Yarmouth lobsterman to be sentenced June 5 for murder at bee farm

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PORTLAND — A 72-year-old lobster fisherman found guilty in April of murdering a Georgetown man at a North Yarmouth bee farm will be sentenced on June 5 in Maine Superior Court.

Merrill Kimball of Yarmouth faces 25 years to life in prison for the October 2013 murder of 63-year-old Leon Kelley at the bee farm owned by 95-year-old Stan Brown, Kelley’s father-in-law.

Following a seven-day trial, a Cumberland County jury rejected defense attorney Daniel Lilley’s argument that Kimball shot the much larger Kelley in self-defense after Kelley ordered him to leave Brown’s property and pushed him across the yard in a threatening manner.

Tensions between Kimball’s wife, Karen, and Brown’s family had increased in the months before the shooting as family members became concerned that she was taking advantage of the older man, particularly after learning he added her to his will, leaving her the bee business.

Merrill Kimball accompanied his wife and her son to Brown’s property the day of the shooting to collect $5,000 worth of honey that Karen Kimball said belonged to her.

Members of the two families argued and, following a physical confrontation, Kimball shot Kelley three times.

Jurors deliberated for roughly eight hours over two days before delivering their verdict.

Only hours before the verdict was announced, Lilley asked Justice Roland Cole to reinstruct the jury that anger and fear were “affirmative defenses” in a murder trial if the defendant was sufficiently provoked. Cole declined, telling attorneys that he repeatedly met with them to see whether they had additional requests before instructing the jury. Furthermore, he said, Lilley’s arguments did not support adequate provocation.

On April 24, Lilley filed a motion for a new trial and motion for judgment of acquittal based in part on Cole’s decision not to reinstruct the jury, according to court documents.

But prosecutors argued that the jury had rejected the self-defense claim and accepted the veracity of testimony delivered by the state’s witnesses.

Chief Justice Thomas E. Humphrey of the Maine Superior Court denied all of Lilley’s motions, ruling that the verdict is final, according to court documents.

Kimball will be sentenced at 2:15 p.m. on June 5.

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Merrill Kimball