PARIS — A Peru man Wednesday was ordered — for a second time — to serve two life sentences for fatally shooting his former girlfriend and her then-boyfriend at a Market Square apartment Jan. 1, 2019.

Mark D. Penley of Peru appears Wednesday in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris where he was resentenced to two life terms for the murders of his ex-girlfriend, Heather Bickford, 31, of Canton, and her boyfriend, Dana Hill, 31, of Paris, at Hill’s apartment in Market Square on Jan. 1, 2016. Christopher Williams/Sun Journal

Mark D. Penley, 53, was sentenced in Oxford County Superior Court in November 2021 to two life sentences after being convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Heather Bickford, 31, of Canton, and her boyfriend, Dana Hill, 31, of Paris, who was the father of her 8-year-old and 3-month-old daughters. The girls were in the apartment when authorities discovered the bodies of Bickford and Hill.

Penley appealed his convictions and sentences to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in October 2022.

In January, the high court upheld his conviction but sent the case back to the trial judge for resentencing after concluding that judge had erred by twice counting the presence of domestic violence in his two-step sentencing analysis.

A photo of Heather Bickford of Canton, one of two people fatally shot in her boyfriend’s apartment in Paris in 2019, is exhibited in October 2021 at the murder trial of Mark Penley of Peru in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris. Christopher Williams/Sun Journal

Attorney Rory McNamara, who represented Penley during his appeals, had argued that Maine Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren, in his sentencing of Penley, had improperly considered the domestic violence aspect of the crime during each of the two separate steps of Maine’s sentencing process.

In the first step, the trial judge is tasked with setting a basic sentence for the crime by examining the way it was committed compared to the way it was committed in similar cases for that type of crime.


In the second step, the judge is supposed to consider aggravating and mitigating factors, including a defendant’s criminal history, that would add time to the basic sentence or reduce it.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber had argued before the high court that the trial judge had factored in only one of its sentencing analysis steps the domestic violence nature of Penley’s relationship with Bickford.

But in its opinion, the high court wrote: “Any history of domestic violence, apart from the commission of the crime itself, is properly considered only in step two. … The court’s analysis here cannot be viewed as harmless error because it may have affected the court’s determination of the basic term of imprisonment at life in prison.”

For that reason, the high court vacated Penley’s sentences and sent the case back to Justice Warren for resentencing.

On Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea told Warren that he should again impose two life sentences for the murders.

A photo of Dana Hill, one of two people fatally shot in Hill’s apartment in Paris in 2019, is exhibited in October 2021 at the murder trial of Mark Penley of Peru in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris. Christopher Williams/ Sun Journal

“There is no reason to deviate from the basic sentence of life imprisonment here when you consider that premeditation, the intent to cause multiple deaths and that the murders occurred in the presence of children are all present,” she said.


Verne Paradie, a Lewiston attorney who represented Penley at Wednesday’s hearing, but not during his trial, said Warren should consider imposing a sentence of 25 to 30 years, as Penley’s trial attorney had urged.

Tammy Guertin, Bickford’s mother, told the judge Wednesday that Bickford and Hill were robbed of all of the experiences parents normally have with their children throughout their lives.

“Heather and Dana don’t get a do-over,” she said. “There is no appeal hearing for them. There is no Supreme Court for them. They will always be dead. Say that to yourself very slowly. As harsh as it is. They will always be dead.”

“Two young, vibrant people with two small children will always and forever be gone from this world, Guertin said. “That can never be undone. Believe me when I tell you, I’ve done some bargaining with the Lord to try to work that out. And it just can’t be.”

“Mark Penley willfully and maliciously slaughtered my daughter. I read reports and I looked at pictures, so I know this to be true. He knowingly and with absolute intent killed her,” Guertin said.

