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South Thomaston woman sentenced to 38 years for murder of Helen Carver

By Stephen Betts | Jul 29, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Sarah Richards with her attorney Jeremy Pratt during the July 29 sentencing hearing in Knox County Superior Court.

Rockland — A South Thomaston woman was sentenced July 29 to 38 years in prison for the murder of 83-year-old Helen Carver last year in her Owls Head home.

Justice Bruce Mallonee imposed the sentence on 38-year-old Sarah Richards following a more than hour long hearing in Knox County Superior Court.

Defense attorney Jeremy Pratt of Camden asked for a 30-year sentence, citing his client's long history of mental illness and drug addiction.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Ellis Jr., however, asked for a 50-year sentence, saying there were many aggravating factors in the murder including that the victim was an 83-year-old who was physically handicapped and that the crime occurred in the victim's home.

The minimum sentence for murder in Maine is 25 years with a maximum of life behind bars.

Richards spoke briefly during the hearing and said she sincerely apologized to Carver's family and her own family. She said she does not fully remember the events surrounding the murder.

Richards said her history of crimes have been due to her drug addiction.

"It's not an excuse but it is the reality of my life," she said.

Justice Mallonee detailed the injuries suffered by Carver and said the attack was prolonged. The judge also cited the woman's history of mental illness and being the victim of sexual abuse.

The prosecutor said the crime was torturous, extremely cruel and showed extreme savagery.

"This was an extreme case of elder abuse against a helpless, elderly woman," Ellis said.

Richards pleaded guilty April 23 in the Knox County courtroom to murder and theft for the Feb. 21, 2019, death of Carver.

Helen Carver's son, Robert Carver Jr., submitted a letter about the impact on him and the family.

Another son, Glenn Carver of Tennessee, was on a video feed for the sentencing hearing and asked for justice for his mother by sentencing Richards to 75 years in prison.

Richards admitted to police she struck Helen Carver in the head with a snow shovel, claiming initially she did it in self-defense because the Owls Head woman tried to attack her.

Blood was found on the snow shovel and a flashlight. The Maine Medical Examiner determined Carver died of blunt force trauma to her head and upper body as well as strangulation. The autopsy found broken bones in her neck and several broken vertebrae both on the upper and lower back.

In two earlier interviews with state police detectives, Richards initially said she went into the house and when she left, Carver was fine. In a second interview, she claimed Carver was already dead but she tried to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on the woman before leaving and not notifying anyone about the death. The third interview is when Richards claimed self-defense.

Carver had limited mobility, having a walker on the first floor of her home and one on the second floor.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office was investigating Richards for stealing a debit card belonging to Carver and spending more than $1,000 from the woman's bank account. Richards was shoveling snow for Carver. The Sheriff's Office scheduled an interview with Richards Feb. 22 about the theft.

Carver's son, Robert Carver Jr., said he spoke to his mother on the day of the murder and she said Richards was shoveling snow at that time, saying the woman took her debit card.

Richards was arrested Feb. 22 and indicted March 5, 2019, by a Knox County grand jury for murder and theft. She has been held since at the Knox County Jail.

The judge also ordered Richards to pay $7,246 in restitution to pay for Carver's funeral expenses as well as the cost incurred for having the house cleaned after the murder and for the more than $1,000 that Richards spent from Carver's stolen debit card. The Maine Department of Corrections will collect the restitution during Richards' prison term.

The prosecutor pointed out Richards' lengthy criminal record that includes a 2004 assault, and Justice Mallonee said the criminal record was remarkable for its length, severity and variety.

She was convicted of stealing more than 100 lobster crates from Fox Island Lobster in Cushing in 2013 where she worked.

She also had theft convictions in 2004, 2007 and 2012. Richards also has an endangering the welfare of a child and disorderly conduct convictions in 2012 while living in New Jersey.

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 the probation she was on for the prior drug conviction.

Carver and her husband moved to Owls Head in 1977 to a home that was in her husband's family for three generations. They operated Carver's Market in Thomaston —which was at the intersection of Main and Beechwood streets — from 1977 to 1989. She was born in Rockland.

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