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Accused murder accomplice describes Madbury victim's final moments

Union Leader Correspondent

September 30. 2015 2:50PM
Michael Tatum testifies Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of Tristan Wolusky. (JASON SCHREIBER/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

DOVER — One of the state’s star witnesses in the first-degree murder trial of Tristan Wolusky took the stand Wednesday and recounted the final moments of Aaron Wilkinson’s life before he was fatally stabbed in a robbery that took a deadly turn.

After he was tackled to the ground in his darkened driveway outside his Madbury home last year, Michael Tatum testified, Tatum, Wolusky and Zachary Pinette tried to steal money and drugs from the 18-year-old Wilkinson, who was unarmed and helpless as he tried to get off the ground.

“We were yelling at him, telling him to give everything up,” said Tatum, who faces 30 years to life in prison.

Tatum recalled pulling out a knife, putting it to Wilkinson’s throat and telling him that he would get hurt.

Wilkinson told the trio that he didn’t know what they were talking about and that he didn’t have anything, Tatum said.

As Wolusky held Wilkinson down, Tatum said, Pinette began attacking his leg with a machete.

Wilkinson “jumped up” as they tried to get him back down on the ground, Tatum said.

At that point, Tatum said, “I stabbed him.”

After stabbing him in the back, Tatum said he saw Wolusky and Pinette stabbing Wilkinson, whom he referred to as “the victim” throughout his testimony.

Tatum recalled hearing Wilkinson crying and making a “small yelp or a mumble.”

As he lay dying, Tatum said, he heard Wilkinson say that he was sorry and asked, “What did I do wrong?”

After the killing, Tatum said he cleaned out the trunk of the car to make room for Wilkinson's body.

Tatum showed no emotion as he testified about the murder, which occurred during a robbery attempt that he said was first proposed by Wolusky.

Prosecutors have portrayed Wolusky as the ringleader who was the “man with the plan,” but his defense team argues he wasn’t involved in the killing.

They say Tatum and Pinette are liars who carried out the slaying and that while Wolusky was involved in the plan to rob Wilkinson, his only role was knocking him down to the ground.

Wolusky, 19, of Rochester, is the only one to face trial for his alleged involvement in the June 21, 2014 murder.

After the stabbing, prosecutors say Wilkinson’s body was stuffed into Pinette’s car and dumped on the side of a road in Lebanon, Maine.

Pinette, 20, of Springvale, Maine, and Tatum, 22, of Barrington, confessed to their roles and struck a plea deal with prosecutors. They pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

During his testimony Wednesday, Tatum explained how he, Wolusky and Pinette discussed the plan to rob Wilkinson as they drove around Maine in Pinette’s car in the hours before they arrived outside Wilkinson’s home in the early morning hours of June 21, 2014.

He said Wolusky was the one who first suggested robbing Wilkinson “because he had drugs and money.”

Tatum said he and Wolusky had purchased marijuana from Wilkinson in the past.

As they planned the robbery, he said they discussed bringing knives and masks. They also talked about bringing guns, but decided against it.

Before arriving at the house, Tatum said they stopped at a store to buy super glue.

“It was supposed to cover up our fingerprints,” he said.

Assistant Attorney General Stacey Kaelin showed Tatum two knives and a machete, which he said he recognized because they were used in the murder.

Tatum said they discussed different ways to lure Wilkinson out of the house when they showed up.

Tatum also recalled removing his boots to avoid leaving prints.

“I believe we all removed our shoes,” he said.

Tatum said they initially walked up to Wilkinson’s house and looked in the window, where they saw him on his couch. He said the original plan was for him to knock on the door and when he came to the door he would be thrown to the ground.

But the plan changed because the lights were on and they worried they would be seen from the porch, Tatum said.

Wolusky eventually called Wilkinson to get him to come outside, Tatum said.

Tatum said he and Pinette hid while Wilkinson came out and walked down the driveway with Wolusky toward Pinette’s car, which was parked out of view.

Tatum told how the robbery plan seemed to fall apart. Wilkinson and Wolusky started going through Pinette’s car, which Tatum said wasn’t part of the plan.

He said Pinette “got a little angry and went up to the car and slapped the hood.”

Pinette asked what the two were doing with the car, Tatum testified.

At that point, he said Wolusky began questioning Tatum and Pinette and pretended not to know them. Tatum said that also wasn’t part of the plan.

Tatum said he became worried and told Pinette that “things weren’t going too well.”

Tatum testified about how he started to have second thoughts about the robbery and how he “thought they should find a way to get out.”

Prosecutors showed text messages that Tatum sent to Wolusky’s cellphone at 1:45 a.m. which said, “Yo, we’re gonna head down the road.” He sent a second message a minute later that said, “Find us there.”

Tatum said he doesn’t think Wolusky ever got his messages. While he may have appeared apprehensive about the plan, Tatum explained how he and the others eventually began stabbing Wilkinson.

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