August 03, 2020

Gargoyle murder trial delayed

The murder trial of a Southwest Harbor woman suspected of bludgeoning an 83-year-old woman to death with a ceramic gargoyle has been postponed while her attorney explores his client’s psychological capacity.

A date of Sept. 4 had been set for the trial of Michelle Mills, 38, but a recent continuance requested by her attorney means it could be a few more months before the case is decided.

Court documents filed in Hancock County Superior Court indicate that Mills will undergo a forensic evaluation to determine her mental condition and competency to stand trial.

Mills’ attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor, wouldn’t say whether he is preparing to use what is known as an “abnormal condition of mind,” or insanity defense, but says he’s keeping every door open.

“When it comes to these kinds of cases, it’s necessary that you explore all options,” Silverstein said Thursday by telephone. “The most important thing is that my client have all the information available to decide the best possible route as far as a defense strategy.”

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who will prosecute the case for the state, did not object to the continuance.

Mills has been incarcerated since her arrest on June 8, 2006. She is suspected of killing Jacqueline Evans, a retired college professor who lived in an oceanside home in the Southwest Harbor village of Manset.

Court documents allege that Mills attacked Evans with a ceramic gargoyle in a dispute over money. Mills had been hired by Evans to serve as caretaker for a friend of Evans’ who was ill. At some point, however, their relationship grew strained and Mills was fired, according to the documents.

Evans was found unconscious inside her home on Jan. 20, 2006, surrounded by pools of her own blood. She suffered massive head trauma and died two days later at a local hospital.

Police viewed the case as a homicide early in the investigation, and while Mills emerged as the primary suspect, she wasn’t arrested until nearly five months after the killing.

Initially, Mills was held without bail, but at a hearing in November 2006, Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter set bail at $500,000 property or $250,000 cash.

Silverstein said he expected his client would be able to put together a bail package, but that fell through. Mills is being held at Penobscot County Jail in Bangor.

Both Silverstein and Benson said that a new trial date likely will be set for later this fall. Silverstein pointed out, however, that Benson is a state prosecutor who tries cases all over the state, and Justice Hunter normally presides in Aroostook County.

“We’re going to be held hostage, so to speak, by their schedules,” Silverstein said.

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