BELFAST, Maine — The man accused of killing a well-loved local woman in August pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday morning at Waldo County Superior Court.
Todd Gilday, 44, of Belfast also will continue to remain in police custody at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset after electing to indefinitely delay a hearing to determine whether bail would be allowed. Police say Gilday killed Lynn Arsenault, 55, of Garland and Belfast and injured her son, 22-year-old Matthew Day of Belfast.
Gilday, who was shackled by the ankles and wrists, told Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm in a clear, strong voice Wednesday that he pleads not guilty to all three counts he is facing. His defense attorney, Philip Cohen of Waldoboro, chimed in to add the insanity portion of the plea. Gilday is charged with intentional or knowing murder, aggravated attempted murder and elevated aggravated assault. If he is convicted of murder, he will serve a prison sentence of 25 years to life.
During the brief arraignment hearing, Hjelm also granted a motion for Gilday to undertake a mental evaluation that had been requested last month by state prosecutors. After the hearing, Cohen declined to share any information that might support his client’s insanity defense.
A 2010 BDN report showed that the state’s rate of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity findings had doubled since 2001. In that decade, 51 people were deemed not criminally responsible for crimes ranging from impersonating a public servant to murder. In order to have a successful insanity plea, a defendant must prove he or she was psychotic at the time of the crime and was unable to determine the difference between right and wrong.
Arsenault died the night of Wednesday, Aug. 28, after she was shot in the chest at her son’s home at 162 Waldo Ave. She was remembered by community members as a kind and compassionate person who would do anything to help someone out.
Police have not yet shared a likely motive for the killing, but have said that Gilday and Day knew each other. The morning after the shooting, police arrested Gilday and charged him with murdering Arsenault and with shooting her son.
In a police affidavit filed in support of arresting Gilday, Maine State Police Detective Ryan Brockway wrote that Day’s friend John Riley also was in the home at the time of the shootings. Riley told police that a man had come to the door and opened it partially before Day tried to close it. The man then kicked open the door, shot Arsenault and said he would “kill everyone in the [expletive] house,” the affidavit stated.
When police arrived, they found that Day was lying across his mother, who died of a gunshot wound to the chest that punctured her lung, according to autopsy results cited in the affidavit. Day was shot in the stomach and arm with birdshot, and had to be transported by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor where he was treated for a shotgun wound
Day told police who arrived at his home after the shooting that Gilday, a former tax examiner, had shot him and his mother, but that he did not know why.
Police focused on Gilday after receiving two 911 calls reporting the shootings, one from neighbors and the other from Riley. Officers notified law enforcement officials in three other states where Gilday has ties while they searched for him the night of the murder, but found him after he went to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport sometime that night to check himself in for reasons that have not been released publicly. He was arrested the following morning at the hospital and charged with murder.
Arsenault stayed at the home on Waldo Avenue with her son on the days she worked at Bank of America in Belfast.
At a vigil for Arsenault held in September, 150 people turned out to share stories about her kindness, beautiful smile, willingness to mentor her coworkers and love of chocolate. Wayne Sirois, her cousin, said then that Arsenault was a caring, nurturing person he believed was killed trying to protect her child.