Pittston family rebuilding lives six months after brutal attack

Posted Dec. 01, 2008, at 9:03 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — William Guerrette Jr. and his 11-year-old daughter, Nicole, are getting on with their lives six months after being brutally hacked by a machete-wielding attacker during a home invasion in Pittston.

Back home after long hospital stays, the former legislator has taken over a coin business and Nicole has returned to school.

“We’re not back to normal, but we’re getting better,” Guerrette told the Kennebec Journal.

Family members had considered moving out-of-state, but recognized that they have roots in central Maine and that their safety could not be guaranteed however far away they went.

Two foster brothers who were living in Augusta are in custody on a range of charges, including aggravated attempted murder with extreme cruelty and premeditation, and robbery and burglary.

Leo Rose Hylton, 18, and Daniel Fortune, 21, have pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Nicole, who spent six weeks in the hospital, now wears a helmet to protect a soft spot on her head where part of her skull was removed after a fracture caused a bone infection.

Guerrette, who had an eight-week hospital stay, is missing a finger. He underwent surgery in August to repair a severed muscle below his left eye socket so he could blink again.

Both victims have scarring on their arms and faces.

Guerrette’s wife, Melanie, initially hid in a bathroom during the May 27 home invasion, but crawled through a window after she heard the door being kicked in. She fell 8 feet, breaking a rib.

“They were coming to get us,” she said. “I thought my whole family was dead.”

Nicole’s brother, Ryan, then 18, escaped through a basement door. Her sister, Ashley, ducked under her bed and dialed 911. She remained there until state police arrived 20 minutes later, by which time the attackers had fled.

The Augusta area held bottle drives and pep rallies in a show of support of the family. In July, a benefit at Gardiner Area High School raised $17,000 for the Guerrettes’ medical bills.

Guerrette, a collector of rare coins, currency and baseball cards, had been negotiating before the attack to buy a coin business owned by friends who were planning to retire. The purchase seemed in doubt as Guerrette faced months of speech therapy, physical therapy to walk again and occupational therapy to regain use of his hand.

But Guerrette, who opened China Lake Coin a month ago, is now doing what he loves.

“Heck, it’s why I got robbed in the first place,” he said, recalling the November 2007 home burglary in which Fortune is accused of stealing a safe containing more than $111,000.

The Guerrettes, meanwhile, have an addition to the family: a German shepherd that’s trained to attack intruders but turns into a lovable blob of fur around Nicole.

“I feel so much better,” Nicole said as she scratched the new pet behind the ears.

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