Trial likely to be held in August 2020

Murder suspect enters insanity plea

By Stephen Betts | Sep 11, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Sarah Richards, center speaks with her attorney, Jeremy Pratt, right, Wednesday, Sept. 11, in the Knox County courthouse.

Rockland — Sarah Richards, who is accused of beating and strangling 83-year-old Helen Carver in her home in February, formally entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday, Sept. 11.

The hearing lasted about one minute in the Knox County courthouse. The plea was entered on her behalf by her attorney, Jeremy Pratt, to the charges of murder and theft

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea filed a motion Wednesday for Richards to undergo a forensic evaluation by the State Forensic Service. The prosecutor also requested that the report from the service not be impounded when it is completed, since Richards is pleading not criminally responsible because of insanity.

Justice Bruce Mallonee signed the order for the evaluation to be done the same day. The evaluation is to be done within 45 days and a report issued within 60 days.

Mallonee said the trial is tentatively scheduled to be held in August 2020. Zainea said the trial will likely last one week, not including jury selection.

Richards had pleaded not guilty in Knox County Superior Court May 28 to murder and theft charges.

Pratt has declined to say whether the defense has had Richards' mental condition evaluated.

If the case goes to trial, the jury will first determine whether Richards committed the murder. If the jury finds her guilty, it would then be asked to determine whether she is criminally responsible.

Richards was indicted March 5, and has been held without bail at the Knox County Jail in Rockland since her arrest Feb. 22 for the Feb. 21 death.

An affidavit filed by state police earlier this year stated that Richards had stopped at the home of her ex-husband, either Feb. 20 or Feb. 21, and asked him "if he would be willing to kill someone."

The man told police he thought she was kidding, but then realized after he learned about Carver's death that he had no doubt that Richards was asking him if he would be willing to take part in killing Carver.

Carver's son, Robert Carver, had talked with his mother by telephone shortly before 11 a.m. Feb. 21, and in the conversation she had told her son that Richards had stolen her debit card. The Knox County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the Owls Head woman had contacted the office Feb. 14 about the theft.

A Knox County deputy had contacted Richards and was scheduled to interview her Feb. 22.

Witness reports stated that Richards and her boyfriend were seen leaving the area of Carver's home at about 11:30 a.m. Feb. 21, according to the police affidavit.

Her son found his mother dead in the home shortly after 1 p.m. Feb. 21, after he was unable to reach her again by phone.

Richards initially told police that she had been at the house to shovel snow and went inside and Carver was in good shape when she left, according to the affidavit. However, she later changed her story and said she went inside and Carver was already dead. Richards said she provided lifesaving efforts and left, according to police.

Richards then said when she went inside the house, Carver was upset over the stolen debit card and that the elderly woman "came at her." Richards said she then lunged at Carver and tackled her into an entertainment center. Richards also admitted to striking Carver in the head with a tool. The type of tool is not stated in the police report, but police obtained a warrant from the court to examine a shovel that Richards owned for any signs of blood.

Richards said she put her hands around Carver's neck to determine if she had a pulse.

The affidavit states that the Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death as blunt force trauma with signs of strangulation.

Another affidavit said that Verizon records from the phones of Richards and boyfriend Jimmy Wellman could help develop a timeline of events leading up to the murder. The telephones were seized the morning of Feb. 22 from the truck that Richards and Wellman were in.

Murder carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison in Maine.

Richards has a long criminal record. She was convicted of stealing more than 100 lobster crates from Fox Island Lobster in Cushing in 2013. She had worked at the business.

She received a nine-month jail term in 2016 for unlawful trafficking in drugs. In June 2017, she was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating her probation for the prior drug conviction.

She was charged with theft in 2012 by Waldoboro police. In 2013, she served seven days in jail for violating a condition of release.

In 2006, Richards was sentenced to five days in jail for violating probation for illegal importation of drugs. In 2004, she was sentenced to 48 hours in jail for theft.

Helen Carver lived alone at the South Shore Drive home after her husband's death.

Comments (4)
Posted by: mark zable | Sep 13, 2019 04:23

Mary, it will also be taxpayer money spent to keep her in prison for life.  Or maybe you were going to start a Go-Fund-Me site?


Posted by: Nina Reed | Sep 12, 2019 10:52

Mary, is there any person on this earth that is not hopeless to you? I mean honestly, you come off as a very bitter person. I feel sorry for you if you are. I do agree, she should be locked up, but what makes you think she will get a slap on the wrist? These days, an insanity plea is just an acknowledgement that they did it, without pleading guilty. I do not believe she will get out earlier on insanity, as they have to undergo regular reviews and hearings, and if deemed sane enough for release, they go to prison. -Melanie Keene

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 11, 2019 13:31

Why waste taxpayer money to house and feed this girl and then slap her on the wrist and let her go?????This is one sick perpetual offender. Locke her up and keep her in for life not just a slap on the wrist and let her out again to re-offend.

Posted by: T A Schwab | Sep 11, 2019 13:29

So sad for Helen and her son Richard, what a thing to have to live with. I can’t imagine my mother being murdered. Just horrendous.

If you wish to comment, please login.