AUGUSTA — Supporting their son, who is serving 45 years in prison for murder, is the driving force behind a couple’s return to Maine.

Stephen and Ann Bathgate, of New Port Richey, Fla., spent much of this summer in Maine, visiting the Maine State Prison in Warren twice a week to see Peter George Bathgate II.

“We love the contact visits,” Ann Bathgate said. “They are so wonderful.”

The family wants to continue those visits year-round, so they’ve put a bid in on a three-bedroom, two-bath home in Freedom and are awaiting word about their mortgage application. They’re returning to Florida this week to pack up.

The Bathgates lived in Vassalboro until 1988, when they moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Stephen Bathgate, 65, is retired but considering going back to work.

Ann Bathgate, 59, who worked for years as a paramedic, is no longer able to work and receives disability payments. Any money they can scrape up helps support Peter.

When Peter Bathgate says he needs something, the family tries to get it for him, such as the $400 TV for his prison cell.

They ask themselves, “What are we going to give up?” Ann Bathgate said.

“Just about everything we do is about Peter,” Stephen Bathgate said.

Peter Bathgate, 31, pleaded guilty in January to murdering 47-year-old Paul Allen of Augusta. At that hearing, the prosecutor said Bathgate struck Allen with a cane, stomped on him with steel-toed boots, and then ran him over with Allen’s own pickup before dragging the body off the road near an entry to the quarry on Winthrop Street in Hallowell.

A member of Allen’s family who lives in Augusta declined recently to speak about the case. However, at the sentencing hearing earlier this year, Terrance Allen, a brother of Paul Allen, expressed sympathy for Bathgate’s family, saying: “They are all innocent bystanders as well.”

The Bathgates are also no strangers to adversity.

In September 1983, they lost their Taber Hill Road home to fire, and bunked temporarily in a garage and a converted school bus on the site. Fellow church members helped them rebuild a home near the garage Stephen Bathgate used for his vehicle-repair business.

Now the Bathgates will move back to the state because their son needs them and will need a place to live when he is eventually released from prison.

The couple have their hopes pinned on a post-conviction review, a process in which lawyers argue whether there was some fault with the case. There is no appeal, since Bathgate pleaded guilty.

“We keep going after the next step,” Ann Bathgate said in a recent interview in Augusta.

“We do everything we can to keep hope alive,” Stephen Bathgate added.

They hope, specifically, to see their son released from prison one day.

But both parents acknowledge that is a remote possibility. The 45-year prison term was recommended by both the defense attorney and the state. Bathgate had no prior criminal record.

Authorities said Bathgate was jealous and angry because Jessica Jones, the mother of Bathgate’s young daughter, apparently had flirted with Allen.

Ann Bathgate firmly believes her son was protecting his daughter from Allen, who had been convicted in 1997 of gross sexual assault and unlawful contact involving his girlfriend’s daughter, then about 5 years old.

“Do I agree with what he did? Absolutely not. He’s still my son and I still love him,” Ann Bathgate said.

She has been the more vocal parent.

“I went for a long time when I couldn’t talk about it without breaking down,” said Stephen Bathgate. Now he can talk calmly about his son.

While they were in Florida, the Bathgates sent their son $200 a month to pay for phone calls and for canteen money.

“Twenty-five percent of everything that goes into his canteen account goes to pay for Allen’s funeral,” Ann Bathgate said. As part of his sentence, Peter Bathgate was ordered to pay $1,189 in restitution.

In the twice-weekly phone calls, and in person, she advises her son.

“Peter, you need to be going to church and taking classes,” she tells him.

His usual response, she says, is, “What’s the point? I’m going to be here for 45 years.”

Ann Bathgate said her son is going to counseling, and she wants him to take parenting classes so he can have contact with his daughter.

Ann Bathgate is fostering that relationship, bringing him pictures of his daughter as she grows up

“We do our best to keep Peter engaged. We talk to him about religion, and he draws and sends us beautiful pictures. He’s drawn his own hands with a crucifix,” she said.

Another reason for the move to Maine is to offer a permanent home for their grandson Cameron, 16, who has special needs. They are his guardians, and expect Peter to take over that role eventually

“We’re putting everything together for Peter and Cameron both,” Ann Bathgate said.

Bathgate called Augusta police a day after Allen’s body was found, describing Allen’s wounds, and saying he knew he would have to go to jail for the rest of his life.

He was arrested Dec. 7, 2010, after police used tear gas to end a standoff in a Washington Street apartment.

“He was out of state and came back to turn himself in,” Ann Bathgate said. “He couldn’t do that last few steps.”

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