MACHIAS, Maine — Jury selection in the double murder trial of a Houlton man stretched into the fourth day Tuesday at the Washington County Judicial Center but final selection was expected to take place after a lunch break.
Opening statements were scheduled to begin as soon as a jury is seated, according to prosecutors.
Matthew Davis, 35, is accused of killing Michael Kitchen, 51, and Heidi Pratt, 49, on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, then setting their Oakfield home on fire.
Davis’ attorneys, Daniel Lilley and Amber Tucker, both of Portland, had sought to move the trial to Portland, arguing that extensive pretrial publicity about the case would make it difficult to find an impartial jury of 12 with two alternates in a region with a total population of fewer than 70,000.
Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter originally denied the motion in August but moved the trial from Houlton to Machias in September after a jury could not be seated in Aroostook County.
In Houlton, 123 jurors were in the pool. About 260 were in the pool in Machias. About half were dismissed after they all filled out a 15-page questionnaire. Another large group of potential jurors was dismissed at 12:30 p.m.
Davis, 35, faces charges of murder, arson, theft and criminal mischief in connection with the deaths of Kitchen and Pratt three years ago. He has been held without bail since his arrest that same day.
Neighbors of the victims heard five or six gunshots at about 4:30 a.m. Sept. 23, 2013, that day and saw a lone male driver leaving the scene of the burning home in a pickup truck, according to an affidavit filed by Maine State Police Detective Elmer Farren.
The bodies of Kitchen and Pratt were found in a bedroom after firefighters were called to put out the scene.
An autopsy conducted at the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta determined that Kitchen died from multiple gunshot wounds and Pratt from a gunshot wound to the neck. The wounds were inflicted by a semi-automatic rifle purchased by Davis, according to the affidavit. Davis never reported the gun stolen and it was found lying across Kitchen’s body in the burned remnants of the home, according to the court document.
Firefighters also found another truck belonging to Katahdin Forest Products on fire at the home when they arrived. Police believe Davis’ crime spree started earlier that morning at the forest products facility in Oakfield, where a flatbed wrecker truck registered to Davis had been backed into the building. Both the truck and office had caught fire. Police said video surveillance from that site showed the same white company truck that was found burning at the Kitchen home leaving the facility.
The truck Davis allegedly drove from the Kitchen home was found burning later that Monday morning on Richardson Road in the neighboring town of Island Falls. Another firearm found inside that vehicle belonged to Davis, according to the affidavit.
Police eventually tracked down Davis and arrested him at about 10:45 a.m. Sept. 23, 2013, in another stolen vehicle on Beaver Dam Point Road in Island Falls, according to the affidavit.
If convicted, Davis faces up 25 years to life in prison on the murder charges. Maine law allows life sentences when there are multiple victims.
BDN writer Jen Lynds contributed to this report.