A Portland man confessed to killing his longtime girlfriend over the weekend in phone calls to his daughter and ex-wife, according to court documents.

Gregory Vance Photo courtesy of Portland Police Department

Gregory Vance, 61, has been charged with murder in the death of Patricia Grassi, 59. Her body was discovered Sunday morning in their apartment on Cumberland Avenue. She had been strangled, police said.

Vance is being held without bail in the Cumberland County Jail, and appeared in court for the first time Tuesday afternoon wearing khaki slacks, a suit jacket and sneakers. He told the judge he understood the charge against him but did not make any other statements.

Because the charge is a felony, a grand jury will now decide whether to indict him. If it does, Vance will appear in court again for an arraignment, and he will be asked to enter a plea at that time.

Defense attorneys Tina Heather Nadeau and Robert LeBrasseur represented Vance at the hearing.

“We are at the very beginning of a long, difficult process,” Nadeau wrote in an email. “Mr. Vance obviously faces (a) very serious charge, and thorough proper investigation and procedure in such cases take time. Under our Constitution, Mr. Vance is entitled, as are all accused people, to the absolute presumption of innocence. This is important for all of us to remember. We look forward to vigorously and zealously defending him against this charge, protecting his rights, and exploring all avenues for his defense.”

The prosecutors – Maine Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam and Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Meghan Connolly – did not comment on the case Tuesday.

A police affidavit says Vance confessed to killing Grassi in a phone call to his daughter, who lives in Virginia. Catherine Vance contacted the Portland Police Department on Sunday morning to ask them to check on her father and his girlfriend because they’d had a fight. She later described the phone call to police.

“He sounded distraught and stated that he strangled Patty,” the affidavit states. “He added that it’s too late and that he strangled her and he couldn’t stop.”

Vance told his daughter he put his girlfriend’s body on their bed and covered her. He said he would do anything to avoid going to jail.

Gregory Vance and Patricia Grassi lived in an apartment on Cumberland Avenue in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“He told her that he was going to leave and get his money out of his account and get his belongings,” the affidavit says. “Catherine pled with him to check on Patty again and he asked her not to call the police. He apologized and told her to distance herself from him.”

The affidavit describes the police officers knocking on the apartment door but getting no answer. They were preparing to break down the door when Vance opened it. He was wearing only jeans and socks, smoking a cigarette, the affidavit states.

A sergeant handcuffed Vance and asked him who else was in the apartment, and Vance named his girlfriend. When the sergeant asked if Grassi was OK, he said she was dead, the affidavit says. When another officer asked him what happened, Vance said, “She was tormenting me, slapping me.”

Police later spoke with Vance’s ex-wife, Cindi Blanke. She also recounted a phone call from Vance that morning.

“According to Cindi, Gregory told her that he and Patty had a fight and that she pushed him and knocked his drink over,” the affidavit states. “Gregory then told Cindi that he choked Patty and that she was dead. During their phone conversation, Gregory told Cindi that he moved Patty to the bed so that she was more comfortable.”

The affidavit also hints at a volatile relationship that involved drug use by both Vance and Grassi.

Catherine Vance told police she had never met her father’s girlfriend, even though the couple had been together for 15 years.

“Catherine added that their relationship was highly toxic and she had told Gregory to leave Patty because she used drugs, stole money from him, and knew how to push his buttons,” the affidavit states.

When police first responded to the scene, dispatchers told police that there was a history of Grassi assaulting Vance inside the apartment on Cumberland Avenue, according to the documents. The Portland Police Department provided a list of calls for service at that address during the last five years, but details of those calls were not available, and it is not clear how long the couple lived in the apartment. Neither Vance nor Grassi had taken out a protective order against the other.

Vance has a criminal record in Maine dating back three decades, including a felony conviction in 1990 for two counts of gross sexual assault. A background check shows he was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but five years suspended for those crimes, and he is a lifetime registrant as a sex offender.

He was convicted of misdemeanor assault in 1989 and again in 1990; in the second case, records indicate the crime was related to domestic violence. He was also convicted of two misdemeanors – criminal mischief and disorderly conduct – in separate cases in 2007.

Grassi had two misdemeanor convictions in 2005 for theft and violating her conditions of release.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemegan

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