Andrew Balcer, left, sits with his attorney Walter McKee during a hearing Oct. 26 at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. On Thursday, a judge ruled he should be tried as an adult on charges that he murdered both his parents last year in their Winthrop home. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)
AUGUSTA — The Winthrop teenager who was almost 18 when he was charged with murdering both his parents will face the charges as an adult after a judge on Thursday cited Andrew T. Balcer’s “total lack of remorse” after the slayings.
Judge Eric Walker issued the order determining that Balcer should face charges in the adult criminal justice system and certified the case to proceed to the grand jury.
The order follows a two-day hearing that started Oct. 25 at the Capital Judicial Center, where the state sought to have him tried as an adult.
“The court finds Andrew Balcer’s version about what occurred, as explained to police, credible and corroborated by the physical evidence but also very disturbing,” Walker wrote. “His total lack of remorse or guilt is also deeply concerning to the court.”
On an audiotape played in court, Balcer told a dispatcher that he “snapped” early on Oct. 31, 2016, and stabbed both 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.
“Obviously we are disappointed in the decision here,” Balcer’s attorney, Walter McKee, said via email Thursday afternoon. “Andrew was a minor when this happened. This case should have stayed in the juvenile court, where crimes committed by minors are best dealt with.”
On the second day of the hearing, McKee argued to keep Balcer in the juvenile system, saying programs in the juvenile system would be of greater benefit to Balcer.
McKee said the defense largely was not contesting what happened during the killings, but asked, “Where do you go from here? Andrew’s hope is that’s not the doors of the Kennebec County Correctional Facility but back to Long Creek.”
As a result of Thursday’s order, it appeared Balcer would be transferred to the jail on State Street in Augusta.
Walker outlined the procedure that allows a juvenile court to waive jurisdiction in a case and described both the slayings, as they were presented in testimony that day, and the mental evaluations done on Balcer, who turns 19 next month.
Balcer had gender identity issues and “did not believe his parents would be supportive,” a forensic psychologist testified during the two-day hearing.
A staff member at the Long Creek Youth Development Center, where Balcer has been held since the day of the slayings, testified at the hearing that Balcer had wanted to be called Andrea there and that the facility supplied him with some female clothing. Later, he reverted to Andrew in anticipation of being transferred to an adult facility.
Walker noted in his 11-page order that “Andrew was very academically gifted but, at the same time, very socially stunted.”
He also said that “by his own report, Andrew Balcer has been struggling with his gender identity since he was about 5 years old. Andrew says he felt he was a woman and not a man.”
Walker wrote that Balcer told his mother about this when he was 10 and that she “was not pleased,” and that Balcer feared his father’s reaction.
Walker also said, “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.”
In a taped interview with a police detective, Balcer described his mother as “condescending” to him and said his father “didn’t care. He’s a guy who lives in my house and eats all my food.”
He also talked about hearing an occasional “tone” in his head that affects his thinking.
“I figured it’s 13 kilohertz, just a high-pitched, constant tone,” he said, adding that it was present around the time of the slaying as well.
He said 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. The medical examiner testified that Alice Balcer was stabbed nine times. Her body was found in Balcer’s bedroom.
On the audiotape, Andrew Balcer described plunging a knife into her back as she hugged him to comfort him, and he stabbed his father when he came into the room after hearing his wife’s screams.
Balcer said he spared his older brother, Christopher, who was in his basement bedroom, after Christopher said he didn’t want to die.
About that, Walker wrote, “Andrew said he wasn’t sure if he was glad that he didn’t kill Christopher as well.”
In an interview with the Kennebec Journal last week, Christopher Balcer said that he was not aware of his brother struggling with gender identity and said it’s “just not true” that their parents would not have supported him.
At the hearing, Debra Baeder, chief forensic psychologist with the State Forensic Service, testified that Balcer had difficultly articulating his emotions and was socially isolated.
The judge quotes her as saying, “It appears abundantly clear that Andrew’s efforts/abilities to cope with the thoughts and feeling he was experiencing were woefully inadequate.” She said he did not reach out to others for help.
“What appeared clear was that the problem-solving strategy that was developed by Andrew that eventually led to the decision to kill his parents was developed in isolation and not cross-checked with others,” Baeder wrote.
Walker discussed a concern for public safety if Balcer remained in the juvenile system where the maximum sentence would keep him in a juvenile facility only until he turns 21 and then he would be released with no probation or other supervision.
“If Andrew were to be bound over as an adult and if he were eventually convicted of two counts of murder, he would face a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison on each count, with the possibility of probation to monitor him in the community,” he wrote.
At the hearing, the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis, focused his argument on factors the judge must consider in making the ruling, including the seriousness of the offense and risk to public safety, saying, “You can’t get much more violent and aggressive and intentional than what happened here.”