Superior Court Justice Deborah Cashman on Wednesday ordered Marcel LaGrange to undergo another round of cognitive testing. LaGrange, who appeared in court via Zoom on Wednesday, is charged with two counts of murder. He is accused of shooting a couple in front of their children last year. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A judge has ordered more cognitive testing be done on a man who entered an insanity plea last summer after he was charged with shooting a couple in front of their children.

Marcel LaGrange, 24, is seen in an image from video during his arraignment in August. 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.

Marcel LaGrange, 25, was indicted last summer on two counts of murder and one count of aggravated attempted murder. He is accused of shooting Brittney Cockrell and Michael Hayter, and shooting at their 11-year-old son. He also was indicted on one count of aggravated assault, after police said he attacked a bystander, criminal threatening and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.

Superior Court Justice Deborah Cashman already had ordered State Forensic Services to test LaGrange to see whether he could be found competent or criminally responsible for the shooting after he entered pleas of not guilty and not criminal responsible by reason of insanity.

But those reports are sealed to the public. Cashman said in court Wednesday that one refers several times to LaGrange’s cognitive issues and an evaluation that was done when he was younger. LaGrange has a long criminal history in which small disagreements sometimes triggered violent responses. Court records indicate LaGrange has bipolar disorder and autism.

Prosecutors argued Wednesday that a new analysis would give Cashman a more complete look at LaGrange’s state of mind and his sense of reality at the time of the shootings.

But LaGrange’s defense attorneys, Tina Heather Nadeau and Alec Youngblood-Avery, said the existing report was enough and that prosecutors appeared to be asking for a “fishing expedition.” Cashman agreed the defense will get to look at the evaluation first, and the court will then decide whether it will be shared with prosecutors.


LaGrange’s attorneys also asked Cashman to ensure that the evaluation focuses only on LaGrange’s mental health history and that it doesn’t go into the details of the June 19 shootings. Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Ackerman said they weren’t requesting anything that would compel LaGrange to talk further about the incident.

LaGrange is in state custody and attended the brief hearing Wednesday via Zoom. It was unclear how long the evaluation would take, although it will likely delay LaGrange’s case. He is tentatively scheduled for trial in November.

By entering dual not-guilty and insanity pleas last summer, LaGrange could potentially face 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 was arrested June 19, the same day of the shootings, after police found him running down Main Street in Westbrook.

Cockrell and Hayter’s young son told police that he, his parents and his sister were getting into their car near the intersection of Main and Bridge streets when a man he had never seen before “appeared out of nowhere” and shot Hayter in the driver’s seat. Cockrell jumped out of the passenger seat and ran. The man then turned to shoot the boy. He ducked and the bullet missed him.

Security footage from the area showed Cockrell running to the driver’s side, where Hayter had been shot. Then the man shot her too, according to what a passing patrolman said in court records. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.


LaGrange then assaulted a 75-year-old man in a parking lot with the handgun, police said. He was disarmed by three bystanders while trying to enter an apartment on Main Street.

After his arrest, he allegedly told state police that he had shot two people.

Hayter and Cockrell had moved to Westbrook from Texas about six months before the shooting. They thought it would be a safe place to raise their children, family members said last year.

“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.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.