AUGUSTA, Maine — Over the Kennebec County district attorney’s objections, a superior court justice Friday allowed the man who 17 years ago brutally attacked a group of nuns to be unsupervised in the community for up to two hours a day with certain restrictions.
Mark A. Bechard, 53, was found not criminally responsible by reason of mental illness for killing two nuns and severely injuring two others in a Waterville chapel in January 1996, when he was acutely psychotic, according to a previously published report. He was committed to what is now Riverview Psychiatric Center, formerly the Augusta Mental Health Institute.
In September, Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills approved Bechard’s move off the Riverview campus to a group home on Glenridge Drive in Augusta near the psychiatric hospital after the closure of an on-campus group home. Mills denied a request for Bechard to have three hours a day of unsupervised time in the community and required him to be under 24-hour supervision.
Bechard’s attorney Harold Hainke of Whitefield subsequently filed the petition asking that his client have unsupervised time in the community.
Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Monday that she objected to Bechard being in the community unsupervised at a hearing Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court. The district attorney said Augusta residents have expressed safety concerns about Bechard being out unsupervised. Maloney said that she has not heard from members of the religious order to which the nuns belonged.
Superior Court Justice Donald Marden ruled Friday that Bechard may be unsupervised for up to two hours a day in nonconsecutive one-hour blocks, the district attorney said Monday. He is allowed to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and go to the Capitol Club House, a nearby social club for those diagnosed with mental illness. Bechard also is allowed to walk to a store to go shopping, sit at a picnic table outside the group home or to attend appointments at Riverview, the judge ruled.
His commitment to the custody of the Department of Human services stemmed from the attack on Jan. 27, 1996, when 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 two others, according to previously published reports.
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 t he 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.