Suspect in murder of Owls Head woman expected to plead insanity

By Stephen Betts | Sep 05, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Sarah Richards is led out of the Knox County Superior Court room earlier this year.

Rockland — A 37-year-old South Thomaston woman accused of beating and strangling 83-year-old Helen Carver in her home in February is expected to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

The defense and prosecution held a telephone conference Thursday, Sept. 5, with Justice Bruce Mallonee, who has been assigned to the case of Sarah Richards.

Richards' attorney, Jeremy Pratt, confirmed Thursday that his client would enter a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 11.

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

After the plea is entered, the state will request a forensic evaluation on Richards. Pratt declined to say whether the defense has had her mental condition evaluated.

The case would likely then go to trial, at which the jury would 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.

The trial is expected to be held in August 2020, Pratt said.

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 (3)
Posted by: Don Dickinson | Sep 08, 2019 11:01

Nice to know we have a psychologist amongst us. Welcome Dr. McKeever.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 06, 2019 13:26

Sociopaths have no conscience and should be locked up for life. But with the system in place she will probably serve some time and let go to make room for another sociopath. And the merry-go-round goes round and round......

Posted by: karen dodge | Sep 05, 2019 16:57

I went to school with her from 5th grade until graduation. Sarah Richards always acted as if she was better than everyone else, that she had better grades and was smarter then everyone else, and that everyone owed her because she was more deserving than everyone else. She’s guilty and now she will claim insanity because she can, and everyone is just supposed to believe her because she says so.

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