AUGUSTA — A man who was found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity for stabbing a Turner couple to death in 2021 has been given permission to leave Riverview Psychiatric Center for outings in Augusta.

The outings will be limited to up to two hours at a time, under the supervision of two hospital staff members.

Family members of Troy Varney, 52, and Dulsie Varney, 48 — the couple stabbed to death by Patrick Maher, 26 — expressed outrage Friday that he could be allowed out of Riverview for any length of time, less than two years after the brutal killing, and less than a year after he was committed to the custody of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Maher had been renting a room from the Varneys at the time of the murders.

“I was 19 years old when I witnessed Patrick break into my home and stab my parents to death,” said the couple’s youngest daughter, Shelby Varney, who witnessed and interceded in Maher’s attack on her parents with her boyfriend. She said Maher laughed and screamed during and after the attack, which she said left her with fear and pain she can’t escape. “I feel this pain deep in my heart. It never stops. It’s only two years since I witnessed the murder of my parents. There’s no way he can be OK, in less than two years.”

A judge found Maher not criminally responsible about a year ago after he waived his right to a trial. He was committed by Justice Thomas McKeon to the Department of Health and Human Services and placed at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.


At a court hearing Friday at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings, after more than three hours of testimony, agreed to grant the change in his treatment plan.

The change was recommended by Riverview mental health workers on Maher’s treatment team. It was also deemed acceptable by experts at the State Forensic Service, an entity tasked with providing objective, independent analysis of the risk posed by patients found not criminally responsible.

Maher will be restricted to within 10 miles of Riverview during his supervised outings.

Billings expressed sympathy to the Varney family but said he heard no testimony from the several mental health professionals who spoke Friday that allowing Maher a small amount of supervised time in the community would put anyone at risk.

He noted if Maher had access to the mental health professionals who are working with him now, he may have never reached the point of his psychosis he had when he stabbed the Varneys to death at their Knight Farm Road home.

Troy Varney’s brother, Trevor, said his brother feared Maher and had sought help only to be told there was nothing authorities could do.


“It was less than two years ago that my brother stood in front of a man of the law and asked him, “please help me, this person is not well, we are in fear, what can you do?'” Trevor Varney said in court. “And the lawman said “there is nothing I can do. My hands are tied,’ and he got in his cruiser and drove away. Eight hours later my brother was dead.”

Officials said Maher would start incrementally with, for example, a 15-minute outing with staff, either driven in a vehicle or walking in the community. If those outings go well they could be extended to up to two hours.

Dr. Mary Tibbetts, a psychiatrist and head of Maher’s treatment team at Riverview, said Maher has responded well to treatment, complies with directions from staff, attends multiple peer groups and has been good about taking his medication, Abilify. He has not shown signs of having delusions or hallucinations during the several months she has been treating him, she said.

A psychologist ordered by the court to evaluate Maher’s state of mind at the time of the crimes said when Maher went off his antipsychotic medication, he experienced visual and auditory hallucinations. His schizophrenia also caused him to lack the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions. He said Maher was suffering from delusions that led him to believe he was acting as a CIA operative. He thought the CIA wanted him to kill his landlords, believing they were imposters or shapeshifters.

Spending time away from the unit where he is held is important for Maher’s treatment process and can be done safely, Tibbets said.

“We’re in the treatment business, not the prison business,” she said on the witness stand Friday. “To help someone grow and progress we need to see them in different environments. To keep Mr. Maher locked up would not be treatment. So we start with very small, incremental increases in privileges.”


Dr. Shalene Kirkley, a psychologist and forensic examiner with the State Forensic Service, said the entity considers the violence of the crime involved in assessing the risk of allowing perpetrators out into the community.

“Mr. Maher has committed the most egregious acts of violence, that increases his risk for the future, no matter what happens,” Kirkley said. “Very few people have committed such a heinous act. So I’m looking at any type of aggression he could display.”

She agreed with other mental health workers who have observed Maher that since he has been on the appropriate medication he has responded well to treatment and not committed any acts of violence. She noted he has already been allowed to take walks on the grounds of Riverview, parts of which are not fenced in, under the supervision of one staff member, and those were successful.

Dr. Christopher Braley, a psychologist who has treated Maher at Riverview, said the crime he committed and the impact he caused weigh very heavily on Maher and cause him to feel shame and self-loathing.

Under state law Maher, like other patients found not criminally responsible, may petition the court again in six months if he wishes to seek to further expand his privileges.

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