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Jurors begin deliberating in cyanide poisoning case

BANGOR, Maine — Jurors began deliberating about 12:40 p.m. Tuesday in the trial of a South Windham man accused of mailing cyanide to silence an Englishman who used it to commit suicide.

The jury of three women and nine men must decide whether Sidney Kilmartin, 54, of South Windham is a cold-blooded killer or simply a flimflam man who defrauded suicidal people who paid him for potassium cyanide but received Epsom salts instead.

The trial began Oct. 3 in U.S. District Court after Kilmartin pleaded guilty earlier in the day to nine counts of mail and wire fraud.

None of the victims defrauded in those instances died and three of them testified for the prosecution last week.

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Jurors last week heard evidence on six charges related to the death of Andrew Denton of Hull, England, on Dec. 31, 2012 — two counts of wire fraud and one count each of mail fraud, mailing injurious articles resulting in death, witness tampering and witness retaliation because Denton allegedly complained to the FBI that the fake cyanide did not work. After that, Kilmartin allegedly sent the real poison to the Englishman.

Kilmartin allegedly obtained the potassium cyanide from a California firm by saying he needed the chemical for his jewelry business. He had it mailed to a UPS store in Augusta, according to testimony. Kilmartin is not a jeweler, according to court documents.

Members of Denton’s family were not at the courthouse Tuesday but members of Kilmartin’s family and friends of the defendant sat behind him during closing arguments.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank told the jury in closing argument that the prosecution had proven that “this was not just a fraud for money. It was a fraud for spite.”

“Mr. Kilmartin targeted desperate, suicidal people,” Frank said. “He had Epsom salts on hand. He had potassium cyanide on hand. He chose who lived and who died. The use of this deadly poison alone is proof of the intent to kill.”

The prosecutor said that the evidence he had presented during the trial proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Kilmartin “defrauded suicidal people and when Denton complained to the FBI, Kilmartin killed him.”

That evidence included emails between Kilmartin and Denton and others, the packages sent to Denton and others that contained Epsom salts, receipts for Western Union money wires, deposits to Kilmartin’s credit union account and the online complaint filed by Denton with the FBI, Frank told jurors.

Defense attorney Martin Ridge of Portland told the jury that Denton was a victim of Kilmartin’s scheme to defraud people by sending them Epsom salts when they expected to receive poison. But he said his client was not responsible for Denton’s death. Ridge also said the prosecution had not proven that Kilmartin or anyone else picked up the package of cyanide at the UPS store in Augusta because no evidence was introduced to show who did pick it up.

“I think you can conclude that Mr. Kilmartin did not get that package,” he said.

Ridge also told jurors that the prosecution had not proven the cyanide that killed Denton was the same cyanide the California firm mailed to the UPS store in Augusta. No test was ever done to confirm it was the same substance that killed Denton, he said.

“Common sense would say that Mr. Denton killed Mr. Denton,” Ridge said. “Mr. Kilmartin took no step to kill Mr. Denton. You can’t overlook the fact that Mr. Denton willingly and knowingly took his own life.”

Kilmartin has been held without bail since his arrest on Nov. 5, 2014.

The defendant, who has a history of mental illness, was living in the community but legally was in the custody of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services when he executed the Epsom salts scheme, according to court documents. He was found not criminally responsible in 2009 for crimes he was accused of committing two years earlier, including an aggravated assault on an elderly man.

In October 2015, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, who is presiding over the trial, found Kilmartin competent to stand trial on the federal charges.

On the mail and wire fraud counts, Kilmartin faces up to 20 years in prison.

If convicted at trial on the charges connected to Denton’s death, Kilmartin faces life in prison.

Watch bangordailynews.com for updates.


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