WISCASSET, Maine — The survivor of a deadly knife attack in Waldoboro in April 2009 was awarded a nearly $3.7 million judgment in Lincoln County Superior Court on Friday.
Tracey Neild was nearly decapitated when Corina A. Durkee and Earl D. “Buddy” Bieler III attacked her and cut her throat. Neild’s companion, Rachel Grindal, was killed in the attack, which the Maine assistant attorney general described in the 2010 murder sentencing as a bloodbath.
“Tracey survived a vicious attack that left her permanently disabled and her friend dead,” said Sumner Lipman, who represented Neild in the case. “She will never escape the brutality of the night she was attacked, but today the people responsible have been held accountable for the pain and suffering they inflicted.”
Justice Jeffrey Hjelm awarded Neild $2 million in general damages, $384,512 for medical expenses to date and $274,560 compensation for lost income. She also was awarded $1 million in punitive damages because her attackers acted with malice. The total award was $3,659,072.
It was one of the largest civil judgments ever awarded in Lincoln County, Lipman said.
Neild, 35, still can speak only in whispers after her throat was slashed three years ago by two people she had thought were her friends. But she was able to use her voice last week when she faced Bieler, now 27, and Durkee, 45, in court.
“It was hard,” Lipman said. “But obviously we felt it was important they be held responsible.”
Neild, who declined to speak with the press, still lives in Waldoboro. When asked how she is doing, Lipman said she is still suffering from pain and anxiety caused by the attack and will never be able to return to work or a normal life.
“She’s still alive, but she’ll live for the rest of her life with these disabilities,” Lipman said.
He said it was unclear how much money Neild actually might receive. In 2010, Durkee’s criminal defense attorney requested the state pay $4,000 for his client’s mental health evaluation, stating that the court had found her indigent after reviewing her finances. That request was approved.
“It’s more a matter of principle, that they were responsible for what they did to her,” Lipman said. “Tracey was pleased, because she felt vindicated in that the judge found they were responsible, and put a figure on it. But also, the money isn’t going to take away her injuries.”
MaineCare and the Maine Crime Victims’ Compensation Program have helped Neild with her many medical bills, but certain bills are not covered, according to the attorney.
“She has tremendous financial obligations,” Lipman said. “But she’s lucky to be alive. It was their intention to kill her.”
He said that during last week’s hearing, Bieler and Durkee acted as their own attorneys.
“Buddy [Bieler] said, ‘I’m sorry. I know I did it,’” Lipman recounted.
But Durkee did not apologize to Neild or accept responsibility, and instead tried to delay the hearing, the attorney said. Her request was not granted.
“Neild is also entitled to general damages for past and future pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life,” Hjelm’s judgment, dated June 5, reads. “Neild’s injuries were grievous. She has undergone many surgical procedures, and more are anticipated. She can now only speak in a whisper. The deep psychological scars of the terrible attack are documented in the evidence.”
At the time of the attacks, Neild had been a student working to obtain a degree in social work. If she had gotten that degree, she expected to earn an annual income of $30,000, Hjelm wrote in the judgment.
But that quest was interrupted on the night of April 19, 2009, when Neild and Grindal were violently attacked in Neild’s driveway by Durkee and Bieler, who at the time were romantically involved.
The couple had mounted an hours-long crime spree which began when Bieler tried to collect on a drug debt from a woman in Warren.
Then Durkee and Bieler had gone to Goodnow’s Market in Waldoboro, where Bieler brandished a handgun at the cashier and stole some alcohol. They then went to Neild’s Controversy Lane home to collect some money they thought she owed them.
No one was there, so Durkee and Bieler entered the home without permission, went through Neild’s drawers and cabinets and stole some items, according to court documents filed in connection with the murder trial.
When Neild, Grindal and a friend named Shantelle Quint arrived at the home later that evening in Grindal’s minivan, they interrupted the burglary. Neild confronted Durkee, who was sitting in Neild’s car, by pulling her out and telling her to leave, according to an affidavit Neild filed in the civil lawsuit against the two. Bieler then grabbed Neild and threw Quint to the ground while Grindal was in her minivan.
Bieler got into the van, where he forcefully threw Grindal’s 2-pound dog into the dashboard. He stabbed Grindal in her torso and neck, Neild said in the affidavit.
Although Neild has stated her belief that Durkee jumped on her back and cut her throat, DNA and blood spatter evidence collected at the scene showed it was Bieler who wielded the knife.
Meanwhile, Quint fled the scene, pursued by Bieler. She made it to the next-door neighbor’s house and begged them to let her in because “two crazy people are stabbing two other people,” according to a motion filed in 2010 in the criminal case.
Both Durkee and Bieler ultimately pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder charges. Bieler was sentenced in May 2010 to serve 55 years in prison, and Durkee was sentenced to 15 years in prison for her role as an accomplice.
BDN writer Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.