Eric Knight stands during his arraignment at the Cumberland County Courthouse on Monday. Knight is accused of killing his partner Benita Preo in their Bridgton home last November. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

A Bridgton man accused of killing his partner in November pleaded not guilty to depraved indifference murder Monday afternoon.

Benita Preo Courtesy of Sierra Preo

Eric Knight, 48, spent only about five minutes in a Cumberland County Superior courtroom in Portland on Monday – just long enough to deny responsibility for the death of 51-year-old Benita Preo. He was being held at the Cumberland County Jail on $500,000 bail.

Though brief, Monday’s hearing was a welcome step forward for Preo’s family members, who say they have largely been left in the dark since she was killed in November.

“Finally,” her daughter Sierra Preo said in a phone interview after the arraignment, “finally something is happening.”

Maine State Police and Bridgton police responded on Nov. 25 to a suspicious death at 237 Pond Road in Bridgton, where Knight and Preo lived together. The death was ruled a homicide following an autopsy conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, state police said.

Police did not immediately share news of Preo’s death with the public. State police spokesperson Shannon Moss said Monday that the department was busy at the time with its investigations into the Lewiston mass shooting and a spate of other homicides in November.


Sierra Preo and her sister Dominique Deschaine, two of Benita Preo’s four children, said Monday that their mother and Knight had been in an on-and-off relationship for about 10 years.

Sierra Preo said Knight sometimes had “good days,” but she also knew he could be violent – there were times when she could hear him attack Preo while she spoke to her mother on the phone.

The sisters described Preo as a doting grandmother who balanced a feisty streak with a deeply generous character. She showered her 16 grandchildren with gifts and attention, and frequently stopped in at her kids’ homes to offer a helping hand.

But Deschaine said she made sure Knight never came with her.

“I never liked him,” she said. “I never got a good vibe off of him. But she’s a grown woman.”

“You can only tell her so many times,” Sierra Preo said, chiming in.


It was Knight who called Sierra Preo on Nov. 25 and told her that her mother was dead. But she and her sister declined to share more details about what they believe happened that night.

Police arrested Knight at his home Saturday after a Cumberland County grand jury returned an indictment charging him with depraved indifference murder.

Officials refused again Monday to release Preo’s cause of death and specific information about the case remains scarce. Police affidavits containing case details often become available after a defendant is arraigned – but no such document was available Monday afternoon.

Knight has a lengthy criminal history involving several assault and domestic abuse convictions across southern Maine, according to a criminal background check.

In 2022, he was sentenced to 35 days in jail after pleading guilty to domestic violence assault. The victim, who was not Preo, told police Knight had punched her in the face, hit her with a baseball bat and threatened to kill her, according to court documents.

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