AUGUSTA — Michael T. Young will spend the next six years behind bars for the stabbing death of his domestic partner, David Cox, but he’s not admitting that he killed him.

Young, 41, of Augusta, pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of manslaughter during an appearance in Kennebec County Superior Court.

He entered an Alford plea, a plea bargain in which a defendant essentially pleads guilty without admitting guilt.

Last week, Young had been in the same courtroom again with his defense attorney, Pamela Ames, and had waived his right to a jury trial, which was set to begin the week of Dec. 17.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, urged the judge on Thursday to accept the jointly recommended sentence, saying there was risk to both sides if the case went forward to trial — particularly with testimony expected from jail inmates who might be impeached.

“Like so many other cases I could point to, half a loaf in this case is better than none,” Benson said.

Benson previously said authorities didn’t believe Young’s story about the 46-year-old Cox tripping over a bicycle and falling onto the knife, and the medical examiner told investigators the fatal wound was not consistent with accidental stabbing.

Justice Michaela Murphy imposed the sentence of 12 years in prison, with all but six years suspended, and four years of probation. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 30 years in prison, Murphy told Young.

Murphy said it appeared from statements she received from the victim’s family that they agreed to the sentence recommendation and that the victim’s mother, in fact, believes the stabbing death was an accident.

“I don’t believe he’s guilty,” Young’s mother, Faye Blair, of Waldoboro, said after the hearing. She added that she was grateful for the position taken by Cox’s family members.

Young had made a frantic call at 5:15 a.m. June 11, 2011, begging police and rescuers to help Cox.

“I’m holding his heart. Please save him. He’s a Mormon. He’s a good guy. He’s losing a lot of blood every second,” Young said, according to a 911 call transcript that was provided to Ames.

Police arrived at the Green Street apartment the men shared to find Young’s hands and shorts covered with blood. Young told them he had been ill and in bed and got up after hearing a bang to find Cox in the kitchen, slumped over Young’s bicycle and with a knife in his chest.

The state medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was a stab wound to the heart.

In court Thursday, Young gave a brief wave to several of his relatives in the back of the courtroom as he walked in with his legs shackled. He gave one-word answers to a long series of questions from Murphy before she accepted the guilty plea.

Otherwise, except for six news media representatives, attorneys, court security and police, there were no other spectators.

Laura Foss, of Augusta, who identified herself as Young’s cousin, said during a recess in the hearing that the family had come to support Young.

“He’s always been a sweetheart,” she said. “I have them girls and he was always excellent with them. He lived with me for several years in Vermont and here.”

Benson described the facts of the case for the judge, noting that forensic chemists and biologists found a blood spatter pattern indicating Cox had been stabbed near the kitchen sink, and a trail of blood led from there to Cox’s body, which was found near a toppled table and bicycle.

DNA matching that of both Cox and Young was found on the knife that killed Cox, Benson said.

Benson also said several inmates who had encountered Young while he’s been in jail said Young made statements suggesting he had killed Cox.

Ames said Young denies admitting anything to fellow inmates, and she referred to one of them as a regular “jailhouse snitch.”

“We were certainly very much ready to try the case,” Ames told the judge, although that position changed after they learned recently that the inmates had contacted the prosecution and sought special consideration — such as getting sentenced to the county jail rather than prison — in exchange for testifying against Young. Some of their statements were consistent with physical evidence about the blood spatter around the sink, according to Ames.

She also said Young has significant but unspecified medical problems, which was another reason he opted for the plea deal.

Young initially was questioned by local and state police at the Augusta Police Department and arrested June 11, 2011, on a warrant charging him with failure to pay fines. He was freed on bail shortly afterward and questioned again a month later by police about Cox’s death.

In March, Young was indicted on a charge of intentional or knowing murder, along with an alternate charge of depraved indifference murder. He was arrested April 5 in Florida and extradited back to Maine.

A court affidavit by Maine State Police Detective Christopher Tupper describes the couple’s neighbors as telling police the men had had a turbulent relationship and that Young had told several of them “how he had done everything to David Cox but shoot him” to keep Cox’s frequently outrageous conduct under control.

However, Young’s mother and an aunt, who also lives in Maine, disputed that characterization. They said Young and Cox, an Army veteran who had relatives in Utah, had been partners for five years and got along well.

Young has several previous convictions, all misdemeanor offenses.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com