FARMINGTON — Lawyers in the murder trial of James “Ted” Sweeney presented closing arguments Monday before Justice William Stokes, who said he will announce a verdict Feb. 1.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said on the fifth day of the trial the 58-year-old former Jay man knew it was wrong when he struck his former, longtime girlfriend, Wendy Douglass, 51, of Jay in the head multiple times with a softball bat while she slept at her home at 5 Jewell St. on July 11, 2017.

Sweeney, who is deaf, pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity in October 2018. His lawyers have said during his trial in Franklin County Superior Court he suffered from hallucinations and delusions, fueled by his belief that Douglass was cheating on him.

The two had been in a relationship for about 10 years, before it ended in June 2017, but he still lived at Douglass’ house, according to investigators.

A psychologist for the defense testified Friday that Sweeney suffered from schizophrenia, while a psychologist for the state testified Sweeney suffered from anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Zainea said Monday that on the eve of Douglass’ death, Sweeney was able to text his son to pick him up to go get cigarettes because he had been drinking. She said that in the early morning hours of July 11, 2017, Sweeney took half a tablet of Viagra, had sexual relations with Douglass and smoked a cigarette afterward.


She said Sweeney saw a text message on Douglass’ phone, got upset, picked up a bat, went into her bedroom and said, “‘You lie, you lie to me,’” then struck her, causing multiple skull fractures, a ruptured eyeball and hemorrhaging of the brain, among other injuries to her head.

Zainea said Sweeney believed “Wendy was cheating on him and nobody could have her except him.”

The prosecutor said that after the killing, Sweeney wrote a note that read: “‘I love you. You ruined my love. I already know you cheat. You lie, lie, lie a lot,’” taped it on the outside of her bedroom door and put a vest at the bottom of the door to block any smells from getting out.

He also sent text messages to two sons telling them he was going to jail, and typed an email to his pastor telling him what went on, Zainea said.

Before Sweeney left the house, he touched Douglass, found her warm to the touch but did not call 911, Zainea said. Instead, he drove to the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn and wrote a note that asked police to check on Douglass because he had hurt her, the prosecutor said.

Police found her body in her bed and a bat with her blood on it near the front door. A state medical examiner testified Douglass died of blunt force trauma to the head. 


“This defendant had the capacity to know what he did was wrong,” Zainea said. “What he did wrong was murder.” 

Sweeney’s co-counsel, Walter Hanstein, said his client realized there was something wrong when he wrote a letter to Douglass in April 2017 that she kept in her purse. The letter said he needed to get his bad head out of his mind, Hanstein said.

Sweeney also told a friend that he was having bad thoughts, Hanstein said.

When he went to a doctor in the spring 2017, Sweeney was depressed, according to a medical record presented to the court.

According to testimony, another indication something was wrong was when Douglass woke up to find Sweeney holding a gun and threatening to kill himself, Hanstein said. Sweeney had his son take him to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston to be evaluated but was not admitted, his attorney said.

Dr. Robert Q. Pollard Jr., a psychologist who testified for the defense, previously told the court Sweeney indicated to him that if he hurt  Douglass, he would get arrested and get the help he needed, and stall any relationship she would have with someone else.


Sweeney told his son and others many times Douglass was cheating on him, but never provided any evidence, according to testimony.

Sweeney’s jealousy was to the point of being delusional, Hanstein said, but there is no evidence Sweeney wanted to kill the woman he loved. 

Hanstein said witnesses testified Sweeney treated Douglass well, and there were no incidents of domestic violence. 

Zainea countered that Sweeney was following Douglass, spying on her and putting up cameras.

“In essence he was stalking her,” she said.

He wanted to know where she was, who she was with and what she was doing, she said. 


Zainea said the manager of the store where Douglass worked said it best. Jennifer St. Pierre of Jay, manager of Food City in Livermore Falls where Douglass was produce manager, testified she was aware of some of Sweeney’s behaviors and told Douglass several times to leave him.

“This was not a healthy relationship,” Zainea said. 

There is a difference between knowing something is wrong and having the substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of criminal conduct, defense co-counsel Thomas J. Carey said.

According to state law, “A defendant is not criminally responsible by reason of insanity if, at the time of the criminal conduct, as a result of mental disease or defect, the defendant lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of the criminal conduct.”

Mental disease or defect means only those severely abnormal mental conditions that grossly and demonstrably impair a person’s perception or understanding of reality, the law states.

“An abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal conduct or excessive use of alcohol, drugs or similar substances, in and of itself, does not constitute a mental disease or defect,” according to the law.


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James “Ted” Sweeney, 58, formerly of Jay, listens to closing arguments Monday during his murder trial in Franklin County Superior Court. His lawyers, seated from left, are Thomas J. Carey and Walter Hanstein. Standing behind them is Detective Michael Chavez of the Maine State Police. (Sun Journal photo by Donna M. Perry)

Murder suspect James “Ted” Sweeney, right, stands with his lawyers Thomas J. Carey, second from left, and Walter Hanstein, third from left, on Monday in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington. At left is Detective John Kyle of the Maine State Police. (Sun Journal Photo by Donna M. Perry)

Defense co-counsel Walter Hanstein, standing at podium, delivers closing argument Monday in the murder trial of James Sweeney, formerly of Jay, while American Sign Language interpreter Jane Hecker-Cain, seated front, signs what he is saying to Sweeney, who is not seen in the photo. Assistant Attorney Generals Leane Zainea, seated at table on left, behind Hanstein and Meg Elam, right, listen. (Sun Journal Photo by Donna M. Perry)

Maine Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, standing at podium, gives the state’s closing argument Monday in the murder trial of James Sweeney, formerly of Jay,at Franklin County Superior Court. American Sign Language interpreter Jane Hecker-Cain, seated front, signs what she is saying to Sweeney, who is not seen in the photo.  (Sun Journal Photo by Donna M. Perry)

Justice William Stokes speaks with a lawyer while court security officer Nick Holloway stands to his left during the closing arguments Monday in the murder trial of James “Ted” Sweeney, formerly of Jay. (Sun Journal Photo Donna M. Perry) 

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