Thomas Bonfanti made his first court appearance at Calais District Court for three counts of murder and one count of elevated aggravated assault in February 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Jury selection in the trial of a man charged with murder for the shooting deaths of three people in the Machias area is expected to get under way in Belfast on Monday.

The trial for Thomas G. Bonfanti, 65, of Northfield, could last two weeks, according to Bonfanti’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth. Toothaker said opening statements by him and by prosecutors likely won’t be presented until after mid-week.

“It will take two to three days to pick a jury,” he said, adding that more than 80 people have been subpoenaed as potential witnesses by the defense and prosecution. “I think it will be at least a two-week trial.”

Toothaker declined to comment on other aspects of the trial.

A spokesperson from the attorney general’s office agreed with the lawyer’s estimated timeframe.

“We anticipate the trial to go at least two weeks with multiple witnesses being called by the state,” Danna Hayes said. “We do not know at this time exactly how many witnesses will be called.”

The trial was moved from Washington County to Waldo County last fall, after Bonfanti raised concerns about whether pre-trial publicity about the shootings more than two years ago could make it difficult to pick a jury.

Bonfanti is accused of shooting four people, killing three of them, at three different houses in Machias and Jonesboro on the morning of Feb. 3, 2020. He was arrested by police without resistance at the American Legion Hall in Machias later that morning.

Killed in the shootings were Jennifer Bryant Flynn, 49, of Machias; Samuel Powers, 33, of Jonesboro; and Shawn Currey, 57, of Machias, all of whom were shot at their homes. Bonfanti also is charged with one count of aggravated attempted murder and one count of elevated aggravated assault in the shooting of Regina Hall Long, 49, who shared a home with Currey and was shot the same morning. Long survived her injuries.

When he was arrested, Bonfanti told police how many people had been shot, but then invoked his Miranda rights, according to a police affidavit. The court document describes no motive or sequence of events that led to the shootings.

Toothaker and Rose Chong are the third set of lawyers who have been appointed to represent the Northfield man in the case.

Jeff Silverstein of Bangor and Jacob Ferm of Ellsworth were his initial defense attorneys but withdrew from the case in May 2021. William Ashe of Ellsworth and John Steed of Blue Hill were his next defense attorneys, but they withdrew last month. Maine is the only state that uses private lawyers to defend indigent defendants in criminal courts, but that is soon to change. Last month, the Legislature approved a mea sure to spend roughly $1 million to establish a limited public defender system.

Homicides with three or more victims are rare in Maine. There have been only five cases with that many homicide victims in the state since 2000.

In July 2017, a Madison man fatally shot his wife, their adult son and a neighbor before he was fatally shot by police.

An Oakland man shot and killed three people and then killed himself at an apartment building in November 2015.

In August 2012, three people were found dead in a burning car in Bangor in a case that prosecutors described as a drug deal gone bad. Two men later were convicted and then were ordered to serve sentences that will keep them in prison for the rest of their lives.

Three people were stabbed to death in Amity in June 2010. Thayne Ormsby later was convicted on three counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Over four days in September 2006, Christian Nielsen killed four people he had met after renting a room at a bed and breakfast in Newry.

Bill Trotter

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....