Investigators with Waterville police department and the Maine State Police search the residence at 32 Gold St. in Waterville on Oct. 23, 2019, for clues to the whereabouts of a local woman, Melissa Sousa. Her body was eventually found in the basement and her boyfriend, Nicholas P. Lovejoy, was convicted of murdering her. Lovejoy is now appealing that conviction. Morning Sentinel file

AUGUSTA — The lawyer for a Waterville man serving 42 years in prison after pleading guilty to killing the mother of his children told the state’s highest court police didn’t have sufficient reason to enter the couple’s apartment to check on their two daughters.

When police, who did not have a search warrant, entered the Gold Street apartment of Nicholas P. Lovejoy, 32, and Melissa Sousa the night of Oct. 22, 2019, they spotted blood-stained items, including a pair of boots, cardboard, a marker and a roll of duct tape.

Melissa Sousa Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Police said they entered the apartment to ensure that Lovejoy and Sousa’s then 8-year-old twin girls were safe after Lovejoy allegedly had left them alone. The 29-year-old Sousa, had been reported missing by multiple friends.

Lovejoy is appealing his murder conviction to the state Supreme Judicial Court.

His attorney, Scott Hess, argued Wednesday that police entered the apartment not because they believed the children were in danger but because they wanted to get a look inside as they investigated Sousa’s disappearance and reports that Lovejoy was acting suspiciously.

Hess said that’s a violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches or seizures of their homes.


“A warrantless search of a home is the primary evil the 4th Amendment protects us all from, as citizens,” Hess said before the Supreme Judicial Court, sitting Wednesday as the Maine Law Court at the Capital Judicial Center. “One of the reasons, in this case, why the violation was so pronounced is that this wasn’t really a search to look for the welfare of the children, it was an investigation into a missing person.”

Police later did obtain a search warrant and, the next day, found Sousa’s body in the basement of the building.

Hess said police should have gotten the warrant before they entered the apartment, and they had time to do so, since Lovejoy had been arrested and was in police custody that night on charges of having a loaded firearm in his vehicle and endangering the welfare of a child after leaving his and Sousa’s daughters alone in the apartment after being warned by police not to.

Hess said police waited 28 minutes before entering the apartment and it was nearly an hour before they made contact with the girls, who were sleeping in an upstairs room.

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 has been sentenced to 42 years in prison for the 2019 murder of Sousa at their Waterville apartment. He is now appealing the conviction. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Katie Sibley, an assistant attorney general, said the entry by police into Lovejoy and Sousa’s apartment was reasonable. Sousa, the children’s devoted mother, had been reported missing for 16 hours, and police had seen Lovejoy acting suspiciously, including mopping up the apartment floor and later being arrested with a loaded gun in his vehicle while leaving the children alone in the middle of the night. She said those factors created an emergency in which police needed to act to ensure the two girls were OK.

“Under the totality of these circumstances law enforcement’s belief that entry into the home was necessary to confirm and ensure the safety and welfare of these children was objectively reasonable,” Sibley said. “At that time the emergency was, are the children OK? Waiting to potentially get the warrant wouldn’t have addressed the emergency, which was ‘are these children safe?'”


Lovejoy’s guilty plea, entered in May 2022, was conditional because it reserved  his right to appeal the trial court justice’s previous ruling on the defense’s motion to suppress evidence in the case. If Lovejoy is successful in that appeal, he could withdraw his guilty plea.

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Jabar asked why it took nearly an hour after Lovejoy was stopped by police while leaving the apartment, for police to enter the apartment and confirm the children were OK, if there was an emergency, and why it took four police officers, including a homicide detective, to enter the house to determine whether the children were OK.

Sibley said the trial court found the timeframe and circumstances reasonable because the officers explained they wanted to take the time to consider all the factors involved, had witnessed suspicious actions by Lovejoy, and checked with superior officers before entering the home, where they encountered a dog blocking the stairs, further delaying them from reaching the girls.

The justices will review the appeal and arguments from both sides before issuing a written decision in the appeal.

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