FARMINGTON — A Jay man accused of killing his girlfriend July 11 while she slept at her Jay home pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of intentional or knowing murder.

James “Ted” Sweeney, 57, who is deaf, signed not guilty to an American Sign Language interpreter who spoke his answer out loud during an arraignment before Justice William Stokes in Franklin County Superior Court.

Police discovered the body of Wendy Douglass, 51, in her bed with “significant injuries to her head” and covered with a blanket at the house she shared with Sweeney at 5 Jewell St. 

Jay police did a wellness check on Douglass after Sweeney turned himself into the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn. Sweeney presented a written note at the jail just before 8 a.m. July 11 that read, “I am going to jail cause I hurt my girlfriend.” Sweeney wrote the note that asked to check on Douglass at 5 Jewell St.,  according to an affidavit filed with the court by Detective John L. Kyle II of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit-South.

When the residence was searched, an evidence response team located a “black wooden baseball bat with red/brown staining on it, hidden at the base of the stair leading to the second floor. The red/brown staining came back presumptive positive for blood.”

A baseball bat found in the home is believed to be the murder weapon, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese said outside of the court following Sweeney’s initial appearance in July.

Dr. Clare Bryce of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta told Kyle that “’the cause of death is blunt force trauma to Wendy’s head. The manner of death is homicide,’” the affidavit states.

Stokes told the court Tuesday that a conviction on a murder charge carries a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. In Maine, there is no possibility of probation or parole, he said.

A scheduled bail hearing was continued.

C0-defense council, Thomas Carey said they are expecting to get more information in the first week of October and then the defense will ask for a bail hearing.

Sweeney will be held without bail until the bail hearing, Stokes said.

A court schedule for the case will be addressed during a bail hearing and if there is a possible October or November bail hearing a trial at the earliest could be in late June or early July in 2018, he said.  

Assistant Attorney General Megan Elam represented the state Tuesday.

Sweeney was indicted on the murder charge in August. He has been held without bail at the Franklin County Detention Center since his arrest in July.

Douglass was well known in the Jay, Livermore Falls, Readfield area and had worked as produce manager at Food City in Livermore Falls for five years before her death.

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James “Ted” Sweeney

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