“That action was carried out in front of two small children who could have been caught up in his malice. And they have had to live with that fallout and will forever,” said. “Mark Penley needs to be just as dead to this world. Since it can’t be done literally, in the state of Maine, then it is up to you, your Honor, to make sure it’s done figuratively,” as she urged Warren to reimpose two life sentences.


Warren asked Penley whether he wanted to speak.

“I’m fine,” Penley said, declining the offer.

Warren began his sentencing analysis by considering the nature and seriousness of the two murders.

In determining the basic sentence, the first step of the process, Warren noted two factors that are necessary in considering a life sentence in keeping with state law: multiple victims and premeditation.

Warren said he also took into consideration the presence of two children, who were possible witnesses to the fatal shootings and were in possible danger at the time of the murders.

The Supreme Court wrote in its January opinion that, “if a murder is committed as an act of domestic violence, that is an objective factor properly considered in the first step of the sentencing analysis,” Warren said.


The general facts of the way in which Bickford and Hill were killed also factor into the basic sentence, Warren said.

“There was blood spatter all over the apartment. There were eight shots fired and the gun was reloaded at some point … I guess I would describe this as a pretty savage incident,” he said.

In the second step of the sentencing process, looking at mitigating and aggravating factors that would increase or reduce the basic sentence, Warren talked about Penley as a “productive member of society” and someone who supported the older daughter of Bickford and Hill despite medical difficulties, even after learning she was not his biological daughter.

But Warren also pointed out the effect the murders had and will continue to have on the two girls.

“There will always be a gap in their lives,” he said, in addition to the lives of other family members of the two murder victims.

It’s unclear from the forensic evidence gathered at the crime scene to what extent Hill was alive after he was shot,  Warren said.


“But we do know that Heather Bickford was not immediately killed, that she left traces of her blood around the blood-spattered apartment and that she, therefore, had to know … that she was likely to — or certain to — die at Mr. Penley’s hands.”

Various threatening messages Penley left for Bickford before her murder was evidence that she was “tormented” by him, Warren said, an additional aggravating factor against Penley.

Because the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors, Warren said he would impose the two life sentences outlined in step one of the sentencing analysis.

Evidence presented at trial showed that Bickford had asked a local police officer to keep an eye out for Penley’s vehicle because she had been afraid of him.

Video surveillance outside Hill’s apartment in Market Square in Paris showed a figure approaching the stairs to the apartment shortly before 6 p.m., then leaving half an hour later on the night the couple was killed.

Penley’s cellphone data showed his movements that day.


Footwear shown in the video and from footprint impressions in snow outside the apartment were the same style as a pair of boots belonging to Penley, one of which had Bickford’s blood on it.

Bullets and shell casings recovered from the gun found under Bickford’s hand at the crime scene added up to more than that gun would hold, suggesting the shooter must have reloaded with another clip, prosecutors said.

Evidence presented at trial included threats in the form of Facebook voice messages, such as Penley telling Bickford: “You’re gonna be with me or you’re gonna be with no one.”

A medical examiner’s report showed Hill had been shot in the shoulder, hand and top of the head.

Bickford had been shot five times, including several times in the head and face.

Other evidence presented at trial included Penley’s bloody fingerprint found on Bickford’s cellphone in Hill’s apartment; the blood belonged to Bickford.


A search of Penley’s car, parked at the scene, contained a box of ammunition that matched the size, style and manufacturer of the ammo found in the apartment.

A search of Penley’s home turned up an empty box for the same model and serial number .22-caliber Ruger found at the crime scene.

The same ammunition found at the crime scene and in Penley’s car was also found in his home.

And a magazine clip with Bickford’s blood on it was found in a kitchen cabinet at Penley’s home.

Penley’s DNA was found on the magazine release lever on the gun recovered at the crime scene.

The defense argued the murderer could have been one of several potential suspects investigators had ignored during their investigation of who killed the couple because investigators had concluded early on that Penley had committed the crimes.

A jury of seven women and five men in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris convicted Penley after 2 1/2 hours of deliberations.

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