MACHIAS, Maine — Jurors will begin deliberating Tuesday morning in the double murder trial of Matthew Davis, 35, of Houlton after hearing closing arguments Monday afternoon.
Davis is accused of shooting Michael Kitchen, 51, and Heidi Pratt, 49, to death in the early morning hours of Sept. 23, 2013, in the Oakfield home they shared, setting their house ablaze and fleeing in a stolen pickup truck. Davis also is accused of stealing other vehicles, setting other fires and damaging property.
The prosecution rested Thursday and the trial took the day off Friday. The defense called three witnesses Monday and rested shortly after lunch. Davis told Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter that he did not want to testify in his own defense.
The trial began Dec. 6 but convened just three days last week due to a winter storm Monday and a scheduling conflict Friday. The judge moved the case to Washington County in September after a jury could not be seated in Aroostook County.
Davis’ wife, Billie Jo Davis, told jurors Monday that when she went to bed on Sept. 22, 2013, her husband was in the garage. When she awoke the next morning, he was gone, she said.
Defense attorney Daniel Lilley of Portland had his private investigator, Joseph Thornton of Portland, measure Davis’ feet using a device often used in shoe stores to show the defendant’s shoe size is 10½. That is two sizes larger than the foot impressions left at a business where Davis is accused of stealing a truck and at a camp where he allegedly sought to hide from police the day of the slayings. It also is two sizes larger than the boots investigators claim to have taken off Davis and entered into evidence when he was captured.
“The elephant in the room is the boots,” Lilley told the jury in his closing statement. “The are labeled in evidence [by Maine State Police detectives] as Wolverine but they are Carolina boots and are sized 8½. No one is disputing the size.”
With permission from the judge, Lilley, wearing gloves, took the boots out of the sealed evidence packaging and showed them to jurors.
“It says right on the tongue that it’s 8½,” he said, showing the boots to the jury. “Those things are gonna pinch after perhaps a little bit of work. No less than six people dealt with them? What happened to the Wolverine boots? The elephant in the room is those boots. That’s reasonable doubt.”
As he did in his opening statement, Lilley said Monday that the state’s case was circumstantial and that no blood or DNA from the victims was found on Davis or his clothes. The state did not test Davis’ clothing for accelerants, which were found at the arson scenes, he told jurors.
Although he acknowledged that the state does not have to offer what might have been his motive to prove that Davis committed the crimes of which he is accused, Lilley said the jury should consider the lack of motive in the case.
“Why in God’s name would this man go to this house and shoot Mike Kitchen and Heidi Pratt so brutally?” Lilley asked the jury. “There’s no evidence here that he even knew them. Even terrorists have a motive. They want to do something for their cause. Here there’s no evidence that he even knew the victims. People just don’t go around doing this kind of thing without a reason. There’s no justification that this man did any of this.”
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said that Davis “left a little piece of himself at each location” he stopped at during his crime spree on Sept. 23, 2013. At Katahdin Forest Products in Oakland a flatbed wrecker truck registered to Davis was found backed into a building, where both the truck and the company’s office had been set on fire.
He left there in a truck registered to the firm and drove to the Kitchen/Pratt home. Zainea said that Davis may have killed the couple with guns traced to the defendant, after they saw that he had driven the stolen truck into their steps. He also left behind gloves at the death scene that had his DNA inside them.
Davis next stole a truck from the Kitchen/Pratt home and drove it to a camp on Richardson Road in the neighboring town of Island Falls, where he set it ablaze, the prosecutor said in her closing statement. Once the fire was out, bullets were recovered from that stolen truck but kayaks and paddles were missing from the camp’s barn.
One was found by the camp owner overturned by the dock on Mattawamkeag Lake, according to testimony. The other one, a yellow kayak, was found across the lake on another camp owner’s lawn.
Police eventually tracked down Davis and arrested him at about 10:45 a.m. Sept. 23, 2013, in yet another stolen vehicle on Beaver Dam Point Road in Island Falls, according to court documents. He has been held without bail since then.
Zainea told jurors Monday that they did not need to look for a motive in the case.
“We don’t know the why,” she said. “We may never know the why.”
The prosecutor described Davis as either “the unluckiest man in the world or the guiltiest.”
“The evidence proves he’s the guiltiest,” Zainea told the jury.
The jury must decide whether Davis is guilty or not guilty of two counts of murder, four counts of arson and three counts of theft and one count of aggravated criminal mischief.
If convicted, Davis faces between 25 years and life in prison on the most serious charges.
BDN writer Jen Lynds contributed to this report.