A judge has sentenced a Limington man to 38 years in prison for murdering his neighbor more than four years ago.

A jury found 62-year-old Bruce Akers guilty at a trial in January. Family members reported 55-year-old Douglas Flint missing in June 2016. Police searched Akers’ neighboring property and found Flint’s mangled body under a pile of deer hides and debris.

Douglas Flint

Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas determined the sentence at a Monday hearing in York County Superior Court.

“This tightknit family was subjected to the distress, fear, panic that sets in upon the realization that a family member – here, a brother, father, grandfather – was missing,” Douglas said. “As many would in these circumstances, they fear the worst. Their worst fears were realized.”

During the trial, the prosecutor accused Akers of knowingly killing his neighbor with a machete over allegations of stolen alcohol, while the defense focused on the assertion that Akers was experiencing a major mental illness at the time. The attorneys repeated those arguments at the sentencing hearing.

Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis asked the judge to sentence Akers to 45 years in prison. He emphasized the violence of the crime and suggested that Akers exaggerated his mental illness. He referenced a comment Akers made after his arrest: “I actually would have called you guys right away, but I wanted a few hours of freedom.”

“He cared not one iota about the family and the torment they were going through looking for their (Flint),” Ellis said. “He just wanted a little more time to be free.”

Defense attorney Valerie Randall argued for a sentence of 25 years, which is the mandatory minimum for murder. She said Akers has a documented history of mental illness, including past hospitalizations, which should be considered by the court. Experts at trial offered different opinions about his state of mind, but Randall in particular recalled their testimony about his paranoia and delusions.

“That is why this is and always has been a case about mental illness. … That does not excuse his conduct, but it helps to explain it,” she said.

Bruce Akers looks to the seating area in the rear of the courtroom at the start of his sentencing hearing Monday in York County Superior Court in Alfred. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The victim’s relatives wrote letters and shared photographs with the court, and those who spoke at the hearing asked the judge to send Akers to prison for the rest of his life. They all talked about his love for his grandchildren. A teenage grandson described Flint as his best friend. His daughter-in-law remembered his excitement to meet the newest baby in the family, who was born shortly after Flint’s death.

“Our family will never be the same,” Suzanne Bird, his daughter-in-law, said. “We had to explain to our children that their grandfather was in heaven now, and when asked why, we could not fully answer because we ourselves wondered the same.”

The defendant’s sibling also spoke during the hearing. Brendan Akers described the abuse they both suffered as children and the history of mental illness in their family.

“I want to tell you how abused he was because I want you to understand he didn’t come into this world a bad person,” Brendan Akers said. “He came into this world a potentially good person, and bad things happened to him.”

Bruce Akers did not testify at his trial earlier this year and did not address the court Monday. The judge asked him to confirm that decision during the hearing.

“I would really like to speak to the court very much … but at this time, for legal reasons, I would defer,” Akers said.

“If you would like to speak, this is the moment to do so,” Douglas said. “You have that opportunity.”

“I think it would not be wise,” Akers answered.

Akers has the right to appeal the conviction and the sentence.

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