AUGUSTA — For a while at Long Creek Youth Development Center, the Winthrop teen accused of killing his parents preferred to be called “Andrea” and wanted people to use female pronouns to describe him, a Long Creek program manager testified in court Thursday.

Andrew T. Balcer, 18, accused of brutally slaying both his parents during early Halloween morning last year, is back to using “Andrew” now and identifying as a man, testified Beth Peavey, who works in the detainee section at Long Creek. She said Balcer made the shift from female identity back to male because of “the possibility of him going to the adult system.”

Her testimony Thursday came in support of the defense’s contention that Balcer’s gender identity crisis and fear of his parents’ reaction to it probably was the impetus for his “snapping,” and stabbing Alice and Antonio Balcer to death nearly a year ago.

“Here he was transitioning and having those gender identity issues, which were very difficult” in a home atmosphere described as emotionally restrictive, defense attorney Walter McKee said Thursday. McKee added: “He firmly believed he would not be accepted by immediate family for something that was happening inwardly.”

However, the teenager’s older brother, Christopher Balcer, said in an interview Thursday with the Kennebec Journal that he was not aware of his brother struggling with gender identity and said it’s “just not true” that Andrew’s parents would not have supported him (see related story).

Peavey’s testimony came on the second day and final day of a juvenile court hearing where McKee sought to have the murder charges handled in the juvenile court system rather than the adult criminal justice system.


McKee maintains that the rehabilitative programs, services and counseling available for Balcer in the juvenile system are more suitable for him now than those at a county jail or prison.

He said the purpose of the hearing was for the court to learn about the teenager, whom he described as “a very bright and very quiet kid. ”

Below the surface, though, things were different for Balcer, according to McKee.

He alluded to testimony Wednesday by Debra Baeder, chief forensic psychologist for the State Forensic Service, who evaluated Balcer to help determine why the killings happened.

“For Andrew, dealing with complicated issues of gender identity, having been highly constricted, not someone who would open up, that was really a really terrible combination for him,” he said.

McKee said the defense was largely not contesting what happened during the killings, but asked, “Where do you go from here? Andrew’s hope is that’s not the doors of the Kennebec County Correctional Facility but back to Long Creek.”


He said it would be “tragic” to be committed to the adult side of the system, despite the enormity of the crime.

Judge Eric Walker questioned McKee closely about Balcer’s age, noting that “he could only be held for another two years (in the juvenile system) and then released without any type of supervision.”

McKee said that was enough time for Balcer, given his “incredible metamorphosis” so far at the youth center.

The judge also asked whether staying another two years at Long Creek would diminish the gravity of the offenses.

“There’s certainly probable cause to believe that Mr. Balcer brutally murdered his parents and also killed the family dog because it was barking,” Walker said. “And also it sounds like in the recorded interview with the police that he considered killing his brother, and if his brother had indicated he wanted to die, then he probably would have killed his brother.”

Walker also said he was concerned that no one previously had viewed Balcer as a threat. “Isn’t it scarier in some respects because it came out of nowhere, and you go from nothing to these horrendous crimes?” he asked.


“Nobody knew that then,” McKee said, “but now, through this process, we know what was going on there. I think it’s a very different, a very radically different situation than he was dealing with 12 months ago.”


The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis, asked the judge to find that Balcer should be handled as an adult in the system.

Ellis focused his argument on factors the judge must consider in making the ruling, including the seriousness of the offense and risk to public safety, saying, “You can’t get much more violent and aggressive and intentional than what happened here.” Ellis cited the nine stab wounds to Alice Balcer and 13 to Antonio Balcer and the depth of those wounds as described by the medical examiner Wednesday.

Ellis also referenced Baeder’s characterization of Balcer as “a huge risk” to public safety.

“She told you that she would have ‘pretty serious concerns about him posing a risk to do something violent to someone in the future,'” Ellis said.


Ellis said keeping Balcer in the juvenile system would diminish the gravity of the offense and that for public safety, Balcer needs to be supervised far longer than the two years available in the juvenile system.

Antonio Balcer and his wife, Alice, were slain in their Winthrop home last year, and their son is suspected of killing them.

“The brutality of this crime, the seriousness of this offense, all the issues he had going, his reaction to those issues that Dr. Baeder talked about, how he dealt with these issues by lashing out in this incredibly violent manner, this all indicates the defendant should clearly be bound over to the adult system and dealt with accordingly, judge,” Ellis concluded.

Walker said he would issue a written decision “shortly.”

Balcer was a month away from turning 18 years old when he called 911 to say he had killed Alice and Antonio Balcer, both 47, at their Pine Knoll Road home in Winthrop.

A recording of that call, made about 1:45 a.m. Oct. 31, 2016, and a second, three-hour recording of Balcer’s interview by two Maine State Police detectives later that day, were played in the courtroom Wednesday at the Capital Judicial Center.

He told police he plunged a hunting knife into his mother’s back as she as giving him a hug to comfort him during the early morning hours. Her screams woke his father, and Balcer stabbed him as well, following him into the dining room, where his father headed, apparently to try to get his handgun.


He told them he concocted the plan while in his room, went to the dining room of the home about 1:30 a.m. to get his Ka-Bar knife — which he used for gutting animals while hunting — and then went into the bedroom where his parents were sleeping. His mother woke when Balcer came in, and accompanied him back to his room.


While Wednesday’s hearing was largely about the crimes and the results of the psychological evaluation of Balcer, Thursday’s proceedings started with McKee calling Balcer’s grandfather, Arthur Pierce, 82, of Brunswick, as a witness.

Pierce, a retired school superintendent, testified that Balcer spent his younger years camping, climbing and rowing, but was mostly a loner, content to be by himself and on a computer or a cellphone.

“He was demonstrably bright,” Pierce said. “Everything he did academically or otherwise, he was just a quick thinker; socially, not interactive.”

Pierce also said he didn’t recall Balcer playing with other children his age, at least not when Pierce was around.


“I don’t think he ever in my presence played with or had other interactions with other people of his age,” Pierce added. “He did interact very nicely with his cousins, but there were none were of his precise age.”

As Pierce identified photos from happier times, showing Balcer at ages 5 and 10 or so, in the Maine woods and in a dinghy, Balcer himself smiled occasionally in the courtroom. Dressed in the same long-sleeved white shirt and dark tie and pants he wore a day earlier, Balcer appeared more focused on his surroundings. On Wednesday, he paged through transcripts as the recordings were played, frequently held his hand to his head and left early in the afternoon portion.

Balcer’s hands were free, but his ankles were shackled. Pierce said that when he visited Balcer at Long Creek last spring, Balcer talked to him about his feelings about changing his sexual identity and was anxious about how he would take it.

“My reception to that was a big hug,” Pierce said. “Whether he’s male or female or transgender or seeking, it makes no matter to me or his grandmother.”

Other relatives of Balcer’s were also in the courtroom for both days of the hearing.

Peavey said the staff at the detention center have been supportive of Balcer’s gender identity quest — even offering him female clothing if that would make him more comfortable. She said that he completed his high school education remotely, is taking college courses and enjoys his work in the laundry department. She said he has made progress in opening up to people working there.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

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