BELFAST, Maine — Justice Robert Murray told admitted killer Todd Gilday that his actions of last August were “utterly senseless” before sentencing him Wednesday morning to 50 years in prison for the shotgun death of Lynn Day Arsenault.
“This court cannot answer the question posed to it today of ‘why?’” Murray said. “That remains inexplicable.”
Gilday, 44, a former tax examiner living in Belfast, did not show any emotion and did not speak during his brief sentencing hearing at Waldo County Superior Court. But two of Day Arsenault’s good friends, Sheila and Greg Johnson of Old Orchard Beach, did share words with the court about the loss of a woman they said was a loving wife and mother, a dedicated employee and a beautiful person.
“Lynn’s radiant smile could light up the room,” Sheila Johnson said. “She was compassionate and caring. Lynn was fun-loving and humorous … We spent numerous hours discussing the lives of our children. Next week marks the anniversary of her passing, and many of us are still grieving.”
Her husband, Greg Johnson, spoke directly to Gilday, who changed his plea earlier this summer from not guilty by reason of insanity to guilty.
“Why would you murder someone you didn’t know?” he asked. “Lynn was the most loving and caring person I ever knew. Lynn was a loving mother, wife, employee and friend. Your careless, reckless, stupid act stole her from our lives. We are going to miss her forever. I know my question of ‘why’ will never be answered. But her loss will always be remembered.”
Neither Gilday nor his two defense attorneys, Jeremy Pratt of Camden and Philip Cohen of Waldoboro, said anything to the court at all. They offered no explanation of his actions of the night of August 28, 2013 or any words of remorse. But Gilday’s mother, who came from out of state to support her son, had an emotional outburst on the courthouse steps after the hearing that resonated around corridors filled with Day Arsenault’s family members, court officials and members of the media.
“I hope you all rot in hell,” she said, apparently to everyone present. “You ruined his life, all of you. He’s a sick individual. All they did was enhance his drug use. My son is a good person. You ruined his life, and you never gave him a chance to explain himself.”
Gilday’s mother declined to share her name with the BDN, but after that outburst, Cohen said outside the courthouse that the events of Aug. 28 “didn’t necessarily happen in a vacuum.”
According to police documents previously filed in court, Gilday and Mathew Day, the son of Lynn Day Arsenault, had been friends. Last August, Gilday had evidently become upset over another friend’s child custody case and had consumed a large amount of opiates before he went to Day Arsenault’s yellow house on Waldo Avenue, where Mathew Day had been living. Day Arsenault had been splitting her time between Garland, where she lived with her husband, and Belfast, where she worked for many years at Bank of America.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea told the court Wednesday that during the course of Aug. 28, Gilday had gone to a gravel pit to practice with the Mossberg shotgun he later used to kill Day Arsenault, and he talked to other people about how angry he was at Mathew Day.
“Mathew, in an attempt to quell the defendant’s anger, invited him over to discuss what was going on,” Zainea said. “But he didn’t arrive at Lynn’s residence with the intent to talk. He went with the intent to kill.”
Gilday shot through the door of the home, according to a Maine State Police detective’s affidavit, then shot the 22-year-old Mathew Day in the stomach and arm, seriously injuring him. Day told police that his mother came out of her bedroom and may have tried to grab the gun from Gilday before he fired at her, shooting her in the chest at close range and killing her.
After shooting Day and his mother, Gilday drove himself to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, where he asked to be admitted to the psychiatric and addiction recovery unit at 1 a.m., telling the staff there he was a drug addict and had had a “very bad night,” according to the affidavit. Mathew Day told police that he had known Gilday for about three months and that the two men used to get drugs for each other.
Gilday’s history of drug use was an aggravating factor when the state considered the sentence it would ask for, according to Zainea. He used to take Ritalin, Percocet, bath salts and cocaine, in addition to opiates. Other aggravating factors were the significant impact Lynn Day Arsenault’s death has had on her family and friends and the fact that there appeared to have been no motive for Gilday to kill Day Arsenault.
“The defendant said ‘I’m going to shoot everyone,’” Zainea told the court. “This homicide happened in Lynn Day’s home, the one place an individual should be secure. Lynn had been an innocent. She had only traveled to Belfast to be with her son at a future court appearance.”
There were some mitigating factors when considering Gilday’s sentence, she said, among them the fact that he had no criminal history, that he has maintained continuous employment for most of his life and finally and most importantly that he eventually accepted responsibility for the murder.
“And spared people from reliving what they heard and saw on Aug. 28,” Zainea said.
In addition to the 50-year sentence for the intentional or knowing murder of Lynn Day Arsenault, Gilday will concurrently serve 15 years for the attempted murder of her son. He also must forfeit the shotgun he used to the state and pay $3,063 for funeral expenses.
Gilday also is facing a civil suit for the wrongful death of Lynn Day Arsenault, filed against him by her husband, Donald Arsenault Jr., of Garland.
None of Day Arsenault’s family members chose to speak out during the sentencing hearing, but her three sons and their families all were there watching the proceedings.
“The sentence is the best of a bad situation,” Sheila Johnson said after the hearing was finished, with tears in her eyes. “Unfortunately it can’t bring Lynn back.”
She said that Gilday’s mother’s outburst sounded like a statement made by someone who was grieving and not thinking rationally.
“Why would you say such a thing?” Greg Johnson asked, saying that the sentencing brought some closure, but did not answer his question of why the murder happened in the first place.
Cohen said that although Gilday chose not to address the family or the judge in court, he has in fact shown remorse about his actions.
“I think he understood that no matter what he said, it wouldn’t help the victim’s family,” the attorney said.