Prosecutors ask to use replacement gun as prop during Auburn murder trial
BRENTWOOD – A Ruger Redhawk .44 magnum allegedly used to murder a former Manchester business owner in December 2001 was stashed in a car that likely got crushed into scrap metal – making the handgun impossible to recover when police arrested a suspect 11 years later.
The lack of a murder weapon has prompted state prosecutors to ask a judge's permission to show jurors a state-owned Ruger Redhawk at the upcoming murder trial of Arthur Collins, who is charged with shooting George Jodoin, 50, inside his Auburn farm house on the night of Dec. 26, 2001.
Collins, 44, of Manchester, faces charges of first- and second-degree murder in Rockingham County Superior Court. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in October.
The state's request is the first court filing since Collins was indicted 8 months ago. He was arrested last May.
Collins told investigators from the state's Cold Case Unit how he put the gun inside a tire well in the trunk of a junk car, according to court records. He filled the vehicle with metal and car parts then had it towed to Advance Recycling in Manchester, where it was sold for scrap metal.
"Due to the passage of time and apparent destruction of the car with the murder weapon in it, the state has been unable to recover the murder weapon," Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said in a court motion.
Collins worked as a handyman for Jodoin, who owned Mr. I Buy And Sell Everything on Main Street on Manchester's west side.
The gun that Collins allegedly disposed of was owned by Jodoin, and left on a kitchen table in his Auburn home after it was used for target practice earlier in the day, according to police. Collins was called to Jodoin's home on the day of the murder to repair a flat tire, and was invited back later that night to have drinks, according to police.
Jodoin was found in his own bed when he was shot in the head and neck.
Prosecutors want to use a Ruger Redhawk similar to the one owned by Jodoin that is used by the State Police Forensic Laboratory.
"That gun is kept in the lab's collection and is available for the state's use as a demonstrative exhibit/aid during trial," Strelzin said in the request.
The murder weapon had an 8-inch barrel. The lab's gun as a six-inch barrel, "but otherwise the guns are identical, if not substantially similar," Strelzin said.
A judge will have to ultimately approve the use of the gun, weighing whether it could prejudice Collins, or possibly jeopardize his right to a fair trial.
State prosecutors plan to use the replacement gun while eliciting testimony from Mark Dupre, a firearms expert. He is expected to tell jurors about how the gun works, the operations and features it has, and what it took to fire the weapon.
Dupre would also be "using the gun to demonstrate its trigger pull with each juror," Strelzin wrote in his request.
That testimony may be part of the state's effort to thwart claims Collins made to investigators that the gun had a hair trigger and just went off.
One issue expected to be contested at trial is Collins' "intent and the circumstances of the shooting," according to Strelzin.
Prosecutors have cited state and federal court decisions to support their request.
In one of those cases, a murder weapon was missing so they jury was allowed to see how a similar weapon worked "in order to determine whether the defendant knowingly killed the victim," Strelzin said in the court motion.
Public defenders have yet to respond to the state's request.