DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A former Augusta man who brutally killed his sister after he lost his job and moved into her Dover-Foxcroft home in 2008 was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years in prison for her murder.
On Oct. 22, 2008, Michael Toby, now 55, repeatedly beat Rosalie Shedd, 70, with a stick, strangled her with a vacuum cleaner cord, and then suffocated her with a plastic bag after he and she had “words,” according to testimony during a jury-waived trial earlier this year.
Family members accused Toby of taking advantage of his sister’s kindness and believed Shedd was murdered after she told Toby that he needed to leave her home.
Toby, who in March was found guilty of murder, showed no emotion in the courtroom Wednesday, not even when his relatives tearfully spoke about the pain of losing their loved one and the suffering Shedd likely endured at his hands. Toby, whose ankles were shackled, offered no comment Wednesday.
Family members, who hugged one another after the sentencing, said they were glad there was closure. “He got what he deserved,” Jeffrey McGinley of Dover-Foxcroft, Shedd’s son, said Wednesday.
Toby’s court-appointed attorney, Chris Smith of Dover-Foxcroft, said outside the courtroom that he would discuss the appeal process with his client.
“This is a truly heinous crime,” Justice William Anderson said Wednesday before announcing Toby’s sentence.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who spoke Wednesday about Toby’s volatile and unpredictable behavior, sought a sentence of 60 years in prison to send a message to the public that brutal and heinous crimes would be punished to the fullest. The extreme cruelty used by Toby was tantamount to torture, he said.
While noting that Toby was clearly not a mentally healthy person, Benson reminded Anderson that Toby told police in interviews that they wouldn’t believe how long it took to kill someone. He also suggested that Shedd’s death was for pecuniary gain since Toby had removed about $1,000 in cash that Shedd had pinned inside her pocket.
Smith, who recommended a prison term of 30-35 years, said Toby’s mental condition played a role in the murder. He said the murder was not premeditated; rather, it was an “impulsive act.” Toby’s thought processes are different from others because he suffers from depression, paranoia and schizoid disorders, he said. Smith said the reclusive Toby had planned to kill himself after Shedd’s death. He also noted that his client had no prior criminal history and suggested that Toby had taken Shedd’s money as an “afterthought.”
Anderson said he didn’t think Toby killed Shedd for her money, but he did think there was some premeditation. It was not just a “totally impulsive act,” the judge said. Toby carried the stick into Shedd’s apartment and had an internal conversation with himself about whether to use it on his sister, he recalled.
Regarding the 50-year sentence, Anderson said, “I think this is an appropriate measure of the seriousness of this crime.” He also noted that he thought it was probably a good thing that Toby had been a “loner” through the years. Since Toby admitted that he didn’t get along with people, there might have been more violence in his past, he said.
McGinley and Shedd’s daughter Melanie Eastman of Atkinson had asked that Toby get life imprisonment. McGinley told Anderson that Toby was a “very sick, twisted person” who enjoyed making other people suffer. McGinley recalled that when he was a young child, Toby hung a dummy covered in blood from the family’s garage after McGinley’s father died in a car accident.
Ricky Eastman Jr., Shedd’s grandson, said that his grandmother didn’t have much, but what she did have she shared with others. She was trying to help Toby out when he murdered her, he said.
Those comments were echoed by Melanie Eastman. “Mom was such a caring, wonderful woman,” she said in the courtroom Wednesday.
Eastman and other family members present for the sentencing wore needlepoint pins in the shape of a heart that Shedd had made to hold the photographs of her loved ones. The family members had removed their photos and replaced them with Shedd’s photograph.
“I would give all that I have and all that I am just to have her back,” Eastman said of her mother.