A Maine man who allegedly killed his girlfriend in a hit-and-run incident at a Juneteenth nature retreat was apprehended by the U.S. Marshals in Mexico this week.
Raymond Lester, 35, was taken into federal custody late Monday evening in Cancun, Mexico, the U.S. Marshals Service announced. Lester, who is charged with murder in his girlfriend Nicole Mokeme’s vehicular killing, had evaded authorities for a month prior to his arrest.
Mokeme, 35, was last seen alive near the fire pit area at the Schoodic Educational Center in Acadia National Forest at approximately 11:30 p.m. on June 18, according to charging documents obtained by Oxygen.com. Her body was found the following morning on a walking path near the retreat.
An autopsy revealed Mokeme died from blunt force injuries and had been fatally struck with a vehicle, according to the Maine State Police. Her death was subsequently ruled a homicide.
Photo: Maine State Police
Witnesses at the retreat described an apparent and lingering tension between Lester and Mokeme, who were sharing a bunkhouse together for the weekend. At one point, Lester told one witness that Mokeme “doesn’t like me anymore” and made “shooting” gestures at a group of individuals with his fingers, case documents allege.
Shortly before Mokeme's death, Lester was observed by multiple witnesses drinking vodka and driving “fast and dangerously” through the campsite in a black BMW X3. One witness described him as being visibly intoxicated with “slow, slurred speech.”
Another recalled Lester was “hammered,” “pissed off,” and said he acted “appallingly” at dinner on the evening of June 18.
At some point between midnight on June 18 and the early hours of June 19, authorities suspect Lester mowed down Mokeme in his BMW and then fled the retreat site.
After executing a search warrant on the shared bunkhouse the couple was staying at, investigators found Lester had left behind a number of personal belongings — including clothing, toiletry items and even court documents. Surveillance cameras captured Lester’s BMW traveling through Massachusetts, Georgia and Texas after the killing, per the case’s affidavit.
Lester was charged with Mokeme’s murder on June 21. A federal warrant was later issued for his arrest for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Prior to his arrest, officials warned the public to be on the lookout for Lester’s black BMW, warning the vehicle may have front-end or undercarriage damage. It’s unknown if authorities have recovered the SUV.
Since his apprehension, Lester has been extradited from Mexico to Illinois and will be transferred to Maine at a later date, officials said.
No court date information was immediately available for Lester. It’s unclear if he’s retained legal representation.
"Nicole Mokeme’s family waited more than a month to hear that news and detectives were excited to make that phone call," Shannon Moss, the public information officer for the Maine Department of Public Safety told Oxygen.com in a statement. "The next step is bringing Lester back home to Maine to face prosecution."
Lester and Mokeme had been dating for more than three years, according to the Portland Press Herald. Lester has four prior convictions for domestic violence assault involving separate victims, according to the outlet.
Mokeme was the founder and creative director of Rise and Shine Youth Retreat, a Maine rejuvenation center for the enrichment of Black youth. Her organization programmed nature retreats and other events for Black youth and adults. She’d organized the Acadia National Forest retreat “celebrate Juneteenth, liberation and Black excellence,” according to an Instagram post uploaded by the group.
Mokeme was described as an “enthusiastic and electrifying woman of Universal Love,” according to her company website’s biography.
“Nicole believed in unity and community,” Mokeme’s obituary also stated. “Her goal was to lift and empower all.”
Mokeme graduated from Southern Maine Community College. The 35-year-old was also the mother of a young girl.
Her killing marked the first homicide in Acadia National Park in 35 years, according to the Bangor Daily News.