BANGOR, Maine — A District Court judge on Wednesday found a woman accused of setting her 77-year-old grandmother on fire nearly a year ago not guilty by reason of insanity.
Emily A. Cole, 27, of Ellsworth was committed to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, according to Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County. Under state law, she will stay there indefinitely until staff decides she is well enough to be released.
Ernestine Cole, 77, suffered severe burns on her upper body from the attack, police said last May. She has recovered, according to Roberts.
The prosecutor and Seth Harrow, Cole’s Bangor attorney, both said the court’s decision not only was in the defendant’s best interest but what the victim desired as well.
“We could have gone forward to trial, but given her mental illness, borderline personality disorder, and, with input from the victim, we decided this was the best outcome,” Roberts said after District Court Judge Bruce Jordan issued his decision.
The long-term goal is for Cole to “once again assimilat[e] safely into society,” Harrow said after Wednesday’s hearing.
“This was a difficult case due to Ms. Cole’s history of mental illness and obviously the serious situation that occurred,” the attorney said. “This resolution was in the best interest of all involved in this matter. Her family, including her grandmother, supported this result.”
Cole was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury for attempted murder and elevated aggravated assault after she doused her grandmother on May 17, 2011, with gasoline and set her on fire at the elderly woman’s Bangor home.
Jordan dismissed the attempted murder charge Wednesday.
Emily Cole had no prior criminal record, according to the State Bureau of Identification.
According to police, Ernestine Cole saw Emily Cole pouring gasoline on pine needles outside her grandparents’ home at 1601 Broadway. The younger woman threw gasoline on her grandmother and ignited it after the elder woman told her to stop.
Emily Cole also ripped the telephone off her grandparents’ kitchen wall.
She committed the crime because she was upset about a breakup with a female partner, according to court documents.