GREENFIELD TOWNSHIP — A man upset over the pending breakup of a relationship shot his live-in companion, and then killed himself.
Drinda McBreairty, 52, who pretended to be dead after she was shot, is in serious condition at Eastern Maine Medical Center.
William Riches, 68, shot McBreairty in the chest with a small-caliber handgun before going into another room in the house and shooting himself about 1:30 a.m. Friday, according to state police detectives. Riches died from a single shotgun blast to the head.
After hearing the shot that killed Riches, McBreairty telephoned a friend in the Greenfield area, who reported the incident to the state police.
The friend did not leave a name. Police are waiting until McBreairty’s medical condition has improved before pursuing further details in the case.
“By the grace of God, the bullet exited without damaging her heart or lungs,” said Sgt. Barry Shuman, who hoped police would be able to talk with her this weekend.
Though many residents had heard about the shooting, no one in the rural neighborhood on the Crocker Turn Road seemed to know the couple who lived in the house that McBreairty had bought in October 1995.
The tan-shingled house, down a long, curved driveway from the main road, is obscured by a thick fringe of trees.
The homestead, just beyond a small cemetery, was eerily quiet after police finished their work there early Friday morning. The only sign of the turmoil that had taken place during the hours before the sun rose was the red piece of crime tape police attached to the front-door jamb to seal the crime scene.
McBreairty and Riches had been living together for about a year, but the relationship apparently deteriorated. Detectives found a note on Riches’ body citing the breakup of the couple’s relationship as the reason for his suicide.
Little information on Riches was available Friday afternoon, including the extent of trouble in his relationship with McBreairty. Shuman said that state police were still in the process of gathering information on the man, but that he apparently was a former resident of New Jersey.
McBreairty is the mother of six grown children, according to a cousin, Hope McBreairty of Allagash, where the two women grew up. The cousin said several of the children were at their mother’s bedside at the Bangor hospital Friday.
“She was an Allagash girl,” Hope McBreairty said. Drinda McBreairty reportedly left her hometown four or five years ago. She was working as a manager of Dave’s Movie World on Center Street in Old Town at the time of the shooting.
Hope McBreairty described her cousin as “tall, slim and attractive.” She said Drinda McBreairty taught elementary school in northern Maine before moving to Penobscot County and was involved in the historical society before she moved away.
Hope McBreairty said word of the shooting had circulated quickly around Allagash Friday.
“We’re just thankful that she’s going to be all right. We’re all praying that she makes a full recovery,” Hope McBreairty said.