ME says hammer used in slaying of Houlton man

Judy Harrison, Special to The County
8 years ago

Minor may be tried as adult

HOULTON, Maine — A hearing to determine whether the now 17-year-old accused of killing a local man will be tried as an adult or a juvenile continued Tuesday at Aroostook County District Court, according to the assistant attorney general prosecuting the case.

Samuel Geary and 19-year-old Reginald Dobbins, both of Houlton, have been charged with murder in connection with the March 1, 2015, death of 61-year-old Keith Suitter. Evidence presented Monday included information about Suitter’s brutal slaying that had not been released previously.

Dobbins, who pleaded not guilty to the charge in June, is being held without bail in the Aroostook County Jail.

Geary, who was 16 when Suitter was killed, has entered a plea of denial in juvenile court, which is equivalent to a not guilty plea in adult proceedings. He is being held in a state juvenile facility.

The Maine attorney general’s office has asked that Geary be tried as an adult.

The medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Suitter testified Monday that the victim suffered 21 blunt force trauma blows, mostly to the head, that appeared to have been inflicted by a hammer, and 10 stab wounds to the head and back, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop said in a telephone interview after the hearing recessed Monday afternoon. The evidence showed that the indentations from the claw end of the hammer matched many of Suitter’s wounds, the prosecutor said.

Alsop also said that a blood analyst from the Maine State Crime Lab matched blood found on a hammer and a knife recovered at the crime scene matched Suitter’s blood.

In addition to forensic evidence, Alsop said that two juveniles, who Alsop did not name, both testified Monday that Geary confessed separately to them shortly after he was arrested in March 2015.

“One testified that Geary said Dobbins hit Suitter with the hammer and Geary stabbed him,” Alsop said.

The prosecutor said that because the law does not require that he present evidence of a motive, he did not do so. The evidence Alsop presented Monday was to determine if there’s probable cause for the murder charge, he said. On Tuesday, it will be up to the defense to show why Geary should be tried as a juvenile rather than as an adult.

Efforts to reach Alan Harding, Geary’s attorney, were unsuccessful Monday afternoon.

District Court Judge Bernard O’Mara is expected to take the matter under advisement and issue a written decision at a later date after the hearing concludes Tuesday, according to Alsop.

Suitter, a longtime Houlton resident and military veteran, ran a painting business and lived alone. He was found dead in his home after two friends spotted his vehicle abandoned about a half-mile away from his property and went to check on him.

Geary and Dobbins most likely would be tried together before a jury if the judge rules Geary should be tried as an adult. If O’Mara rules Geary be tried as a juvenile, the two would be tried separately.

If convicted as a juvenile, Geary would be incarcerated at a juvenile facility until he turns 21. If convicted of murder as an adult, he faces between 25 years and life in prison, as does Dobbins, if he is convicted.