Thursday, April 24, 2014
ALFRED -- A homeless man from Portland who is accused of raping and battering a woman and leaving her nearly lifeless body in a motel bathtub in Saco while he went shopping made his initial appearance in court Monday on charges of murder and gross sexual assault.
Lebon Bruno, 39, was arrested Saturday in Lewiston on a warrant issued out of York County, nearly two weeks after housekeeping staff found Elizabeth Williams, 55, unconscious, bloody and bruised in a rented room at Sunrise Motel on Nov. 3.
Williams died a day later at Maine Medical Center.
Bruno was led into the courtroom, flanked by his defense attorneys, wearing an orange top and mustard-colored pants. He said nothing as Justice Paul Fritzsche explained the case against him. He faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and up to life if convicted of murder. He faces up to 10 years in prison on the charge of gross sexual assault.
Bruno was not required to enter a plea at the appearance. Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese and Bruno's defense lawyers agreed to delay bail arguments, and Bruno was ordered held in custody pending his next scheduled court date on Feb. 15.
Bruno allegedly returned to the motel while police were still there investigating the attack on Williams, according to an affidavit seeking a warrant for his arrest. Witnesses said Bruno was carrying a 12-pack of beer when he came back to the hotel.
While Bruno was at the police station, Maine State Police Detective Ethel Ross noticed red brown stains on the shoe laces of his shoes, she said in her affidavit. Police documented more red brown staining on Bruno's body beneath his clothes, as well as scratches and abrasions.
The Maine State Crime Laboratory confirmed the stain on Bruno's shoes was Williams' blood. Other DNA samples taken from Bruno's body contained a mix of DNA matching her blood and his own, Ross said in her affidavit.
The affidavit also describes Williams' injuries in detail, including internal injuries, eye and neck bruising, broken teeth, a broken nose and a nonsurvivable brain injury.
Marchese, who is prosecuting the case, spoke briefly to media outside the courthouse.
"He was clearly a suspect from the start," Marchese said. "Then the DNA results came back."
Marchese characterized the case against Bruno as domestic violence, but Bruno's lead defense attorney, Clifford Strike, said the two were not in a relationship.
Strike said they had known each other for about five years and met while they were both homeless.
They frequented the Preble Street Resource Center's Adult Shelter in Portland, state police have said.
Strike said Bruno is college-educated, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and lived on disability support. He declined to specify in what way Bruno is disabled.
"He understands the nature of what's going on here," Strike said. "He's had two weeks to make scarce and has made no effort to do so."
Bruno made various claims about Williams' attacker, at one point telling police that Williams had been attacked by Somalis and that he had been attacked as well.
He also claimed that Williams was attacked by an Indian. Later, he tried to blame the motel manager.