PORTLAND — A Cumberland County Superior Court jury on Monday heard opening statements and graphic testimony about the accidental shooting death of a 50-year-old South Portland resident.
Malcom Bruce Lavallee-Davidson, 50, of Skowhegan, faces a manslaughter charge for shooting and killing Fred Wilson in the basement of Wilson’s Willard Beach-area home on April 18, 2009. If convicted, Lavalle-Davidson faces up to 30 years in prison.
Defense attorneys and the prosecutor agreed Monday that Wilson was shot near the end of a sex party, during which drugs, alcohol and firearms were used. But they disagreed about whether the actions of Lavallee-Davidson, who admitted to pulling the trigger but pleaded not guilty to the charge, amount to manslaughter.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said Lavallee-Davidson, who brought three guns to Wilson’s home to be used as sex toys, was criminally negligent and reckless because he didn’t make sure a gun was not loaded before pointing it at Wilson’s head and pulling the trigger.
“This case is about whether it is reckless or criminally negligent to put a gun to another person’s head and pull the trigger – in the name of sex play – and not even check to see if the gun is loaded,” Marchese said.
Defense attorney Michael Whipple said Lavallee-Davidson checked his .44-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun three times throughout the evening to make sure it was not loaded. Whipple contended that Wilson loaded the weapon and asked Lavellee-Davidson to pull the trigger, in an attempt to commit suicide.
“(Lavallee-Davidson) checked the gun, put the revolver down and went to the bathroom. He came back, picked up the gun and tragedy struck,” Whipple said. “The gun wasn’t loaded when he left the room. The only person in the room in a position to load the gun was Fred Wilson.”
Both attorneys presented their cases in startling detail, while emphasizing to the jury that the issue is not the men’s lifestyle, but the early morning shooting death of Wilson.
Lavallee-Davidson had invited his friend, James Pombriant, 65, of Auburn, to a sex party at Wilson’s Henry Street home, where there was a dark room in the basement, described as a “dungeon” or “play room,” with chains, handcuffs and other sex toys and apparatus.
The men, who were all HIV positive, used inhalants, marijuana, alcohol, guns and pornography until dawn. The defense described the room as a place to escape life and the effects of being HIV positive.
Whipple said all three men were “mature consensual adults” in the evening’s activities.
The gun that killed Wilson was one of three weapons Lavallee-Davidson, an Ivy League-educated organic farmer who collects guns, brought to Wilson’s home. That weapon, along with another pistol and a shotgun, were used as part of extreme sex play.
Pombriant testified that he was not surprised that Lavallee-Davidson brought the guns, because they had used a shotgun during sexual encounters before. But it was the first time ammunition was involved.
“That was something very different,” he said. “I thought they were blanks.”
Pombriant said Lavallee-Davidson and Wilson were getting along well that evening. Shortly before dawn, he said, the two of them went for a rejuvenating walk on Willard Beach. Pombriant said he did not go because he was upset with both men’s excessive use of inhalants.
Pombriant said he was particularly upset with Wilson, who he described as “impossibly high,” for passing out and falling down several times that evening, once while performing a simulated sex act with the shot gun.
When the Wilson and Lavalle-Davidson returned, their sexual activities resumed. Pombriant said he doesn’t know if Lavallee-Davidson left the room and never heard a gun being loaded.
Pombriant said he was concentrating on his own pleasure when the gun was fired and Wilson fell motionless. At first he thought a blank bullet was fired, but he soon realized that was not the case.
“All of a sudden I hear a gun go off and I saw a flash,” Pombriant said. “I thought they cooked this up to freak me out.”
After an extended moment of silence, Pombriant said, Lavallee-Davidson said “I think I killed him.” He did not express shock that the gun was loaded, Pombriant said, and asked him to “stick with me, dude.”
In the hours following the shooting, Pombriant said he told Lavallee-Davidson the incident needed to be reported to police, but Lavallee-Davidson said he wasn’t ready to do that. During an Internet chat, Lavallee-Davidson said he wanted to tell police that Wilson had committed suicide.
Pombraint said he would not go along with that story and decided to report what he called an “accidental homicide” to police at around 8 p.m. on April 18.
“(Lavallee-Davidson) wasn’t thinking clearly,” Pombriant siad. “I told him I would support the truth, that is was an accident. Not that it was suicide.”
Lavallee-Davidson called police on April 19 and drove to the South Portland Police Department with Wilson’s laptop computer and cell phone, which he had taken from the crime scene.
While Whipple contended that Wilson asked Lavallee-Davidson to pull the trigger on the hand gun, Pombriant said he never heard any conversation about it prior to the shooting. Throughout that evening, playing Russian roulette was never discussed, he said.
The jury on Monday also heard from Wilson’s sister. Kim Wilson said she last spoke with her brother on April 9, her birthday. Her brother, who also had diabetes, was in good spirits and looking towards the future, she said.
Although she was aware of her brother’s lifestyle, Kim Wilson said she was surprised by the gun play. “My father bought him a .22 when he was a kid, but he never used it,” she said.
The trial is expected to continue through Wednesday or Thursday.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org