ALFRED, Maine — A former University of Maine student pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing his mother, stepfather and stepbrother, then setting fire to their home, and a prosecutor for the first time revealed the motive: He was upset his mother’s marriage was breaking up.
Matthew Cushing, 21, thought his mother, Carol Bolduc, would not be able to support herself on her own, said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese. He planned the killings by researching on the Internet the best places to stab people, she said.
The prosecutor said she will seek the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
“This is just so difficult. An entire family has been wiped out by the son, and now he’s facing life imprisonment,” Marchese said after the hearing. “It’s just devastating.”
Cushing pleaded guilty in York County Superior Court to three counts of murder and one count of arson. Prosecutors say he repeatedly stabbed his 15-year-old stepbrother, his mother and his stepfather, Christopher Bolduc, before setting fire to their Old Orchard Beach home in February 2008.
Court documents previously indicated Cushing, who was taking time off from the University of Maine, was angry at his parents for not funding a backpacking trip to Europe.
But Marchese said the real reason for the killings was that the family was breaking up. The stepfather was preparing to leave Cushing’s mother, and Cushing “just didn’t think that divorce was the appropriate answer,” the prosecutor said.
Some other details of the motive, however, remained murky.
Writings from Cushing’s apartment in Old Town, near the University of Maine, indicated he had problems with homosexuality, and a witness indicated his stepfather was involved in a homosexual relationship, Marchese said. But Cushing never mentioned the relationship in interviews with detectives.
The prosecutor also quoted Cushing as saying he was troubled by the way his stepfather treated him and his mother.
Outlining the state’s case, Marchese said the killings were premeditated, as shown by Cushing’s Internet research on how to stab people.
Armed with a knife and stun gun, Cushing attempted to talk to his stepbrother, Joshua Bolduc, about the family and tried to enlist his help in talking to the boy’s father, Marchese said. When Joshua said he was reluctant to confront his father, Matthew Cushing stabbed him to death, Marchese said.
Cushing’s mother came home and threatened to call police, so Cushing stabbed and choked her, she said. He used a stun gun to subdue his stepfather before stabbing him, she said.
Family members who attended the hearing declined to speak to reporters. A court official said they intended to save their remarks for the sentencing, scheduled for March 26.
Defense lawyer Joel Vincent said his client wanted to take responsibility for his actions. There was no plea agreement with prosecutors, Vincent said.
Cushing was not required to address the judge on Wednesday except to answer routine questions about his plea.