Jalique Keene appears for sentencing at the Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth, Maine, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, with his attorney Jeffrey Toothaker. Credit: Gabor Degere / BDN

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.

The state supreme court has upheld the conviction and sentence of a Bar Harbor man who raped and killed a friend on the grounds of an elementary school in June 2018.

Jalique Keene, 23, had filed an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, arguing that his May 2019 trial should have been moved out of Hancock County due to pretrial publicity. He also argued that there was not enough evidence to convict him of gross sexual assault and murder and that his 58-year sentence is far longer than the 34-year average in murder cases.

The court issued a six-page decision on Wednesday that rejected those arguments.

Keene’s argument that the trial should have been held elsewhere “is not persuasive,” Justice Ellen Gorman wrote in the decision, because his trial attorneys never filed a motion for a change of venue, they never demonstrated that pretrial publicity had tainted the jury-selection process, and Keene himself agreed the jury was impartial.

The court also ruled that there was “sufficient competent evidence” in the case to convict Keene, including security camera footage that showed him entering the school grounds with the victim and later dragging her lifeless body toward where her body was found and then washing his legs and feet at an outdoor spigot at the school. According to trial testimony, Keene also led a subsequent search party away from where her body was hidden and later remarked that his “life was over” after her body was found, Gorman wrote.

Keene’s sentence of 58 years in prison and restitution order of $15,000 was appropriate and authorized by state law, the court added.

Keene had attended Mount Desert Island High School with the 19 year-old victim, Mikaela Conley, graduating from the school in 2015, when Conley was a sophomore. The day before she was killed, she had driven to Boston to pick up Keene at Logan Airport, where he had returned after playing for a football team in Serbia. After they arrived in Bar Harbor around 1 a.m. on June 1, 2018, Keene and Conley walked to a playground at the elementary school, where school security cameras recorded the damning footage a few hours later.

Keene i s serving his sentence at the Maine State Prison in Warren, according to the state Department of Corrections. His earliest release date is June 4, 2068, when he will be 71 years old.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....