Dylan Ketcham, left, and defense lawyer Stephen Smith are seen Jan. 18 at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta while standing trial on charges of murder and attempted murder. He was convicted and has been sentenced to 65 years in prison. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — Dylan Ketcham was sentenced Tuesday to serve 65 years in prison for killing one former friend and permanently injuring and trying to kill another in a gruesome attack with a pistol and machete in Gardiner three years ago.

Ketcham, 23, of Gardiner, was found guilty of murder, attempted murder and elevated aggravated assault in January for fatally shooting Jordan Johnson, also of Gardiner, in the head. The killing took place amid a violent confrontation near Quimby Field ballfields and in a Lincoln Avenue neighborhood of the city in January 2020.

He was also found guilty of attempted murder and elevated aggravated assault for, in that same incident, attacking Caleb Trudeau with a machete, nearly severing both his wrists and cutting his skull to the bone. Trudeau, also of Gardiner, had been a close friend of Ketcham’s since they were in kindergarten.

State prosecutors noted that Trudeau, who attended but did not speak at Tuesday’s sentencing of Ketcham, survived the attack but has what will likely be lifelong injuries that don’t allow him the full use of his hands.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy sentenced Ketcham, who faced between 25 years and life in prison on the murder charge, to 45 years in prison for the murder of Johnson. And he was sentenced to 30 years, with all but 20 suspended, and four years of probation, for the attempted murder of Trudeau.

That means Ketcham will serve 65 years in jail — 45 years for the murder followed by at least 20 years for the attempted murder — because Murphy agreed with state prosecutors the two separate crimes should carry consecutive sentences.


“These are indeed two victims in this case — one murdered with a gun, one who was almost murdered with a machete,” Murphy said Tuesday afternoon as an emotional sentencing hearing wrapped up at the Capital Judicial Center. She said Ketcham killed Johnson because the two had been having a verbal conflict, then Trudeau because he was the only witness to Ketcham killing Johnson. “Therefore, these are not one course of criminal conduct.”

Dylan Ketcham, left, is seen Jan. 26 at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta while standing trial on charges of murder and attempted murder. He was convicted and has been sentenced to 65 years in prison. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Jordan and Trudeau’s family members appeared satisfied with the 65-year sentence. That included Johnson’s father, Cory Johnson, who said in testimony before Murphy’s decision he wished Ketcham could get a death sentence, which is not available in Maine.

Murphy said Ketcham’s acts of violence were so heinous she was surprised when a mental health evaluation of him found no evidence of a diagnosable mental health condition.

Family members declined to speak to reporters after the verdict, but testified through tears in court about the impact Ketcham’s crimes had on their families, and expressed anger that he has not shown remorse for his crimes.

“I miss my precious little peanut more than any words can say,” said a crying Gina Lathrop, Johnson’s grandmother, who said she helped raise him as if he were her son. She said she survived and carried on through many tragedies in her life, including the premature deaths of her little brother who died in a fire, and her husband who was killed when he was struck by a tree. “But this, Jordan being taken from us, I cannot get past,” Lathrop continued. “This one has broken me, and my daughter. It’s destroyed my entire family.”

Cory Johnson said his son’s birthday was about a week ago, and though it was hard he visited him in the cemetery. He said the family had to sit through testimony and evidence shown in court that was so gruesome it prompted the first trial in the case to be declared a mistrial. Through it all, he said, Ketcham expressed no remorse or guilt.


Ketcham did not speak in court, and did not appear to make eye contact with the family members of his victims.

One of his two attorneys, Stephen Smith, declined after the sentencing to discuss whether his client was remorseful. He said the case was one of self defense, saying Johnson had previously threatened Ketcham and meant to do him harm the night of the confrontation, and the encounter between the three was an example of young men behaving immaturely and with a lack of judgement. Smith argued in court for a 25-year sentence.

“We’re very disappointed in the sentence,” Smith said outside the courthouse. “Young men make foolish decisions. In our view this was clearly a self-defense situation.”

He said they would appeal both the conviction and the sentence, which included an order to pay restitution to the victim’s compensation fund, for a memorial for Johnson, and unspecified medical expenses for both victims.

Prosecutor Meg Elam, an assistant attorney general, said they were pleased with the sentence imposed and that it reflects the seriousness of the crime and “the extreme dangerousness of Dylan Ketcham.” But Elam acknowledged the sentence cannot take away the pain and suffering of the victim’s families, or Trudeau.

“It’s impossible to imagine the suffering the victim’s families have gone through and that Caleb has gone through,” she said. “It’s fair to say their lives will never be the same. But I think they’re pleased the case is over and Ketcham received such a substantial sentence.”

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