FARMINGTON — A former Jay man charged in the death of his girlfriend last year pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity and waived a jury trial Thursday at Franklin County Superior Court.

James “Ted” Sweeney, 58, is accused of murder in the July 11, 2017, killing of Wendy Douglass, 51, while she slept at her home at 5 Jewell St. in Jay, where he also lived.

The cause of death was “blunt force trauma to her head,” according to an affidavit filed with the court by Maine State Police Detective John L. Kyle II of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit-South.

Sweeney, who was wearing a gray sweatshirt and orange jail pants, had pleaded not guilty to the charge in September 2017, following an indictment on a charge of intentional or knowing murder on Aug. 24, 2017.

Sweeney, who is deaf, watched an American Sign Language interpreter sign what Justice William Stokes said. The interpreter then gave Sweeney’s answers to the court.

A second interpreter sat at the defense table with Sweeney and defense lawyers Thomas J. Carey and Walter Hanstein.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea represented the state.

A bench trial before Stokes is set to begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 7, 2019, and is expected to last more than a week. Pretrial motions filed by prosecutors and defense are due by Dec. 14.

Sweeney has been held without bail at the Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington since shortly after he turned himself in at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn on July 11, 2017. He presented a note that read, “I am going to jail cause I hurt my girlfriend,” according to an affidavit filed with the Farmington court last year.

The note asked that police check on Douglass. Her body was found in her bed with “significant injuries to her head.” 

A baseball bat found in her home is believed to be the murder weapon.

Douglass was well-known in the Jay-Livermore Falls area, working as produce manager at Food City in Livermore Falls for five years before she died. Friends described her the day she died as “happy-go-lucky.”

Sweeney underwent a forensic evaluation for competency, criminal responsibility and other mental health conditions earlier this year. 

A conviction on a murder charge carries a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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James “Ted” Sweeney, 58, formerly of Jay, enters the Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday in Farmington, followed immediately by jail transport officer Cpl. Phillip Richards and court officer Cpl. John Irving. Sweeney pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity in the bludgeoning death of his girlfriend in Jay last year. (Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal)

James “Ted” Sweeney, 58, second from right, is flanked by his defense team, attorney Thomas J. Carey, left, sign language interpreter Meryl Troop and attorney Walter Hanstein, right, Thursday in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington. Sweeney, formerly of Jay, pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity in the bludgeoning death of his girlfriend in Jay last year.(Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal) 

Wendy Douglass


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