AUBURN, Maine — An appeal to review bail for Nathan Morton, charged with killing Romeo Parent in April, was abruptly halted after 30 minutes Friday and continued to Nov. 18 to give the defense time to read witness statements presented by the state.
Morton, 24, of Greene is being held without bail at the Androscoggin County Jail after being charged with murder in the April 9 slaying of Romeo Parent. The body of the 20-year-old Lewiston resident was found three days later in a stream in Monmouth. He had been stabbed with a screwdriver and strangled with a wire, police said.
Morton also faces charges of conspiracy to commit murder and hindering apprehension or prosecution. According to police, he is believed to have driven the “getaway car” after Parent was killed.
Morton was arrested in May and was denied bail in July after a hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court. He has appealed that decision and asked to be released to live with his parents in Greene, where he would be monitored pending trial.
Friday’s proceeding focused on the testimony of Maine State Police Detective Randall Keaten who interviewed Morton about his efforts to buy and sell drugs and about his actions connected to the Parent killing.
According to Keaten, Morton “was the middle man, of sorts” in gathering and then selling prescription drugs to his friends, including making a deal to sell drugs the same night police believe Parent was killed.
During Keaten’s testimony, Morton was slumped sideways in his chair, his elbow leaning on the table and his head resting on his hand.
Assistant Attorney General Deborah Cashman asked Keaten to read passages of a lengthy transcript of Keaten’s April 11 interview of Morton and also from a transcript of Morton’s cellphone records, including back-and-forth text messages from Morton’s phone to another phone. Most of those text messages were requests for Morton to buy drugs, and then texts arranging what kind of drugs, what strength and the street value of each pill.
Just after 8:30 p.m. April 9, a text from Morton’s phone — sent in response to a request for Morton to locate Adderral — read, “Found 2 addies. 30s. $10 a piece. Sorry. I know that’s high but that’s all I can find.”
Then, according to Keaten’s testimony, another text was sent after midnight from Morton’s phone indicating the sender had found “40 vics (vicodin). Guy wants $5 each because he’s got to drive from Skowhegan.”
At this point, defense attorney George Hess asked Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ellen Gorman to speak with her at the bench to discuss the continuing testimony with Cashman.
During the hushed conversation, Hess could be seen arguing with Cashman and after several minutes Gorman stopped them and told the court the conversation would continue in her chambers.
When the attorneys emerged, Hess told Morton that the review would be continued until Nov. 18.
Asked afterward why the judge ordered the continuance, Hess said he hadn’t been apprised by the state of the extent of the testimony regarding third-party witness statements for Friday’s review, and he needed time to review the transcripts of those interviews for his cross examination.
Just before Hess asked to speak with Gorman, Keaten had begun to read through text messages that named a woman and then referred to “Jeff and Romeo,” who police believe to be Romeo Parent and a former roommate named Jeff.
In that exchange, just before 4 p.m. April 9, phone number 402-9774 sent a text to Morton’s phone reading “Hey bitch. … I may need a getaway driver.”
The text from the 402-9774 phone, according to Keaten’s reading of the transcript, went on to say the sender wanted to “bust out some windows on Pierce Street,” and also wanted to buy Adderall. Then, the same sender referenced Parent and texted Morton’s phone, “You don’t have to worry about it. I’m going to take care of it.”
The back-and-forth texts also outlined a timeline of where Morton was, including texts from Morton’s phone about getting home and that he would be able to leave later after his mother thought he was at home.
Keaten testified that when he interviewed Morton, Morton said that on the night Parent was killed he was buying drugs for Michael McNaughton and had a 10:30 p.m. curfew imposed by his mother. But, Morton told Keaten, he went out after his mother came home around 11 p.m. “which is what I do every night so she thinks I’m home.”
McNaughton, 25, of Lewiston has also been charged with murder in this case. Morton told police that McNaughton wanted to find Parent to “get even” with him for “snitching.”
Police said in court papers that Parent was killed because he implicated William True of Lewiston in an earlier burglary in which Parent had confessed and was charged.
During a police interview, Morton acknowledged that he knew McNaughton wanted to kill Parent and that he drove Parent and McNaughton to South Mountain Road in Greene, which is where police believe Parent was killed. Morton also acknowledged he went back to the scene later and helped move Parent’s body to dump it in Jug Stream in Monmouth, where the body was found April 12.
According to Keaten, Morton told police that he had forgotten much about that night. “I honestly did forget a lot of stuff because of all the drugs. I was on so many drugs,” Morton said, according to the police transcript.
Morton’s parents were both in the courtroom during the review, and Morton’s father said several times — loud enough to be heard in the front of the courtroom — that Keaten’s testimony was all “a lie.”
“You’re lying,” he pointed at Keaten.
In addition to McNaughton, two other men — Sebastian Moody of Lewiston and True — have been charged in Parent’s killing. All four defendants have been joined for trial.