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AG asks that cases in Farmington murder be merged
DOVER - Strafford County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker agreed to temporarily merge two murder cases, but would wait to determine whether to consolidate them until later next year.
On Wednesday, Tucker heard arguments regarding Cory Bennett, 22, and Christopher Gay, 27, who both face several charges in connection to the death of Ryan Stewart, 22, who was beaten and stabbed in his apartment at 11 Worster St. in Farmington Jan. 21.
Both men were arrested in January and were indicted by a grand jury in May and June for two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second degree murder and conspiracy to commit robbery.
While the cases were previously separate, Assistant Attorney General James C. Vara argued it would be more efficient to consolidate them since they stem from the same incident, follow the same sequence of events and have the same witnesses.
Following the late-night attack, Vara said a neighbor called police, who found Stewart in the entryway of his apartment building Jan. 22. He was later pronounced dead at Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, Vara said.
Officers also discovered a blood trail leading to his third floor apartment, blood all around his home and bloody fingerprints on his open safe, he said.
Vara said a police dog from Rochester led officers to a home on Bunker Street, where Bennett and Gay had been staying. After obtaining a warrant, he added investigators found bags full of bloody money, a knife, brass knuckles, a bike chain and a piece of paper with Stewart's address.
"They both denied any involvement," Vara said.
Gay's attorneys Andrew Cotrupi and Richard Samdperil objected to consolidating the cases, but Tucker agreed to Cotrupi's suggestion to temporarily merge them during the discovery period.
"There are a lot of things that are in common," Tucker said.
Meanwhile Samdperil and Bennett's attorney, Julia Nye, hoped the trial could be scheduled for the summer as Bennett and Gay have been held since their arrest in January.
While a summer trial was previously discussed, Senior Assistant Attorney General Janice Rundles said the state would be prosecuting other murder trials in other counties this year.
Tucker felt this was a "major concern," but did not want to rush the process, especially since it's taken so long to get to this point.
"These are very serious accusations and crimes," Tucker said, stressing all parties must be ready to go to trial in October.
Tucker ordered prosecutors and the defense to submit a proposed schedule to prepare for the trial, which is expected to take four to five weeks. He added this also includes recommendations when to hold a hearing to decide whether the two men would be tried together or not.
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John Quinn may be reached at email@example.com.
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