A judge has declared a Freeport man not criminally responsible by reason of insanity for the stabbing death of a Scarborough farmer and other crimes during a violent rampage in 2019.

Quinton Hanna, 24, is now committed to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for an indefinite period. He will be transferred to the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for treatment, and he will not be released from state custody without a court order finding that he is no longer a danger to himself or others.

Hanna sat quietly through the hearing Wednesday at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. He spoke only to answer the judge’s questions and did not look at the people who delivered emotional statements about the lasting impacts of his actions.

James Pearson of Scarborough, who was known as Jim, on a tractor at his Beech Ridge Farm in November 1999. Staff file photo

Mary Pearson recalled the terrible morning when her father was fatally stabbed outside his home. James Pearson, 82, was a longtime educator at Gorham High School and the owner of Beech Ridge Farm, which grows Christmas trees. She raced to her parents’ house to find her father in a shirt covered with blood, her mother in shock and her brother on the phone with 911. Mary Pearson knelt on the floor in front of him as he took his last breath.

“I often wake early in the morning and relive the morning he died in front of me,” she said. “I get mad and frustrated at myself when I try to do things like Dad would have, and I can’t do them as well as him. I get mad when I can’t share a joke or a story that would make him laugh or giggle until he doubled over. I get mad when I damage or break something that’s Dad’s. I get mad when I cry like a baby, when I feel like I should be able to stand tall.”

More than two years have passed since police arrested Hanna on his rampage across Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties. He faced 15 charges, including murder, elevated aggravated assault, unlawful sexual contact, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and robbery. His mental state was an immediate and important question in the case.


On Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis and defense attorney Andrew Wright agreed that the court should find Hanna not criminal responsible by reason of insanity. Dr. Sarah Miller, head of state forensic services, testified that Hanna had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was experiencing the symptoms of a psychotic break at the time of the attacks. She said he had stopped taking his medications a couple months prior, and his mental health had deteriorated until he was hearing voices telling him to hurt people.

“Can you tell us what that means? A psychotic break?” Ellis asked Miller.

Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis asks Dr. Sarah Miller, director of Maine’s state forensic services, about Quinton Hanna’s mental health at the time of the crimes and his mental health history. She testified that Hanna was experiencing the symptoms of a psychotic break at the time of the attacks.  Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

She explained that a psychotic break is a broad term but means that there are prominent symptoms of psychosis at the moment.

“In Mr. Hanna’s case, that means he is hearing things that aren’t really there,” she said. “He is thinking other people are against him or trying to harm him in some way. His behavior is unusual and disorganized and doesn’t really seem to make any sense.”


Ellis also detailed the police account of that terrible weekend.


The violence began at 7:45 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2019. A Freeport man noticed a car pull into his driveway when he was not expecting anyone. Hanna got out of the car and asked for someone by name. The man said no one with that name lived in the house, and Hanna stepped forward and stabbed him twice in the chest. That man survived and was able to give a description of his attacker to the police.

Investigators collected security footage that showed Hanna driving around in Scarborough late that night and early the next morning. At 8 a.m., he knocked at a home near the Pearsons’ farm, but the two people inside did not open the door. At 8:15 a.m., Pearson went outside to get cigarettes and came back inside bleeding from three stab wounds. He died later that morning at the hospital.

At 10 a.m., a woman was out for a run in West Bath. Hanna drove past her in his car and then circled back. She became suspicious when he got out of the car, and she tried to walk away. Hanna grabbed her at knifepoint, dragged her into the nearby woods and threatened to kill her. He then sexually assaulted her until she was able to free herself. When she fled, he chased her in his car and hit her. His car crashed into the trees, and he fled on foot.

Mary Pearson, daughter of James Pearson, addresses the court Wednesday during Quinton Hanna’s hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse. Pearson, a longtime police officer, said, “I am disappointed because the system I believed in and worked to support for 32 years has let me down.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

At 10:30 a.m., Hanna knocked on another door in West Bath and asked a woman there for a phone. When she returned with one, he had entered her home. He pulled out a knife, threatened to kill her and demanded her car keys. Her husband then entered the room with a loaded handgun and Hanna ran again. At 11:17 a.m., a woman who lived nearby noticed that a car was missing from outside her house. Brunswick police eventually stopped Hanna in that stolen vehicle and arrested him.


Friends and family described Pearson during the hearing as a beloved teacher, a do-it-yourself farmer, a supportive father and a doting grandfather. His best friend remembered their conversations over coffee and their camping trips. His daughter remembered sitting on his lap and watching him peel an orange in his particular way with a beloved pocket knife, and her wife described the sadness and anger that has taken root in their family since his death. His son talked about the red coat his dad used to wear at the Christmas tree farm, the one returning guests remember with fondness and he cannot bear to put on himself.


They also said they have accepted this outcome for Hanna reluctantly and only because they do not want to go through a trial.

“I am disappointed because the system I believed in and worked to support for 32 years has let me down,” said Mary Pearson, a longtime local police officer. “People used to tell me the system is set up for the defendants. I used to try to persuade citizens of Scarborough the system won’t let you down. I was wrong, and they were right.”

The woman Hanna assaulted in West Bath also described her experience to the judge. She recounted the attack in detail – the way she kept her eyes on his knife as she tried to fight him off, the excruciating pain she felt after he hit her with his car, her screams that drew a neighbor to her aid before Hanna fled into the woods. She described injuries both physical and emotional, the surgeries she has experienced in the last two years and the new fear she feels in her life.

She also said she works as a mental health provider and understands the outcome of this case. She looked ahead to the years of treatment and evaluation that await Hanna in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“I am unable to make ethical sense of the thought that this man could ever be integrated into our communities again,” she said. “For the safety of our society, I hope that every professional passing judgment about this man’s impending future consider the gravity of their choices, decisions and recommendations, that they understand the ripple effects that those conclusions can have on the lives of those that cross this man’s path.”

Quinton Hanna, who sat quietly through his court hearing, will be transferred to the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for treatment, and will not be released from state custody without a court order finding that he is no longer a danger to himself or others. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Portland Press Herald does not name victims of sexual crimes without their consent.



Maine law states that a defendant is not criminally responsible if “a mental disease or defect” prevents that person from understanding the wrongful conduct. In such cases, the court is required to commit the person to the custody of the state Department of Health and Human Services for placement in an institution or residential program for treatment.

Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings said Hanna is unlikely to be released soon – or maybe ever.

“The best thing you can do to show you understand the impact of your actions is to engage cooperatively in the treatment, to try to work with the people who are going to care for you, to address the disease that led to your actions,” Billings said to Hanna before officers led him away in handcuffs. “I urge you to work with your treatment providers to address the horrible conditions that have led to the senseless crimes we heard about here today.”

Justice Daniel Billings told Quinton Hanna at Wednesday’s hearing: “Work with your treatment providers to address the horrible conditions that have led to the senseless crimes we heard about here today.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Wright, the defense attorney, said after the hearing that the case is a tragedy and an example of the failure of mental health services in Maine.

“None of what happened that December should have happened,” he said. “We need better mental health services throughout the state. We need an actual system and not a patchwork of nonprofits trying to keep it together. Our prisons and jails are full of the mentally ill.

“Unfortunately the criminal system, a system not designed to help these people, becomes the only safety net, and an ill-fitting one at that, for the mentally ill. Mr. Hanna was and is sick. He should have been helped well before this descent into his illness. The victims and their families deserve better than to be exposed to this. More than anything, people like Quinton deserve better proactive treatment for mental health issues and less reactive care.”

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