The state’s highest court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of a former Fairfield man convicted of murder in the death of his wife in 2016, claiming through his attorney that social media exchanges around the time of her death should not have been used as evidence at his trial.

Luc Tieman, 35, took the appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court through his attorney, Clifford Strike, of Portland, challenging emails and Facebook messages that were used as evidence against him during his trial in April 2018 in Somerset County Superior Court.

In his appeal, heard March 5, Tieman also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against him to support the jury’s finding of guilt in the shooting death of his wife, Valerie Tieman, who was 34.

In Valerie Tieman’s shallow grave, police, in September 2016, found a Mason jar containing flower stems, a wedding band and a handwritten note on an index card.

The note opened with the words, “To my one and only Joy-Joy. Flower. Forever.”

The words in the note read: “I love you Valerie Joy T. I’ll love you forever. Rest in peace. My heart in Jesus,” with an X and an O, “hugs,” exclamation points, and an apparent reference to Luc Tieman’s marriage nickname “Luc-e- the bear.”

The grave note contained language similar to that in other notes found among Valerie Tieman’s possessions taken that September from the Tieman home at 628 Norridgewock Road in Fairfield.

Valerie Tieman’s body was found wrapped in an orange, black and white blanket with the Mason jar “near her head.”

Under the body, police found a potato chip bag, a box of SweeTarts candy, a plaid shirt, a blue-and-gold woven knit hat and a bottle of Gucci cologne or perfume called “Guilty.”

The killing is alleged to have taken place Aug. 25, 2016 — 15 days before Valerie’s parents reported her missing and five days before Tieman claimed his wife had disappeared from the Skowhegan Walmart, although he did not report her missing.

He admitted having had an affair with another woman, and he was aware that a Waterville woman had sent Valerie messages saying that her husband was cheating on her.

In the 12-page Law Court opinion, written by Justice Joseph Jabar, it is noted that on Aug. 24, 2016, Tieman was seen by several people with another woman with whom he had been communicating on Facebook a week earlier. He had sex with that woman that same night, according to the opinion.

Tieman told detectives that Valerie had died of an overdose and he had buried her in the backyard with a note and some flowers. Tieman also stated that the victim had suffered no physical injuries. However, an autopsy performed on Sept. 21, 2016, revealed that the cause of the victim’s death was gunshot wounds of the head and neck.

Fragments and a portion of the jacket of a .45 caliber bullet were discovered in the victim’s head during the autopsy, and a .45 caliber handgun had been seized from the Tieman residence during the execution of the search warrant on  Sept. 20, 2016.

Tieman was arrested Sept. 21, 2016, and indicted on Oct. 27, 2016, for the murder of the victim. At the end of a six-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on April 9, 2018. Tieman was sentenced to 55 years in prison with the Department of Corrections.

The appeal followed.

Tieman raised two challenges to the lower court’s admission of the Facebook Messenger records. First, he contended that the court was wrong in finding the messages were authentic under the rules of evidence; and second, that the messages amounted to “hearsay” and should not have been allowed as evidence.

The justices disagreed, relying on the trial court to determine the admissibility of evidence. The court found that the trial court judge, Justice Robert Mullen, did not err in that regard, citing case law that established that “electronic evidence is held to the same standard of authentication as other evidence.”

“Contrary to Tieman’s contentions, the court did not err or abuse its discretion in its determination that the Facebook Messenger conversation was authenticated through the testimony of the person with whom the victim was communicating,” the opinion reads.

Tieman also contended that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find him guilty of murder.

Again, the justices disagreed, saying there was plenty of evidence supporting the jury’s verdict.

During the Law Court hearing in March, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said the messages were only a fraction of the evidence against Tieman. She also noted the woman on the other end of the conversation testified at trial and verified the content of the messages.

“There was a mountain of evidence to demonstrate that Luc Tieman murdered his wife, Valerie, on the evening of Aug. 25, 2016,” Robbin said.

Tieman did not attend the hearing in March. He is incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren.

 

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