Bobby Nightingale, 40, (center), listens to witness testimony with attorneys Jack Tebbetts (left) and Verne Paradie at the Caribou Superior Court Monday. Nightingale has been accused of murdering Roger Ellis, 51, and Allen Curtis, 25, in Castle Hill in Aug. 2019. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

CARIBOU, Maine — A jury will have to decide whether Bobby Nightingale, 40, is guilty of murdering two men in Castle Hill in 2019. His trial opened Monday in Caribou Superior Court.

Nightingale is being tried for the intentional or knowing murder of Roger Ellis, 51, and Allen Curtis, 25, who were found shot to death in Ellis’ 2007 red Silverado pickup truck on Aug. 13, 2019. An Aroostook County grand jury indicted Nightingale on the murder charges in October 2019 after his arrest. He pleaded not guilty.

The 12-member jury, plus four alternates — nine women and seven men — heard testimony from seven witnesses Monday, including Maine State Police, neighbors and former acquaintances of Nightingale, after the prosecution and the defense attorneys outlined their cases in opening statements.

The men’s bodies were found on State Road in Castle Hill just after midnight on Aug. 13. State Police Trooper Andrew Levesque, who testified during the trial’s opening on Monday, said he was responding to a noise complaint when he found Ellis’ truck and a black 2006 Suzuki ATV in the middle of the road. It appeared that the vehicles had collided because of damage to the truck’s front fender, Levesque said.

When Levesque looked into the truck, he found the bodies of Ellis and Curtis slumped forward in their seats, with bullet wounds in their heads and multiple other gunshot wounds in their bodies, he said during testimony.

Levesque and investigators from the Maine State Police evidence response team found multiple gun cartridges inside Ellis’ truck, underneath the ATV and in the surrounding area, leading them to believe that the shooter used two guns — one that was .45 caliber and another that was .380 caliber, he said.

Since only the passenger window — near Curtis’ seat — had been shattered, investigators came to believe that the killer only shot the guns on the passenger side of the truck, closest to the ATV.

In her opening remarks on Monday, Maine Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin referred to that evidence and gave her case for why she believes the jury should find Nightingale guilty.

According to interviews with friends and neighbors of Ellis — Michael and Tammy Clark, who have not yet testified — Ellis drove Tammy Clark to Nightingale’s home on Aug. 12 to pick up Nightingale’s then-girlfriend, Brooke Robinson, who was leaving him, Robbin said.

Robinson set up camp outside the Clark residence on 1651 State Road, after which Nightingale arrived on his ATV and tried to persuade her to return. When Michael Clark intervened, Nightingale drove off on his ATV, Robbin said.

Those two interactions meant that Nightingale would have known what Ellis’ truck looked like and that the Clarks knew the “distinctively loud” sound of Nightingale’s ATV when they claimed to hear it around midnight that night, Robbin said.

“[Around midnight] the Clarks heard that ATV drive by and then heard what sounded like gunfire,” she said.

The prosecution’s first witness — retired state trooper David McPherson of Mapleton — said that he first heard one gunshot and then a rapid succession of at least five or six more gunshots from his home, located just before the Castle Hill town line.

Since McPherson is retired, he did not respond as a law enforcement official, but his professional experiences made him wary of why the same ATV seemed to drive near his home multiple times.

“[The driver] seemed like they didn’t know where they were going, like they were searching for something,” McPherson testified.

Robbin also referenced evidence allegedly found in Nightingale’s Castle Hill residence as reasons why the state believes he killed the men.

Police arrested Nightingale on Aug. 17 after tracking his whereabouts through his cell phone number. Nightingale allegedly called State Police Detective Chris Foxworthy to say that police had the wrong suspect and that he was fleeing from the person who really did shoot Ellis and Curtis.

While searching Nightingale’s home, investigators allegedly found bullet casings that, through DNA testing, matched those of the .380-caliber gun used to commit the crime.

But Verne Paradie, one of two attorneys representing Nightingale, claimed that other DNA evidence on bullet shells and magazines suggested that Nightingale did not shoot the men. In addition, investigators never found a .45-caliber weapon in Nightingale’s possession, Paradie said.

Paradie also told the jury about a man who allegedly threatened Curtis while he and Ellis were celebrating Curtis’ birthday at the Clark residence.

“The shooting that occurred on the passenger side [of Ellis’ truck] shows that Mr. Curtis was the target,” Paradie said. “Do you really think that Mr. Ellis driving Tammy to pick up Brooke is a motive to kill [Ellis]?”

Paradie also said that Nightingale told Foxworthy in a voicemail that someone had stolen his four-wheeler, which was proof that he was afraid and knew he was being targeted.

After the jury heard from members of the State Police’s evidence response team and several neighbors who heard gunshots or saw the truck and ATV in the road, Michala Lind of Wells testified that she messaged Nightingale on Facebook in late July or early August 2019, hoping to reclaim a motorcycle that she believed he still had.

Instead, Nightingale sent a photo of a black Suzuki ATV, which she said matches the ATV shown in photographs of the crime scene. Nightingale allegedly told Lynd that he had painted the ATV black over the original yellow paint.

“It looks like there’s yellow paint on the front of that bike,” Lynd said, after Robbin showed a photo of the ATV at the Castle Hill crash scene.

Nightingale’s trial is expected to last for two weeks at Caribou Superior Court.

Information on which witnesses will take the stand on future dates was not readily available as of Monday, according to the courthouse clerk’s office.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin’s name.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Michala Lind’s name and misidentified her relationship to Bobby Nightingale. He is not her ex-boyfriend.