A woman who five years ago stabbed two strangers at the Bangor Mall was sentenced Thursday to more than nine months in jail, or time served, for violating her probation for the 2015 crimes.
Elizabeth Ellis, 40, of Bangor admitted to violating the terms of her probation by throwing rocks at cars parked behind the Penobscot County Jail on Hammond Street on Jan. 27, resulting in her arrest. She pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of criminal mischief just before she was sentenced at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
Ellis, who appeared remotely at the hearing from the Penobscot County Jail, was released following her court appearance. She had been held without bail since her arrest.
Penobscot County District Attorney Marianne Lynch described Ellis’ actions that winter day as “a cry for help.” She also said that her office, Sheriff Troy Morton, jail staff and defense attorney Martha Harris of Bangor had cooperated in an effort to make sure Ellis would receive services once she was released and have access to appropriate housing.
Lynch said that people with co-occurring disorders like Ellis is believed to have “are very challenging for the criminal justice system in Maine.”
“We need more resources to address these defendants,” the prosecutor said Friday.
A co-occurring disorder is a term used to describe when an individual has a substance use disorder and mental illness. In Maine, there is one Co-occurring Disorders Court that operates out of the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Modeled on the state’s six Adult Drug Treatment Courts, the Co-occurring Disorders Court includes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment combined with close judicial oversight.
Questions about Ellis’ mental health were raised in 2017 when she pleaded no contest to two counts of aggravated assault due to her behavior in the mall and afterward. After the stabbings, Ellis drove to Farmington and later turned herself into police there. She told investigating officers that the attacks were ” unprovoked ’cause I am not well,” according to the court affidavit.
No contest pleas result in convictions.
Ellis was found competent to stand trial, but decided against pleading not guilty by reason of insanity and going to trial. She preferred having the certainty of a release date that would come with a prison sentence rather than the uncertainty of being found not guilty by reason of insanity and being committed indefinitely to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.
In sentencing Ellis, Superior Court Justice William Anderson said that a mental illness seemed to be the only explanation for her actions.
“She didn’t know the victims,” he said. “She had nothing against them. There was no overt reason why she would commit the offenses.”
Both female victims were stabbed from behind in their shoulders, police said in 2015. They were treated and released from what is now Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center but suffered psychological trauma from the stabbings, Anderson said.
Ellis was sentenced in April 2017 to seven years in prison with all but three suspended for the stabbings after being held for nearly two years unable to post a $35,000 cash bail. Information about when she was released was not immediately available Friday
Formerly of Alexandria, Virginia, Ellis was a Defense Intelligence Agency translator with an electrical engineering degree who had served in Afghanistan.
Under Maine law, Ellis could have been sent back to prison for the remainder of her seven-year sentence for violating probation. She faced up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 on the criminal mischief charges.