Bath man appealing his attempted murder conviction argues he was not of sound mind

A Bath man convicted of attempting to kill a woman Shirley as she prepared to feed animals in her barn more than three years ago claims a Superior Court judge wrongly concluded that he was sane when he committed his crimes.

Christopher Hallowell, 27, alleges that his mental condition on July 8, 2019 and his mental health history render him not responsible for his actions. Hallowell is asking the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine to either overturn his convictions and release him or find him not guilty by reason of insanity and send him to the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for treatment.

Christopher Hallowell, now 27, from Bath. Credit: Courtesy of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office

He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity just before his non-jury trial before Judge William Anderson last summer in Piscataquis County Superior Court in Dover-Foxcroft. Hallowell was initially found unfit to stand trial in December 2020, but was found competent the following August when his trial was held.

Hallowell had a history of psychiatric problems and believed those close to him abused his great-grandmother, according to briefs filed in the state’s highest court. The victim was married to one of Hallowell’s first cousins. Details of Hallowell’s concerns about the mistreatment of her great-grandmother are not included in the court documents.

Hallowell shot and wounded, then beat the victim with the butt of a gun after using a stun gun on her around 6.45am after waiting hours for her to arrive at a stable at North Point Farm and Garden at Shirley.

The victim, who was shot once, was taken to Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, where he was treated for injuries that were not considered life-threatening, although Hallowell told him shot at least eight times, according to trial testimony.

Hallowell shot her with a .22 caliber rifle, but after it jammed, he fired a .380 caliber handgun before hitting her with his butt.

The victim was able to drive away from Hallowell and flag down a passing motorist, but Hallowell then fired at the vehicle and hit it at least three times.

After the shooting, a Maine State Police trooper arrested Hallowell in Albion after a short chase.

Ellsworth’s attorney, Maxwell Coolidge, who is handling Hallowell’s appeal, argued in his brief that Anderson failed to give due consideration to “Mr. Hallowell’s mental abnormalities otherwise only to comment on his anger and rigid thinking.

“There was evidence, however, that Mr Hallowell’s autism spectrum disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder caused much more severe symptoms than just rigid thinking and strong emotions,” Coolidge said. “Mr. Hallowell also suffered from delusions that distorted his perception of reality. Given this evidence, a rational trier of fact could not have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Hallowell acted with the necessary intent to kill [the victim].”

Piscataquis County Assistant District Attorney Mark Rucci, who did not prosecute the case, argued that Anderson properly decided the case.

“[The judge] found that the state had established that Hallowell acted intentionally in attempting to murder the victim after reviewing extensive testimony from mental health professionals,” he said. “It was entirely at the discretion of the court. … This was a case where two psychiatrists came to opposing conclusions as to criminal liability. The court chose to credit the opinion of [the prosecution’s witness] Dr. April O’Grady, a decision that was squarely within her purview as an investigator.

Hallowell is serving a 25-year sentence at Maine State Prison in Warren, according to the Maine Department of Corrections. Hallowell’s earliest possible release date, if he loses the appeal, is May 22, 2039.

Anderson convicted Hallowell of attempted murder, a Class A felony; aggravated assault, a Class B felony; and three counts of reckless driving and one count each of criminal threat with a dangerous weapon, criminal mischief with a dangerous weapon, and escape from an officer, all Class C felonies.

Hallowell faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 for attempted murder and up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 for aggravated assault. Class C felonies carry a maximum sentence of five years and a fine of up to $5,000.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments in the case Sept. 8 at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.

There is no time limit for the judges to render a decision.

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