A jury trial will begin this week for a burglary suspect who is accused of causing a Wells woman’s fatal heart attack during an attempted break-in three years ago.

Carlton L. Young, 26, of Sanford is charged with felony murder and manslaughter, in addition to multiple counts of burglary and theft. He has pleaded not guilty. Jury selection will begin Monday in York County Superior Court in Alfred, and the trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The case will present an unusual challenge for prosecutors in part because Young did not use a weapon or physically touch 62-year-old Connie Loucks. Officials believe Loucks suffered a heart attack after Young and at least one other person knocked on her doors and windows while attempting to burglarize her home.

Under Maine law, manslaughter and felony murder are both lesser charges than murder. If convicted of either one, Young faces up to 30 years in prison. Murder carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 25 years.

The felony murder charge is the more uncommon of the two. A person is guilty of felony murder if a death is caused while committing or trying to commit a felony, such as robbery, burglary or kidnapping. The statute describes the death as “a reasonably foreseeable consequence” of the crime committed, which legal experts have said could be key to the Young case.

“It might come down to, what proof does the state have that whatever they did in the burglary, whatever they had done so far in the burglary, was reasonably foreseeable to have caused the death?” said Jim Burke, a clinical professor at the University of Maine School of Law. “If there are cases, I don’t believe there is one in Maine where courts have said the mere fact of engaging in a burglary creates a reasonable foreseeability of so much shock to the system that somebody could die.”

Earlier this year, a New York man was convicted of felony murder and robbery in a drug-related beating. The judge’s ruling meant Aubrey Armstrong was complicit in the death of Joseph Marceau of Augusta, but there was not enough evidence to convict him on the more serious charge of murder. Two co-defendants pleaded guilty to felony murder and robbery charges as well.

In a fatal Portland shooting in 2010, getaway driver Moses Okot pleaded guilty to felony murder. Prosecutors also used the charge to convict robber Dennis Reardon in a 1980 mugging in Portland. Reardon had thrown a 67-year-old man to the ground and stolen his wallet. The man flagged down police and told them what happened before he suffered a heart attack. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court later rejected Reardon’s appeal.

“Robbing somebody where you’re going to beat them up, you can see a reasonably foreseeable problem of death out of that,” Burke said.

Young was one of four people accused in a rash of burglaries in 2015. The others were Brian Cerullo, 28, of Alfred; Cathy Carle, 25, of Sanford; and Marissa Vieira, 26, of Sanford.

Young and at least one other person allegedly broke into Loucks’ home when she wasn’t there in March 2015, and returned the next day to break in again, according to court records. Loucks called police and family members to tell them she believed the burglars had returned, and officers who arrived minutes later found her unresponsive. It was later determined she died of a heart attack.

Cerullo, Carle and Vieira all entered guilty pleas on burglary- and theft-related charges and have been sentenced. Court documents show all three have agreed to testify at Young’s trial.

Young is the only one of the four charged in Loucks’ death. He backed out of his scheduled plea and sentencing hearing for burglary charges, so prosecutors brought the felony murder charge in June 2016. The trial has been delayed repeatedly. In July 2017, the number of counts against him grew to 20, including the manslaughter charge.

In addition to felony murder and manslaughter, the most recent superseding indictment includes one felony count of attempted burglary, eight felony counts of burglary and five felony counts of theft. He also faces three misdemeanor counts of theft and one of criminal trespass.

Young faces so many charges because prosecutors joined multiple burglaries and thefts together.

Defense attorney Amy Fairfield filed a motion this year to separate those cases, arguing that the jury would be prejudiced against Young by considering all of the allegations together. She could not be reached for comment.

“The state attempts to bolster its case by inviting the jury to improperly cumulate the evidence of the defendant’s guilt as to each of the separate offenses in the second superseding indictment when, viewed individually, the evidence of the defendant’s guilt as to any of the crimes alleged is weak,” Fairfield wrote in her motion.

The state argued in response that the other alleged crimes were part of a common scheme and should be joined together. The motion also suggested that prosecutors will draw connections between the experiences of Loucks and other burglary victims. Timothy Feeley, a spokesman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office, declined to comment further on pending criminal matters.

“With each burglary and theft, he stole people’s sense of security in their own homes and their peace of mind, not to mention the invaluable pieces of property,” Assistant District Attorney Thaddeus West wrote in his response. “Brian Loucks had to merely hope that his wife’s engraved wedding band would be found in time for her burial. Now, more than three years later, these victims are still searching for closure in their cases. Rather than have to hear about four separate trials, these victims deserve as speedy a resolution as possible.”

A judge decided the prosecutor could introduce evidence from only certain cases, including those when the burglars knocked while a person was at home.

Young has a lengthy record of convictions dating to 2011 for crimes such as criminal mischief, assault, carrying a concealed weapon, driving under the influence, theft and burglary. He has remained at York County Jail since his arrest in the days after Loucks’ death.

 

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