Nicholas P. Lovejoy reacts in May 2022 at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta as a prosecutor reads a detective’s narrative of the shooting death of his longtime partner, Melissa Sousa. Lovejoy was sentenced Monday to 42 years in prison for the 2019 murder of Sousa at their Waterville apartment. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — Nicholas P. Lovejoy has been sentenced to 42 years in prison for killing Melissa Sousa, his longtime girlfriend and the mother of their twin daughters, in Waterville in 2019.

Melissa Sousa Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Lovejoy, 32, pleaded guilty in May 2022 to murdering Sousa.

Superior Court Justice William Stokes handed down his sentence Monday at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

Lovejoy’s sentence was capped at a maximum of 45 years in prison as part of a prior plea agreement reached with state prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to intentional and knowing murder.

The Waterville man killed Sousa, shooting her four times and then putting her body under a pile of trash in the basement of the Gold Street apartment building in Waterville where the couple lived with their twin daughters.

Sousa’s friends said in court Monday their two daughters, who are now without their mother, meant the world to Sousa.


“Her girls were everything to her and she was everything to them,” said Sousa’s friend, Tami Tims, who worked with Sousa for about 10 years at Dunkin’ Donuts in Waterville. “You could count on her for anything. Losing her is a tragic loss in all our lives, but our pain is nothing compared to her baby girls having to grow up without her.”

Nicholas P. Lovejoy entered a conditional guilty plea in May 2022 for the 2019 murder of his longtime girlfriend, Melissa Sousa, at their Waterville apartment. He was sentenced Monday to 42 years in prison. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Prosecutor Katie Sibley, an assistant state attorney general, argued Lovejoy should be sentenced to the full 45 years. She said he has shown no remorse, he premeditated and planned Sousa’s death and he had been physically, sexually and mentally abusive to Sousa for years.

Scott Hess, one of Lovejoy’s two defense lawyers, presented evidence of a traumatic brain injury Lovejoy suffered in a major car accident in 2012, after which he was in a coma for nearly three weeks. He said the injury impacted his ability to process information.

Dr. Lisa Avery, a neurologist from Florida, testified that tests of Lovejoy indicated his brain showed signs of traumatic brain injury, an MRI of his brain showed structural damage and an electroencephalogram, or EEG, which measures electrical activity in the brain, showed changes in its function.

Avery said the injury can cause problems with memory, a lack of ability to control impulses and some patients with them can be hyper-vigilant, short-fused and cannot process information.

She described such brain injuries as causing some patients to react based upon the thought of their “primitive or survival brain,” as if they were like a lizard constantly in “fight or flight” mode.


“They’re constantly afraid, and if you get close, they’ll run away or bite you,” Avery said via Zoom in court Monday. “That’s essentially what happens to humans. They become more lizard brain-like, if you will.”

Sibley said Lovejoy’s crime was planned, not impulsive, and a traumatic brain injury does not cause someone to become an abuser or commit a homicide. She said Lovejoy was also abusive to Sousa before his brain injury.

Hess said Lovejoy had no criminal record, other than an operating under the influence charge four or five years ago. He also said Lovejoy, who came into court in a wheelchair, has suffered seizures since he was a child. The seizures cause Lovejoy to fall down and suffer injuries, which would make incarceration harder on him, Hess said.

Hess suggested a sentence of 30 years. He noted the brain injury is treatable, and if there are resources and support systems in place, Lovejoy is able to manage his behavior and could be safely reintegrated into society.

“But for that accident,” Hess said, “it’s fair to question whether we’d ever be here, and how life would have turned out for Nick and Melissa and their children.”

In addition to setting Lovejoy’s sentence, Stokes ordered him to pay $4,500 in restitution to the state’s victim compensation fund, which helped pay for Sousa’s funeral.


Stokes said he could not discount that Lovejoy sustained a very traumatic brain injury, and there is no doubt such an injury can change someone. He said Sousa in effect became Lovejoy’s caregiver.

Stokes said Lovejoy’s conduct made clear he knew what he was doing, and that he had the cognitive skills to understand reality. Specifically, Stokes pointed to how Lovejoy cleaned up the crime scene and hid Sousa’s body while their children were at school; concocted a story and created text messages and Facebook posts, pretending Sousa was still alive; and was still looking for Sousa, even when he knew she was dead in the basement.

Stokes said it was clear Sousa was a wonderful woman and a hard worker who took care of her daughters, and also took care of Lovejoy. Stokes said Sousa stayed with Lovejoy for as long as she could because she knew he would react with violence if she left.

“Sometimes, you wish she had left, you wish she had left many years ago, but she didn’t,” Stokes said. “I believe she probably did it because of her children. And because of whatever love remained from her, toward Nicholas. But she knew her life depended on her leaving, the future of her twins depended on her leaving. It was just a matter of how to do it. And in her case, she was not able to do it safely.”

Lovejoy admitted to police during interviews he killed Sousa, according to court documents filed by Detective Ryan Brockway of the Maine State Police. Lovejoy claimed Sousa had attacked him and pushed him down the stairs at their apartment building and then tried to shoot him, but the gun did not fire.

Lovejoy said he then retaliated, picking up the gun and shooting Sousa twice in the stomach, then rolling her body in a tarp and wrapping it in duct tape, before dumping it in the basement, prosecutors said.


Lovejoy’s guilty plea, entered in May 2022, was conditional because it reserved the right for Lovejoy and his lawyers to appeal Stokes’ previous ruling on their motion to suppress evidence in the case.

Lovejoy’s lawyers had sought to suppress his confession as evidence by arguing police violated Lovejoy’s rights by continuing to talk to him about the case after he had said he wanted a lawyer present if they were going to talk about Sousa.

The lawyers also sought to suppress evidence collected at the apartment, because Waterville police initially entered without a search warrant on the night Sousa’s friends reported her missing. Police said they went into the apartment to make sure the couple’s daughters were safe after Lovejoy had briefly left them alone.

If Lovejoy and his lawyers are successful in that appeal, he could withdraw his guilty plea.

After the sentence was announced Monday, Hess said they expect to file that appeal within the next week. He said Lovejoy remains remorseful about Sousa’s death and realizes he is not going to be able to see their daughters for a long time.

No member of Sousa’s family spoke in court Monday, although her mother, Theresa Martin, submitted a letter that Stokes said he reread before Monday’s sentencing.


Lovejoy declined to speak at his sentencing.

Family members and friends of Sousa say Lovejoy was mentally unstable, had threatened Sousa with firearms and could not accept that she was planning to leave him and that he would be without her. But Lovejoy’s lawyers, Hess and Darrick Banda, did not seek to have him declared “not criminally responsible” for the crime.

After the sentencing, Sibley said it was good Stokes recognized the case was also about domestic violence. She said the case helped show why it can be hard for victims of domestic abuse to leave their abusers, and how it is important for those in similar situations to reach out for help and escape the abuse.

“It has been a long four years,” said Tims, Sousa’s friend, when asked how she felt about the 42-year sentence, “but I would have liked to have seen a lot more.”

In Maine, murder is punishable by a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Stokes said it was hard to understand how someone with Lovejoy’s obvious impairments was able to get a cache of guns. He said it is unspeakable what the couple’s daughters, who are now 12, will have to live with.

“Those two children will have that as part of their memory for the rest of their lives,” Stokes said. “Everyone who knew Melissa Sousa will remember how wonderful she was, but they’ll never be able to erase from their mind how she died.”

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