Superior Court Justice Stephen Nelson handed down the sentence Thursday in the Houlton courthouse after hearing statements from the family and friends of the two men.
Ellis, 51, and Curtis, 25, were found shot in Ellis’ truck in Castle Hill in 2019 after leaving a birthday party for Curtis.
“This was an execution-style set of murders. There were multiple shots for each victim to insure not mere injury but certain death. There is evidence of searching for the victims and planning the event,” Nelson said, adding that the victims were shot at close range.
The court also considered the Nightingale’s motive based on the evidence presented at trial.
Nelson said that the murders were about issues of power and control and born out of jealously and rage after Ellis gave the defendant’s former girlfriend a ride and helped her move her things out of Nightingale’s home.
The maximum final sentence was imposed because of the senseless cruelty involved in the commission of the murders and the effect on victims’ families, Nelson said.
“Roger and Allen are dead. They had a lot of living left to do,” Nelson said. “Mr. Curtis just crested his 25th birthday and he was murdered on the night of his birthday party simply on his way home. The families and communities of both men have been deprived of their presence and friendship.”
Assistant Attorneys General Meg Elam and Leanne Robbin were seeking a sentence of life imprisonment on each murder conviction and 10 years each on the convictions of criminal threatening with a firearm and two counts of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person to be served concurrently with each other, but consecutively murder sentences.
Defense Attorney John Tebbetts asked the court on Thursday to consider a sentence of 45 years.
The basic sentence is related to the criminal activity and the nature of how the crime was committed and the final sentence can be adjusted up or down based on mitigating and aggravating factors, Nelson said.
In Nightingale’s case, neither the state nor the defendant could point to mitigating factors. And the aggravating factors — Nightingale’s criminal history, including significant time in prison, charges of burglary, theft, firearm possession by a felon, assault, attempted aggravated assault and reckless conduct with a weapon — substantially outweighed the dearth of mitigating factors in Nelson’s final decision.
Prior to sentencing, Ellis’ sister and niece shared with the court how his loss, even after three years, is still painful and how they will never again see his smile, hear his laugh or experience his loving heart.
“The defendant had choice that night. He chose to deliberately hunt Roger down, he chose to shoot a gun, he chose to commit a murder. There are consequences for his choices, consequences such as justice, punishment and loss of personal freedoms,” said Nancy Fenton, Ellis’ sister. “I respectfully ask the court for justice. A maximum sentence of life in prison.”
And Curtis’ friend and former employer shared an emotional statement about how he lived his life with grace and kindness.
“He was the hardest worker I have ever seen. He took pride in his job. He wouldn’t leave till everything was sparkling and in its right place,” Crystal Winslow said. “Allen would avoid confrontation at all costs. He had the biggest heart.”
In Nightingale’s statement to the court, he expressed condolences to the victims’ families for their loss, but insisted he was not guilty of the crime.
“My trial wasn’t justice. The man that did this should be here, not me,” he said. Blaming investigators for not doing their job, Nightingale said that if they had, he would not be spending the rest of his life in prison.
Nightingale also was sentenced to 5 years each to be served concurrently on two counts of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. He will serve those years consecutively to the life sentences. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount $1,657.75 to the victim compensation fund which related to a portion of the funeral expenses for Curtis.
On the three lesser counts, Nelson said that Nightingale was not a reasonable candidate for probation given his history and track record.
“Even though there’s nothing that the court can do to heal the loss of Roger’s and Allen’s families, we are grateful that Bobby Nightingale will never be menacing the people of Aroostook County again like he has been for decades,” Elam said in an interview after the sentencing. “And we hope that the sentencing brings the families some healing.”
Nelson ordered Nightingale remanded to the Department of Corrections to begin serving his sentence.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Nightingale’s age. He is 41.