The man who 21 years ago brutally attacked four nuns, killing two of them, during a psychotic episode has died, according to the Kennebec Journal.
Mark A. Bechard, 58, died Sunday of complications related to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to a letter filed at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, the newspaper reported Tuesday.
Bechard had been living at Hawthorne House, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility in Freeport, but remained in the custody of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Bechard was found not criminally responsible by reason of mental illness for killing two nuns and severely injuring two others in a Waterville chapel in Jan. 27, 1996, when he was acutely psychotic. He was committed to what is now Riverview Psychiatric Center, formerly the Augusta Mental Health Institute.
Bechard had been on antipsychotic medication since the attack, according to Bangor Daily News archives.
Killed were Mother Superior Edna Mary Cardozo and Sister Marie Julien Fortin. 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 Waterville chapel of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, according to the Bangor Daily News archives. 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 the nuns at the convent had forgiven Bechard but remained concerned if he was given more freedom and were able to leave the Riverview campus.
Six years later, Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills approved Bechard’s move off the Riverview campus to a group home 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.
Nine months later, Superior Court Justice Donald Marden ruled that Bechard could be unsupervised for up to two hours a day in nonconsecutive one-hour blocks. He was allowed to go to the Capitol Club House, a nearby social club for those diagnosed with mental illness. Bechard also was 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.
A year ago, Bechard’s request to move to a supervised apartment in downtown Augusta was rejected by Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Information on funeral arrangements were not available Wednesday morning.
Watch bangordailynews.com for updates.