BELFAST, Maine — As the state’s prosecutor launched into a description of the strangulation death of 42-year-old Pamela Green at the sentencing hearing for her killer Monday morning, a woman ran out of the Waldo County Superior Court room and burst into sobs.
That muted, anguished sound underscored the grisly details given by Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea. Dennis Edgecomb, 41, who pleaded guilty to murder at the beginning of the hearing to the killing of his girlfriend at her Morrill home a year and a half ago, sat quietly next to his defense attorney and listened to the prosecutor’s rendition of the events of that day and as Green’s family members described the pain caused by her murder.
“On July 20, 2010, my whole world changed,” her daughter, 25-year-old Hannah Green, told Justice Robert Murray. “That day I lost my mother, but I also lost my best friend … . We have to carry with us every day for the rest of our lives that we never got to say goodbye.”
Murray ultimately sentenced Edgecomb, formerly of Belfast, to 35 years in the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections. He also must pay $1,225 to the Maine Victims Compensation Program and $500 to Green’s family so that they may purchase a burial marker for her grave.
Zainea said that if the murder case had gone to trial, the state would have called as a witness the 911 dispatcher who received a call from Edgecomb at 12:01 p.m. that day. Edgecomb said that he had strangled a woman and had attempted to do CPR on her, Zainea said.
“But she was not breathing and had not been breathing for quite some time,” the prosecutor said.
Emergency responders found Green lying between a coffee table and the couch, her body marked by bruises and injuries around her neck. She had no signs of a pulse, Zainea said.
According to family members, Green and Edgecomb had been in a relationship for about a year before her death.
That day, Edgecomb called his boss at Belfast Variety and told her he couldn’t come to work because he couldn’t get a ride, Zainea recounted.
“Then he [told his boss] he had killed a woman,” she said. “That they had had a fight. He asked Pam if she wanted to die. She said she did.”
Edgecomb told his boss he did not want to go to jail. He also spoke with a co-worker that day and said that Green had “flipped out” on him earlier that day, and that he choked her, Zainea said.
He later told police that they began fighting when Green found out that he wanted to move from her home. A text message sent to Hannah Green at 11:01 a.m. by her mother read, “He’s threatening to kill me right now, call and you can hear it.”
When Waldo County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matt Curtis arrived at the home, he sat in the kitchen with Edgecomb, who began making unsolicited remarks. Edgecomb told Curtis that he “just couldn’t stop,” Zainea said.
“As he said that, he made squeezing motions with his hand,” she told the court.
Edgecomb told police that the two had been arguing earlier that day. He said that Green had begun to “flail out” at him, but she never hit him, Zainea said.
He wrestled her over to the couch and began squeezing her around the neck, according to the prosecutor. A police affidavit stated that Green’s face was covered with a cushion and that he stopped choking her when she stopped moving.
“He indicated that he lost it,” Zainea said. “She had never been able to place her hands on him.”
Zainea said that one of the aggravating factors of the murder, in regards to handing down a sentence, is that Green was strangled.
“Strangulation involves a very high level of intentional contact,” she said. “It was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. For a period of time, Pam Green was alive, and struggling for her life. That suggests a very high level of intent … Pam Green did not die instantly. One can only imagine the horror that she experienced.”
Although Edgecomb has a history of substance abuse, he was not high on drugs or alcohol that day, Zainea said.
“He had his wits about him and could have stopped at any time,” she said.
He also had a criminal record, though most of his prior convictions were misdemeanor crimes, she said.
Mitigating factors to consider before handing down the sentence included the fact that Edgecomb has a history of being employed, that he has family support and most importantly that he accepted responsibility for the murder, Zainea said.
Edgecomb declined to give a statement to the court and in an almost inaudible voice told the justice that he pleaded guilty to the charge of murder. His defense attorney, Jeremy Pratt, and Zainea together recommended that he be sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Green’s sister-in-law April Small told the judge that she had a question for Edgecomb.
“He wasn’t married to Pam. He didn’t own the house. Why didn’t he walk away?” she asked. “He took away a mother, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a sister-in-law. No matter how many years Dennis has in prison, at least he still has his life, miserable and restricted though that may be … No one deserves to lose someone in that fashion.”