Assailant granted more privileges


AUGUSTA (AP) – A 47-year-old man who killed two nuns and injured two others in a Waterville chapel a decade ago has been granted broader privileges for activities off the grounds of the state psychiatric hospital where he lives.

The easing of restrictions on Mark Bechard had been opposed by nuns from the order of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament who live in the convent where the attack occurred.

“Any extension of Mr. Bechard’s privileges is really detrimental to our safety, the community in general and Mr. Bechard himself,” said Sister Mary Catherine Perko, superior of the nine nuns.

At a Kennebec County Superior Court hearing Wednesday, Perko said the sisters have forgiven Bechard but remain concerned.

But after a psychiatrist and a psychologist testified that Bechard had exhibited exemplary behavior, Justice Donald Marden approved new conditions allowing Bechard to work up to 20 hours a week and to attend recreational and educational activities away from Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

Marden’s approval lets Bechard be off hospital grounds in a group of up to four Riverview patients supervised by one staff member. The judge said structured events must be within a 10-mile radius of Augusta.

Bechard was found not criminally responsible for the January 1996 convent attack and was committed to state custody. Since then, he has been on anti-psychotic medication.

Under privileges granted three years ago, Bechard had been allowed to walk Riverview’s grounds unsupervised and attend events in the community with one-on-one supervision.

Marden suggested Wednesday that Bechard’s workplace be outside of Winslow, Waterville, Fairfield and Oakland.

Sister Kathryn Kelm questioned one proposed change that would allow Bechard to go to church without supervision.

“I’m all for people going to Mass. We’re all the body of Christ, but not in this case. God would not want an occasion where there would be a repeat of the fixation of that time. I recommend he pray privately,” Kelm said.

Kelm said Bechard should remain institutionalized.

“Don’t mess with it. This is where he should be,” she said. “We’ve had too much. How many more graves do we have to dig?”

Psychologist Ann LeBlanc, who heads the State Forensic Service that evaluated Bechard’s request, said she has been notified each time Bechard had gone outside the Riverview compound over the last three years and that the trips had been “completely without incident.”

Marden encouraged the nuns to contact the State Forensic Service or the court if they had concerns about Bechard’s whereabouts.

“No one in this system wishes you to be victims again, but we don’t need to destroy Mr. Bechard even though he’s destroyed others,” Marden said.

Information from: Kennebec Journal,

AP-ES-04-27-06 1034EDT