Police: Child molester’s death ruled a homicide

Posted June 10, 2009, at 12:04 p.m.

WARREN, Maine — Just four days after his April 16 transfer to the Maine State Prison in Warren, Sheldon Weinstein suffered the blunt force injuries that would kill him.

On Wednesday morning, the Maine State Police said Weinstein’s April 24 death was a homicide.

Weinstein, 64, of New Hartford, N.Y., was serving a two-year sentence for gross sexual assault on a child in Berwick. Details of his death were scanty, and police said the investigation is continuing.

“These things unfold, and they don’t always unfold immediately,” Lt. Gary Wright of the Maine State Police said Wednesday.

After an autopsy conducted on April 26, the state medical examiner’s office confirmed Wednesday that the cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Wright said authorities had interviewed corrections officers, staff and other inmates. No one has yet been charged with the crime, and Wright said it isn’t the policy of the state police to discuss suspects, the weapon or the circumstances around the blunt force assault.

“We’re not concerned that it’s anything outside the facility,” he said. “We’re getting a pretty good grip on things.”

Three employees of the Maine State Prison were placed on administrative leave after the April 20 incident, said Denise Lord, associate commissioner of the Department Of Corrections.

“The decision to place employees on administrative leave [is] a result of a personnel investigation, not as a result of the Maine State Police homicide investigation,” Lord said.

Weinstein, who once owned a condominium at Samoset Resort in Rockport, was arrested last summer in New Hartford. He confessed to the sexual assault and was extradited to Maine, according to Berwick police Capt. Jerry Locke.

Locke said Wednesday that Weinstein sexually assaulted the child, a young girl, approximately between Jan. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2004.

Weinstein pleaded guilty last fall to a Class A felony charge of gross sexual assault on a victim under the age of 16, according to the New Hampshire newspaper Foster’s Daily Democrat. He was sentenced on Oct. 24 at York County Superior Court to eight years in prison with all but two years suspended. He also was sentenced to four years probation once he was released from the Maine state prison system. He initially served time at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham but later was transferred to the maximum-security facility in Warren.

According to Lord, the number of prisoner assaults at the Maine State Prison has been declining. She said she is “fairly certain” that Weinstein’s slaying is the first homicide at the Maine State Prison’s new facility in Warren. The old state prison building in Thomaston was the scene of some high-profile crimes, including the slaying of inmate Larry L. Richardson in 1990. Richardson was convicted of child molestation and was “unspeakably tortured” and finally murdered by his cellmate after a three-day “kangaroo court” conducted by inmates, according to a 1993 report from the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

“Overall, it’s a relatively safe facility,” Lord said of the prison in Warren.

In accordance with department policy, officials have reviewed the incident that led to Weinstein’s death in case there were “lapses in practice or protocols,” Lord said.

“We do have a responsibility for prisoners who either believe, or ask, to be placed in what we call protective custody — a housing assignment that assures their safety,” she said. “Our policy is to afford protective custody to all prisoners who need it.”

Efforts to reach a Weinstein family spokesman or locate an obituary were unsuccessful.

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