BANGOR, Maine — The man convicted of murdering his girlfriend and her young son and daughter more than two years ago in the Garland trailer they shared was sentenced Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to life in prison.
Keith Coleman, 29, also was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting the girl.
“Life is the only appropriate sentence,” Superior Court Justice Ann Murray said in imposing the sentence. “Since his initial interview with detectives, Mr. Coleman has shown very little remorse for these crimes. I find the defendant’s actions after the murders callous, cold and calculated.”
The judge said that after strangling Christina Sargent, 36, and her children, 8-year-old Destiny Sargent and 10-year-old Duwayne Coke, on Dec. 20, 2014, Coleman drove to Bangor and returned a remote-controlled car purchased as a Christmas gift for the boy.
Coleman also retrieved from Christina Sargent’s mother, Mary Wooster, a giant candy bar Coleman had purchased for his girlfriend, Murray said. Coleman then drove to Bucksport to hang out with friends and gave the candy bar to one of them.
Coleman was arrested Dec. 21, 2014, in Bucksport and has been held without bail since then.
In addition to prison, Murray ordered Coleman to pay more than $15,000 in restitution for funeral costs.
Coleman, who did not take the stand during his three-week trial last year, asked Murray for mercy but did not take responsibility directly for the murders.
“I feel responsible for [what happened] that day,” he told the judge. “I have been perceived as remorseless but I feel guilty about not being there to protect the ones I love.”
After members of the victim’s families emotionally urged Murray to impose a life sentence, Coleman told the judge: “I do in fact feel the pain of what everyone is going through and I miss Destiny and Duwayne. I just hope you have mercy on me.”
Coleman did not react when the verdict was read.
Wooster, of Ellsworth, told reporters outside the courthouse after the sentencing that she was pleased Coleman would spend the rest of his life behind bars. She also said she has recurring nightmares about the murders.
“I am pleased that he got life sentences,” she said. “I know he probably will appeal this, but, in my heart, I just feel a little bit of closure because to go to bed at night and just dream and just picture in my mind how those kids suffered and what was coming toward them and my daughter knowing that was going to happen to her children once she was gone …
“This whole trial has been a nightmare for everybody, including the defense team,” she continued. “It’s been hard for the family. But now, we can maybe move on just a little bit and pray to God that stays just the same that it came out today.”
Coleman’s trial began Oct. 26. The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for about two hours on Nov. 9 before asking to recess for the night. They returned about 8 a.m. the next day and deliberated for about 45 minutes before announcing their verdict.
Coleman faced between 25 years and life in prison on the murder charges and up to 30 years in prison on the sexual assault charge. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that a defendant convicted on multiple counts of murder may be sentenced to life in prison.
Assistant Attorneys General Leane Zainea and Donald Macomber urged Superior Court Justice Ann Murray in a sentencing memorandum, dated Jan. 3, to sentence Coleman to life in prison for the murder and 30 years, to be served at the same time, on the sex charge. They also asked that he be ordered to pay restitution for the victims’ funeral expenses because he will be able to earn some money while working in prison.
The defense team of Martha Harris and Logan Perkins, both of Bangor, recommended in their sentencing memorandum, dated Wednesday, that Coleman be sentenced to between 25 to 30 years in the death of Christina Sargent; to 40 years in the deaths of the children; and to 20 years on the sex charge. The attorneys recommended the sentences be served concurrently so that Coleman would be eligible for release when he is in his late 60s.
The defense team declined to comment after the sentencing Thursday.
Zainea called the sentences appropriate for such a serious case of domestic violence as she left the courthouse.
“This case sends the message that real men don’t hit their wives and they certainly don’t kill their wives,” Macomber said. “If they do, they’re going to find themselves behind bars.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.