PORTLAND, Maine — Jurors in the murder trial of lobster fisherman Merrill Kimball, 72, of Yarmouth saw photos of the gunshot wounds that killed Leon Kelley in October 2013 and heard in detail from Maine’s chief medical examiner that any one of the three bullets that entered Kelley’s body could have potentially killed him.
They also heard grand jury testimony given by Kimball a month after he shot and killed Kelley, 63, on Oct. 6, 2013, at a North Yarmouth bee farm owned by Stan Brown.
Kelley was Brown’s son-in-law.
Defense attorney Dan Lilley acknowledges Kimball fired the shots that killed Kelley, but he has argued Kimball shot the much larger Kelley in self-defense after Kimball, his wife, Karen Kimball, and her son arrived at the bee shop to collect honey they say was Karen Kimball’s.
Mark Flomenbaum, Maine’s chief medical examiner, performed the Oct. 7, 2013, autopsy on Kelley’s body, which weighed 286 pounds at the time of his death.
Flomenbaum told Assistant Attorney General John Alsop of the prosecution team that he determined Kelley died because of a “homicide.”
As jurors watched a photo of the wound in Kelley’s arm projected onto a television screen, Flomenbaum described how the first bullet entered Kelley’s arm as it was pressed down against his pelvis and passed through into his abdomen.
The second bullet entered his abdomen directly, Flomenbaum said. The third also entered his abdomen, passing into his left lung before becoming lodged in his chest wall.
Flomenbaum said Kimball died of “internal bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds.”
“All three of [the gunshots] were potentially fatal,” Flomenbaum said. “The first … could have been fatal. The other two, with all the bleeding internally, would be much more difficult to survive.”
Forensic expert Robert Burns of the Maine State Police crime lab held the .380 Ruger semi-automatic weapon Kimball shot that day as he demonstrated loading and firing the gun.
Burns also said he determined Kimball shot Kelley from at least 4 feet away but not more than 10 feet.
Kimball’s testimony to the grand jury generally aligned with what jurors heard him say on video and audio recordings made just less than a month after the shooting.
Portland attorney Nicholas Walsh also read Kimball’s Nov. 5, 2013, testimony to the grand jury.
In that testimony, Kimball said his wife worked for Stan Brown for about five years and the couple would take the elderly man out for dinner on occasion.
Describing their business relationship, he said Karen Kimball “at first was helping and learning from him. Then, as he got older, she took it over as far as processing the honey and feeding the bees all winter. This past year, she had 50 hives of her own.”
“She was supposed to own the honey because she’s the one that worked it, taking it off the comb and spinning it in the processor,” he said. “It took her all year to do it.”
But he acknowledged, as did members of the Kelley family earlier this week, that tension between Karen Kimball and Kelley’s family began to increase during the summer of 2013, and that the day of the shooting she asked him to go to the farm and help her carry out buckets of honey valued at between $4,000 and $6,000, according to Lilley.
Then Kimball described the confrontation that led to Kelley’s shooting, echoing his words the jurors heard on videotape earlier this week.
Kimball said he never had a chance to leave, and wasn’t sure if he warned Kelley, but said, “He had to see the gun.”
The grand jury testimony presented Friday also included Kimball’s claims he backed away from Kelley and only fired when he felt he had no other recourse.
When asked whether he thought he had “overreacted,” Kimball told the grand jury, “no way. I was so scared for my safety and my life. That’s the only reason I did what I did. I thought I was going to get hurt or killed. I can’t run, so I didn’t.”