AUGUSTA — A Maine Superior Court justice has denied the request of a man who stabbed, beat and stomped four nuns, killing two of them, in 1996, for permission to move into a supervised apartment in downtown Augusta.

Earlier this month, Justice Robert Mullen denied the request of Mark Bechard, who was committed to a state psychiatric hospital after he was found not criminally responsible, by reason of mental disease or defect, on two counts of murder for the incident at Servants of the Blessed Sacrament chapel in Waterville. Bechard wanted to move from a group home on Glenridge Drive in Augusta to a 10-unit apartment building on Commercial Street where residents are supervised by at least two people at all times.

Mullen agreed with Anne LeBlanc, director of the State Forensic Service, who testified at a May 24 hearing that high turnover of Bechard’s treatment team staff had left the team in “disarray” and expressed concern those workers wouldn’t know Bechard well enough to recognize a deterioration of his mental health status.

Bechard thus will remain living at the Glenridge Drive group home, which is near the state-run Riverview Psychiatric Center.

Mullen wrote in his decision he “shares Dr. LeBlanc’s position that the turnover in the makeup of patient’s team members necessarily results in concerns over the clinical leadership present.”

He wrote that he “finds that there simply is no substitute for a person developing a relationship” with a patient, which takes time.

“It is a fact that (Bechard’s) level of suspiciousness and distrust of others can minimize his ability to come forward and bring issues that (he) may be experiencing to his treatment providers,” he wrote.

Mullen said he could not look past concerns the lack of stability of the 57-year-old Bechard’s treatment team, especially during the proposed transition to new housing, which could increase Bechard’s anxiety and could result in a possible “decrease in the predictability of psychiatric stability,” in him.

Mullen wrote it was impossible for him “to recall a more horrific set of circumstances than those that occurred on Jan. 27, 1996 in Waterville, Maine. They cannot, and will not, ever be forgotten. However, that does not mean that the law can be ignored, or only applied on a selective basis. On this record coupled with the level of experience this set of treatment providers has with the patient and vice versa, the undersigned (Mullen) simply cannot make the necessary findings at this time to justify a change in patient’s residence.”

LeBlanc had testified Bechard has had at least three psychiatric care providers since she last evaluated him in January, didn’t know who his case manager was at that time, doesn’t have a nurse practitioner assigned to his care team, and is going to get a new intensive case manager and a new psychiatrist later this year because the men currently in those roles are leaving. She said the people coming into those roles might be highly talented, caring professionals, but they don’t know Bechard well and might not recognize it if his condition were to deteriorate.

Harold Hainke, Bechard’s attorney, had argued Bechard’s mental health is at a high-functioning level, he is cooperative in regularly taking his medications, his treatment team is well-informed, and he would benefit from the move from the group home to a quieter, more private apartment. Also, he said Bechard would have regular interaction with staff members capable of noticing any deterioration of his mental health. He said there is no way of ensuring there won’t be more staff changes in those overseeing Bechard’s care and it would be unfair to make him remain in the group home, waiting for the staff to be stabilized, something he has no control over.

LeBlanc, who met with Bechard in January to evaluate him, and has known him since 1996, agreed he has been reliable in taking his anti-psychosis medications, has done nothing to cause concern to community members and could benefit from moving from a group home to an apartment in a supervised building. But she remained concerned about the stability of his treatment team.

Authorities said Bechard, 37 at the time, was suffering a psychotic episode when he entered through the chapel and attacked four nuns, killing Mother Superior Edna Mary Cardozo and Sister Marie Julien Fortin.

Sister Patricia Ann Keane survived the attack but died later from her injuries. Sister Mary Anna DiGiacomo, who was paralyzed on her right side, died in 2006.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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