AUGUSTA — Jamie Hill-Spotswood, a mental health worker, felt someone breathing down her neck as she reached for a key to unlock a door at one end of a corridor on the Lower Saco Unit at Riverview Psychiatric Center.

She turned around and found Mark P. Murphy, a patient she had recently supervised on an outing, looking down at her.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry, Jamie,’ and began hitting me,” she testified during Murphy’s trial on aggravated assault and assault charges today in Kennebec County Superior Court.

“He grabbed me, and I crawled into the corner in a fetal position,” Hill-Spotswood said.

Other staff members her heard yelling, “Mark, no.”

She screamed for help even as she felt the blows.

“The first one was to my head, and after that I felt another one to my head,” Hill-Spotswood testified. “I curled in a fetal position and stuck my hands on top of my head, covering my face.”

Murphy knelt on the floor, swinging his arms wide to hit her.

Then the blows lessened. “I knew other staff members were there and trying to help me.”

Finally she saw Murphy’s head hit the floor.

“At that point, I knew he was down, and it was over,” she said.

She said she felt dizzy afterward and realized her blood was dripping on the floor of the nurses’ station. During the attack, Murphy had stabbed her in the right hand with a pen.

Hill-Spotswood’s husband, a registered nurse at Riverview, brought her to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s emergency room in Augusta, where she underwent surgery to remove a metal pen point from her hand.

A subsequent surgery on the same hand removed a small plastic cylinder that also was part of the pen.

Both of those items, as well as a shattered red pen, were admitted into evidence at the trial.

In court today, Hill-Spotswood, 26, held a wooden pointer in her right hand to indicate various locations on a diagram of the Lower Saco unit.

She said she was continuing with occupational therapy to increase her hand strength and that she had scars on her head and hand from Murphy’s attack.

“I can’t lift a gallon of milk like I used to,” she said.

Hill-Spotswood spoke in a clear, confident voice. When she first began testifying, Murphy shut his eyes and looked down at his hands. His wrists were handcuffed and linked to a leather belt around his waist. His ankles were shackled as well. Later, he looked over at her.

Murphy, who was in an orange jail uniform, is being held at the Maine State Prison in Warren, and was returned there after the one-day trial. The judge told the defense attorney and prosecutor to file closing arguments by Oct. 18.

Witnesses testified that the day before the March 16 attack, Murphy was angry because the staff had canceled his Saturday visit to his parents’ home in Kittery. The state maintains that anger — not mental illness — drove Murphy to attack Hill-Spotswood.

Murphy, 47, made a rude gesture at the March 15 treatment team meeting toward Robert Lamoreau, a Riverview worker who gave him the news that the visit was postponed for at least a week.

Lamoreau testified today during Murphy’s trial, saying the treatment team had received reports of Murphy telling a kitchen worker he suspected his food was being tainted.

“This is a case about criminal responsibility,” said Murphy’s attorney, Charles T. Ferris, in his opening statement. He said Murphy is not criminally responsible for the attack because he had been growing increasingly paranoid in the weeks prior to the attack.

“The reality of it, if the evidence is examined closely, is that Mark’s behaviors were increasing and escalating long before restrictions were placed on him,” Ferris said, likening it to the conundrum of “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”

“Unfortunately, we do have a victim who was harmed greatly, but no one is more sorry about that than Mark,” Ferris said.

Ferris called one witness, Dr. Carlyle Voss, a forensic psychiatrist, who interviewed Murphy at the prison. He said Murphy had psychotic perceptions, which was why he attacked the mental health worker.

Voss said Murphy told him he was attracted to Hill-Spotswood and wanted to marry her but knew she was already married.

“If he killed Jamie and brought her back to life, it would release her from her ties to her husband, and he could then marry her,” Voss said, adding that Murphy believed what he was doing made sense.

“His ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of what he was doing was severely impaired because of his psychotic thinking,”Voss testified.

Before calling a dozen witnesses, the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Fernand LaRochelle, described Murphy’s background, noting that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury at age 15 in an auto accident and had a history of substance abuse and assaults, including prior assaults on the staff at Riverview, one of them life-threatening.

Murphy was placed in state custody Feb. 1, 2006, after being found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect of aggravated criminal mischief. Murphy had broken into a neighbor’s home in York County in November 2004, and the homeowner shot him in the chest.

Margaret Todd-Brown, a registered nurse at Riverview, testified that Murphy was heavily sedated with a combination of Ativan, Haldol and Benadryl after the March 16 attack on Hill-Spotswood, and at one point the physician’s assistant who prescribed it told the staff to pull down a blanket on Murphy’s chest to check on his breathing.

“He pulled the blanket back up and flashed us the middle finger,” Todd-Brown said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
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