DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — Angela Morelli thinks the two people who pleaded guilty to Rachel Grindal’s murder should go to jail “forever.”
“Everyone knew they did it,” Morelli said. “I’m just thankful that they [pleaded] so that the parents won’t have to go through the trial.”
Corina Durkee, 43, of Waldoboro pleaded guilty last week to felony murder and attempted murder charges in the April 2009 incident in which Grindal, 27, was stabbed to death and Tracey Neild, now 33, was critically wounded in front of Neild’s home in Waldoboro.
Earl “Buddy” Bieler, 25, also of Waldoboro, pleaded guilty earlier this month to the more serious charge of murder in the incident along with charges of aggravated attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, burglary and theft.
Durkee also pleaded guilty to burglary charges.
Durkee’s attorney and state prosecutors agreed to a recommended sentence of 15 years in prison. While no sentencing deal was agreed to in Bieler’s case, prosecutors will not ask for life in prison.
Morelli, who employed Grindal at her downtown Damariscotta taco shop, said she was surprised and disappointed to learn that Maine has no death penalty. She also thinks that a prison term of just 15 years is “crazy.”
“I think that they should be put away forever,” she said. “They should never be out.”
Both Durkee and Bieler — who were romantically involved at the time of the murder — will be sentenced for the crimes on May 10 in Lincoln County Superior Court.
Durkee’s state-appointed attorney, Philip Cohen of Waldoboro, said Monday that his client is “much less culpable” than Bieler.
“Miss Durkee did not stab anybody or cut anybody,” he said. “She is pleading as an accomplice.”
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said Monday that the physical evidence found at the scene, as well as a statement from Bieler, bears that out. She said the state’s theory of the case was always that either Bieler or Durkee acted as accomplice to the other.
Blood pattern evidence and DNA found on the knife bear out the allegation that Bieler actually stabbed the two women.
“[Durkee] was not the person,” Zainea said.
She said more information has been made public about what the state thinks happened on April 19, 2009, the day of the murder.
If the murder and attempted murder cases had gone to trial, prosecutors would have introduced evidence showing that starting at 5 p.m. that day, Bieler, Durkee, Neild and Grindal traveled together in Grindal’s minivan to the home of Brittany Prock on the Western Road in Warren.
“Once there defendant Bieler approached Ms. Prock’s residence and confronted her about a drug debt owed by her recently deceased boyfriend,” stated the April 6 motion to allow evidence. “The defendant demanded the money owed, and when the money was not paid to him, he became verbally and physically confrontational.”
According to the motion, Bieler threatened to fight someone at Prock’s home but ultimately did not collect the drug debt. Then Neild, Grindal, Durkee and Bieler drove to Dutch Neck Road in Waldoboro, where Durkee and Bieler were dropped off at their home.
Prosecutors think that Durkee and Bieler then went to Goodnow’s Market in Waldoboro between 7 and 7:30 p.m., where Bieler entered the store and brandished a handgun at the cashier before stealing a can from the cooler and a bottle of liquor from the shelf.
After leaving Goodnow’s Store, the two went to Neild’s home on Controversy Lane in Waldoboro and found no one at home.
“There, the defendants entered her home without permission, went through her drawers and cabinets and removed certain items from the home,” the motion stated.
Those items included shampoo, compact discs and a ring, Zainea said. They did not include money, according to the evidence at the scene.
When Neild, Grindal and Shantelle Quint arrived at the home later that evening in Grindal’s minivan, they interrupted the burglary. Neild confronted Durkee, who was sitting in Neild’s car, by pulling her out and telling her to leave, according to an affidavit Neild filed last December in a $1 million civil lawsuit against the two.
Bieler then grabbed Neild and threw Quint to the ground while Grindal was in her minivan. Bieler got into the van, where he forcefully threw Grindal’s 2-pound dog into the dashboard. He stabbed Grindal in her torso and neck, according to Neild’s affidavit.
Although Neild stated that Durkee cut her throat, that is not what the physical evidence showed, according to Zainea.
Meanwhile, Quint fled the scene, pursued by Bieler.
“She ran to the next-door neighbor’s house and was pounding on the door,” according to the state’s motion to admit evidence filed April 5. “Because of the lateness of the hour, the neighbors refused to allow her in. Ms. Quint, who appeared to be visibly afraid, was pleading for them to allow her in, stating that ‘she was scared’ because ‘two crazy people are stabbing two other people’ at Tracey’s.”
Tracey Neild, through her attorney, declined to comment Monday. She will give a victim’s statement during the sentencing hearing, said Ilse Teeters-Trumpy.
Although Neild lost her voice as a result of the attack, it has partially returned, Teeters-Trumpy has said.
“I anticipate that the Grindal family will want to address the court, and also Tracey Neild and her relatives,” Zainea said.
Efforts to reach Rachel Grindal’s parents Monday were unsuccessful.
Nick Morelli, Angela Morelli’s son and a good friend of Grindal’s, said that last week he and others held an informal memorial service at Pemaquid Beach.
“We made a big mermaid in the sand for her,” the 16-year-old said. “It was nice. It was pretty relieving.”
On the anniversary of Grindal’s death, he went and sat at her graveside for a while.
“I think about her a lot,” he said. “I never want to forget her.”