PORTLAND, Maine — A gun collector who introduced several weapons into sexual play with two other men contended the weapons were intended to fulfill a sexual fantasy. Instead, a lethal combination of drugs, extreme sex and Russian roulette put him on trial for manslaughter.
Both the defense and prosecutors said there was no intention to kill. But prosecutors said defendant Bruce Lavallee-Davidson, a farmer from Skowhegan, was responsible for ensuring his gun wasn't loaded when it was being handled. He was convicted Wednesday and faces at least four years in prison.
The trial shed light on a dungeon in the victim's South Portland home that was filled with sex toys that three men used as a drug-fueled escape from reality.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said the focus should be on the handling of the gun – not the sexual acts that were going on in the victim's basement. The victim, Fred Wilson, 50, of South Portland, died of a single gunshot wound to the head on April 18, 2009.
"You just don't hold a gun to someone's head and pull the trigger without making sure it's not loaded. And at the moment he pulled the trigger, he didn't know," she said.
Defense lawyer Tom Hallett told jurors the men had been using guns as part of their sexual play and that the victim was a thrill seeker who may have slipped a bullet into the .44-caliber Rossi revolver unbeknownst to Lavallee-Davidson, who'd previously checked to make sure the gun was unloaded.
Jurors deliberated less than an hour before returning their guilty verdict in Cumberland County Superior Court. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in state prison in Maine. Because a gun was involved, the minimum sentence is four years, Marchese said.
The bespectacled Lavallee-Davidson, with short gray hair and a goatee and dressed in a sport coat, gave the appearance of a college professor in the courtroom. He showed no visible reaction to the verdict, and left without speaking to reporters. Hallett said the outcome was "devastating" for him.
The Dartmouth College graduate was in a committed relationship when he testified in favor of keeping Maine's now-overturned gay marriage law at a public hearing, four days after the discovery of Wilson's body and several weeks before he was indicted by a grand jury in Cumberland County.
The fatal shooting happened after Wilson, Lavallee-Davidson and a third man had been smoking pot, consuming the party drug GBL, huffing aerosol inhalants and having sex over a 12-hour period in the basement of Wilson's Colonial home in a middle-class neighborhood two blocks from the ocean.
The third participant, James Pombriant, 65, of Auburn, testified he first thought the others were playing a sick joke on him when he saw the flash of a handgun after hours of partying.
Pombriant, who was engaged in a sex act with the victim when the shot rang out, says there was a moment of silence before Lavallee-Davidson said, "I think I killed him."
Lavallee-Davidson, 50, contended the killing was a tragic accident.
His lawyers said their client checked not just once – but three times – over the course of the night to make sure the revolver wasn't loaded. They contend the victim loaded a bullet into the revolver's chamber while Lavallee-Davidson slipped out of the room to use the bathroom.
When Lavallee-Davidson returned, Wilson asked him to put the gun to his head and pull the trigger to intensify his pleasure, the defense contended. On the first try, there was a click when Lavallee-Davidson pulled the trigger. Wilson asked him to do it again, and there was a flash, the defense said.
After the shooting, Pombriant and Lavallee-Davidson left Wilson's body behind for hours before Pombriant called police. Police recovered the handgun used in the killing and a .12-gauge Mossberg shotgun that Lavallee-Davidson had taken to Wilson's home for the sex games.
Hallett said he was disappointed by the jury's fast verdict. "It was a close call. It was a tough case, and minds can disagree," he said.