AUGUSTA — The trial of a New Yorker accused of murdering an Augusta man started Tuesday with the prosecutor saying that the defendant continued to beat the victim even though the immediately gave up the heroin being demanded.

Aubrey N. Armstrong, 29, of Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, is charged with the Nov. 23, 2015, beating death of Joseph Marceau, 31, of Augusta. The killing occurred on a fourth-floor apartment on Washington Street in Augusta.

Two co-defendants, Damik Davis, 28, of New York, and Michael Sean McQuade, 47, of Augusta, pleaded guilty to felony murder and robbery last August in connection with Marceau’s death and are awaiting sentencing. McQuade, who is being held in the Cumberland County jail, is expected to testify Wednesday.

A woman, Zina Marie Fritze, 27, of Augusta, also was accused in Marceau’s death, but authorities said she hanged herself in a jail cell a day after pleading not guilty to murder. McQuade and Fritze had been occupying the apartment where the killing occurred but had been evicted.

In an opening statement, Assistant Attorney General Johnathan Nathans said the evidence would show that on Nov. 23, 2015, Armstrong was living in Maine and using a network of apartments to sell illicit drugs in the Augusta area.

“The state anticipates you will hear that while Armstrong was a drug dealer, he wasn’t a financially sound one,” Nathans told Justice Daniel Billings, who is hearing the case without a jury at Armstrong’s request. “Armstrong had messed up his work, ran out of drugs and money and was in debt to his suppliers.”


Nathans said a group of people, including Armstrong, hatched a plan to rob Marceau, who was a drug user looking to sell some heroin to get himself some crack. Nathans said the people involved either wanted to get high off Marceau’s drugs or to work off a drug debt.

Nathans said Marceau was punched, kicked and beaten with a survey stick and his head was stomped on.

“After that first blow to his head, he gave up the heroin in his pocket,” Nathans said, adding that Armstrong didn’t stop the beating then and that Marceau couldn’t defend himself because his arms were tied behind his back. His ankles were tied as well.

One image projected on a desktop monitor in court showed Marceau on his back on the floor, his head bloodied and bruised and with what appeared to be a swollen nose, blackened eyes. One gash was clearly visible in the middle of his forehead.

Augusta police Detective Michael Unterkoeffler, who identified the photo, testified that Marceau appeared to have no pulse and was not breathing.

Nathans also told the judge, “You will hear about the lack of DNA from any of the individuals that participated in the robbery and eventual murder of Joseph Marceau at the scene.” Nathans said Armstrong fled to a nearby apartment, where he began to wash his bloody jeans and shoes.


Another member of the prosecution team, Deputy Attorney General John Alsop, introduced into evidence many of the photographs taken and items police seized from the apartment and elsewhere in and around the building. They included a size 4XL black sweatshirt, which officers testified they saw Davis wearing when he answered the apartment door that night. Augusta police officers said Davis was breathing rapidly, perspiring heavily and couldn’t answer their questions immediately.

Davis fled the apartment via a rear fire escape and was arrested nearby after Maine State Trooper G. J. Neagle and his police dog tracked him. The sweatshirt — with a cellphone in the pocket — was found abandoned on the building’s fire escape railing. Another cellphone was located in the grass near the base of the fire escape. The prosecutors did not say whose phone that was. Marceau’s wallet was found on a railing outside the apartment.

Augusta police had gone to the building after downstairs neighbors reported hearing loud noises from the apartment above.

Two Augusta police officers testified that while they spoke to Davis at the doorway, another person wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up walked from the bedroom where Marceau’s body was located through the kitchen and apparently then out the fire escape. The prosecutors maintain it was Armstrong, but defense attorney Brad Grant suggested it might have been Fritze, a slender woman who was 5 feet, 8 inches tall.

Other photographs of the apartment showed blood spatter on the ceiling of the living room, around the main entrance door to the fourth-floor apartment, and what appeared to be blood stains on a grade stake used in construction.

The nonjury trial began Tuesday morning with the swearing-in of two interpreters brought in to interpret between English and a Guyana patois, a creole language with West African influences. At trial, Armstrong sat between Grant and one of the interpreters, who took turns interpreting. Occasionally, the interpreter’s soft voice could be heard as attorney questions and the witness answers were being translated. Grant said previously that while Armstrong is not a U.S. citizen, he is legally in the United States.


Ten family and friends of Marceau entered the courtroom together just before the trial started, and they left briefly before a photo of Marceau’s head injuries was shown and his wounds were discussed briefly. In the afternoon, when more images of the scene were offered into evidence, the family members looked away or used their arms to hide their eyes.

When Armstrong himself first entered the courtroom from the in-custody area, he looked around at those sitting in the public area. He was wearing a green Kennebec County jail uniform, his short, braided hair tied in a ponytail.

Grant did not make an opening statement Tuesday morning, telling the judge he wanted to reserve his right to give one at the beginning of the defense portion of the trial.

The trial at the Capital Judicial Center is set to continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and to run through the end of the week.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

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