During closing arguments in the second-degree murder trial for a man who allegedly shot and killed a woman as she was walking along South Main Street in Rochester, defense attorney Brett Newkirk asked the jury to think about the power prosecutors have over witnesses and to dig deeper to find the truth about what happened to Billy Jo Ahearn.

Ahearn, 24, was shot one time in the pelvis on June 5, 2018. When emergency crews arrived at the scene, located between the now-shuttered Friendly's and The Emily Cross House, they found Ahearn with a man and woman.

Ahearn died soon after arriving at a local hospital.

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

A police affidavit suggests that Ahearn was not the intended target of the shooting and the target was the man she was with because the defendant was allegedly arguing with him the day before the shooting.

Justin Belanger, 22, of Rochester, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder. He has been on trial at Strafford County Superior Court in Dover since Monday.

Brett Newkirk is one of Belanger's defense attorneys. He expressed his frustration with how the state handled the prosecution of this case on Thursday morning.

"The witnesses we heard from, the experience we had in court, was a sobering and sad one," Newkirk said.

Newkirk attacked the witnesses called and Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley personally.

Newkirk said it is easy for an intelligent and methodical man such as Hinckley to dominate weaker-minded individuals. He accused him of "paper-training" one witness on the stand like a dog.

"You think that is a search for truth?" Newkirk said.

Newkirk said the gun used to kill Ahearn had fingerprints of another person on it, as well as Belanger's.

Newkirk and co-counsel Philip Dreher argue that their client wasn't the killer and the jury was told on Monday morning prior to the view that Belanger was with two other people who ran from the scene to where he was living on Lafayette Street in Rochester.

When reached after the court closed for the day, Hinckley said that the jurors did not reach a verdict on Thursday.

If convicted, Belanger could be sentenced to prison for life.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com. 

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