BANGOR, Maine — Ron Blanchard’s worst nightmare came true in 1988 when his father and mother-in-law were murdered. Another terrible nightmare came true for Blanchard earlier this month when the man convicted for those slayings, Edward Robinson Jr., was moved from the Maine State Prison to a nursing home.
“He was supposed to stay in prison for the rest of his life,” Blanchard said this week. “He was never supposed to see daylight.”
Robinson, now in his 70s, who was returned to the prison Wednesday for reasons that were unclear, has been incarcerated since his conviction for the June 1988 shooting deaths of Robert Blanchard and Patricia Maguire at a trailer park on Finson Road in Bangor. Robinson was sentenced to two concurrent life terms after his conviction in December 1990.
Ron Blanchard, the son of the late Robert Blanchard, who now lives in Florida, said he learned of Robinson’s impending transfer to the nursing home on Dec. 29 when he and others in his family received letters from a victim’s advocate in Maine.
“I immediately started making phone calls,” recalled Blanchard, who said he contacted the prison system, legislators, law enforcement agencies and the nursing home. “All the officials, they could not offer me any information because they said they were bound by law.”
According to Denise Lord, deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections, Robinson was transferred from the prison to a nursing home in Jackman on Jan. 5. Though Lord could not discuss Robinson’s medical condition because of confidentiality laws, she said the prison system “medically furloughs” prisoners to nursing homes only when “there is no security risk and no chance of escape.” That usually means the inmate requires 24-hour-a-day medical care.
“Mr. Robinson obviously qualifies for nursing home care,” said Lord.
Blanchard was less tactful: “He’s just an old fellow who’s getting ready to die,” he said. “But he’s supposed to die in prison.”
Lord would not say why Robinson was returned to the Maine State Prison in Warren on Wednesday, other than “he was not returned because he presented any difficulties.”
She said there are rarely more than one or two prisoners from the corrections system in nursing homes at any given time. Their care at the nursing homes is paid for through the prisoners’ own resources or, as is more common, MaineCare.
Lord said the prison has a seven-bed infirmary, which is meant for inmates who are preparing for or recovering from a medical procedure performed outside the prison.
“Our infirmary beds are now becoming used for prisoners who have significant medical care requirements,” she said. “We’re really now beginning to feel the pinch, so being able to place prisoners in nursing homes is an important option for us.”
Blanchard said many of his family members and friends who were devastated by Robinson’s murders still live in Maine.
“For all of us, everything has come back like it was yesterday,” said Blanchard. “There’s been extreme mental anguish and turmoil.”
Blanchard, who theorizes that his calls to authorities were what put Robinson back in prison, said he is contacting legislators in hopes of enacting a law “so this never happens to another family in Maine again.”