The man convicted of the 1973 brutal murder of Debra Dill in Litchfield has been transferred back to the Maine State Prison in Warren.
Michael Boucher, 63, was transferred last week from the minimum-security Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport to the maximum-security Maine State Prison in Warren. Department of Corrections spokesman Scott Fish confirmed the transfer has occurred but declined to say why Boucher was moved or whether it will affect a parole hearing scheduled for May.
Dill family members were alarmed last year when Boucher, who was given a life sentence after his conviction in 1991, was transferred to Machiasport, where he was assigned to a community restitution crew that carries out supervised work details throughout Washington County. Debra Dill’s sister, Vicki Dill, said the family welcomed news of Boucher’s return to Warren, but is disappointed that the department has not disclosed the reason for that transfer. A victim’s advocate who contacted the Dill family about the move said only that there was “a little incident” involving Boucher, Dill said.
“I’d like to know what the incident was,” said Dill, West Gardiner’s fire chief. “What constitutes a little incident that leads to being removed from a minimum-security prison where they’re prepping you for release to be sent back to maximum security?”
Boucher attacked 18-year-old Debra Dill in 1973 in the woods off Whippoorwill Road in Litchfield. He strangled her with his hands and beat her with a hammer after reportedly targeting her at random and then hitting her car with his vehicle in hopes of getting her to stop.
Boucher eluded investigators for nearly 20 years, during which time he racked up a lengthy criminal record that included at least two convictions for aggravated assault as well as public indecency, theft and harassment. When police finally connected Boucher to Dill’s murder, they found a box he had kept that contained some of Dill’s belongings. Boucher was convicted of Dill’s murder in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison, but he was sentenced under 1973 laws that made him eligible for parole. State laws were changed in 1979 to eliminate parole.
Boucher has a parole hearing every five years, the most recent of which occurred in May 2011. The board decided to keep him behind bars, but scheduled his next hearing for May of this year, two years early. According to transcripts of that hearing provided by the department, Neale Duffett, a board member, commended Boucher for his “growth” and “insight” into his behavior after Boucher wrote the Dill family a letter saying, “That whole night wasn’t an accident” and that he “took somebody’s life because of being a coward and not facing my responsibilities.”
Boucher claimed in the letter that he had hit Debra Dill’s car by accident and then panicked because he was driving without a license and was under the influence. Dill’s family has never read the letter, but it clearly impressed the members of parole board.
“The letter that you have written, we think, is an excellent letter and we are impressed by that insight,” Duffett said. “That is the kind of growth that we would like to see continue as you prepare for your next parole review in three years.”
At the conclusion of the 2011 hearing, Duffett encouraged Boucher to develop a realistic plan for re-entering society. Boucher, while acknowledging he has no family in Maine, expressed a wish to remain in this state and not to return to Connecticut or Arizona, where he had lived previously. Duffett suggested Boucher seek a transfer to a facility that allows inmates to get a job in the community to ease the transfer once he is released.
“There are other lifers who have successfully paroled who have gone that route,” Duffett said.
Boucher announced that day that he would apply for community release. Boucher was transferred to Machiasport in May 2013 and was placed with a crew that performs work in the community. Fish said those crews were always under supervision.
Vicki Dill said her family feared Boucher would escape a detail and come to hurt members of her family. She wonders why Boucher wants to remain in Maine when he has family in other parts of the country.
“Does he have unfinished business?” Dill wonders.
The Dill family is expected to meet with Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte on Tuesday, and the family is expected to press for more information about Boucher’s transfer, his scheduled parole hearing and the department’s long-term plans.
The family is set to meet on Feb. 5 with Gov. Paul LePage.
Dill said the family and the public has a right to know about Boucher’s behavior and status. The family hopes whatever the incident was that caused the department to move Boucher back to Warren will be enough for the parole board to rethink any plan to release Boucher.
“If you can’t follow the rules, case closed,” Dill said. “Talk to us in 25 years.”
Craig Crosby — firstname.lastname@example.org