A man charged with killing his wife at their Maine home admitted to a police operator that he shot her, claiming he mistook the mother of three for an intruder, according to a 911 recording.
Noah Gaston, 36, broke down in court Monday as jurors heard the recorded call he made to police following the January 2016 shooting at the family’s home in Windham, where Alicia Gaston, 34, died from a single shotgun blast in a stairwell, the Portland Press Herald reports.
“I just shot my wife in the stomach,” Gaston told a dispatcher. “I thought she was an intruder.”
Gaston, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges, began crying at the start of his trial Monday as he heard himself follow a dispatcher’s instructions to give his wife chest compressions.
Earlier in the day, Gaston had shown little emotion until opening statements and testimony by Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam, who recalled how Alicia Gaston fell down the stairs as a result of the gunshot. But Noah Gaston, who wore a gold wedding band in court, wiped his eyes with both hands as the 911 call was played for the jury of eight women and eight men, including four alternates.
Elam accused Gaston of intending to cause his wife’s death, saying it was “practically certain” she would die from a shotgun blast at such close range.
“He saw in the illuminated bedroom that she wasn’t in the bed,” Elam said. “He didn’t hear walkie-talkies or multiple intruders. He saw her as she entered the stairway, and he saw her when she was no more than 18 inches from the muzzle of his shotgun. This was a killing without justification.”
Gaston’s attorney, Rob Andrews, dismissed that version of events, saying his client was merely “defending his family” from an assumed intruder.
“He made a terrible mistake,” Andrews said. “He caused a terrible accident, and there is no way that this is anything other than a tragedy. But it’s not a crime.”
Gaston told police he awoke on the morning of the shooting to what sounded like walkie-talkies downstairs, prompting him to check on the couple’s three children before grabbing the shotgun to check for a possible intruder, the Bangor Daily News reports.
‘When he entered the room, he had no emotion on his face, just a blank look.’
But prosecutors said Monday that forensic evidence will be shown during Gaston’s trial showing inconsistencies in his version of events, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Prosecutors also played a recording of a brief interview Gaston gave police after the shooting during which he initially said he was halfway up the stairs when he pulled the trigger. But he then quickly changed that account, saying Alicia Gaston was just a couple of stairs up from the bottom of the staircase, the newspaper reports.
“When he entered the room, he had no emotion on his face, just a blank look,” Windham Police Officer Justin Hudnor said.
Several witnesses also testified that Gaston did not ask about his wife’s condition as paramedics stopped efforts to revive her. He did, however, ask Hudnor about the severity of her wounds toward the end of their conversation, the Press Herald reports.
Alicia Gaston’s sister, Heather Gilbert, also took the stand Monday, telling jurors how her sister homeschooled her three children and knitted scarves to make ends meet. Gilbert also testified that she paid for the family’s cellphone bills and noted that Noah Gaston had recently left a job and got poor prospects on a new position just prior to the shooting.
“It is your opinion that they had a loving relationship,” defense attorney James Mason asked Gilbert.
“Yeah,” she replied.
“And that Noah Gaston loved Alicia?” Mason continued.
“I don’t know,” Gilbert replied after a pause.