AUGUSTA- A former patient at Riverview Psychiatric Center will likely spend the better part of the next decade in prison for attacking a pregnant mental health worker last year.

Mark Murphy, 48, was sentenced Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court to 15 years in prison with all but 10 years suspended and two years probation. Justice Donald Marden, who in January found Murphy guilty of aggravated assault and two counts of elevated aggravated assault following Murphy’s one-day, non-jury trial, said Murphy’s history of mental illness did not lessen his responsibility for the attack.

Marden, in delivering his verdict, agreed with the prosecutor’s contention that Murphy acted in anger rather than psychosis when he repeatedly punched and stabbed 26-year-old Jamie Hill-Spotswood, who was 18 weeks pregnant.

Murphy’s probation, which will begin when he is released from prison and likely returned to Riverview to continue treatment for his original offense, will require he follow the rules of the facility or risk being sent back to prison. On Feb. 1, 2006, Murphy was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in a break-in at a neighbor’s home in York County in November 2004. In that incident, the homeowner shot Murphy in the chest.

Court records also show the hospital reported that Murphy assaulted another patient with a fork on Oct. 9, 2007.

On Monday, Marden said Murphy lacks control.

“It’s difficult for the court to find mitigating circumstances because of mental illness,” Marden said during Monday’s sentencing. “He just doesn’t have control or inhibition when he wishes to lash out.”

Marden said Murphy’s history suggests he would continue to be a danger if he went back to Riverview. The same history, and Murphy’s own testimony, indicates that he has “done well” in prison. Marden suggested the sentence was imperfect, but took into account a state system that is ill equipped to treat Murphy while preserving the safety of other patients and staff.

“This is a difficult thing when the court is satisfied that some of Mr. Murphy’s actions are not of his own free will,” Marden said. “The court recognizes he is a very troubled person.”

Witnesses testified at the October trial that Murphy apologized to Hill-Spotswood immediately before attacking her and afterward flashed the middle finger at other hospital staff members who checked on him after he was sedated. Murphy was later sent to the Maine State Prison.

Hill-Spotswood testified at the trial that she screamed for help that day as Murphy beat her.

“I curled in a fetal position and stuck my hands on top of my head, covering my face,” she said on the witness stand.

Another staff member and another patient stepped in to pull Murphy off and rescue her.

Hill-Spotswood’s husband, Carlton Spotswood, 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 and later had a subsequent surgery to remove a small plastic cylinder that also was part of the pen.

Hill-Spotswood said in a federal lawsuit filed against Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew that she was treated for injuries to her arms, face and hands. The baby was not injured.

Hill-Spotswood said Monday that Murphy waited to attack her from behind when they were out of view of the cameras and other staff members.

“I screamed for help, not only for my life, but the life of my unborn child,” Hill-Spotswood said.

Witnesses said during the trial that a day before the attack, Murphy was angry because the staff had canceled his Saturday visit to his parents’ home in Kittery, and the prosecutor maintained that anger — not mental illness — drove Murphy to attack Hill-Spotswood.

Justice Donald Marden, who heard the one-day, non-jury trial in Kennebec County Superior Court, referred to Murphy’s anger in his eight-page verdict.

“It is clear that both immediately before and after the attack, the defendant remained angry but otherwise behaved in a rational manner,” Marden wrote.

Marden discounted a statement Murphy made three months after the attack in which he told forensic psychologists he was concerned that he was unmarried, and decided that he wanted to be married to Hill-Spotswood. Murphy said he thought killing her would end her marriage and then he would bring her back to life and marry her.

“Even the psychiatrist opining of the lack of criminal responsibility admitted that the defendant had sufficient opportunity to create the story and such a story was inconsistent with any part of the defendant’s previous psychiatric or medical history,” Marden wrote. “In these circumstances, the court does not find the defendant’s explanation credible but simply an attempt to create some psychotic explanation for a fit of anger.”

Marden said during Monday’s hearing that the “love delusion” was inconsistent with Murphy’s attitude toward the staff. Marden said Hill-Spotswood was a victim of opportunity that Murphy attacked as a representation of the entire staff. The attack included elements of attempted murder, Marden said.

“It was a particularly violent, brutal attack, which, if he had not been restrained, could have not only lead to a death, but it would have been a very painful death,” Marden said.

Deputy District Attorney Fernand LaRochelle said the attack was consistent with Murphy’s “history of assaultive behavior” at Riverview and other facilities.

“This is what he does,” LaRochelle said. “He gets upset with people and assaults them.”

Murphy’s attorney, Mitchell Flick, argued “that a substantial amount” of the sentence should take into consideration Murphy’s mental illness. Flick argued for a lengthier probationary period because it would create a threat of prison that would discourage Murphy from additional assaults while undergoing treatment. Flick, who said he has known Murphy for a number of years, said treatment has been successful in the past.

“I think that probation holds a lot of promise,” Flick said. “Just because Mark is not not criminally responsible I don’t think we push aside the long history of mental illness.”

Flick said Riverview failed to address Murphy’s mounting anger in the days before the attack and that the hospital failed to provide proper security.

“A horrible thing happened, but it could have been prevented,” Flick said.

Murphy on Monday apologized for the “immoral” attack that he said left him “embarrassed” and “ashamed” while bolstering Flick’s notion that the hospital failed to respond appropriately.

“If I’d been able to talk more about my feelings this wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The attack occurred March 16, 2013, in the Lower Saco Unit at Riverview Psychiatric Center and touched off heightened security concerns, prompting the hospital to bring in state and county corrections officers to monitor specific patients. However, officers were stripped of stun guns and handcuffs in May after federal regulators objected to the new measures, and the county officers were gone by the end of August. The attack also triggered a federal audit of the hospital, which resulted in the loss of its eligibility for $20 million in federal money — about half of the hospital’s budget.

Following ongoing problems at the hospital, Superintendent Mary Louise McEwen was fired or forced to resign in March of this year, after five years on the job.

Hill-Spotswood, who is seeking an unspecified amount of money to compensate her for her injuries and attorney’s fees, and an award deemed appropriate by the court, said during Monday’s hearing that she continues to suffer physically and emotionally as a result of the attack. She continues to undergo physical therapy but has thus-far been unable to return to work.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to return to the career I once loved,” she said.

Hill-Spotswood said she believes only the intervention of the staff member and patient prevented Murphy from killing her during the attack.

“Maybe next time Mr. Murphy assaults he’ll succeed with his plan,” she said. “His plan to murder.”

Hill-Spotswood, who declined to comment on Murphy’s sentence after the hearing, asked Marden to send Murphy to prison for at least 10 years. She said Riverview staff are afraid Murphy will return to the facility.

“No environment, no medication, no treatment has made him change his behavior,” Hill-Spotswood said. “I speak for most of them today when I say they are terrified.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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