AUGUSTA — Starkly different closing arguments capped the murder trial of Aubrey N. Armstrong on Tuesday, as the prosecutor called for a conviction in a drug-related case he said offered a glimpse “into a dark and disturbing world,” while the defense pointed to evidence suggesting someone else may have been responsible for the killing.

Justice Daniel Billings said he intends to deliver a verdict around 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Capital Judicial Center.

Armstrong, 29, of Far Rockaway, New York, opted against testifying at his own trial, telling a different judge who advised him of his rights, “I am not going to testify.” Those words came from an interpreter, one of two people translating between English and Guyanese Creole for Armstrong.

He faces charges of murder, felony murder and robbery in connection with the drug-related fatal bludgeoning two and half years ago of Joseph Marceau, 31, of Augusta.

In a closing argument Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop told the judge in presenting the evidence about the bloody murder, “We have glimpsed into a dark and disturbing world, a dystopia that is the result of the unseen sort of creeping apocalypse that is the scourge of heroin addiction in our state and in our times.”

“The world,” Alsop continued, “is peopled by cold-blooded drug merchants that are spreading their poisons for money and for hopelessly, morally and physically compromised and damaged addicts that dwell in the wreckage of their own lives. This is not a pretty picture.”

Two other men who pleaded guilty to felony murder and robbery in Marceau’s death have fingered Armstrong as the man who administered the fatal beating in a trash-strewn, fourth-floor apartment at 75 Washington St. in Augusta.

But Armstrong, who is not a U.S. citizen but is legally in the country, should be cleared of the charges because there is no direct evidence tying him to the scene of the crime on Nov. 23, 2015, argued his defense attorney, Brad Grant.

“Most compelling is the fact that nowhere in the apartment are there any fingerprints or DNA of my client,” Grant said, suggesting that someone else murdered Marceau.

He told the judge that DNA from Michael “Dirty” McQuade, now 47, was found there and that DNA of Zina Fritze, 27, was found on the back pocket of Marceau’s pants, where he would be expected to keep his wallet. McQuade and Fritze recently had been evicted from the apartment.

Grant on Tuesday called a series of witnesses, beginning with Michelle Arbour, who testified that she lived in the adjacent apartment and heard loud banging noises that night before seeing the shadows of three people fleeing from the other apartment.

Arbour said she had heard Fritze’s voice through the kitchen wall, which was common to both apartments. However, Arbour said she could not hear what was spoken although another man who was in her apartment did.

When Grant called Justin Sawyer as a witness, however, he answered a few basic questions but then invoked his 5th Amendment right against testifying. The attorney representing him, Lisa Whittier, told the judge, “My client will be asserting his 5th Amendment privileges in this case.”

McQuade was one of those who entered the guilty pleas, and he testified last week that a group of people had plotted to rob Marceau of 5 grams of heroin he had been trying to sell. McQuade said that once the group reached his former apartment, Marceau was attacked by co-defendants Armstrong and Damik Davis. McQuade said Armstrong continued the attack even after Davis halted, eventually hog-tying Marceau and dragging him into a bedroom. Davis, who answered the door when police came to investigate the noises, fled but was arrested shortly afterward.

Prosecutors put into evidence a blood-spattered grade stick, one whose imprint was evident across Marceau’s face, abdomen and buttocks in color photographs shown during the trial.

Alsop described Marceau as “a happy-go-lucky man who has made the fatal mistake of making it known to the four of them that he’s got heroin in his pocket.”

McQuade said Armstrong initially struck Marceau across the head with a milk bottle, but Grant said there was no glass in Marceau’s hair and none seen by investigators or in photos of the scene.

McQuade said within the first 10 seconds Marceau hollered for them to “just take it,” meaning the drugs, but the beating didn’t stop.

“He was bent over,” McQuade testified. “He was being beaten down to the floor. I think he was in a crouch. They were kicking him. They were punching him. They were picking up whatever they could. There were things strewn around.”

Grant theorized that McQuade was not even at the murder scene, suggesting it was only Fritz in the apartment with Davis and Marceau.

Grant told the judge, “I just don’t understand how the testimony of McQuade can be reconciled with the lack of Aubrey’s DNA in the apartment and the lack of broken glass in the apartment.”

Alsop, in countering that argument, said, “Apparently a milk bottle was not found, but the gist of the testimony rings true, your honor.”

Alsop also pointed to a white cellphone believed to be Armstrong’s that was found outside the apartment building that night. “He dropped it there when he was running from the apartment,” Alsop said.

Alsop said there were references to “Aubrey,” to “Acon,” which Alsop said was Armstrong’s “New York moniker” and to “Aubrey1989black” (Armstrong was born in 1989) and to Armstrong’s daughter. Witnesses at trial said Armstrong was known in Maine as “Butter.”

Fritze, 27, hanged herself in jail a day after pleading not guilty to the indictment charging her with Marceau’s murder. Damik “Doughboy” Davis, 28, also of New York, and described as “muscle” for Armstrong, also pleaded guilty to felony murder and robbery. He was not called to testify at Armstrong’s trial.

Plea agreements for both men indicate that if they testified truthfully they would each serve an initial 10 to 15 years of a 25-year prison term

Billings, just prior to leaving the courtroom, asked Alsop that in order to convict Armstrong of Marceau’s murder, “Doesn’t the court have to rely on the testimony of Mr. McQuade?”

“It does, your honor,” Alsop said, “and it should.”

Another witness, Kallie M. Bryant, 27, who is at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham serving a sentence for forgery, theft and trafficking in prison contraband, testified Tuesday morning that she saw McQuade and Fritze earlier on Nov. 23, 2015, and that both were “dope-sick” and trying to sell a cellphone.

Last week, Karen Lea, formerly of Augusta, and her daughter Katrina Lea, then 18, testified that at the time they were both addicted to heroin, that Armstrong and Davis were living there and selling drugs from the apartment. They also said they saw Fritze, McQuade and Armstrong climb into the Leas’ apartment that night through the window on the fire escape shortly after emergency vehicle sirens sounded in the neighborhood, and that Armstrong’s clothes had blood on them.

Lea said Armstrong had messed up his drug-dealing finances and that another dealer, Richard J. Baker, of Bronx, New York, said Armstrong would have to kill and rob somebody to make up for it.

Another witness, Amanda Ware, 31, of Sidney, testified last week that Armstrong told her he was $10,000 short.

She said she had encountered Armstrong in Augusta and in various drug deals, and recalled he used a white or silver cellphone. Ware said that a white cellphone found by investigators on the ground outside McQuade’s apartment building could be the one she saw Armstrong using. It was shown to her in a plastic evidence bag.

She also testified that she had talked with Armstrong about marijuana — which she said was his drug of choice, not hers — and that he told her “something about him being down 10 grand and he had to come up with 10 grand before going home.”

Ware pleaded guilty in March 2018 to a federal charge of using/maintaining a drug-involved premises and aiding and abetting in connection with a central Maine drug conspiracy. She is being held in the Hancock County jail pending sentencing.

She said she and her attorney had negotiated various immunity agreements about her testimony.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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