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In recording of jail phone call, accused killer says he ‘just snapped’

CARIBOU, Maine — The state rested its case Thursday shortly after playing recordings of phone conversations from jail in which an 81-year-old accused of killing another octogenarian disparaged the victim and admitted that he “just snapped.”

Robert Craig, 81, of Clearwater Florida, has admitted killing Leo Corriveau, his 86-year-old friend of four years at Corriveau’s home in Presque Isle on July 21 last year. But through his attorney on Wednesday, Craig said he killed Corriveau in self-defense after the two got into a fight over Corriveau reneging on plans to finance Craig’s trip back to Florida.

Court appointed defense attorney John Tebbetts said that Corriveau refused to give Craig a ride to a bus station or airport so that he could leave after his nine day visit.

Corriveau first struck Craig and then sat on his chest to constrict his breathing, said Tebbetts. The attorney said his client has chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and asthma and could not breathe, so he put his hands around the victim’s neck and “squeezed until Corriveau let go of him.”

Robert Craig (Courtesy/Maine State Police)

Corriveau was strangled so hard that the hyoid bone in his neck was broken, according to former State Medical Examiner Margaret Greenwald, who performed the autopsy. Her report said he also suffered rib fractures on both sides of his chest and multiple layers of hemorrhaging in his neck.

Craig is charged with intentional murder, which carries a prison sentence of 25 years to life. Craig and Corriveau came to Maine to stay at Corriveau’s Presque Isle home on July 12, according to an affidavit filed by Maine State Police Sgt. Darrin Crane.

Craig is accused of fleeing the home after the killing with about $400, Corriveau’s prized violin and the victim’s red Buick Enclave SUV. According to prosecutors, Craig spent one day in Bar Harbor, where he ate a double lobster dinner, before leaving the victim’s car at a bus depot in Hermon and boarding a bus back to Florida.

Police arrested Craig near his home in Florida on July 28.

Assistant Attorney Generals Robert “Bud” Ellis and John Alsop, who are prosecuting the case, contend that Craig murdered Corriveau in a rage and left his body on the lawn for his family to discover 40 hours after his death.

On Thursday, the prosecutors played back audio of telephone calls that were recorded while Craig talked to his nephew, Thomas Craig, from the Pinellas County Jail in Florida. In the recordings, Craig calls Corriveau “goofy” and “Mr. Magoo.” He also tells his nephew that Corriveau had generously taken him out to dinner a number of times during the visit, but that Corriveau basically had held him “prisoner” in Presque Isle.

“I’m pretty sure I am going to be in here [jail] for the balance of my life,” Craig told his nephew, despite the fact that Corriveau “ain’t gonna say anything, because he’s gone.”

Jerad Bell, 32, of Bangor, also testified for the state Thursday, saying that he sat next to Craig on the bus ride from Maine to Florida, and that Craig bought him meals in exchange for carrying his luggage. Bell testified that at one point, Craig asked him to write a thank you letter to send to Corriveau.

Presque Isle resident Leo Corriveau, who died at age 86 as a result of a homicide that is still under investigation. (Courtesy of Scott England)

“He told me that he could not write well,” Bell said. “I thought I was doing a good thing.”

The letter thanked Corriveau for the visit and the $400 and advised him where his car was parked.

Defense attorneys Tebbets and Stephen Smith were to present their case Wednesday afternoon. The trial was expected to wrap up Wednesday with jurors to begin deliberations Friday morning.

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