Tearful Saco woman apologizes in court to ‘best friend’ for stabbing him 29 times

Posted Sept. 28, 2012, at 8:49 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 28, 2012, at 9:41 a.m.

ALFRED, Maine — In an emotional hearing Wednesday afternoon, a Saco woman was sentenced to eight years in prison for the 2010 stabbing attack on the man she describes as her best friend.

Pamela Young, 51, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the charge of elevated aggravated assault. The charge stems from an incident on Dec. 23, 2010, when she called 911 and public safety officials found her roommate, then-50-year-old Dale Berube, in the bathtub with multiple stab wounds. The two lived together at 25 Thornton Ave. in Saco.

“I want to sincerely apologize for the act of stabbing you,” Young told Berube in her tearful statement to the court Wednesday. “I hope your injuries have healed, and I am grateful to God that you survived — and I sincerely mean that.”

Young said she had sought substance abuse and mental health help in the past, but “didn’t realize how bad I was until I listened” to family members address the court.

“Dale was my best friend,” she said. “I can’t change what happened, and I’m not OK with it.”

Justice John O’Neil accepted Young’s plea and said the Class A offense of elevated aggravated assault can have a sentence of up to 30 years, a $50,000 fine and four years of probation. Considering mitigating factors such as Young’s history of being abused, her mental illness issues and the wishes of the victim, he set the sentence to 17 years with all but eight years suspended, and the maximum probation.

“This was a brutal, vicious attack upon an unarmed man,” said O’Neil, adding that he determined Young was not an “evil person,” but a significantly mentally ill person. Young will be barred from having drugs, alcohol or weapons and must undergo a mental health and substance abuse evaluation, per the probation.

Berube said he would have liked to see more mental health treatment for Young as part of the sentencing, and a prison term of only four years.

“The sentence could be a lot less,” he said, “and I’m the victim.

“This lady needs help and prison is not going to do any good for her,” said Berube. He described Young’s behavior the night of the attack as “a meltdown.”

Assistant District Attorney John Burke, representing the state, had recommended a sentence of 25 years with all but 15 suspended, with four years of probation and no future contact with the victim.

“This conduct included repeated stabbing to the face, neck, head, chest, sides, arms and hands of Dale Berube,” said Burke, noting that some of the 29 wounds included a puncture wound near the jugular vein of Berube’s neck.

“He was covered in blood and left to bleed in the tub for an hour” while Young cleaned up evidence before he could convince her to call 911, said Burke, who described the attack as “vicious” and “grisly.”

“This was a mortal assault,” said Burke. “It’s purely providential that he didn’t die.”

Burke noted Young’s criminal record, which includes such charges as drug trafficking, prostitution and carrying a concealed weapon. She did not have a previous history of violent crime.

“She’s really been on a path toward resolve and rehabilitation,” said Young’s lawyer, Amy Fairfield. “It’s a huge step for her to be before the court today taking responsibility for her actions.”

Young’s mother, Sandra MacDonald, told O’Neil about Young’s troubled life, detailing how her daughter had suffered sexual, mental and physical abuse at the hands of her father, who was MacDonald’s husband at the time. She and other family members who addressed the court also shared how Young had struggled in several abusive relationships in her adulthood, giving up three children for adoption, and battled mental health issues, including several suicide attempts.

Family members said Young’s mental health had declined just before the stabbing took place. MacDonald said she had taken her daughter to the emergency room of Southern Maine Medical Center to be evaluated after Young complained of experiencing “a worm coming in and out of her leg” and parasites in her throat. She had become increasingly paranoid around late November 2010 as well, said MacDonald and Young’s sister, Mary Lippoth, complaining that someone was breaking into her apartment to poison her cats and touch her food.

“She lived in constant fear,” said MacDonald.

Due to her fears, Young moved out of her apartment and found a place with Berube, which was the first time they had lived together in their 11-year friendship.

“They were two broken people trying to help each other through life,” said MacDonald. “To characterize this … as a cold-hearted kind of thing that happened is clearly not the case.”

Lippoth said she believes that if Young had been admitted to the ER earlier that fall for mental health services, the stabbing would not have taken place.

Family members asked the court for compassion as they described Young as a caring person who was kind to animals and other people.

“She always been a good friend,” said Berube, addressing the court. “When we first met, I was 129 pounds, on alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, and she taught me how to respect myself and care for other people.

“She turned me into the man I am today.”

Young was indicted on four counts in relation to the stabbing. The sentence handed down Wednesday was only for the one aggravated assault charge. The remaining charges are attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault. Those charges are still pending and could be addressed at a future trial.

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