ROCKLAND — Allen Teele was convicted of felony murder, manslaughter and robbery Wednesday afternoon for his role in a 1992 home invasion that led to the beating death of a 79-year-old Warren man.
The Knox County Superior Court jury returned the guilty verdicts after 1 1/2 days of intense deliberations during which it had to ask several times for Justice Francis Marsano to clarify points of law on the charges against the 27-year-old defendant from Westbrook.
As the verdicts were read, Teele slumped in his chair and sobbed. Friends and family members, who filled two benches during the five-day trial, let out a collective moan and wept. Teele’s mother, shaking uncontrollably, had to be carried from the courtroom.
Although Teele has been free on bail since his arrest in January 1995, Marsano ordered him held without bail pending sentencing, citing the seriousness of the convictions and his extensive criminal history of property and violent crimes for which he already has served two prison terms. Each of the three Class A felonies Teele was convicted of Wednesday carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Teele and two others — Earl Nash, 26, of Camden and Floyd Firth, 31, of Thomaston — invaded the Warren trailer home of Carroll Howard on the night of April 1 or 2, 1992, to rob the elderly man of money to continue a drinking binge. Howard was beaten and left bleeding profusely from the face by the robbers, who ripped his telephone from the wall and fled with $5 in change.
Howard’s body was found on April 4 by a friend. The cause of death was determined to have been massive loss of blood from fractured facial bones.
The crime went unsolved for more than 2 1/2 years, until Dalton Malmstrom II of Rockland was arrested in January 1995 for a series of burglaries he had committed with Nash. While in custody, Malmstrom gave police information he had learned from Nash, his friend, and Teele, his brother-in-law, about the Howard case.
Nash and Firth pleaded guilty last fall to felony murder, the charge when death results during the commission of a robbery, and they are awaiting sentencing. Nash, who has an extensive criminal record, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the Howard crime and five unrelated robberies. Firth, who had a relatively clean record before the crime, faces a maximum of 10 years. Teele was offered a plea agreement with a cap of 25 years, but he refused the state’s offer.
Nash and Firth both testified against Teele, saying the three picked Howard as a victim because they believed he kept a large amount of cash. After Howard refused their demand, Nash hit Howard in the jaw, knocking him to the floor. It then was agreed that Firth and Teele also would have to hit Howard so all three would be equally culpable.
Teele took the stand Monday, denying he intended to rob Howard despite his admission that he wore a bandana to cover his face. Teele said he merely pretended to hit Howard, lightly slapping the hands the victim held up for protection.
Nash and Firth both testified Howard was gasping for breath and bleeding heavily from the mouth and nose when they left, but Teele said he did not see any blood or other signs of injury.
Teele, who will be sentenced after a presentence investigation, had been free on $40,000 bail since his arrest last year. After the verdicts, Assistant Attorney Lisa Marchese asked Marsano to increase bail to $50,000, saying Teele poses a substantial risk of flight and a threat to the community.
Defense attorney John Nale asked for Teele’s existing bail to be continued, saying Teele has been working steadily, caring for his wife and two children, and checking in daily with Westbrook police since his arrest.
Teele addressed the court, pleading with Marsano for “time to be with my wife and kids. I’ve been out for more than a year, doing all the requirements. I realize I’ve been convicted of three major crimes, but I want to make sure my wife and kids are all right.”
Citing Teele’s prior record of convictions for more than 20 burglaries as well as numerous other crimes, such as theft, forgery and assault, Marsano said he found probable cause that “there is a risk of flight and a danger to the community. There is plenty of criminal history here. He has no respect for property, he has no respect for life. He will be held without bail.”