile from her home in Fairfield. “It’s odd to hear that people he actually picked up are speaking highly of him.”

Meanwhile, Chief Deputy James F. Ross of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office reported Monday morning that “unscrupulous people” may be soliciting money in the name of Cole’s family.

“I would like to get the word out to everyone that the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office will NEVER attempt to solicit funds by any means,” Ross said in an email to the Morning Sentinel.

The only legitimate fund is one set up privately by the family of Cpl. Cole. It is called the Cpl. Eugene Cole Memorial fund, administered by the Bangor Savings Bank.

Staff writers Rachel Ohm and Betty Adams contributed reporting.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow