AUBURN – Family members of a slain pregnant woman found by police last week in a shallow grave in Lewiston got their first glimpse Wednesday morning of the man charged in her killing.

Richard Dwyer, 44, of 30 Farrand Road in Canton appeared briefly in Androscoggin County Superior Court to face a murder charge in connection with the strangulation of Donna Paradis, 38, of Lewiston, who he worked with.

Dwyer was clad in an orange jail suit, his arms decorated from wrists to biceps in tattoos. He was led into the courtroom by two Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputies, his wrists cuffed; his ankles shackled.

Dwyer stood at a microphone alongside his court-appointed lawyer, George Hess, who is representing him on an unrelated robbery charge.

Justice Carl Bradford asked whether Hess had discussed the complaint with Dwyer, then asked Dwyer whether he understood the murder charge. He wasn’t asked to enter a plea. That would happen at a later court date, the justice said.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said she and Hess agreed to a hearing to discuss whether Dwyer should continue to be held without bail at Androscoggin County Jail. That hearing was set for Dec. 6.

When he was arrested Tuesday and charged with Paradis’ murder, Dwyer was already in jail, having been arrested Nov. 7 and charged with robbing a Big Apple store in Lewiston with a knife last September.

According to a Maine State Police affidavit, Paradis and Dwyer both worked at Affiliated Computer Services on East Avenue in Lewiston and Dwyer had volunteered to help her find a car to buy.

Paradis, who lived at 143 Pierce St., was last seen on Oct. 23 after leaving work. Her naked body was found Nov. 12 less than a mile away in woods behind the Promenade Mall on Lisbon Street, state police said. Near the grave was a record of a money order Paradis cashed for four $100 bills, clothing believed to be hers, and a pickax and shovel that were traced to Dwyer. There was also evidence she had been sexually assaulted, police said.

Last spring Paradis flew to Syria to marry a man she met on the Internet, returning home pregnant and without him, family and friends said.

After Dwyer’s brief court appearance, the victim’s family gathered on the steps of the courthouse to speak to reporters.

Paradis’ 17-year-old daughter, Jeanette Kontos, said her mother may rest more peacefully now that Dwyer is in custody and was charged with murder the day her family buried her.

“We were finally putting her to rest, so her spirit can probably rest a little bit more knowing we finally caught the dude on the day of her funeral,” Kontos said.

The family said they hoped Dwyer would never be allowed back on the streets.

“I’m glad the person is in custody, and I hope he gets what he deserves,” said Paradis’ sister, Kathy Kontos. “I hope the judge gives him the stiffest penalty” allowed by law.

“I hope to God them people in prison will see what he has done and just hurt him his whole life,” said Pauline Albright, Paradis’ niece. “He should never be allowed out of prison again because he’ll do it to somebody else.”

Hess said he will argue next month that his client should be released pending his trial, which could take up to 10 months to schedule.

“The hope is to get him out and back in the community,” Hess said.

Some family members said they wish the Lewiston company where Paradis met Dwyer had barred him from working there because he had a lengthy criminal record, which includes bank robbery, unlawful sexual contact, assault and escape from prison.

“He should never have been allowed” to work there, Albright said. “If he had that kind of criminal record, they should never have let him work there. And I hope they go about and start doing criminal records and not let people like that work there so this doesn’t happen again.”

Arthur Barnard, a cousin who said he is a felon from 20 years ago, said he had a newfound appreciation for companies who run background checks on prospective employees.

Jeanette Kontos said her mother barely knew Dwyer, referring to him only as “a bald, white dude … just some dude with a car” that Paradis had planned to buy from him for $400.

That makes the crime all the more alarming, Marchese said.

“It is frightening in the sense that it is somewhat of a random act of violence in that he preyed upon her,” Marchese said. “We don’t see as many of those type cases as we do the domestic violence cases.” The crime was made even more heinous given the fact that Paradis was 7½ months pregnant, a fact the judge must consider at sentencing should Dwyer go to trial and be convicted or plead guilty.


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