PERU — A judge Monday found Paul Orchard, 35, of Peru not criminally responsible for the sexual assault and strangulation death of his mother-in-law in October 2014.

Court Clerk Michelle Howe said Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford made the decision following testimony from the State Forensic Service and the Attorney General’s Office.

Sarah Glynn, Orchard’s attorney, said that according to Clifford’s decision, Orchard “suffered from a mental disease or defect, and failed to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.”

Orchard was facing one count of felony murder in the sexual assault and strangulation death of Paula Nuttall, 57, who died at their home on Main Street on Oct. 11, 2014.

Glynn said paperwork is being filed to dismiss one charge of depraved indifference murder to which Orchard pleaded not guilty in March 2015.

In 2014, following Orchard’s arrest, Glynn said the state made a motion to do a psychological evaluation.

“That was when I came on board,” Glynn said. “When I met with him, I agreed that it was a good idea.”

Glynn said that part of Orchard’s evaluation included a period of evaluation as an in-patient at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta with a contracted psychologist appointed through the State Forensic Service.

Police responded to Nuttall’s house after receiving a 911 call from Orchard’s daughter. When they arrived, an officer found Orchard covered in polyurethane and atop Nuttall, police said. He had been painting a floor with the protective finish.

The medical examiner determined Nuttall died from cardiac arrest during strangulation and sexual assault.

According to an affidavit by Detective Michael Chavez of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit, Lt. Daniel Carrier of the Mexico Police Department reported that Orchard told his mother, Margaret Rosher, during a phone call from the hospital after the incident, “It was like a vapor high or somethin’ when I was doin’ the floor over.”

He said he didn’t remember attacking Nuttall, the affidavit said.

“I was high; it was an accident,” he said, according to the affidavit. “It was a vapor; I didn’t have a mask on.” 

Glynn said that following Clifford’s decision, Orchard will be transported from the Cumberland County Jail to the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

“Initially, he will be placed in maximum security at Riverview, and after an assessment, depending on how the staff feels, he’ll be transitioned into the general population,” she said.

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Paul Orchard