BELFAST, Maine — The husband of Lynn Arsenault, who was shot to death in Belfast in 2013, has won a $1 million award in his wrongful death lawsuit against convicted killer Todd Gilday.
Although Donald Arsenault Jr. of Garland is unlikely to collect much from the former tax examiner who was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the crime, the civil court process has been important, Arsenault’s attorney James O’Connell said Tuesday.
A judgment was handed down by Judge Robert Murray at Waldo County Superior Court late last month.
“I think that the purpose of filing the lawsuit was just to seek some form of affirmation that a wrong was caused here and an enormous loss was suffered by a lot of people as a result,” O’Connell said. “And just to obtain some measure of justice for Lynn’s legacy.”
Lynn Arsenault’s death rocked the small midcoast city where she had worked for many years at MBNA and then Bank of America, and where friends remembered her as a compassionate, caring person with a radiant smile that could light up a room.
“Why would you murder someone you didn’t know?” her friend Greg Johnson told Gilday during his 2014 sentencing hearing. “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.”
According to information presented at the sentencing hearing, Lynn Arsenault had gone to Belfast on Aug. 28, 2013, to be with her 22-year-old son, Mathew Day, who lived in her yellow house on Waldo Avenue. Day and Gilday were described as friends who got drugs for each other, and sometime before Gilday went to the Waldo Avenue home that night he had consumed a large amount of opiates. Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea told the court during the sentencing hearing that on Aug. 28, Gilday had gone to a gravel pit to practice with the Mossberg shotgun he later used to kill Arsenault. He also had talked to other people about how angry he was at Mathew Day.
Day invited Gilday over in an attempt to quell his friend’s anger, Zainea told the court.
“He didn’t arrive at Lynn’s residence with the intent to talk,” she said. “He went with the intent to kill.”
Gilday shot through the door of the home, then shot Mathew Day in the stomach and arm, seriously injuring him. Then Lynn Arsenault came out of her bedroom, Day told police, and may have tried to grab the gun from Gilday before he fired at her, shooting her in the chest at close range.
O’Connell said Tuesday that Maine law caps the amount of money a victim’s family members can be awarded for their loss and sadness at $500,000. However, the state’s wrongful death statute also permits the estate of a deceased person to recover money for the pain and suffering that the deceased person felt before their death, he said.
“Based on the evidence we learned from the extremely thorough investigation that the AG’s office conducted, it appears that Lynn must have had at least some moments of knowledge of what was happening, and fear,” O’Connell said.
After the shootings, Gilday drove himself to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, where he asked to be admitted to the psychiatric and addiction recovery unit and told the staff that he was a drug addict and had had a “very bad night,” according to a police affidavit. He originally pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of intentional and knowing murder, aggravated attempted murder and elevated aggravated assault. He later changed his plea to guilty.
O’Connell said that in his opinion, one small positive outcome of the civil court process that recently ended is that Gilday expressed his “extreme remorse and sadness” for the pain he caused. The attorney met with the convicted killer in prison for a deposition about the incident.
“What Mr. Gilday told me was that he had absolutely no memory of what happened, and no memory of being angry at his friend, Mathew,” O’Connell said. “But he admits and believes he did everything that he was accused of. He explained that he had fallen into sort of a terrible and powerful drug addiction related to pain, and, I think, serious ADHD-type issues, and at the time of the incident he believes he was … essentially in a drug-induced haze that caused him to act in that way.”
Gilday is most likely going to be in prison for the rest of his life and has lost all his assets as a result of what happened, but the civil court decision will endure and allow Donald Arsenault to collect from Gilday should the opportunity ever arise.
O’Connell said the wrongful death lawsuit has been a part of his client’s grieving process.
“Mr. Arsenault is a very strong man of very few words,” the lawyer said. “He misses his wife. He’s sad that she’s not with him. And he’s pleased that the legal process has served its purpose.”