PARIS — A Peru man accused of strangling his mother-in-law to death during a sexual assault last October pleaded not guilty to murder charges Tuesday.

The attorney for Paul Orchard, 33, entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to one charge of depraved indifference murder and one charge of felony murder. The pleas were made at Orchard’s arraignment in Oxford County Superior Court.

The charges stem from the sexual assault and strangulation death of Paula Nuttall on Oct. 11, 2014.

If convicted, Orchard faces up to life in prison. If he is found not criminally responsible, he would likely spend the rest of his life in the custody of the state at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta or another supervised setting.

Orchard has been held without bail since he was arrested on Oct. 14, 2014. Two weeks after his arrest, a judge ordered Orchard to undergo a forensic mental health examination at Riverview.

The results are confidential and a copy has been given to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, according to Orchard’s attorney, Sarah Glynn. 

“The state just received the reports, and have not commented on them,” she said in an email Tuesday. “It is my hope that we will reach an agreement with the results of the evaluations.”

According to a police affidavit, Orchard’s 6-year-old daughter was playing outside when she heard Orchard and Nuttall, her grandmother, arguing. She went inside and found him beating Nuttall, who told her granddaughter to hit him with a bottle — which she did — but the attack continued.

Lt. Daniel Carrier of the Mexico Police Department found Orchard partially naked on top of Nuttall in the home, and when Orchard did not get off the woman as ordered, he was removed and handcuffed, according to an affidavit by Detective Michael Chavez of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit.

Emergency responders pronounced Nuttall dead moments later.

An autopsy determined that Nuttall died of cardiac arrest during strangulation and sexual assault, according to a police affidavit.

Orchard was covered in polyurethane and transported to the hospital on the suspicion he may have consumed it, police said. 

According to the affidavit, Orchard told his mother, Margaret Rosher, during a phone call from the hospital, “It was like a vapor high or somethin’ when I was doin’ the floor over.”

He said he didn’t remember attacking Nuttall.

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This story was edited Wednesday morning to correct it. Orchard’s attorney entered two pleas to each count: not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. 


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