Portland man charged with murder in girlfriend’s death in Acadia captured in Mexico

The Portland man charged with murder in the hit-and-run death of his girlfriend in Acadia National Park in June has been apprehended in Cancun, Mexico.

Raymond Lester, 35, of Portland was arrested late Monday night by members of the U.S. Marshals Service Violent Offender Task Force, Marshals Service spokesman Ryan Guay said in a statement Wednesday night.

Nicole Mokeme and Raymond Lester are seen on Bourbon Street in New Orleans in this undated photo Mokeme posted on her Facebook page on Feb. 14, 2021.

Lester was wanted by Maine State Police on a warrant charging him with one count of murder for the death of 35-year-old Nicole Mokeme of South Portland. The warrant was issued June 21. He also was being sought on a federal warrant, issued June 29, for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Maine investigators learned that Lester fled the United States and had traveled to Cancun, Guay said. Mexican authorities, working in collaboration with the U.S. Marshals Service Mexico Foreign Field Office, apprehended Lester without incident Monday night.

Lester arrived in Chicago on Wednesday and will be transferred to Maine at a later date, Guay said.

Police charged Lester with murder in late June, a little more than a week after Mokeme was killed in a hit-and-run in Acadia National Park.

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Maine State Police have released few details on the incident, only that he may have been driving a black BMW SUV with damage to its front end and undercarriage. Police also have not said exactly where the death occurred, how Mokeme’s body was found and by whom, or what led police to charge Lester in her killing.

The U.S. Marshals Service did not provide any details on how Lester was able to elude authorities or how they located him in Cancun, a resort city on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mokeme, a longtime activist, organizer and leader in the Black community, was killed at a retreat for Black Mainers she organized over the Juneteenth holiday week at Acadia. Mokeme hosted the event through her organization, Rise and Shine Youth Retreat, founded in 2013.

Mokeme called herself the “keeper of the flame,” friends have said, and had become a pillar of local Black organizations through years of grassroots organizing and community support work.

Mokeme also was involved in or helped found the Black Artist Forum, Embodied Equity Consulting, The Ensemble of Color ( formerly, Theater Ensemble of Color), The For Us By Us Fund, The Third Place, Hi Tiger, Portland Empowered, Women United Around the World and 21st Century, according to a GoFundme page created by friends for Mokeme’s 11-year-old daughter.

By Wednesday, the page had raised more than $71,000.

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Mokeme and Lester had been dating for about three years, according to a Facebook post Mokeme made last Valentine’s day commemorating their two-year anniversary. In the Facebook post, Mokeme described their history together. The post was accompanied by a photo of the two of them in New Orleans smiling, decorated with pink heart emojis.

Women who dated Lester more than 10 years ago detailed a history of abuse in their interviews with the Portland Press Herald last month.

Lester’s criminal record shows a history of domestic violence starting in 2008, when he was charged by Portland police with domestic violence assault. He pleaded guilty, paid a $300 fine and was sentenced to 22 days in jail, according to a statewide criminal history report.

Assisting the U.S. Marshals Service in Lester’s capture were the Maine State Police, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Mexico City, the Northern District of Illinois, the U.S. Park Service and Mexican authorities.

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