Turner man to serve 40 years for shooting wife in bed

Posted May 25, 2012, at 5:51 a.m.
Brian Nichols, 46, is led from the courtroom after being sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison for the murder of his wife.
Daryn Slover | Sun Journal
Brian Nichols, 46, is led from the courtroom after being sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison for the murder of his wife.

AUBURN, Maine — The teenager stood in the courtroom Thursday facing his father, who fatally shot the teen’s mother at their Turner home in 2010.

The teen had witnessed the aftermath.

“I just want to say I hate him,” 18-year-old Travis Nichols said to the judge of his father, Brian Nichols, 47. “I hope he dies in jail.

“I really miss my mother a lot,” as well as his life before the shooting, Travis Nichols said. “He just took it all away in 30 seconds.”

Half an hour later, Brian Nichols stood in his blue jail suit and read from a wrinkled sheet of paper.

“I am sorry for my horrible actions,” he said. “I took my wife and myself away from family and friends.”

He talked about his years of struggling with mental health issues and various medical treatments before giving up.

“I know I let a lot of people down. Hopefully, one day they’ll have it in their hearts to forgive me, especially my sons.”

He turned to face his son and his late wife’s family seated at the back of the courtroom.

“I’m sorry,” he said, sniffing. “I’m really sorry. I love you all.”

Nichols told police at the scene that he killed his wife, Jane Tetreault, 38, because he suspected her of having an affair. Police said an investigation turned up no evidence to support that claim.

Nichols pleaded guilty to murder last month in Androscoggin County Superior Court. Prosecutors agreed to a 42-year cap. Defense lawyers sought a 35-year sentence.

Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford settled on a 40-year sentence after considering other murders committed in similar circumstances and after weighing factors that might add or subtract time from the basic sentence of 35-40 years.

Nichols tried to have his admissions to police kept from trial, but after a hearing on the matter a judge ordered that they be allowed. Nichols changed his plea to not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.

His attorney, Donald Hornblower, said Thursday that his client’s mental state was a mix of clinical problems, including paranoia, mania, delusions, personality disorder, anxiety and possibly schizophrenia.

“I think it’s very clear Mr. Nichols is and was a very sick individual,” Hornblower said.

But Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said mental health evaluations indicated Nichols knew what he was doing at the time of the shooting. She said he planned his wife’s murder.

She said he suffered from a personality disorder, which is “very difficult if not impossible to change.” For that reason, he would be unpredictable and dangerous if released back into the community, she said.

Marchese said it was Nichols’ marijuana-smoking habit that stoked his delusions of infidelity. “That’s what gave rise to this crime, not mental illness,” she said.

Nichols had a criminal history of domestic violence, she said.

Tetreault’s parents, Anne and Jack, told the judge their daughter’s death has left a void they can’t fill.

“There is deep emptiness and now I keep longing for her,” Anne Tetreault said.

Sleep, work and her faith all suffered from the loss, Anne Tetreault said. She said she also worries about their grandchildren’s ability to cope with the loss of their mother.

“We never had a chance to say goodbye to Jane,” she said.

She has forgiven Nichols, she said, but may never heal. “It is difficult to live with anger, bitterness and hatred,” she said.

Family members, including Tetreault, had planned to have Nichols involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation on the night of the shooting.

Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Detective Kevin Nichols was dispatched to the Nichols’ home at 3:30 a.m. May 8, 2010, for a man who reportedly called 911 to say he’d shot his wife. It turned out to be the detective’s uncle.

When the deputy arrived, Brian Nichols was leaving and said, “It’s over. I did it. Take care of my kids for me.” The deputy asked about Tetreault and Nichols said, “She’s in bed. Dead. I shot her.”

He said he used a .30-30-caliber rifle, which was leaning against a Subaru parked in the garage.

Brian Nichols told his nephew that Tetreault had been having sex with his brother and that Nichols hadn’t slept in three days.

Nichols’ elder son, Travis, came out of the house and said his mother was lying in her bed, dead. The deputy followed him into the house and saw Tetreault’s body.

Jack Tetreault owned a cleaning service where his daughter worked and was taking over the business. He and his daughter had planned to “blue paper” Nichols the night she was killed. She had told her father that Nichols had been acting erratically and had stopped eating and sleeping.

Jane Tetreault was supposed to leave her shift at L.L. Bean, a second job, and meet her father at the cleaning service and they would have Nichols committed.

But Jack Tetreault told police his daughter never called.

A younger son of Nichols and Tetreault told police detectives that his father thought his mother was cheating on him with a co-worker and it was “driving Brian nuts.” He asked his son if he would mind if he were to kill her, Marchese had said during Nichols’ plea hearing last month.

She said that statement is proof that the shooting was premeditated.

An autopsy showed that Tetreault died of a gunshot wound to the right side of her mouth that was delivered from “very close range,” Marchese had said.

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