NEWPORT, Maine — For Perley Goodrich Sr. and his son, Perley Jr., guns were once at the center of a positive aspect of their relationship: a shared love of hunting.
Both knew the woods around the family home in northern Newport and when Perley Jr. was younger, it wasn’t uncommon for father and son to spend hunting season together, dressed in blaze orange, hoping for a trophy deer. Sometimes, other family members would join as well.
“I don’t know anything about guns, but I used to go out and sit with my husband too, just to be with him,” said Sandra Goodrich on Wednesday.
Perley Goodrich Sr., 76 years old and suffering medical problems, would have been deer hunting again this month, according to Sandra. But that can’t happen because Perley Goodrich Jr., 45, allegedly shot and killed his father on Oct. 26.
“My husband was trying to figure out how he was going to get up and sit in his seat this year,” said Sandra Goodrich. “He was going to drive his tractor up back. A friend was going to help him.”
The fact that something once held so dear between father and son — guns — ended up playing a role in their darkest hour is just one more wave in a sea of tragic circumstances, said Sandra. There are a thousand reasons why Perley Jr. should not have been allowed a gun, she said, most of them centered on a long-festering ten-dency for violence that Sandra believes was a symptom of her son’s mental illness.
Despite all Perley Jr.’s violent outbursts, counseling and brushes with law enforcement, there is nothing in state or federal law that prevented him from owning a gun. Convicted felons and anyone who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution are barred from owning firearms in Maine. Perley Goodrich Jr. came close to meeting each of those criteria over the years, said Sandra, but he never crossed the line.
Perley Jr. was accused of attacking his mother in 1991 and his younger brother Kenneth in 2001, according to Bangor Daily News archives. Each of those incidences, according to a criminal history record provided by the Maine Bureau of Identification, resulted in convictions for Class D criminal mischief, which are just below felonies in Maine’s system of classifying the severity of crimes.
Perley Jr. has seen numerous counselors for mental illness over the years and at times took medication for bipolar disorder, but Sandra doesn’t recall him ever being forced into a mental health institution by either police or the court system. Efforts by the Bangor Daily News to confirm that were unsuccessful because of privacy laws governing access to medical information.
Police have not said who owned the handgun that killed Perley Goodrich Sr. or what caliber it was, but they have said that when Perley Jr. fled the scene of the shooting, he had more than one firearm in his possession. According to an affidavit written by State Police Detective Brian Strout for Perley Goodrich Jr.’s arrest war-rant, Sandra Goodrich told investigators that Perley Sr. owned at least two guns and Perley Jr. had three.
Perley Jr. hasn’t held a hunting license in Maine since at least 1997, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, but Sandra Goodrich said his love of guns remained strong. A few months ago, she and her husband sold several guns to pay for a family member’s funeral.
“[Perley Jr.] was irate when he found out we sold those,” said Sandra Goodrich. “He went and somehow bought them all back. I don’t know how he did it.”
There may have been another reason for guns to be illegal in the Goodrich household. In 1962, Perley Goodrich Sr. was convicted of felony carnal knowledge of a minor in Piscataquis County, according to information provided by the Bureau of Identification.
Both state and federal law prevent convicted felons from possessing guns unless they obtain either a pardon for their crime from the governor or a permit to own a gun from the Department of Public Safety. Perley Goodrich Sr. had neither, according to Judy Leavitt, a pardon clerk in the Secretary of State’s executive clemency office, and Sgt. William Gomane of the Department of Public Safety.
Sandra Goodrich said the conviction happened before she met her husband and that Perley Sr. never said anything about being disqualified from owning a firearm. As an avid hunter who tagged a deer most years — the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife confirmed that he has held a license every year since at least 1997 — being disqualified from owning a firearm would have been terrible for Perley Sr., said Sandra.
It’s Perley Jr.’s right to own a gun that she questioned, and so did he.
“He wasn’t sure whether he could have a gun or not,” she said of her son. “He always had lots of guns, though.”
Whatever the law does and doesn’t require, it wouldn’t have kept guns out of Perley Jr.’s hands, said Sandra.
“You can go buy a gun anywhere,” she said. “You can buy one off the guy down the road and no one ever knows.”
Carol Carothers, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Maine, said living in fear of a mentally ill person is a reality many people face. She advised anyone in that situation to develop a detailed safety plan, which includes removing firearms from the person’s access.
“It’s a kind of common-sense approach,” she said, though she acknowledged that doing so can be difficult, as it was for Sandra and Perley Goodrich Sr. Carothers said anyone seeking assistance in developing a safety plan can call NAMI at 800-464-5767.
Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said restricting a potentially dangerous person’s access to weapons is “always a good idea,” but stressed the act alone can’t stop every crime.
“It’s not hard to find any type of weapons if you want to do someone harm,” he said. “This isn’t about gun control. It’s about the underlying problem of trying to get help for people who need it. We continue to downsize our mental health institutions … and a lot of these people have no where to go.”
William Stokes, who heads the criminal division for the Attorney General’s Office, wouldn’t comment on specifics in the Goodrich case because the investigation is ongoing, though he said determining who was legally able to own a gun and who wasn’t is way down the list of priorities if it’s on the list at all.
“I’m not concerning myself with whether someone had a gun they shouldn’t have had,” said Stokes. “The focus of our investigation is the homicide.”
Sandra Goodrich, for many reasons, wants the ordeal to end, including the return of one of the guns seized by police, an old .30-30 caliber hunting rifle given to Perley Sr. years ago by his father.
“I’d like my daughter to have that,” said Sandra. “It was very important to my husband.”