AUGUSTA — A grand jury on Friday indicted 19-year-old Andrew Balcer on murder charges related to the brutal killings of his parents and a family dog during the early morning of Halloween 2016.
The indictment comes less than two months after a judge decided that Balcer — who was a month shy of turning 18 years old when the killings occurred in the family home in Winthrop — would be treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
This was the first grand jury to sit in Kennebec County after that decision was made. The indictment was handed up Friday at the Capital Judicial Center.
Balcer is charged with two counts of intentional or knowing murder and one of aggravated cruelty to animals.
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.
His attorney, Walter McKee, suggested a motive for the killings by saying that Balcer did not believe his parents would support him in his gender identity struggles.
A conviction on a murder charge carries a prison term of 25 years to life. A conviction on a charge of aggravated cruelty to animals carries a maximum prison term of five years.
Balcer will be arraigned on the charges at a later date.
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.”
Most of the details of the crimes have come out in an initial affidavit by investigators and at a number of testimonial hearings.
Balcer himself has said little at those hearings. The defense had objected to the state’s bid to remove the case from the juvenile justice system. McKee said Balcer would be better served by programs available there.
On Friday, after he received news of Balcer’s indictment, McKee said, “We certainly knew that the grand jury indictment was coming. We’ll review it, enter a not guilty, and proceed from there.”
At a court hearing in October, 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 as 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.
The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis, said there were nine stab wounds to Alice Balcer’s body and 13 to her husband’s.
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.
Antonio Balcer retired in 2012 as a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. Alice Balcer also served in the Coast Guard, which is where they met 25 years ago, according to their obituaries.
Antonio Balcer was active in local motorcycle groups and known locally as “the Rev” for serving as chaplain and officiating at weddings. Alice Balcer worked at the Winthrop Veterinary Hospital, and before that at the Kennebec Valley Humane Society shelter in Augusta. She was an outdoors enthusiast.
Balcer’s older brother, Christopher, was in a basement bedroom during the killings, and he came upstairs when he heard the commotion. He fled to a neighbor’s home shortly afterward.
In an interview in February 2017, Christopher said his brother asked him if he wanted to die. Christopher said he wanted to live and begged his brother to spare him and let him leave.
“I don’t know what it was about our relationship up to that point that gave me a free pass, as far as the family had been concerned,” Christopher said in that interview. “I don’t know if how he felt about me was different from how he felt about the parents, but apparently it was.”
Andrew Balcer was described by witnesses as academically bright but without a social life outside some family.
Andrew Balcer’s gender identity issues became public at the October 2017 hearings, and his brother said he had not been aware of any such issues and that their parents would have supported Andrew.
At Long Creek Youth Development Center, where Balcer has been held since the day of the slayings, Balcer told the staff that he preferred to be called “Andrea” and to wear articles of women’s clothing.
After Walker’s ruling, Balcer was transferred to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta, where he remains.
Betty Adams — 621-5631