ROCKLAND — A fight over stolen cigarettes led to the death of an inmate at the state prison farm in Warren last summer, police said in a court affidavit.

Witnesses said Dana Bartlett, 28, of Lewiston, died when he was put in a choke hold by Zachary Titus, 34, at the Bolduc Correctional Facility on June 24, 2018, Maine State Police Detective Joshua Birmingham said in an affidavit filed in Knox County Superior Court on Feb. 4.

Titus is charged with murder in the slaying of Bartlett, who had been sentenced in March 2018 in Androscoggin Superior Court to 16 months in prison for driving a motor vehicle after his license had been revoked as a habitual offender. Titus pleaded not guilty on Feb. 4 and his trial is tentatively scheduled for May 2020.

The Maine Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Bartlett died of strangulation, the affidavit said.

Titus had gone to a corrections officer on June 24 and said Bartlett needed help, Birmingham said in the affidavit. The officer performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and administered Narcan to Bartlett as part of the emergency response, not knowing what had occurred. Efforts to revive Bartlett by the officer and emergency medical services personnel from Warren and Waldoboro were unsuccessful.

Bartlett was housed in a room with three other inmates. Titus and the other two roommates were strip searched and their clothing taken by prison staff immediately after the death occurred. Titus had scratches and bruises on his body but the other two inmates did not, the police report said.


Bartlett had a large scratch under his chin. Staff seized a wristwatch worn by Titus and a DNA test of the watch found blood with Bartlett’s DNA.

A recorded telephone call from earlier in the day revealed that Titus accused Bartlett of stealing cigarettes from one of his roommates. Titus also said that he and Bartlett had gotten into a fight a few days earlier in which Bartlett punched Titus in the mouth, the affidavit said.

Investigators reviewed surveillance videos of the hallway where Bartlett, Titus, and the other two inmates lived. The video showed Bartlett entering the room and then several minutes later the two other roommates leaving the room. Four minutes later, Titus left the room and went into the bathroom and a red-brown stain could be seen on his T-shirt. He also could be seen looking at his fingernails, the affidavit said.

One of the other roommates, Joshua Welch, told investigators that when he returned to the room after a smoke break, he saw Bartlett’s lifeless body on the floor and Titus told him that Bartlett “just came at me and I choked him out.” Welch said as he left the room Titus was trying to wake up Bartlett.

The other roommate, Robert Payzant, told investigators that he witnessed Titus and Bartlett get into a fight and Titus put Bartlett in a sleeper hold. Payzant said that when he left the room Bartlett was snoring, the affidavit said. Titus, however, told investigators that Payzant choked Bartlett.

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