John Williams was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for the 2018 murder of Somerset County Sheriff's Corporal Eugene Cole.

Prosecutors were seeking a life sentence. At Thursday's hearing, Cole's family members asked for the same.

Williams, 31, told the court he made a horrible mistake, but he wasn't an evil person. The defense was seeking a 40-year prison term.

"I took a good man's life," he told the judge.

The case captured the attention of law enforcement agencies across the country and was the first law enforcement shooting death in Maine in 30 years.

After finding Cole's body outside a Norridgewock home, state and local law enforcement personnel began looking for the suspect who had been identified from the surveillance video of a local convenience store. The store's clerk called authorities after seeing Williams driving away in the Corporal's stolen and fully marked cruiser.

By the time the four-day manhunt was over, police officers from across the country had joined in, along with the FBI. Williams was finally found hiding out in the woods and taken into custody. His defense attorneys argued that he was brutalized during his apprehension and coerced into signing a confession, while in the midst of withdrawal from opioids. They have maintained throughout the investigation and trial that Williams was under the influence of drugs and never intended to kill the 61-year-old Cole.


Despite their arguments, Williams was found guilty in June of this year, by a jury that deliberated for only three hours. Williams' murder trial had been moved to Portland, after his defense attorneys expressed concerns about finding impartial jurors, and it was in that same courthouse where he received his sentence.

Cole is survived by his wife, Sheryl, and his four adult children, including his son David, who is also with the Somerset County Sheriff's Office. In addition, he's survived by his children's spouses, many grandchildren, his mother, and a brother and sister. Gene and his brother Tom were well-known in the local music community, as members of the band Borderline Express, and later performing together at the Cole Brothers.

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