John Williams Sentenced To Life In Prison For Killing Of Cpl. Eugene Cole

Sep 13, 2019

John Williams, the man who killed Somerset County Corporal Eugene Cole last year, has been sentenced to life in prison.

Williams at his sentencing
Credit Patty Wight / Maine Public

The judge's decision in Cumberland County Superior Court to deliver the maximum sentence brings some relief for Cole's family and former colleagues. Williams' attorneys say they'll appeal the decision.

Before sentencing, several relatives of both Cole and Williams gave victim impact statements. Cole's wife, Sheryl, told the court that her husband was her soulmate, and that even though she's surrounded by family and friends, she often feels alone.

"The hurt is constant,” she said. “Sometimes I'm not sure I can go on."

She asked Justice Robert Mullen to ensure that her grandchildren would never walk the same streets as Williams, saying that the 31-year old had shown his true character when he murdered her 61-year old husband.

"A person cannot do what isn't in them to do, regardless of drugs or alcohol or anything else. The defendant has proven what is within him."

Williams shot Cole in April of 2018 in Norridgewock. He was facing weapons charges in Massachusetts when Cole spotted him outside a residence, pulled over his marked truck, and approached Williams. During the encounter, investigators say Cole fell and Williams shot him at close range in the neck. They say Williams fled in Cole's truck — and, later, on foot — into the woods, where he evaded capture for nearly four days. When Williams addressed the court on Thursday, he said that his actions were borne out of panic.

"What followed afterwards was immediate sorrow and regret. If I could change it or take it all back, I would, without question," he said.

Williams’ attorneys argued during his trial that he was impaired by heavy drug use at the time he encountered Cole and did not intend to kill him. William's aunt, Deborah Williams, told the court on Thursday that her nephew is a good person who made a horrible mistake.

"As a religious person, I don't know why these things happen,” she said. “But I have faith that there's some reason or purpose. But I don't believe it was to have ruined two lives."

But none of the arguments in favor of a more lenient sentence swayed Justice Mullen. He cited Williams' confession to police that he wanted to "eliminate" Cole, and says it was Williams’ fateful decision to take someone else's life rather than go to jail.

"You're going to pay for your actions with your loss of liberty for the longest period of time our state allows,” Mullen said. “Because I determine that the appropriate sentence in this case should be, and is, life in prison."

Outside the courthouse, Chief Deputy of the Somerset County Sheriff's office, Mike Mitchell, said that the sentence brings some closure for Cole's former colleagues and family.

"It's been a long road, for the whole family,” he said. “Including the fact that Gene's son still works for us."

But the case may not be over yet. Williams' attorney says his client plans to appeal the sentence, as well as his conviction.

Updated 5:36 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019