AUGUSTA — The Winthrop teenager indicted on charges of murdering his parents and aggravated cruelty to animals for killing the family’s Chihuaha pleaded not guilty Friday to all three charges.
It is the first time Andrew Balcer, 19, has entered a plea in the case, which started early Halloween morning on Oct. 31, 2016, with a 911 call that brought police to the Balcer home where Antonio and Alice Balcer, both 47, were found stabbed to death.
On Friday he was in a two-piece green jail uniform with his shoulder length dark hair tied back in a pony tail. He was shackled and watched closely by four uniformed deputies.
Balcer responded to Justice Daniel Billings’ inquiry about his pleas by saying, “Not guilty on all, sir.”
A trial is tentatively set for November 2018. Previously Balcer’s attorney, Walter McKee, had said “no answer” to the murder charges, and the judge entered a denial on Balcer’s behalf.
Initially charges against Balcer, who was a month less than 18 when the slayings occurred, were brought in juvenile court.
However, after a two-day hearing, a judge agreed with the state that Balcer should be bound-over to be treated as an adult in the criminal justice system
The case was presented to a grand jury in Kennebec County last month, and Balcer was indicted.
He was arraigned Friday by Billings at the Capital Judicial Center. Billings is specially assigned to the case. The prosecutor at the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Megan Elam, said she had no other information to share.
Balcer’s grandfather, who testified in Balcer’s behalf at the bindover hearing, watched the arraignment along with two other relatives.
Balcer has been held at the Kennebec County jail since Nov..2, 2017. Prior to that he was held at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.
McKee said Friday that he had seen Balcer since the indictment and that “He is doing as best as can be expected.”
On an audiotape played in court during hearings about he whether should be treated as an adult, Balcer told a dispatcher that he “snapped” early on Oct. 31, 2016, and stabbed his mother and father, Alice and Antonio Balcer, both 47, in the family home at 10 Pine Knoll Road in Winthrop. Balcer also said he killed the family’s Chihuahua because it was barking.
McKee had suggested a motive for the killings by saying that Balcer did not believe his parents would support him in his gender identity struggles.
Balcer’s older brother, Christopher, has publicly disagreed with that.
Judge Eric Walker, who granted the state’s petition to have Balcer treated as an adult, said in his ruling, “The only possible motive for the murders appears to be Andrew’s perception that his parents were unwilling or unable to deal with his transgender issues. We will never know if Antonio or Alice Balcer would have been accepting, because they were ambushed and murdered by Andrew.”
At Long Creek, Balcer had requested to be called “Andrea” and wanted people to use female pronouns to describe him, a Long Creek program manager testified in court Thursday.
At a court hearing in October 2017, McKee said the defense largely was not contesting what happened during the killings.
A recording of Balcer’s call to 911, made about 1:45 a.m. Oct. 31, 2016, and a second, three-hour recording of Balcer’s interview by two Maine State Police detectives later that day, were played during previous proceedings at the Capital Judicial Center.
On them Balcer tells police he plunged a hunting knife into his mother’s back as she was giving him a hug to comfort him during the early morning hours. Her screams woke his father, and Balcer stabbed him as well, following him into the dining room, where his father headed, apparently to try to get his handgun,
At that hearing, Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis, said there were nine stab wounds to Alice Balcer’s body and 13 to her husband’s.
Andrew Balcer told police he concocted the plan while in his room, went to the dining room of the home about 1:30 a.m. to get his Ka-Bar knife — which he used for gutting animals while hunting — and then went into the bedroom where his parents were sleeping. His mother awoke when Balcer came in, and she accompanied him back to his room.