PARIS — It wasn't Eric Hamel's idea to kill two men in Rumford, but Hamel agreed to participate, an Oxford County Superior Court justice said Thursday in handing down a 45-year prison sentence.
Eric Hamel, 21, was the last of three accomplices sentenced in the August 2009 shootings of Victor Reed Sheldon and Roger Leroy Day Jr.
In his judgment, Justice Robert W. Clifford said he had to account for the shorter sentences Hamel's accomplices received. Richard A. Moulton Jr. was sentenced to 40 years in August. In July, Gayla Sheldon was sentenced to 15 years.
Clifford said an important factor in the sentencing was to avoid major inequalities among the jail terms for those convicted in the killings. He called the decision “difficult” and said Hamel's role didn't greatly exceed the roles of the other two involved.
Hamel “didn't think it up,” Clifford said.
At the sentencing, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson argued for 50 years, the longest sentence allowed under a deal Hamel made last year in exchange for agreeing to testify against Gayla Sheldon, Victor Sheldon's estranged wife who planned the murders, and Moulton, Hamel's high school friend who was dating Gayla Sheldon.
After the sentencing, Benson said 45 years was “well within the range of reasonable sentences.”
Roger Day's mother, Janice Day, spoke in court about the loss her family felt. Afterward, she said she wasn't opposed to the sentence. "(Hamel) can't hurt anyone else,” she said. “We're just thankful that it's over with.”
Hamel was the gunman hired by Moulton and Gayla Sheldon to kill Victor Sheldon and Roger Day for $2,000.
Benson argued that the basic sentence was life imprisonment for each charge and that several aggravating factors were included: The crime was planned weeks ahead of time and Hamel intended to kill two people when he entered Day's home on Aug. 3, 2009. The murders were committed for financial gain. (Benson referred to Hamel's testimony that he demanded additional payment for also killing Day.) And, Hamel used a firearm.
Benson acknowledged there were mitigating factors, including Hamel's cooperation with investigators, his lack of a criminal record and his acceptance of responsibility.
Benson urged the court to consider the effects on the slain men's families, who were present in the courtroom.
Hamel's defense lawyer, George Hess, asked for a 35-year sentence.
Hamel had just graduated from high school as a special education student, Hess said. The defendant's mother worked long hours at the mill when he grew up and Hamel was raised by his unemployed father, whom Hess said was angry and abusive. As a teenager, Hamel “retreated into his own world of video games,” Hess said, and felt disconnected from other people.
“Somehow, he allowed himself to be part of a plot Gayla Sheldon and Richard Moulton hatched,” Hess said.
In 2009, Moulton asked Hamel if he would kill his girlfriend Gayla's estranged husband, Victor Sheldon, and Roger Day Jr., with whom Victor Sheldon was staying, if Day was home at the time. Moulton offered Hamel $2,000 to kill both men.
On Aug. 3, 2009, Hamel shot the men in Day's house on Pine Street.
On the day of the murders, Moulton went to Day's house to visit the men. Hamel went there later and shot Day and Victor Sheldon with a revolver stolen from a neighbor. Hamel said Moulton went into the bathroom before the shootings. He said he also planned to shoot Moulton, but not fatally, to make it appear he wasn't involved, but Moulton told him to run instead.
Hamel told police he buried the gun off Oak Street, and later led Maine State Police detectives to the site. The detectives found the gun, shell casings and fragments from gloves Hamel said he was wearing at the time of the shooting.
Moulton told police that Sheldon's estranged wife, Gayla Sheldon, planned the murders as retribution for an alleged domestic assault and out of fear that Victor Sheldon would get custody of their children. On the day Sheldon was killed, a domestic violence assault charge against him had been dismissed.
Hamel told police that he and Moulton had met with Gayla Sheldon multiple times to plan the murders.
Moulton and Hamel last year pleaded guilty, each agreeing to testify against co-defendants in "any cases related to the deaths" of the victims, according to court records. In exchange, the Attorney General's Office agreed to cap Moulton's sentence at 40 years and Hamel's at 50.
Hamel and Moulton testified against Gayla Sheldon, who was arrested in December 2010 and charged with conspiracy to commit murder, criminal solicitation and hindering apprehension of suspects immediately after the murders.
On July 29, 2011, Gayla Sheldon pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy and criminal solicitation. She was sentenced to 25 years with all but 15 years suspended.
On Aug. 22, Moulton was sentenced to 40 years in prison on two murder convictions.