Raymond Lester stands next to a BMW X3 in this undated photo. Police say Lester, 37, of Portland is suspected of driving a BMW X3 in the hit-and-run death of Nicole Mokeme on June 19, 2022, at the Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Department of Public Safety

A jury has been chosen for the murder trial of a Portland man who police say killed his girlfriend by running her over with his car in Acadia National Park.

Raymond Lester, 37, is accused of killing Nicole Mokeme, more than 16 months ago at Acadia’s Schoodic Institute, which is located at Schoodic Point on the eastern side of Frenchman Bay, across from Mount Desert Island.

A jury of 12 people, not including an additional four picked as alternates, was selected on Tuesday, the day after jury selection in the trial began. The trial is expected to get under way Wednesday morning in Ellsworth and has been scheduled to run through Thursday, Nov. 9.

Police say Lester ran Mokeme over with his BMW X3 sport utility vehicle late in the evening on June 18, 2022, on a paved walking path on the Schoodic Institute campus, after the two had an argument.

Lester then allegedly fled the scene and, after being identified as a suspect, evaded police for a month before being arrested in Cancun, Mexico.

Lester is facing a single charge of intentional or knowing murder. He has been held in custody without bail at Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth since his arrest.

Mokeme, 37, the founder and creative director for Rise and Shine Youth Retreat, lived in South Portland. She was leading a retreat for Black Mainers at the former Navy base campus in the park. Lester accompanied Mokeme on the overnight retreat and was sharing a room with her at a bunkhouse on the campus, police have said.  

The night Mokeme died, attendees were hanging out at a fire pit outside the bunkhouse while Lester sat nearby in his SUV and made “shooting” gestures with his fingers toward the group, police write in a court affidavit. Other attendees told police that Lester was drinking vodka, playing loud music and driving fast around the campus.

Mokeme’s body was found at 6:20 a.m. the next day on a paved walking path on the Schoodic campus, police said. Tire tracks were found leading from a nearby parking lot, across a road and between two trees onto the walking path where Mokeme appeared to have been run over.

Pieces of black plastic that appeared to have fallen off a vehicle also were found near her body, according to the affidavit.

Police began looking for Lester and traced his cellphone to Rhode Island. Using data collected by roadside license plate readers, police determined that Lester had driven to Massachusetts the day Mokeme’s body was found. Additional information later showed Lester had driven to Georgia on June 20, 2022, and then to Texas a day after that.

Police have not said how they determined that Lester had traveled to Mexico or whether they ever recovered his car.

Justice Robert Murray will preside over the jury trial.

Lester is being represented by defense attorneys Will Ashe of Ellsworth and Caitlyn Smith of Bangor. The case is being prosecuted by Robert “Bud” Ellis and Leanne Robbin of the Maine attorney general’s office.

Attorneys involved in the case for the defense and prosecution have declined to comment on  the pending trial.

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....