February 7, 2020
This was another drug-related murder.
There definitely seems to be a strong link between allowing unstable drug addicts into your home and getting killed.
The two men charged in the slaying of a Bangor man in his Essex Street home on Nov. 1 pleaded not guilty Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to one count each of intentional or knowing murder and arson.
Joseph “JJ” Johnson, 30, of Old Town, and Cote Choneska, 40, of Veazie were arrested Dec. 4 for allegedly slaying Berton Conley, 59, then setting his home on fire.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson ordered that the two continue to be held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail.
A trial date has not been set.
Police were called to 258 Essex St. at about 7:50 a.m. on Nov. 1. Firefighters located a fire in the kitchen and found Conley unconscious in the living room of the smoke-filled house.
Conley was brought to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead. The medical examiner determined the manner of death was a homicide. The cause of death has not been released and was not included in police affidavits, which were unsealed after the men entered their pleas.
During an autopsy at the Maine State Medical Examiner’s Office on Nov. 2, Bangor police Detective Jeremy Brock observed “extensive injuries to Berton’s face and the top of his head,” the affidavit said.
His body was found in the living room where a large pool of blood also was observed, according to the affidavit. A damaged revolver with a broken trigger guard was found in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. A brown handgun holster and a container of lighter fluid were found near Conley’s body.
Both men allegedly told police that they had been to Conley’s home in the early morning hours of Nov. 1 to buy drugs but said they left and returned home at about 2 a.m. Johnson’s sister said that the two men came to her Old Town apartment on the night of Oct. 31. She last saw them at about midnight, the affidavits said.