ROCKLAND, Maine ― The woman accused of bludgeoning an Owls Head woman to death in February pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity at a hearing on Wednesday.
With an insanity plea now on the table, Richards will undergo a psychiatric evaluation conducted by a state-selected expert. Jeremy Pratt, Richards’ attorney, declined to comment on whether she’s already sought a psychiatric evaluation and refused to explain why he felt the insanity please was appropriate in this case.
The newly entered plea comes about a week after prosecutors and the defense failed to reach a plea agreement in the case during a settlement conference. Richards had inititally pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and theft in May.
Justice Bruce Mallonee set a tentative trial date of August 2020. Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said she expected the trial to last a week, not including the time it takes for jury selection.
Richards had been hired by Carver to shovel her walkways and driveways last winter. On Feb. 14, one week before her death, Carver told the Knox County Sheriff’s Office that she believed Richards had stolen her debit card, according to a police affidavit.
A sheriff’s deputy had reportedly contacted Richards and scheduled an interview regarding the theft just a day after one of Carver’s sons found her unresponsive in her home on Feb. 21. The state medical examiner’s office determined Carver died of blunt force trauma with evidence of strangulation.
After changing her story multiple times, Richards allegedly told police that she killed Carver with a “tool” after the elderly woman confronted her about the stolen debit card. Richards said that Carver, who used a wheelchair, “came at her” so she lunged at Carver, tackled her into an entertainment center and then struck Carver in the head “with a tool [she] had brought into the home,” the affidavit states.
At some point in the 48 hours before Carver was killed, Richards allegedly asked her ex-husband if he would be willing to kill someone, according to a police affidavit.
Her ex-husband initially thought that Richards was kidding, but after hearing that she had been charged with murder, had “no doubt” Richards was asking him if he was “willing to take part in killing Helen Carver,” the affidavit states.
If Richards is found guilty of murder, she faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.