MACHIAS, Maine — A 27-year-old local man was sentenced Friday in Washington County Superior Court to life in prison for killing two people in Marshfield in January of last year.
Richard Widdecombe Jr. of Machias showed no emotion as Justice E. Allen Hunter pronounced sentence, after a daylong hearing during which friends and family members of the victims talked about how Widdecombe’s actions had devastated so many people.
Widdecombe was sentenced to two life terms, one for each victim, to be served concurrently.
During sentencing, Hunter said he had listened to the 911 calls that Katie Cabana, 29, and Aaron Settipani, 41, had made to police during the early morning hours of Jan. 23, 2008, when they realized that Widdecombe was going to shoot them. “You listened as they begged for their lives,” the judge said looking at Widdecombe. “You ignored that.”
Hunter said he could hear the “terror” in Cabana’s and Settipani’s voices when Widdecombe pointed the gun at them. He said there was no question that the shootings were premeditated.
That night Widdecombe went to Cabana’s house in Marshfield during the early morning hours and shot Cabana in front of her three young children and then Settipani.
He also shot Cabana’s daughter Autumn Rogers in the foot.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea on Friday described the shootings as “execution style.”
“He could not stand being replaced by another man,” she said, referring to Widdecombe’s belief that he was being replaced as Cabana’s boyfriend by Settipani.
Zainea said that Widdecombe ignored Settipani’s plea not to shoot him and shot him twice, the last time in the head.
“In the recordings,” Zainea said, “You can hear the fear and the pain in Aaron Settipani before he died,” she said.
Cabana, the assistant attorney general said, also begged Widdecombe not to shoot her in front of her children. When she turned to go down the hall to see about her children, Widdecombe shot her in the back, Zainea said even as her son, Gabriel Brady, begged him not to shoot his mother. “Listen closely you can hear Gabe telling Katie ‘Breathe, Mom … Don’t shoot her Richard she is still breathing,’” Zainea quoted from the 911 tape. Despite the boy’s pleas, Widdecombe shot Cabana a second time in the back.
He then shot Cabana’s daughter in the foot. Zainea said that Cabana’s daughter suffered unbearable pain and has had to undergo reconstructive surgery. There are more surgeries ahead, she said.
During the sentencing hearing, which began at 10 a.m., friends and family of both Cabana and Settipani talked about how devastated they were.
Officer David Claroni of the Calais Police Department, a friend of Settipani’s, read a letter in court from Settipani’s girlfriend, Elaine Boldon of New Brunswick. He said she chose not to be there.
In the letter, Settipani’s girlfriend said that she knew soon after she and Settipani had met that they shared something special. She said later friends told her that he had planned to marry her. “I believe he went there to help [Cabana],” Claroni read from the letter. “He was not her new boyfriend as the attorneys said and the media repeated. Richard took away the love of my life.”
One after another, family members and friends of Cabana and Settipani rose to address the court. “I see a cold despicable cold-blooded murderer,” one family member said of Widdecombe. “I hate you for what you’ve done,” another family member said.
Cabana’s sisters painted a picture of a loving sister who cared only for her children and family. Tamara Wilder, Cabana’s youngest sister, said she started to scream when her mother told her that her sister was dead. She then went to the hospital and found her niece who told her, “Richard shot me and shot mommy too,” she said.
After a short lunch break at about noon, it was time for Widdecombe’s defense attorneys, Jeffrey Davidson of East Machias and David Mitchell of Calais, to talk about Widdecombe’s life.
Davidson described the years of abuse that Widdecombe suffered first at the hands of his 14-year-old mother and mentally handicapped father, who was 18 years older than his wife. And the abuse he suffered at the hands of some of his foster parents and eventually the state Department of Health and Human Services, the attorney said. Davidson described the abuse as emotional, physical and sexual.
The defense attorney then described a day in 1988 when Widdecombe’s mother took him shopping and ended up spending all of the money on herself. She only bought him a Matchbox car for $1.59 after the DHHS worker asked her if she was going to spend any money on Widdecombe.
Davidson said that Widdecombe was placed into 17 different foster homes during his young life.
It was during this time, Davidson said that Widdecombe began to manifest aggressive and angry behavior. While in foster care, he was hit with the side blade of a knife and forced to eat soap as punishment for his bad behavior.
When he became aggressive, he was placed on medication. “DHHS decided to medicate him into docility,” Davidson said. At the age of 10, Davidson said DHHS gave up on him and placed him in various institutions. He was eventually returned to a foster home.
It was when Richard was 13 years old and he asked a family member at a foster home to “take down her pants” that the state stopped viewing Widdecombe as the victim and began treating him as a perpetrator, the defense attorney said.
As Widdecombe moved into adulthood, Davidson said, he joined first the U.S. Marines and then the U.S. Army, but failed at both. He returned to Machias, found an apartment and got a job at a local grocery store. It was then that he met Cabana. “Katie was the first adult female companion or relationship and he fell in love with her,” Davidson said.
He said that Cabana was the “worst” person that Widdecombe could have fallen in love with because she had her own DHHS case history and her own mental health issues. He did not elaborate.
It was Cabana who broke up with Widdecombe, telling him she wanted to see other men, he said. Davidson said that Widdecombe was aware that she was seeing Settipani. On the night of the shooting she spoke with Widdecombe on the telephone and told him, “Aaron is here, I got to go,” Davidson related.
Widdecombe went to Cabana’s house and, according to Davidson, he heard Cabana and Settipani upstairs. He believed they were being “intimate,” Davidson said. He said his client told him afterward that he was “angrier than he had ever been in his entire life.”
Davidson said that when the two came downstairs he ordered Settipani to leave and Settipani did. Davidson argued that Widdecombe had no intentions of shooting Settipani. It was when he found Settipani’s Jeep stuck that he went over to the Jeep and shot the man. “If Aaron had not accidentally wrecked his Jeep he’d be alive today,” Davidson argued.
Widdecombe then shot Cabana and left. Police found him at his apartment where he eventually gave himself up. Afterward the defense attorneys went to Widdecombe’s home to learn more about their client. Davidson said they found more than 1,000 Matchbox cars. When they asked Widdecombe why he had so many he told them, “sometimes at night [I] play with them because it calms [me],” Davidson said.
Mitchell, Widdecombe’s other attorney, then asked the judge to show leniency in sentencing his client. He talked about other “jilted lover” cases that had domestic violence overtones like the Widdecombe case where lesser sentences had been imposed.
Widdecombe then addressed the court and the families. He told them that he was sorry for what he had done. He said he took responsibility and said he did not blame his behavior on his childhood. “It’s torn me apart what I have done,” he said. “I should have loved more instead of hated.”
After hearing all of the statements, the judge took a break at about 2:30 p.m. and returned at about 3:45 p.m. to hand down his sentence. Hunter told Widdecombe that what he had done was premeditated. “You planned a deliberate killing,” the judge said before imposing two life sentences.
RayAnn Wilder, Cabana’s mother, said afterward that it was a “just sentence. … The 911 tape spoke volumes.”
Referring to her daughter’s death, she said, “We relive this every day.”
Settipani’s uncle Darren Hart of Gloucester, Mass., said that Settipani was like a brother to him.
“The sentence was good, but he [Widdecombe] could still live and breathe,” he said. “There are people who can’t do that anymore.”
Bangor Daily News Photojournalist John Clarke Russ contributed to this story.