The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the convictions and life sentence of a North Carolina man who took part in a December 2017 home invasion that left a Millinocket businessman dead and seriously injured his wife.
Christopher Murray, 41, of Red Springs, North Carolina, was convicted by a Penobscot County jury in February 2019 of murder, elevated aggravated assault and robbery.
Murray was one of three people charged with robbing and shooting Wayne LaPierre, 59, and his wife, Diem LaPierre, now 37, in the basement of their Massachusetts Avenue home on Dec. 19, 2017, as part of a robbery. Murray’s attorney, Rory McNamara of York, argued that Murray did not shoot the couple and was forced to take part in the crimes after being threatened by Tony Locklear, the father of Murray’s then-girlfriend, Alexis Locklear.
McNamara told justices during oral arguments in July that Superior Court Justice William Anderson should have allowed jurors to consider whether Murray took part in the crimes under duress.
The state’s high court disagreed.
“There was no evidence at trial that Tony ever made a threat directly to Murray or that Murray overheard any statements Tony made to Alexis,” Justice Joseph Jabar said in the 16-page opinion.
In emotional testimony during Murray’s trial, Diem LaPierre took the stand and identified Murray as the man who shot and killed her husband.
Anderson refused to allow a defense expert who would have testified that she was unable to accurately remember the events of the shooting. That decision was challenged in the appeal but the court rejected it.
“The expert’s conclusion that Diem was likely confabulating was based not on science but on mere discrepancies between her testimony and the evidence,” Jabar said. “As a result, the trial court correctly excluded the expert’s opinion.”
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, who handled the appeal for the state, said Tuesday that his office is pleased with the decision.
“We hope this brings a small measure of closure to the family of Wayne LaPierre, as well as Diem LaPierre. Her eyewitness testimony was critical to bringing the killers to justice.”
A request for comment from McNamara was not immediately returned.
Tony Locklear, 47, and his daughter, Alexis Locklear, 25, of Maxton, North Carolina, were sentenced on March 13, 2019. Tony Locklear, who is incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren, was sentenced to life in prison while his daughter was sentenced to time served — 375 days — for her limited role in the home invasion.