Keene convicted of gross sexual assault, murder

ELLSWORTH — A Hancock County jury took a little over two hours Friday to find a 22-year-old Bar Harbor man guilty of murder and gross sexual assault in the killing of Mikaela Conley, 19.

Jurors were not persuaded by Jalique Keene’s testimony that he did not remember carrying Conley’s lifeless body into the woods at the Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor on June 1, 2018.

The defense argued that the state’s case was largely circumstantial.

Conley went missing a year ago, after spending the evening with Keene on May 31, 2018. Earlier that day, she had traveled to Boston to pick up Keene and a couple of other friends at the airport.

Conley’s body was found June 2.

Keene is being held at the Hancock County Jail pending sentencing. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Evidence presented in the weeklong trial included school security footage of Keene carrying Conley’s body into the woods.

Footage from later the morning of June 1 shows Keene at a spigot washing his body.

“You see him go to the spigot,” said Assistant Attorney General John Alsop during closing arguments. “He washes his arms. He washes his legs, his shoes, his face.

“The fact that he’s hiding her body, he’s washing himself, he knows what he’s done and he doesn’t want to be caught,” Alsop continued.

“So we don’t have video showing him murdering Mikaela Conley,” Alsop said. “We do have activities on video consistent with him murdering her.”

A few minutes after he was recorded washing himself, Keene went to the home of Conley’s mother, Danielle Timoney.

“Five or 10 minutes later, he’s hugging her mom, he’s trying to evade detection,” Alsop said. “He’s throwing them off the scent. He offers to help look for her.”

Alsop also brought up in closing arguments the testimony of Brendan Sprague of Lamoine, who was a friend of both Keene and Conley.

Sprague was one of several people — friends, family and strangers — who searched for Conley on June 2.

Alsop noted in his closing that Sprague testified he had given Keene a ride home after the search. Also after the search, Alsop said, Keene had a confrontation with Conley’s family.

“They get back in Brendan’s car and what does Jalique say?”

“‘My life is over,’” Alsop said. “That’s a confession of guilt.”

Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald testified May 22 about the injuries to Conley’s body and the cause of death.

Greenwald testified that strangulation or blunt force trauma to Conley’s head caused the young woman’s death but Greenwald can’t be sure which was the ultimate cause.

The state presented photos of Conley’s body, which was covered in bruises and abrasions from head to toes.

Conley’s feet, calves and knees were bruised. Bruises were seen on the inside of her arms and on her back and on the top of her hips as well as both sides of her neck.

Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam prosecuted the case with Alsop.

In her opening statement to the jury of nine women and three men, Elam said Conley could not have known what was going to happen when she went to pick up Keene and other friends at the airport on May 31.

“When Mikaela left Bar Harbor that Thursday, she did not know she had less than 18 hours to live,” Elam said.

“She did not know that Jalique Keene would sexually assault her with such violence that she would suffer visible internal injuries.”

The young woman had the defendant’s DNA under her fingernails, Elam said.

Keene took the stand in his own defense Friday.

He said he and Conley had consensual sex in the early morning hours of June 1. They stayed on the playground and talked but later Conley got upset, he testified. Keene said she agreed to meet him on the shore path in Bar Harbor but never showed up.

Keene also testified about a recurring dream he had after his arrest. He would go back to the playground, find Conley unconscious, give her CPR and get blood on his face.

According to testimony from clinical psychotherapist Dr. Geoffrey Thorpe, that may not have been a dream but an event that actually happened that Keene can’t recall.

Keene, a Lewiston native, may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, Thorpe testified.

Before being adopted by a Bar Harbor family at age 8, Keene endured abuse by his biological father as well as a foster mother, according to Thorpe.

Attorney Dawn Corbett, who defended Keene along with Ellsworth attorney Jeffrey Toothaker, questioned the state’s investigation.

“Mr. Alsop gave you a lot of information and facts based on circumstantial evidence,” Corbett said. “There are also timing issues with this case. There are issues with the videos and issues with timing of the videos.”

Orlando Warren, who had been working as a flagger in a construction zone near the school, testified for the prosecution on May 21 that he saw someone in the bushes, presumably Keene, near the playground at 7:45 a.m. on June 1, Corbett said.

“Where was Jalique at 7:45?” Corbett asked. “We know from Danielle [Conley’s mother] he was at her house getting his bags. The bags had been left in Conley’s car from their trip back to Bar Harbor from Boston where Conley had picked him up from the airport on May 31.

“We know he was plugged into the internet at her house at 7:44 a.m.”

State police Cpl. Christopher E. Smith testified about his police dog Winger’s track of Conley’s scent, which led to Winger discovering the young woman’s body in a wooded area at the school on the afternoon of June 2.

“All the sudden he sat very slow and laid down — that’s his indication he located human odor,” Smith said.

“I literally stood right over Winger and focused my eyesight on the ground in front of Winger,” Smith said. “That’s when I noticed a small human hand and black hair, which was partially covered with vegetation and sticks and a black nylon bag.”

The courtroom held more than two dozen people every day of the weeklong trial. Most were friends and family of Conley but Keene also had supporters in the gallery.

Justice Robert Murray presided.

Toothaker said Wednesday morning that his client’s sentencing wouldn’t occur until July or later.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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