HOULTON, Maine — The man convicted of murdering an Oakfield couple nearly 3½ years ago was sentenced Friday to life in prison on what would have been one of the victims’ birthdays.
Matthew Davis, 36, of Houlton, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie, denied committing the crimes of which he’s been convicted.
“I did not commit these crimes,” he said earlier in the hearing at the Aroostook County Courthouse. “I too want justice, but we do not have it.”
Davis showed no emotion as the life sentence was imposed but wept earlier as his paternal grandmother, Norma Davis, and his wife, Billie Jo Davis, read letters from family members who asked for compassion, leniency and mercy. The defendant showed little emotion during his three-week jury trial last year.
Matthew Davis was convicted of shooting to death Michael Kitchen, 51, and Heidi Pratt, 49, 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.
Friday would have been Kitchen’s 55th birthday, family members said. He and Pratt had planned to be married in the summer of 2014.
The family and friends of the victims and Davis’ relatives and supporters packed the gallery of the second-floor courtroom on Friday. Many of the Aroostook County sheriff’s deputies and Maine State Police detectives and troopers who were part of the investigation also were in the courtroom.
Pratt’s son, Paul Suitter, told Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter that his mother was killed four days before his 26th birthday. He returned to graduate school after the funeral to find a birthday card from her in his mail.
“For weeks after she was gone, I called her cellphone just to hear her voice on the message,” he said. “My family has forever lost two extraordinary people and his has forever gained a murderer.”
Suitter was a student at Harvard Law School when his mother was killed. He is a clerk for 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kermit Lipez, who has an office in Portland.
Since Kitchen’s murder, both his parents, with whom he ran a car repair service for many years, have died of “broken hearts,” friend Kim Folsom told Hunter.
“[Davis] murdered my husband’s best friend,” she said. “He murdered the innocence of our family, and our children lost a role model.”
Davis’ grandmother, who raised him from infancy said that “the Matthew we know would not have committed these horrific crimes.” She told the victims’ friends and families that “we extend our deepest sympathy to you and we pray for your family.”
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea told Hunter on Friday that drug tests had shown that Davis had methamphetamine in his system when he was arrested about eight hours after the crime spree began. That information had not been made public before.
The prosecutor recommended Davis spend the rest of his life behind bars. A life sentence in Maine carries no possibility of probation.
Defense attorney Daniel Lilley of Portland urged the judge to impose “punishment with hope.” He urged Hunter to impose the minimum sentence of 25 years.
At the end of the more than 4½-hour hearing, Hunter said the case was one of the most vexing he had presided over as a judge or seen in his career as a lawyer because the reason Davis acted as he did remained a mystery.
“What is missing is the understanding of why,” he said in explaining why he imposed the life sentences. “The lack of understanding of why compounds grief and prolongs suffering. Without an understanding of why, the circle never closes.”
In addition to the murder charges, the jury on Dec. 22, 2016, found Davis guilty of four counts of arson, three counts of theft and one count of aggravated criminal mischief related to the crime spree Davis went on the day of the killings.
Hunter also sentenced Davis to 25 years for the arson at the Pratt/Kitchen home, 30 months for the aggravated criminal mischief charge and six years for the most serious theft. The sentences all will be served at the same time. The judge also ordered Davis to pay more than $24,500 in restitution because he will be able to work while incarcerated.
The trial was held in Washington County after a jury could not be seated in Houlton.
While neighbors testified to hearing shots fired at the Kitchen and Pratt home at about 4 a.m. Sept. 23, 2013, jurors found that Davis’ crime spree started earlier that morning at Katahdin Forest Products Co., an Oakfield firm that makes log homes. A truck registered to the firm was found at Kitchen and Pratt’s home up against the house and on fire, according to testimony.
Maine State Police Cpl. Corey Hafford told the jury on Dec. 8 that he was called to Katahdin Forest Products while firefighters were at the Kitchen/Pratt home. Hafford said a flatbed wrecker truck registered to Davis had been backed into a building at Katahdin Forest Products and that the truck and the company’s office had been set on fire.
After using a Forest Products truck to get to the Kitchen/Pratt home, Davis fled the death scene in another pickup truck registered to a business owned by Kitchen’s family. It was found on fire at a camp in Island Falls. From there, Davis stole a kayak and paddles, which were found on the other side of Mattawamkeag Lake.
Police eventually tracked down Davis and arrested him at about 10:45 a.m. that same day in another stolen vehicle on Beaver Dam Point Road in Island Falls, according to trial testimony.
He has been held without bail since then.
Davis did not take the stand in his own defense and no motive was offered during the trial by prosecutors or defense attorneys for his violent crime spree.
He faced between 25 years and life in prison on the murder charges and up to 30 years in prison on the arson charges. Maine law allows judges to sentence defendants convicted of multiple murders to life in prison.
Davis’ is expected to appeal his conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
BDN writer Jen Lynds contributed to this report.