FARMINGTON — A former Jay man was found guilty Friday of knowingly causing the death of his former girlfriend, Wendy Douglass, by striking her in the head with a bat at least three times on July 11, 2017.

James E. “Ted” Sweeney, who is deaf, had pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity in October 2018 to killing Douglass, 51, while she slept in her bed at her house the two shared at 5 Jewell St. in Jay.

Sweeney turned himself in to the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn at about 7:50 a.m. and wrote a note that stated he hurt Douglass and that police needed to check on her. When Jay police arrived at the house, they found Douglass’ body.

Following a five-day bench trial that ended Jan. 14 in Franklin County Superior Court, Justice William Stokes reviewed the evidence and rendered a written verdict on Friday.

During the trial Sweeney’s defense attorneys argued that he suffered from hallucinations and delusions, fueled by his belief that Douglass was cheating on him. State prosecutors argued Sweeney knew what he was doing and knew it was wrong when he killed Douglass.

The two had been in a relationship for about 10 years, before it ended in spring 2017, but he still lived at Douglass’ house, according to investigators.

Stokes found Sweeney guilty of knowing murder. A murder conviction is punishable by a minimum 25 years to life in prison. Sentencing is set for April 10.

“The court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly caused the death of Wendy Douglass as charged in the indictment,” Stokes said.

Sweeney deliberately retrieved a solid wooden bat from the hallway corner with the specific purpose of “hurting Wendy,” Stokes said.

“He knowingly and deliberately struck her in the face and head three times with sufficient force and violence to cause multiple fractures of the face and skull and extensive bleeding from multiple lacerations,” Stokes said. “The court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that at the time he struck Wendy Douglass in the head multiple times with the bat he was aware that it was practically certain that his actions would cause her death.”

The court does not believe that the defendant, due to his mental condition, was incapable of acting knowingly, nor does the court find that his mental condition raises a reasonable doubt as to his awareness that it was practically certain that he would cause Wendy’s death by violently smashing her head and face with a wooden bat, Stokes said.

The court is not persuaded that Sweeney was in the throes of psychosis at the time he attacked Douglass with the bat, he said.

“The defendant’s level of jealousy and suspicion of Wendy and his belief that she was repeatedly being unfaithful to him were clearly irrational,” Stokes said. “Nevertheless, the evidence was insufficient for the court to conclude that such irrational beliefs were psychotic delusions.”

The court finds that the evidence supports the conclusion that the defendant was in touch with and aware of reality at all times on July 11, 2017, he said.

The court believes that whatever triggered Sweeney’s brooding after having sexual relations with Douglass early that morning, was not a psychotic episode or a command hallucination.

“Rather, the court believes that the defendant’s anger, frustration and depression, as he watched his relationship with Wendy crumble was the motivating factor in his decision to hurt her,” Stokes said. “In short, the defendant’s mental condition did not ‘grossly and demonstrably impair’ his perception or understanding of reality.”

Stokes said the court is not satisfied by a preponderance of evidence that, as a result of whatever mental condition he had, the defendant lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.

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