Jurors in the trial of the man accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend in the back two years ago and leading police on the longest manhunt in state history will continue deliberating Thursday.
The seven men and five women deliberated for four hours Wednesday without reaching a verdict after hearing seven days of testimony in the murder trial of Robert Burton, 40, of Abbot.
Jurors began deliberating about 1:30 p.m. and did not communicate with the judge until nearly 5:30 p.m. when they sent out a note saying they wanted to go home for the night.
In closing arguments, the prosecution portrayed Burton as a jealous jilted lover and an obsessed killer who deliberately shot Stephanie Ginn Gebo, 37, of Parkman three times in the back.
The defense told jurors that Burton told them the truth when he said Ginn Gebo was shot accidentally when he tried to wrestle the gun away from her after he’d been shot.
The jury of seven men and five women began deliberating about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday after hearing testimony for seven days in the murder trial of Burton, who has pleaded not guilty.
Assistant Attorney General John Alsop told jurors that the text messages between Burton and Ginn Gebo in the days leading up to their breakup on May 30, 2015, show that their relationship was deteriorating.
“Mr. Burton was resentful of the time she spent with her friends and her children,” Alsop said. “He became obsessively fixated on her relationships with others.”
Burton’s handwritten notes accusing Ginn Gebo of infidelity provided the jury with a “window into Mr. Burton’s mind,” Alsop said. In the days between the breakup and her death in the late hours of June 4 or the early morning hours of June 5, 2015, Burton became obsessed with Ginn Gebo, Alsop said.
In the days between the breakup and her death in the late hours of June 4 or the early morning hours of June 5, 2015, Burton became obsessed with Ginn Gebo, Alsop said.
“At this point, he is a runaway train and he’s going down the track straight for Stephanie,” the prosecutor said.
Alsop also told jurors that they could consider Burton’s being on the lam for 68 days as “consciousness of guilt” for his role in Ginn Gebo’s death.
Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras in his closing said that Burton told the truth about how Ginn Gebo was shot.
“If Rob really wanted to kill Stephanie because he was so jealous and upset, he would have shot her in the back of the head or in the middle of the back, not off the center of her back,” he said.
Tzovarras also said that Burton did not act like he intended to kill Ginn Gebo when he went to her home because she’d invited him.
“If Rob had some superior plan to kill Stephanie, you’d think he’d have worn gloves,” he told the jury. “If he’d had a plan, would he have not brought his medications with his name on them in his backpack?”
The defense attorney also told the jury that the state was asking the defense to turn the jury system upside down.
“The state is asking you to think the worst of the defendant,” he said. “The way the court system works is that you’re required to think the best of the defendant.”
In addition to murder, Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen instructed the jury on the crime of manslaughter as an alternative to the murder charge.
To find Burton guilty of murder, jurors must find Burton intentionally or knowingly killed his ex-girlfriend. To find him guilty of manslaughter, the jury must find he acted recklessly or with criminal negligence in causing Ginn Gebo’s death.
If convicted of murder, Burton faces between 25 years and life in prison. If jurors had considered a manslaughter charge and found him guilty, Burton would have faced up to 30 years in prison.
Burton has been held without bail since he turned himself in at the jail in Dover-Foxcroft on Aug. 11, 2015, 68 days after police began searching for him.
He turned down an offer from the Maine attorney general’s office last year to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a 60-year sentence, Tzovarras said last month.
The prosecution and defense teams agreed to move the trial from the Piscataquis County Courthouse to Bangor out of concern that an unbiased jury could not be seated in Dover-Foxcroft because the manhunt for Burton drew so much attention.
Burton, a convicted felon, also is charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. He was prohibited from possessing or handling a gun due to domestic violence convictions. Ginn Gebo was not the victim in those incidents, according to investigators.
Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen, who is presiding over the jury trial, will decide if Burton is guilty on that charge, which carries a possible five year sentence.