BANGOR, Maine — A Superior Court judge Friday rejected a Bangor woman’s insanity defense and found her guilty of murder in the brutal slaying of her husband nearly three years ago in the bathroom of the couple’s Ohio Street apartment.
Justice E. Allen Hunter found Roxanne Jeskey, 50, guilty of both intentional and knowing murder and depraved indifference murder in connection with the death of her 53-year-old husband, Richard “Rick” Jeskey on June 12 or 13, 2011.
Hunter read his 31-page verdict at the Penobscot Judicial Center before family and friends of the victim and the defendant.
Roxanne Jeskey did not react to the verdict but appeared more attentive than she did during her trial.
Hunter said he found the testimony of Dr. Michael Ferenc, former deputy medical examiner, “compelling.”
Richard Jeskey suffered extensive multiple blunt and sharp force injuries to the head, neck, torso limbs and genitalia, Ferenc said in the autopsy report. He also was strangled with sufficient force to break the hyoid bone of his neck, Ferenc testified last year.
The hyoid bone is the bone at the top of the neck under the chin.
The judge concluded that the injuries were inflicted with a plastic baseball bat, razor, wooden and metal rods from broken towel racks, a pair of needle-nosed pliers, and, perhaps, other implements.
“Any one of these injuries standing alone manifests a depraved indifference to the value of human life,” Hunter said. “Taken together, they reflect a monstrous savagery and cruelty that defies comprehension.”
In addition to rejecting the insanity defense, he also rejected theories put forth by the defense that Roxanne Jeskey acted in self-defense or committed the lesser offense of manslaughter.
Family members of the victim declined to comment on the verdict.
Hunter presided over a jury-waived trial in December and January that focused on Jeskey’s mental and physical health. Her attorneys, Joseph Baldacci and David Bate, both of Bangor, argued that she was not criminally responsible for his death, because, in part, of her surgery 10 years ago for a brain tumor.
Experts gave conflicting testimony at Jeskey’s trial about whether she knew right from wrong the night she killed her husband. Prosecution and defense experts testified that Jeskey’s cognitive skills and memory are impaired because of the removal of the tumor. However, she was found competent to stand trial by Hunter and Superior Court Justice Ann Murray, who later recused herself from the case.
Baldacci and Bate described their client as “distraught” over the verdict.
“She’s urging us to appeal, and we will aggressively pursue all avenues to have the court’s judgment reversed,” Bate said at an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse.
He and Baldacci said they were surprised that Hunter did not spend more time discussing the mental health issues experts testified to in his decision.
“I think the thing that’s most disturbing is that there were two days of testimony, one from the state’s own witness and one from our witness, who both testified to [Jeskey’s] significant cognitive impairments such as impulse control and all kinds of problems concerning her mental health status that the judge did not even address,” Baldacci said.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who prosecuted the case with Assistant Attorney General Deb Cashman, said the state was “very pleased” with Hunter’s “thoughtful decision.”
“This was an extremely savage and brutal homicide,” Zainea said outside the courthouse. “Mr. [Richard] Jeskey suffered a significant number of injuries while he was incapacitated but alive. That type of conduct requires a harsh sentence in the mind of the state.”
Hunter’s decision most likely was delayed by the involvement of Cashman and Bate in the month long murder trial of Nicholas Sexton, 33, of Warwick, Rhode Island, and Randall Daluz, 36, of Brockton, Massachusetts, accused of killing three people then setting the car they were in on fire to cover up evidence.
Cashman prosecuted the case with Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese. Bate represented Sexton along with Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth.
A sentencing date has not been set for Roxanne Jeskey, but the judge gave both sides 30 days to submit sentencing memos. He said he would schedule the sentencing as soon as possible this summer.
Jeskey, who has no prior criminal history, faces between 25 years and life in prison. A manslaughter conviction carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. If she’d been found not guilty by reason of insanity, she would have been committed to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta until the staff deemed her no longer a danger to the community.
Zainea said that she would consider seeking a life sentence for Jeskey. The prosecutor described Richard Jeskey’s injuries as “tantamount to torture.” Under Maine case law, a judge may impose a life sentence when the victim was tortured.
Baldacci said he most likely would ask that the minimum sentence be imposed because of Roxanne Jeskey’s lack of a criminal record and her mental and physical health issues.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.