Man who killed 2 nuns allowed to move into new group home

Posted Sept. 07, 2012, at 5:23 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 07, 2012, at 8:39 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A man who was committed to a Maine psychiatric hospital after killing two nuns and hurting two others in a Waterville chapel in 1996 has been allowed to move into a new group home in Augusta.

Mark Bechard requested in court Friday that he be allowed to move from a group home on the Riverview Psychiatric Center campus to a new group home expected to open within a month on Glenridge Drive.

Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills approved the request Friday after hearing from psychiatrists and others involved in Bechard’s treatment, according to The Morning Sentinel.

But she denied a request for him to have three hours a day of unsupervised time in the community. Instead, he is required to be under 24-hour supervision.

Bechard was found not criminally responsible by reason of mental illness for the brutal attack, and was committed to state custody.

On Jan. 27, 1996, he entered the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament chapel in Waterville, where he stabbed, beat and stomped on four nuns, killing two and severely injuring the other two.

Mother Superior Edna Mary Cardozo and Sister Marie Julien Fortin were killed during the attack. Sister Patricia Keane was released from the hospital days after the incident, but has since died. Sister Mary Anna DiGiacomo was in critical condition for a month and was paralyzed on the right side of her body. DiGiacomo died in 2006 at the age of 83.

Before the attack, Bechard regularly attended services at the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. Testimony at the trial revealed that he had a 20-year history of delusions. He didn’t say a word during the attack.

At a hearing at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta in 2006, Sister Mary Catherine Perko said the nuns at the convent had forgiven Bechard but remained concerned if he was given more freedom.

Bechard has been on antipsychotic medication since the attack.

Changes were brought about in how Maine courts look at cases involving mentally ill people after the attack. Bechard reportedly had been in and out of the Augusta Mental Health Institute many times before the attack.

Michaela Murphy, now a Superior Court judge, was Bechard’s defense attorney.

“It would have been inconceivable before this case for the state to come in and say this is a mentally ill man, not a sociopath,” Murphy told the Bangor Daily News in 1997, a year after the attack took place. “I still believe the sisters made that possible because of what they testified about [Bechard's] dramatic change in behavior and their compassion for him.”

BDN writer Alex Barber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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