LEWISTON – A man with a violent criminal past who worked with Donna Paradis was charged Tuesday with killing the 38-year-old mother of two.

Richard Dwyer, 44, of 30 Farrand Hill Road in Canton is charged with murder in the slaying of Paradis, a pregnant woman whose body was found buried Nov. 12 in woods behind Flagship Cinemas in the Promenade Mall on Lisbon Street nearly three weeks after she disappeared.

According to an affidavit by Detective Jennifer King of the Maine State Police, Paradis was strangled. When her body was found last week, she was nude except for strips of cloth around her neck and both wrists.

There was evidence that Paradis had been sexually assaulted, according to the affidavit.

Evidence is being examined at the Maine State Police crime laboratory.

Dwyer, who has been in the Androscoggin County Jail since Nov. 7 on an unrelated robbery charge, has previous convictions that include bank robbery, unlawful sexual contact, assault and escape from prison.

Dwyer worked with Paradis at Affiliated Computer Services on East Avenue, according to court documents. Friends and co-workers said Paradis had been talking with him about buying a car he had found for her.

A co-worker at ACS told police that on the afternoon Paradis disappeared Oct. 23, Dwyer passed her a note informing her that he had found a car she might be interested in buying. After Paradis left work and walked to Burger King on Lisbon Street, which is between ACS and the area where her body was discovered, she was never seen again by friends, police said.

Investigators believe Dwyer killed Paradis in a wooded area along an all-terrain vehicle trail between the Promenade Mall and Lincoln Street. Lewiston police discovered evidence there after beginning a search of places near the ACS offices on Nov. 10.

“It seemed like a logical place to search,” said Lewiston deputy police Chief Michael Bussiere. “It was good police work, as it turned out.”

Among the items found there, according to the affidavit, was a record of a money order Paradis had obtained at a local bank the day she disappeared. She had cashed the order and requested four $100 bills, according to the court document.

In the same area, police also found a coat, maternity pants with underwear coiled up inside, a black camisole and a pair of shoes. All of the clothing was believed to have been worn by Paradis the day she disappeared.

Searchers also found a pickax and shovel near the area where Paradis’ jacket had been discovered, according to the court document. Both were new with store stickers still on them. Police traced the pickax to Wal-Mart and the shovel to Lowe’s, both in Auburn. Store surveillance cameras later revealed video of Dwyer buying both items, according to the affidavit. At Lowe’s he used a $100 bill to pay for the shovel and a yellow flashlight.

Lewiston police began a large scale search of the area, enlisting Maine State Police and volunteers from the Maine Association of Search and Rescue to help over Veterans Day weekend. Lewiston police eventually discovered Paradis’ body in a grave roughly six inches deep.

Investigators began focusing on Dwyer as a suspect and spent a week putting their case together. On Tuesday, they went to the Androscoggin County Jail and charged him with murder.

“It’s important to note that we knew that this suspect was in custody,” Bussiere said. “In that regard, we knew that he didn’t present a further threat to the community.”

According to the affidavit, Dwyer told police he had stayed with a girlfriend in Lewiston the night Paradis vanished. That woman, when interviewed by police, said Dwyer had arrived at her apartment about 10:30 p.m. with a yellow flashlight.

The flashlight was found in the girlfriend’s car, police said.

Dwyer, whose adult criminal history dates back to his 18th birthday in 1981, was charged with unlawful sexual contact that year. He served six months behind bars and returned several times to jail in ensuing years on charges that include burglaries, thefts, disorderly conduct and trespass.

In 1987, he was convicted of robbery in a heist at Norstar Bank in New Auburn. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. He was paroled in 1994.

In 1995, Dwyer was charged with raping a woman who was crossing the footbridge between Lewiston and Auburn. He was ultimately acquitted of that charge.

According to court documents, Dwyer had worked full-time at ACS for about a year before he was arrested Nov. 7 and charged with the September knife-point robbery of a Big Apple store in Lewiston.

According to a police affidavit, Dwyer appeared nervous when he was questioned about the robbery. He told investigators that he had smoked a few marijuana joints the day of the stick-up and that he was stressed about his relationship with a girlfriend.

Dwyer was free at the time Paradis disappeared, but he was at the Androscoggin County Jail the day her body was found.

According to the court documents, Dwyer was living with his brother and a girlfriend at 30 Farrand Hill Road in Canton at the time Paradis was killed. He has also lived at various locations in Lewiston, Auburn and Lisbon.

Supervisors at ACS have declined to speak about the case.

Paradis also worked nights at the Sun Journal on Park Street. Friends there said the night before Paradis disappeared, she complained of a medical problem possibly related to her pregnancy. They also said she appeared agitated as a co-worker took her to Central Maine Medical Center.

“She was very nervous,” said Sandra Bruno, customer service manager at the newspaper. “She didn’t even wait for me to take my foot off the brake before she jumped out of the car.”

That was the last time any of her co-workers from the Sun Journal saw Paradis. She was seen in the hospital maternity ward and went to work at ACS the following day. She never returned home.

Paradis did not own a car, according to those who knew her. Dwyer had volunteered to help her find one to buy, according to the affidavit.

At the Sun Journal, co-workers said she did not speak much about her personal life other than to say she was at times romantically confused.

Earlier this year, Paradis was divorced from her husband after a 10-year marriage. In the spring, she flew to Syria, a country in the Middle East, where she married a man she had met on the Internet, according to friends and family members.

They said Paradis was pregnant when she came back to the United States but her new husband remained in Syria. Maine does not have a law that allows them to charge Dwyer with the death of Paradis’ unborn son, as 36 other states do.

“It’s so sad,” said Amy Lanois, a co-worker at the Sun Journal. “I keep thinking that she never got a chance to see her baby’s face. She never got a chance to hold him.”

Paradis has daughters 12 and 17 years old whom she lived with at 143 Pierce St.

“We’re pleased that we can present some element of closure for the family,” Bussiere said.

Some of Paradis’ co-workers from the Sun Journal attended her funeral service Tuesday at the Greek Orthodox Church of The Holy Trinity, 155 Hogan Road, Lewiston and burial at Broadview Cemetery, also in Lewiston. For nearly a month, they had been awaiting word on her fate.

“I think the Lewiston Police Department did a wonderful job investigating this,” said Sun Journal employee Steven Farmer. “My heart goes out to her family. Hopefully in time, some of that pain will ease.”

Dwyer is expected to make his initial court appearance Wednesday morning. He was being held Tuesday night without bail.

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