Thursday, December 19, 2013
SKOWHEGAN — The case against a Palmyra man charged with murder in the bludgeoning death of a Detroit man in July remains on hold, with no scheduled bail hearing and no indictment by a grand jury.
Jason C. Cote, 22, makes his initial court appearance at Somerset County Superior Court on July 26.
Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans
Charges against Jason C. Cote, 22, were expected to be formalized with an indictment during the recent session of a Somerset County grand jury.
The panel met Aug. 1 and returned with 51 counts against 21 people, including burglary and theft charges against Christopher T. Knight, the man also known as the North Pond Hermit, but none against Cote.
Cote is charged in a state police complaint with beating Ricky Cole, 47, with a pipe July 17 in a mobile home Cole rented on Main Street in Detroit.
Detectives with the State Police Major Crimes Unit found Cole dead inside the blood-spattered mobile home.
Cole had a fractured skull, extensive blood loss and deep internal injuries, according to the autopsy. The state medical examiner's office concluded that Cole died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who is the lead prosecutor in the case against Cote, said Tuesday the case is to be part of the next grand jury, probably sometime in September.
The state can't proceed on any felony charge, including murder, until Cole has been indicted.
Lawyers expected the indictment to come from the most recent grand jury.
"It was possible, but the grand jury had come up fairly quickly after Jason had been arrested, so it was not a surprise that they didn't indict him at this point," defense attorney Philip Mohlar said Tuesday.
Cote entered no plea in Somerset County Superior Court July 26 and was ordered held without bail pending another hearing and an indictment by a grand jury, Justice John Nivison said in court.
When police interviewed Cote at a friend's home in Palmyra the morning of July 18, they saw he had recent cuts and bruises on his forearm, back, leg and face, according to court documents. He told them he had nothing to do with Cole's death.
DNA on clothing found under Cote's home on Hurd's Corner Road in Palmyra matched DNA from an oral swab taken from Cote and from blood taken during Cole's autopsy, court documents show.
On July 17, Cote snorted methadone and Xanax at the friend's home on Dogtown Road in Palmyra, according to the court affidavit. He later was dropped off at Cole's residence, allegedly to get more drugs.
Cote was arrested July 24 at his grandmother's house in St. Albans.
He has been held without bail at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison ever since.
Mohler said the judge left it up to him and his law partner, John Alsop, who both are Cote's court-appointed lawyers, to request a bail hearing.
"We've been trying to get more information about the case and about Jason before we go forward with that," he said. "It's difficult to get a client bailed out on murder cases; you get one crack at it and we want to make sure that when we do that we're in the best position possible to succeed."
Cote has a short history of misdemeanor convictions for theft, forgery and failing to show up for court. Mohlar said Cote continues to enjoy the support of his family and friends.
Cote remains held without bail at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison pending new court dates. A conviction on a murder charge carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367