December 4, 2012

Portraits of Nelson differ in murder trial's closing statements

Norridgewock murder suspect's fate now in the hands of a Somerset Superior Court justice; verdict will take some time, but is expected before month's end

By Rachel Ohm
Staff Writer


click image to enlarge

Murder defendent Robert Nelson listens to closing arguments in his trial in the death of Everett Cameron, on Tuesday in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Justice John Nivison listens to closing arguments during the murder trial of Robert Nelson in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Tuesday. Nivison said he would reach a verdict later this month.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Additional Photos Below

SKOWHEGAN — Defense lawyers and state prosecutors painted different pictures of the man charged with the murder of Everett L. Cameron during closing arguments Tuesday.

The defense portrayed Robert Nelson, 41, as an innocent man caught in the middle of a faulty police investigation while prosecutors said he was a desperate drug addict who was the last known person to see Cameron shortly before the murder.

Cameron, who was prescribed oxycodone to treat lymphoma, was killed by a gunshot wound to the head on Oct. 31, 2009, on Town Farm Road in Anson.

Prosecutors said that Nelson’s desire for oxycodone pills that Cameron had would have provided a motive for the murder.

“Oxycodone pills are dangerous. They are highly addictive and addicted people are dangerous people,” said state prosecutor Leane Zainea.

She also said that as the last known person to talk on the phone with and see Cameron alive, Nelson had an opportunity for murder that no one else had. 

She said that his inconsistent statements during his interviews with police and his own testimony in court Monday indicate that Nelson lied about his involvement in the murder. Zainea pointed to lies Nelson had told about his drug use and a story he fabricated to hide his gun ownership, which was prohibited by a previous criminal conviction.

“Common sense and reason tell us that he is a person hiding something,” Zainea said. 

Defense attorney Phil Mohlar argued that Nelson should be found innocent because of flaws in the police investigation and the lack of physical evidence tying Nelson to the scene.

“State police did a poor investigation and put blinders on with regards to looking at anyone but Nelson as a suspect,” Mohlar said. “The state is now asking you to do as they did and presume Robert Nelson is guilty when the evidence presented falls woefully short.”

He said that police failed to look at other suspects. 

“Cameron was reaching out to people that day and had contact with other people in the drug community. He made calls to other people. What about those people who called Cameron before Rob? What if they made arrangements with him?” said Mohlar. 

He said that at least one other car was seen parked alongside Cameron’s truck that day. 

Mohlar also said that Nelson’s actions the day of the murder — cutting wood and attending his four-year-old daughter’s birthday — were not those of a killer.  

“This was just another day in the life of an innocent man,” he said. “He did take steps to obtain drugs around that time and he did use drugs. That’s not a good thing in one’s life but that’s who Rob Nelson was at that time.”

He said that Nelson, as an illegal drug user, would have had reason to lie to police about his drug use, and that as someone who had been previously convicted of an armed robbery would have had reason to lie about having a gun in his house. 

Mohlar also argued that the investigation was structured to prove Nelson guilty. Mohlar asked the court to consider looking at the case from the standpoint that Nelson was innocent until proven guilty, rather than look for evidence to prove him guilty.

“What would Rob Nelson have done differently if found innocent? Nothing,” he said.

Superior Court Justice John Nivison will decide the verdict in the trial because Nelson waived his right to a jury earlier this month. Nivison said that because of the length of the trial and the amount of evidence presented it will take some time for him to review and deliberate the case. A verdict is expected sometime before the end of the month, he said.

Rachel Ohm —  612-2368


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Additional Photos

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Defense attorney Phil Mohlar makes a point during his closing arguments during the Robert Nelson murder trial in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Tuesday. At the immediate left is state prosecutor Leane Zainea.


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