Defense argues North Yarmouth bee farm murder victim provoked shooting

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PORTLAND — For the second day in a row Wednesday, defense attorney Dan Lilley aggressively challenged prosecution witnesses in an attempt to convince the jury in Merrill Kimball’s murder trial that Kimball shot and killed Leon Kelley in self-defense.

The defense and prosecution agree Kimball, 70, shot and killed Kelley, 63, at the North Yarmouth bee farm owned by 95-year-old Stan Brown in October 2013. But Lilley has argued Kimball shot the much larger Kelley in self-defense after Kimball, his wife, Karen, and her son arrived at the bee farm that day to collect honey.

On Wednesday, Kelley’s stepson, Craig Rawnsley, echoed much of the testimony given by his sister, Robin Rawnsley-Dutil, on Tuesday. Both were at the North Yarmouth bee farm Oct. 6, 2013, along with their mother, Kathleen Kelley, and Leon Kelley.

Rawnsley said Wednesday that the Kimballs and Karen Kimball’s son, Damon Carroll, sped into the driveway in two vehicles and pulled up by the bee shop to pick up 14 50-gallon buckets of honey, which Lilley said was worth about $5,000.

Rawnsley, a Portland firefighter/EMT, told jurors he called Karen Kimball that day to ask her about a rumor that a woman with children was moving in with his grandfather. He agreed with testimony by his mother and sister Tuesday, saying the family was concerned about Karen Kimball’s motives regarding their grandfather, who recently added her to his will, leaving her the bee shop and some land.

“I was concerned that my grandfather’s safety net was being taken out from under him,” Rawnsley, a prosecution witness, told Lilley during cross-examination. “He’s 95 years old. If he ends up going in a nursing home, he needs that land and that house to be sold to pay the bill.”

In response to questions from Assistant Attorney General Matthew Crockett, who is part of the prosecution team, Rawnsley said he also told Kimball that “things are going to change around here.”

He later testified he tried to change the locks at Brown’s property and acknowledged that one purpose was to keep Karen Kimball out.

Rawnsley testified that, after the Kimballs arrived at Brown’s shop Oct. 6, 2013, he told them he wouldn’t let them in the shop because Kimball was not supposed to be on the property.

Rawnsley reiterated testimony Rawnsley-Dutil gave Tuesday, saying Merrill Kimball approached Leon Kelley and asked “who the (expletive) are you?”

As his sister testified Tuesday, Rawnsley said Kelley’s response was to stick out his hand, as if to shake hands, and said “I’m Leon Kelley, Stan Brown’s son-in-law.” But Kimball did not shake his hand, Rawnsley testified.

Rawnsley said he did not actually witness the shooting because he was holding up an arm to block Damon Carroll, Karen Kimball’s son, from getting into the bee shop.

Instead, he said, “I heard gunfire. Rapid. I heard four shots.”

He said no threats, warnings or assault preceded it. Rawnsley added he was unable to administer first aid immediately to Kelley because Kimball continued to hold a gun on him “for a couple of minutes,” and each time he’d try to kneel to help Kelley, Kimball would “flex his arms” with the gun pointed at him.

Eventually, Maine State Trooper Mike Edes arrived, drew his gun and told Kimball to drop his gun and get down on the ground. Rawnsley said Kimball refused for a few moments, then finally went to his knees, but then lifted his jacket and placed his hand on his gun in the holster.

Rawnsley testified it was only after Edes made clear he would shoot Kimball if he did not comply that Rawnsley and ambulance personnel could care for Leon Kelley.

Under cross-examination, Lilley asked Rawnsley if he remembered telling a state police detective Leon Kelley might not have “escalated the situation” had he known Merrill Kimball was armed. Rawnsley said he did not remember.

But Lilley played for jurors a videotape from a re-enactment of the shooting shortly after Kelley was killed, during which Rawnsley told a state police detective exactly, “if he knew he had a gun on him, I’m sure Leon wouldn’t have kept approaching him, trying to escalate the situation. He didn’t know he had a weapon on him,” jurors heard Rawnsley say on the videotape.

In the videotape, jurors also heard Rawnsley tell the detective Kimball “was a scared, 70-year-old man and his only resort was the weapon.”

When questioned by Lilley, Rawnsley said, “what I meant was his only resort was the weapon. He made a bad decision that day. He had another option besides reaching for that gun and murdering one of my family members that day.”

Lilley also pointed out Rawnsley omitted in his testimony Wednesday – and included only as an afterthought in the re-enactment videotape – a description of Kelley placing his hands on Kimball’s shoulders, turning him around and telling him to leave.

“That’s a pretty significant area,” Lilley said. “Did you forget? That the aggressor, the person who put their hands on someone, is not my client (but) is your stepfather? He’s the person who put his hands on my client. Let’s be sure the jury understands.”

But Rawnsley disagreed about who the aggressor was in the confrontation.

“Merrill went right toward my stepfather with a tone of voice and said, ‘who the (expletive) are you?’” Rawnsley replied. “He’s the one with the tone and the expression on his face.”

Finally, Lilley pointed to the word confrontation in Rawnsley’s testimony.

“You confronted them. They didn’t confront you,” Lilley said.

“They came to the property. We didn’t start anything,” Rawnsley said.

But Lilley said Karen Kimball had keys to the bee shop, that Stan Brown called her a partner and that by keeping the Kimballs from the honey was denying them access to their property.

“They weren’t going in as long as (Merrill Kimball) was standing on the property,” Rawnsley said.

“But you didn’t say that,” Lilley said. “… Karen had every right to be there. It was her property, and she had every right to come get it, didn’t she?”

“Yes,” Rawnsley replied.