Marcel LaGrange, 24, is seen in a screen capture during his arraignment Thursday. LaGrange pleaded not guilty and not criminally responsible by reason of insanity to two counts of intentional and knowing murder in the deaths of Brittney Cockrell and Michael Hayter in Westbrook in June.

A Westbrook man accused of fatally shooting a couple in front of their children is planning to pursue an insanity defense, though newly released police records indicate he admitted to officers after his arrest that he shot the couple inside their car. 

Marcel LaGrange, 24, appearing in Cumberland County Superior Court over Zoom from the Maine State Prison, entered pleas of not guilty and not criminally responsible by reason of insanity to six charges, all stemming from the June 19 slayings of Brittney Cockrell, 37, and Michael Hayter, 41, in a Westbrook parking lot.

In addition to two counts of murder, a Cumberland County grand jury also indicted LaGrange on charges of aggravated assault, criminal threatening with a deadly weapon, reckless conduct with a deadly weapon, and – because he allegedly fired his 10 mm Glock handgun at the victims’ 11-year-old son – attempted murder.

Under state law, a plea of not criminally responsible because of insanity could result in two trials: one to decide guilt, and a second, held only if LaGrange is found guilty in the first, to decide if he is criminally responsible. It’s called a two-stage trial, and the same jury would sit for both. LaGrange also could waive his right to a jury trial and have a judge decide the second stage.

He faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Both parties agreed Thursday to delay a decision on whether he will be granted bail.

Brittney Cockrell, right, with her three children, and her husband, Michael Hayter. Cockrell and Hayter were shot to death in June. Contributed / McKinney family

“We are shocked and dismayed with the news of Mike and Brittney’s shooter, Marcel Lagrange, pleading not guilty today. We are, however, certain that he is, indeed guilty of the murder of our daughter and her husband and the attempted murder of our grandchildren,” Cockrell’s family said in a statement Thursday. “This event has had a profound impact on our family and on the good people of Westbrook, Maine. We continue to pray not only for the well-being of our surviving grandchildren but also for the safety of the citizens of the Westbrook community.”


Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Ackerman, who is prosecuting LaGrange, declined through a spokesperson to discuss the case. LaGrange’s attorney, Tina Nadeau, did not respond to a message Thursday asking her to discuss her client’s insanity plea.


An affidavit unsealed Thursday afternoon provides new details about the shooting.

In an interview with police shortly after LaGrange’s arrest, 11-year-old Mason Hayter told officers that he, his parents and his sister, Mattie Belle, 7, had driven to the intersection of Main and Bridge streets in Westbrook to go for a walk on the boardwalk on June 19. When they got back to their car, a man Mason had never seen before “appeared out of nowhere” and shot his dad, who was sitting in the driver’s seat, in the neck, cheek and chest, according to the affidavit. Cockrell jumped out of the passenger seat and ran from LaGrange, who turned and shot at Mason, the boy told police.

Mason said he ducked, and the bullet missed him.

Security footage from Portland Pie Company shows Cockrell leave the passenger seat of the car and run to the driver’s side, according to the affidavit. A Westbrook patrolman passing through the area initially mistook the gunshots for fireworks, but he said he arrived on the scene in time to see LaGrange shoot Cockrell outside the car.


An autopsy found that Cockrell had suffered two gunshot wounds to her chest, one to her left arm, and one to her hip and thigh area. Both she and Hayter were pronounced dead at the scene, according to the affidavit.

The patrolman said he confronted LaGrange, who fled down Main Street on foot. He allegedly used the handgun to assault 75-year-old Frederick Roukey in a parking lot nearby. According to the affidavit, he tried to enter an apartment at 901 Main St. but was stopped and disarmed by three bystanders.

The affidavit states LaGrange told a state police detective that he shot two individuals in a car.

Despite a history of violent and threatening behavior dating to his teenage years, LaGrange was not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm because he had never been convicted of a felony, according to a state police spokesperson. He has not been charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

Hayter and Cockrell had moved to Westbrook from Texas about six months before the shootings, in part because the area seemed like a safe place to raise their children, family members said.

“Though nothing will bring Mike and Brittney back to their children and our family, at this point we anxiously await justice to be served,” Cockrell’s father, Jeff McKinney, wrote in a message after LaGrange’s indictment. “We do not want to see this individual released to the street to harm more innocent families.”



Though juvenile criminal records are generally sealed to the public, court documents detailing LaGrange’s continued stint at Long Creek Youth Development Center after he turned 18 suggest his trouble with the law began when he was a minor.

Charges piled up over several years: assaulting an officer, criminal mischief, domestic violence assault, criminal threatening and arson, according to court records. On several occasions, seemingly small disagreements triggered violent responses, including one instance in 2020 when LaGrange allegedly used a makeshift flamethrower to try to burn down the home where he was staying after he and his state-sponsored caretaker got into an argument about LaGrange’s dry skin.

LaGrange, who according to court records has bipolar disorder and autism, “immediately” asked responding officers to shoot him, according to a police report describing the incident. When police said they were not going to, Lagrange told them that “he would do something so that we would have to arrest him,” and that “his life was over.”

Days before the shooting, Portland resident Aspen Nouhan said they struck up a brief online friendship with LaGrange. He showed Nouhan his gun and warned that he was “paranoid and waiting to pounce on people who make him upset.”

When Nouhan tried to pull the plug on the friendship, LaGrange responded by making a series of increasingly threatening posts and messages on social media.

Nouhan called Portland police, who took a report and said they would search for LaGrange. They did not find him before the shootings in Westbrook that night.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: