DOVER-FOXCROFT — A Maine State Prison inmate testified Wednesday that it was he who had suggested robbing an elderly Canadian man in Canaan in 1994 and it was he who stabbed and beat the man.
Michael Thompson, 36, of Canaan stands accused of the crime, but Corey Trial, 22, of Skowhegan told a Piscataquis County Superior Court jury that he struck Eugene Fortin with his fist. Asked on the stand whether he stabbed Fortin, Trial replied: “Apparently.”
“If he was stabbed, I was the one who did it,” he said.
Trial’s testimony conflicts with two witnesses who recalled that it was Thompson who suggested “rolling” Fortin and that it was Thompson’s idea to lead Fortin to a back road where the assault took place in 1994. It also conflicts with testimony given by Trial to police after the incident.
Interviewed on Oct. 7, 1994, Trial told police that he saw Thompson holding a knife when Thompson hit Fortin, 70, of Levis, Quebec. Fortin is now an invalid in a Quebec nursing home, unable to communicate or care for himself.
Thompson has been charged with robbery and aggravated assault. Testimony in the case was completed Wednesday afternoon, with closing arguments set to begin this morning. The case is being heard by a jury of 11 women and three men (including two alternates) with Justice Margaret Kravchuk presiding.
The French-speaking Fortin had stopped at the Canaan Superette on Route 2 for directions to Winslow shortly after 8 p.m. on Oct. 4, 1994. Fortin left the store after getting the directions but was unable to find his way. He returned to the store about a half-hour later, a store clerk testified earlier this week.
Thompson, who was in the store to buy coffee brandy, then offered to show Fortin the way, since he said he was going that way, according to earlier testimony. Fortin followed the vehicle that was occupied by Thompson, Debbie Turcotte, Linwood Steward, Jodi Olsen and Trial over back roads ending on the Steam Mill Road. There Fortin was robbed, beaten, stabbed and left for dead in a ditch.
With his long hair pulled back in a ponytail, Trial answered a few questions posed by Thompson’s court-appointed attorney, Dale Thistle of Newport, on Wednesday, before declining to answer others. Thistle asked Trial if he had an altercation with Fortin. “Can’t answer that,” Trial replied.
Asked by Kravchuk why he refused to answer the questions, Trial said he didn’t want to incriminate himself. “I was just worried about getting charged,” he said.
Kravchuk advised Trial that the attorney general was the only person who could grant him absolute immunity and that she could not.
The prosecutor, Somerset County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Benson, said his office has no plan to charge Trial with any further offenses relating to the Oct. 4 assault and robbery. Trial, he said, already pleaded guilty to robbery in connection with the incident and is serving a 20-year sentence. An aggravated assault charge against him was dismissed.
Those close to the case, however, believe that Trial implicated himself in the stabbing because he fears Thompson, who has a lengthy criminal history, including a conviction for aggravated assault.
Benson pointed out that Trial’s testimony was far different from statements made after the incident.
“Are you afraid of Thompson?” asked the prosecutor.
“No,” said Trial.
Thompson’s testimony Wednesday corroborated much of what Trial said during his time on the stand. Thompson said he, Turcotte, Steward, Olsen and Trial had been drinking much of the day at Turcotte’s home. He recalled that at some point, Steward took kittens from a box in the home and beheaded them with his K-Bar knife outside. The K-Bar knife is the same knife believed to have been used in the attack on Fortin.
Thompson testified that later in the evening they left in Turcotte’s vehicle to buy more liquor at the Superette. Olsen earlier testified that she was drunk that evening, but was the driver of the vehicle.
Thompson said he went inside the store to buy coffee brandy when he encountered Fortin. He recalled that Fortin gave him a Canadian $10 bill for helping him find his way to Waterville, which he turned over to Olsen. Along the way, Thompson said there was a discussion generated by Trial about robbing the man. He said he never, as others alleged, ordered Olsen to turn out on the rural section of highway where the assault took place and that he did not touch Fortin.
The defendant said when Olsen stopped the vehicle, Fortin pulled up behind them and also stopped. He and Olsen went to search Fortin’s station wagon, Thompson testified. Trial, who held Steward’s K-Bar knife, removed a spare time and a tire jack from Fortin’s car, Thompson recalled.
After grabbing some items from Fortin’s vehicle, Thompson said, he and Olsen returned to Turcotte’s vehicle. Trial also got into the car but jumped back out and stabbed all four of the tires on Fortin’s car, he said.
Thompson said he remembered going through Fortin’s wallet before throwing it and paperwork outside Turcotte’s vehicle. The next day, Thompson said, Trial asked the group to get rid of the knife. He said all but Trial traveled in Turcotte’s vehicle to the Skowhegan boat landing, where Thompson took the K-Bar knife and tossed it into the Kennebec River.
The knife was later recovered by Maine State Police divers.