Jury Convicts John Williams Of Murder In Deputy's Death

Jun 19, 2019

A week after his trial began, John Williams has been found guilty in the murder of Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy Eugene Cole.

Williams led local and national law enforcement on a nearly four-day manhunt in Norridgewock in April of last year. The decision brings some closure for Cole's family, but Williams' attorney plans to appeal.

The jury's verdict came just a few hours after closing arguments were made Tuesday morning. State prosecutor Lisa Marchese said outside the courthouse after the trial that there was solid evidence that Williams, now 30, intended to kill 61-year old Cole when he shot him in the early morning hours of April 25, 2018.

"The confession in my mind was the most compelling piece of the case," Marchese says.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese says that the state will ask for a life sentence for John Williams, who was found guilty of murdering Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy Eugene Cole Tuesday.
Credit Julie Pike / Maine Public

The fact that Williams shot Cole was not in dispute during the trial. The question was whether he did it intentionally or knowingly. In closing arguments, Marchese referenced Williams' confession to police where he used the words that he wanted to "eliminate" Cole. That statement, Marchese says, plus the close range in which Williams shot Cole, show his intent.

"By putting the trigger up against the neck of Corporal Cole, he intended to kill him,” Marchese says. “He wasn't a confused, drugged out person. He did what he wanted to do."

Williams had been wanted on outstanding drug and weapons charges. While on patrol, Cole spotted Williams and pulled over his marked truck to arrest him outside a Norridgewock residence. But during the encounter, Cole fell and Williams shot him. Williams fled, first in Cole's marked truck and then on foot into the woods, where he evaded capture for nearly four days. His defense attorney, Verne Paradie, told jurors that his client was impaired from heavy drug use, and that his intention was not to kill Cole, but to avoid going to jail. Paradie had sought a lesser charge of manslaughter.

"It was a tough case to defend all along and we knew that,” Paradie said. “So it's not surprising. It's definitely disappointing."

Outside the courthouse, Paradie reiterated some of the arguments he made in court. He disagrees that Williams shot Cole in such close proximity. He also contends that police coerced his client into confessing. He said those two points will be the primary basis for an appeal.

Tom Cole, brother of Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy Eugene Cole, speaks to the media after the jury in the murder trial of John Williams found Williams guilty of murder.
Credit Julie Pike / Maine Public

Meanwhile, Cpl. Cole's brother, Tom Cole, says the verdict brings the family some relief after a difficult year.

"Nobody really wins today,” he says. “It doesn't bring Gene back."

Williams is expected to be sentenced this fall, where his attorney will seek the minimum sentence of 25-years, and the state will seek the maximum in Maine: a life sentence without probation or parole.

Originally published June 18, 2019 at 11:53 a.m. ET.