A Biddeford landlord accused of fatally shooting two teenagers and wounding a woman in a tenant dispute minutes after police left their apartment in 2012 is expected to change his plea Wednesday to guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder.

James Pak, 77, is scheduled to change his plea in York County Superior Court in Alfred at 1 p.m., about two weeks before the planned start of his trial and after more than three years of legal wrangling.

If Pak pleads guilty, it would spare survivor Susan Johnson from having to testify about how she feigned being dead beneath the Christmas tree after she was shot in her apartment on Dec. 29, 2012. Police say Pak first fired at Johnson, now 47, then fatally shot her son Derrick Thompson, 19, and her son’s girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18 in the apartment Pak rented to them at 17 Sokokis Road.

Pak’s attorney, Joel Vincent, said his client is planning to change his plea without an agreement with the prosecution about a sentence or a promise of leniency.

“He’s pleading guilty to spare himself, his wife and the victims’ families the necessity of going to trial,” Vincent said Monday.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, didn’t respond to a phone message left Monday.

Pak’s case took longer than most to reach a resolution, in part because he had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and because of questions about Pak’s mental competency.

Vincent and Lawrence Goodglass, Pak’s other attorney, argued in court proceedings in 2014 and 2015 that Pak’s diminished memory made him unfit to be tried for murder.

But Justice John O’Neil Jr. considered testimony from three psychologists who examined Pak and issued a ruling in November that Pak is competent to stand trial.

O’Neil wrote in his ruling that he was persuaded by the testimony of Robert Riley, a psychologist who examined Pak twice in 2014. Riley found that Pak understood the seriousness of the charges against him and could participate in his own legal defense.

Vincent said Pak will need to be assessed again by a psychologist before Wednesday’s hearing to assure that his mental competency hasn’t changed since O’Neil’s ruling last year.

“Nobody can say it is a 100 percent guarantee,” but it is Pak’s intent to go through with the change of plea, Vincent said.

Pak is accused of shooting Thompson, Welch and Johnson just minutes after Biddeford police had left the apartment. Police had been called to investigate a dispute over parking between Pak and Thompson, but left after determining that the argument didn’t warrant police action.

Court documents say Pak waited for police to leave, got a gun, opened the door to the apartment and said, “I am going to shoot you. I am going to shoot you all.”

Johnson suffered gunshot wounds to the back and arm. She called 911 after the shootings, but the two teenagers were dead by the time emergency responders arrived.

Johnson, who is suing the Biddeford Police Department, declined to comment Monday.

Welch’s parents, Danny and Jocelyne Welch, have filed a wrongful death and negligence suit against Pak and his wife, Armit Pak. The Welches couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

After the shootings, police said, James Pak returned to his apartment in the building, where he lived with his wife. Police surrounded the building while Pak was still inside with the gun and negotiated with him for 2½ hours by phone before he surrendered.

Vincent said he would not characterize the negotiation period as a standoff, but at the end of it, Pak came out without the gun.

“He doesn’t recall much about the conversation,” Vincent said of the recorded phone call with police.

During that call, Vincent said, Pak admitted to the shootings and explained his rationale.

Vincent said he and Pak reviewed the phone conversation at length before his client came to the decision to plead guilty. He would face 25 years to life in prison on each of the murder counts and up to 30 years on the attempted murder charge.

 


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