Gary Sweeney was convicted of murdering his girlfriend.

PORTLAND (AP) – A Casco man was found guilty of murder Thursday in the shooting death of his longtime girlfriend after a night of drinking.

The jury returned the verdict around noon against Gary Sweeney, 46, who was charged with murdering Christine Pepin on Feb. 4 in the cabin they shared. Jurors deliberated about five hours over two days.

Sweeney faces 25 years to life in prison. Sentencing is expected next month.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said he was pleased with the verdict.

“I think the defense’s story didn’t hold together,” he said.

Sweeney testified during the two-day trial that he didn’t realize the gun was loaded, and that the shooting was an accident.

He said he was not drunk or angry when he took his .22-caliber revolver out of a drawer to fire a few shots out his front door to signal his neighbor to send his son home.

He said he then went to the sleeping loft of the cabin, absent-mindedly carrying the gun with him. When he tried to pass Pepin the gun for her to put away, his thumb slipped on the hammer and the gun fired, shooting Pepin in the head, he testified.

Prosecutors told jurors that Sweeney became enraged after a night of drinking and grabbed the gun after the couple’s 12-year-old son hit him with a snowball.

Benson said Sweeney put the gun to Pepin’s head and fired from no more than three inches away because he was drunk and enraged. He said Sweeney’s version of events did not make sense.

Jurors were also given extensive information about the family’s home, a 16-by-16-foot cabin with no running water or septic system atop a steep ridge.

Jurors had the choice of finding Sweeney guilty of murder or manslaughter, or innocent of both charges.

Jurors were also given extensive information about the family’s home, a 16-by-16-foot cabin with no running water or septic system atop a steep ridge.

Outside the courthouse following the verdict, Sweeney’s ex-wife and two of his daughters said they were relieved by the verdict.

Margo Bartelho, who was married to Sweeney from 1976 to 1983 and had five children with him, said Sweeney for years has terrorized people with guns, knives and other weapons.

AP-ES-09-18-03 1305EDT



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