LEWISTON — A Massachusetts man with reported gang affiliations and multiple criminal convictions for drug possession was charged Wednesday with killing the mother of his four children and his longtime friend.
Joel Hayden, 29, of New Bedford was charged with murder in the shooting deaths of Renee Sandora, 27, of New Gloucester and Trevor Mills, 28, of New Bedford, Mass., outside Sandora's mobile home at 322 Bennett Road in New Gloucester on Monday night.
It was Hayden's second shooting-related criminal charge since 2004.
Sandora, who died from head wounds at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston on Tuesday, was the mother of Hayden's four children, including 3-month-old twin girls. The other children are 2 and 7 years old.
The children were reportedly at home at the time of the shootings and have since been placed in the custody of Sandora's grandparents in New Gloucester.
Mills, who was Hayden's longtime friend, died at CMMC overnight Tuesday.
Autopsies of both victims were scheduled for Thursday.
Hayden, whose Maine driver's license was suspended last June and expired in November, was initially arrested following a high-speed police chase after the shootings. He was under police guard while being treated at Maine Medical Center in Portland for a back injury he suffered during the chase. He was charged early Wednesday afternoon, immediately after his release from the hospital, said Stephen McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Hayden was taken to Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland and then to the Cumberland County Jail in that city.
On Monday, according to witnesses, gunshots were fired from the direction of Sandora's home. Jim Hutchinson, who operates a sheet-metal shop a few hundred feet from the home, said he heard three shots, then a man and a young girl talking. While Hutchinson said he could not make out what the two were saying during most of the conversation, he did hear the girl say, “He didn't do anything.”
Shortly afterward, Hutchinson heard another three shots, then police and rescue personnel arrived.
Hayden left the scene and led police on a high-speed chase before being arrested at gunpoint by Maine State Police and other law enforcement officers in the parking lot of Hawg Heaven, a bar near the intersection of Routes 5 and 202, in Lyman.
The chase ended when Hayden hit a culvert, damaging the Cadillac he was driving. The car belongs to Mills' mother of New Bedford, Mass. It was towed to a Maine State Police garage and will be examined later this week, McCausland said.
Mills and Hayden were longtime friends, and were together when they were each attacked and stabbed in 2001 in New Bedford, according to the New Bedford Standard-Times. Hayden's mother, Marie Hayden, told the newspaper her son's friendship with Mills had apparently soured.
Marie Hayden said that her son recently told her he felt threatened by Mills, who frequently traveled to Maine and had insinuated he was interested in Sandora.
Marie Hayden believes, according to the Standard-Times, that the shooting occurred when Mills went to the couple's home, not expecting Joel Hayden, who traveled back and forth between Maine and New Bedford, to be there.
Both Mills and Hayden had extensive criminal backgrounds, including gun charges.
Mills was scheduled to appear in New Bedford District Court on Sept. 19 in an assault and battery case. He had 16 prior criminal cases in New Bedford, including an arrest for a 2005 drive-by shooting that wounded a man in the North End.
Superior Court records indicate Mills was sentenced to serve three years in state prison after pleading guilty to discharging a firearm and other gun offenses in October 2007.
In January 2004, Hayden was charged with shooting his mother's boyfriend during a domestic argument in New Bedford and was later arrested by federal agents in Lewiston. He was charged by Massachusetts authorities with aggravated assault and attempted murder in that case. Last August, New Bedford police arrested Hayden on charges of threatening to cut the same man with a glass jug.
According to the Standard-Times, the victim said Hayden told him, “I should have killed you when I had the chance.” However, the case was later dismissed on a probation officer’s recommendation, court records show.
In 2006, while Hayden was serving nine months in a Maine jail for drug offenses and eluding police during a car chase, he was charged with trafficking in prison contraband, drug dealing and carrying a concealed weapon. The charge of carrying a concealed weapon was later dismissed.
And, according to the Maine State Bureau of Identification, in 2008 Hayden was convicted of operating under the influence and eluding a police officer in Auburn; he served 11 months in jail.
A felony charge of operating a vehicle as a habitual offender on April 4 remains pending in York County.
The Bureau of Identification does not have information on convictions in Massachusetts.
According to the Secretary of State's Office, Hayden has 16 driving convictions and 10 license suspensions in Maine, including a three-year suspension in December 2008 after being classified a habitual offender.
His driving history includes five speeding convictions since 2006, two convictions for eluding police officers in 2006 and 2009 and two OUI convictions in 2008.
According to Hayden's mother, he had recently moved to Maine to live with Sandora and raise their children.
The couple reportedly had a history of domestic violence.
Police told the Standard-Times of New Bedford that Hayden and Mills had affiliations with West End gang members, but Hayden’s mother said her son was not involved with any gang.
She also disputed any domestic violence.
“Joel was a good father," Marie Hayden told the Standard-Times. "He loved his kids so much, and he really loved Renee, who was a great mother and came from a good family."