Yarmouth lobsterman sentenced to 25 years for 2013 bee farm murder

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PORTLAND — Two months after a jury found him guilty of murdering a Georgetown man at a North Yarmouth bee farm, Merrill “Mike” Kimball was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison.

Justice Roland Cole sentenced the 72-year-old Yarmouth lobsterman to the mandatory minimum sentence for the October 2013 murder of Leon Kelley, with both the defense and prosecution acknowledging that such a sentence meant Kimball would likely never be a free man again.

On April 15, a Cumberland County Superior Court jury found Kimball guilty of murdering 63-year-old Leon Kelley following an Oct. 6, 2013, argument at the bee farm owned by Kelley’s father-in-law, Stan Brown.

After remaining silent throughout his trial in April, Kimball stood and spoke Friday to Kelley’s family, holding his hands up for emphasis as he said, “You don’t know how sorry I am about this whole mess. I apologize to you. I didn’t know what else to do. That’s all I can say.”

Kimball had accompanied his wife, Karen Kimball, to the farm on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, to collect buckets of honey worth about $5,000 that she said belonged to her.

Karen Kimball sat alone, silently, during the sentencing hearing Friday, in the same row as eight members of Leon Kelley’s family. No one spoke on Merrill Kimball’s behalf.

Kelley’s brother, widow and son-in-law told Cole that Leon Kelley spent his life helping others, whether through Alcoholics Anonymous or babysitting his stepson’s children.

Kelley’s wife, Kathleen, stood with a victim advocate and remembered asking her husband after he was shot not to leave her.

“He was a big man with a big heart, a big spirit and a big laugh,” she said.

On May 21, Kathleen Kelley filed a wrongful death suit against Merrill Kimball, seeking $1 million in damages for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other offenses, as well as punitive damages.

Prior to the sentencing, Cole denied requests by defense attorney Daniel Lilley for a new trial and judgment of acquittal. Lilley argued that he was only allowed to present the jury with “a peek” at the evidence and was unable to develop a motive, which he said “deals with inheritances and a feud between these two families.”

“This is not a cold-blooded murder in which somebody went out and killed a person they didn’t even know over containers of honey,” he said. “Of course it makes no sense.”

Arguing for a lengthier sentence than the minimum, Alsop said, “The defendant’s lack of remorse and empathy in this case is significant.”

“Frankly, it’s not that he’s not remorseful,” Lilley said. “He feels terrible about what happens, but he felt he had no choice.”

But Cole said he agreed with Alsop.

“It’s a tragedy, and it’s certainly senseless,” the judge said. “The question I would ask is, if Mr. Kelley had said, ‘I have a gun, don’t come forward or I’ll shoot …’ the outcome might have been different.

At this, Kimball spoke sharply to Lilley’s associate, Andrew Graham, saying, “I said that!”

The associate did not respond.

Sidebar Elements

Merrill “Mike” Kimball awaits sentencing Friday, June 5, in Portland for the October 2013 murder of Leon Kelley. Justice Roland Cole later sentenced Kimball to 25 years.