A judge has ordered a mental health evaluation for a Limington man charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his mother and her boyfriend. Their bodies were found by firefighters who responded to a house fire early Thursday.

Matthew Cote, 21, made his initial appearance in York County Superior Court on Friday afternoon. The brief hearing was held on Zoom, and Cote joined from the York County Jail. He has been held there without bail since his arrest Thursday.

Cote was not required to enter a plea and barely spoke during the hearing. He listened quietly while Justice Richard Mulhern read the charges to him.

“Do you understand the charges I’ve read to you, Mr. Cote?” Mulhern asked.

“Yes, sir,” Cote said.

Defense attorney Thomas Connolly has been appointed to represent Cote and requested the mental health evaluation. Assistant Attorney General Robert Ellis did not object. Mulhern granted the request and said the evaluation should take place within 45 days. The murder charges also will need to go to a grand jury for indictment.

Court documents identified the victims as Cheryl Cote, 47, and Daniel Perkins, 46. Firefighters found their bodies while responding to a house fire at 259 Hardscrabble Road in Limington early Thursday.

Investigators believe that the fire did not cause their deaths, but have not shared the findings of autopsies that were scheduled for Friday. Ellis said an affidavit has been impounded and did not respond to a question about when it would be available.

Matthew Cote appears at a Zoom court hearing Friday, charged with two counts of murder and starting a house fire in Limington. Megan Gray/Staff Writer

Shannon Moss, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, confirmed the relationship between Cote and the victims Friday.

Police have said they believe Matthew Cote lived at the house with his mother.

Shelly Grose, a friend of Cheryl Cote’s, said she last saw her five years ago on a visit to Florida, but they’ve stayed in touch through phone calls and social media, and their friendship spans more than 20 years.

Grose said she is just one of many people “distraught right now, looking for answers they’re probably never going to find.”

She described the mother of two and grandmother of three as “one of the best people” she has ever known – nurturing, loving, kind, a good mother, rooted in her faith.

“Nobody deserves to die that way but especially not her,” Grose said. “She was just an all-around good person and everybody that knew her loved her. She would have done anything for anybody.”

In addition to the grief of losing her friend, Grose also feels anger and sadness for Matthew Cote, whom she has known since he was a little boy.

“Matthew was a troubled kid” who struggled with his mental health, she said, and while he and his mother “had their troubles throughout the years,” it was “nothing that would have made this happen.”

Matthew Cote’s high school graduation from Bonny Eagle High School in 2019 was a particularly proud moment for Cheryl Cote, Grose said. In a Facebook photo, Cheryl Cote stands with her arms wrapped around her son, who is wearing his cap and gown. Both are grinning.

“They had a very close relationship,” Grose said.

Megan Menard, a former high school classmate of Matthew Cote, said he struggled with mental illness but was a “kind, sweet and caring person” who would have done anything for his friends.

“Everyone who knows Matt knows this isn’t him and something had to have gone very wrong,” Menard told a reporter in a Facebook message.

“His home life wasn’t always amazing, but (he) loved his mom,” she said, calling the incident “something Matt would never have done or even thought about in his right state of mind.”

“He’s someone who would have (run) into that fire to save them had he been in the right mindset,” she said.

Property tax records indicate the house is owned by Cheryl and Shawn Cote. Shawn Cote is her ex-husband and Matthew’s father, neighbors said. At another address for Shawn Cote, in nearby Standish, a woman who answered the door declined to speak with a reporter Thursday.

After the discovery of the bodies, state police issued an alert to be on the lookout for Matthew Cote, who was the stopped a short while later by a state trooper. Cote was driving a vehicle in Limington when the stop was made, Moss said. Cote was interviewed and subsequently arrested.

Limington, with a population of about 3,700, is in interior northern York County next to Standish. Hardscrabble Road runs north to south from Route 25 to Sand Pond Road and is sparsely populated with houses on mostly wooded lots.

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