CARIBOU, Maine — A 12-member jury has found Bobby Nightingale guilty of murdering two Aroostook County men in 2019.
The one-week trial concluded Friday following jury deliberation. Nightingale was 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.
Both sides rested their cases Friday morning.
Nightingale, 40, pleaded not guilty to the murder charges in October 2019 after being indicted by an Aroostook County grand jury.
After the prosecution’s conclusion, Nightingale’s defense attorneys, John Tebbetts and Verne Paradie, said they would not call witnesses to the stand but did not specify a reason.
Witnesses for the prosecution included state law enforcement, medical and forensic examiners and neighbors.
During her closing arguments, Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam acknowledged the lack of DNA or fingerprint evidence on many items crucial to the case, including a .380-caliber gun found in Nightingale’s possession. There was DNA matching Nightingale’s on the ratchet strap of his black 2006 Suzuki ATV.
Bullet casings found at the scene of Ellis’ and Curtis’s murders match the .45-caliber gun found on a windowsill in Nightingale’s home, Elam said.
Elam said there were inconsistencies in Nightingale’s claims about the night of the murders. In texts and Facebook messages that Nightingale sent to friends the morning after the murders, he claimed that his ATV had been stolen and used by a single male to commit the murders.
“How does he know that a four-wheeler was used in a crime?” Elam said to jurors. “If he knew his own ATV was associated with a murder, why didn’t he call the cops?”
Tracking records on Nightingale’s phone reveal that he continued messaging friends on Aug. 13, claiming that “his stuff” was still on the back of the allegedly stolen ATV. In the days leading to his arrest in Castle Hill on Aug. 15, Nightingale hid with various friends and stopped using his phone, Elam said.
His story became more inconsistent in recorded conversations with the Maine State Police after his arrest, she said.
Elam played audio in which Nightingale claims that two Mexican nationals — who were arrested at an Aroostook border crossing on Aug. 13 — robbed his ATV at gunpoint while he was in a wooded area of Castle Hill.
In a letter he sent to Tebbetts, Nightingale said those same men robbed him outside his home, kidnapped him, forced him into a vehicle and made him witness the murders of Ellis and Curtis.
Elam questioned why Nightingale would bring up the Mexican nationals only after being arrested and why, as an alleged witness to the murder, they would let him go so easily.
Defense attorney Verne Paradie took aim at what he believed to be an absence of evidence from the state, especially regarding DNA testing and the tracking of Nightingale’s cell phone.
Paradie questioned why the state’s crime lab did not conduct DNA sampling of an unnamed man who allegedly threatened Curtis and physically assaulted Ellis during a birthday celebration for Curtis before leaving on an ATV.
Nightingale had seen Ellis only once prior to the murders, according to investigators. Ellis had driven a neighbor to Nightingale’s home to pick up Nightingale’s girlfriend, who was leaving him.
“What much more of a motivation do you need?” Paradie said, referring to the man who allegedly threatened Curtis. “But [the state] did not even ask for that DNA because they already had Bobby in a box.”
None of the witnesses who testified saw Nightingale ride by their homes or the crime scene, but only heard what they thought was his ATV, Paradie said.
In addition, a text to Nightingale from his then-girlfriend, Brooke Robinson, on the morning of Aug. 13 asked, “Why did you want to do it?” but does not mention murder, Paradie said.
“Because of this absence of evidence, you cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty,” Paradie said.
Justice Stephen Nelson also pronounced Nightingale guilty of two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and one count of criminal threatening, all in connection with events leading up to and during the murders.
Nightingale will be held without bail and will face sentencing at a later date.