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BANGOR, Maine — Sometimes the simplest questions are the most difficult to answer, such as the one Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson asked Sandra Goodrich late Tuesday morning.
Goodrich’s testimony through the morning reached nightmarish proportions as she recounted the night of Oct. 26, 2009, when her son Perley Goodrich Jr. beat her with a pistol before using it to shoot her husband, Perley Goodrich Sr., to death. Sandra Goodrich wept repeatedly through Benson’s questioning, but her most emotional breakdown came when Benson asked her if she saw her son in the courtroom. There was a long pause as Goodrich buried her tear-streaked face in her hands.
“I’ve never looked at him since this happened,” she finally said through a tortured mask of emotion. “Am I supposed to look at him?”
“Let’s strike that line of questioning,” Benson said in an apparent attempt to spare Sandra Goodrich from facing her son.
Perley Jr., 46, seated with his lawyers, didn’t look at his mother, either. Dressed in a charcoal suit coat, he maintained a morose demeanor with eyes cast forward and hands mostly still on the table. His attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein, isn’t contesting the charges against him — intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder for shooting his father, plus an aggravated assault charge for his savage assault on his mother. Silverstein is more focused on what is to become of Perley Jr.: either a long prison sentence or indefinite confinement to the state mental hospital in Augusta. His fitness to stand trial was briefly at issue, but Superior Court Justice William Anderson started Tuesday’s proceedings by declaring the defendant competent.
Benson commenced his murder case by calling Sandra Goodrich to the stand. She said her son’s mental condition has been troubled for years, but rocketed toward crisis proportions in the year preceding the killing, while he lived with his parents at 146 Rutland Road in eastern Newport.
“It was getting so we didn’t stay at home at all,” she said. “We were kind of trapped. There was tension that I didn’t want to fight, so my husband and I ate out almost every night. Some people call it running away from your problems.”
Perley Jr. himself knew he wasn’t in good mental shape, said Sandra. In the two days before the attacks, he asked his mother to take him to the hospital twice. The first time, she waited while doctors at Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield prescribed medication and sent him home. The next day, he told his mother he thought he was “going out of his mind,” according to Sandra. She again took him to the Pittsfield hospital and Perley Jr. was transferred to a mental hospital in Bangor, where he remained overnight. The next day — the day of Perley Sr.’s slaying — he showed up at home in a taxi.
“He just walked in the door and went to his room,” said Sandra. “I just looked at my husband and probably just shook my head. I couldn’t believe it.”
Led by dozens of questions from Benson, Goodrich described how her son’s violent outburst started after 11 o’clock that night. She walked out of her room to let her dog outside and “that’s when it started,” she told the jury of four women and 10 men, including two alternates. She said Perley Jr. first tried to bind her with duct tape.
“He said, ‘If you’re quiet, I’ll let you live,’” said Sandra. “I wasn’t quiet. I fought.”
Perley Jr. then produced a pistol — Sandra said she wasn’t sure where from — and mother and son struggled for control of the gun.
“I tried to take the gun away from him,” she said, weeping. “It was pointed at him and I tried to pull the trigger but I couldn’t. It wouldn’t pull.”
Perley Jr. wrestled the gun out of her grasp and began beating her on the head, face and hands. That’s when Sandra said she heard her husband, 76, who had been sleeping in a back bedroom, call out to her, “Is that you?”
Goodrich Jr. bolted toward the sound and a few seconds later Sandra heard a single gunshot.
“I heard my husband’s last words, ‘He shot me! He shot me!’” said Sandra, sobbing again. “I’ll remember those words for the rest of my life.”
Sandra, beaten and bloodied, ran to a neighbor’s house. Perley Jr. fled in her van to a nearby forested area, where he eluded capture for almost four days. He was eventually captured after a waitress at a Newport truck stop recognized him from seeing his picture in a newspaper.
On cross-examination, Silverstein alternated between several lines of questioning, apologizing a couple of times for “jumping around.” He asked about her experiences raising Perley Jr., his mental health history, pain medications that were kept in the home and Perley Jr.’s pleas to be brought to a hospital. On their second ride to the hospital, Sandra said, she and her son argued.
“On the way over he got worse and worse,” she said. “I told [the doctors] he’s dangerous, he’s going to hurt somebody.”
When Sandra Goodrich left the stand at mid-afternoon, Benson questioned several law enforcement officers who responded to the scene, as well as State Medical Examiner Margaret Greenwald, who testified that Perley Goodrich Sr. died from a single gunshot to his back.
Benson said he expected to call more law enforcement personnel to the stand on Wednesday, when the trial is scheduled to continue at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
An earlier version of this story misstated the breakdown of the jury. There are four women and 10 men on the jury, including the two alternates, not nine women and five men.