PORTLAND — It was the longest six hours of Richard Carlson’s life.

Around 2 a.m. on Feb. 9, 2009, the Standish resident woke to the sound of a man breaking into his home near the shore of Bonny Eagle Lake. The masked intruder, carrying what turned out to be a plastic toy gun, punched Carlson repeatedly in the face, knocking out some of his teeth.

The man demanded cash, ATM cards and pin numbers. He restrained Carlson with duct tape and continued to assault him. The man broke some of Carlson’s ribs and stabbed him twice with a 12-inch knife.

As Carlson listened, the intruder used the home’s washing machine to clean his own bloody clothes. Carlson freed himself after the man left.

“This wasn’t a 10- or 15-minute incident. This went on for over six hours,” Carlson told a judge Wednesday. “The rest of that day I was in an ambulance or in the trauma room, getting put back together.”

Ephriam Bennett, 48, who had past convictions for robbery and larceny in Texas and North Carolina, was arrested in the woods near Carlson’s home. He admitted to stealing $12 in cash and a credit card. Bennett pleaded guilty in October to seven charges, including felony robbery and elevated aggravated assault.

On Wednesday, he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

“I don’t have an excuse for what I did to Mr. Carlson,” Bennett told Justice Thomas Warren. “Words can’t explain how sorry I am.”

Bennett, sitting next to his lawyer, Clifford Strike, sobbed at various points during the hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court.

“I stole something from him that he can’t get back,” Bennett said of his victim. “His peace of mind.”

Carlson, 56, told Warren that he has been unable to work as a carpenter since the attack. His home is in foreclosure and his truck has been repossessed. Besides dealing with lingering pain from his physical injuries, Bennett sees psychologists, psychiatrists and other medical professionals on a weekly basis.

Bennett grew up in a public housing project in Chicago and served in the Army from 1985 to 1993, according to Strike, of the Portland firm Strike, Goodwin & O’Brien.

In 1994, Bennett was convicted of burglary and assault with a deadly weapon in Texas, and he served more than three years in prison.

He moved to Maine in 1998 and established a commercial cleaning and landscaping business in Brunswick. The business ultimately failed, and Bennett declared bankruptcy and lost his home, Strike said.

In 2008, Bennett was convicted of larceny in North Carolina. He was sentenced to 21 days in jail and 18 months on probation. He was on probation for that crime when he committed the robbery and assault against Carlson.

Strike asked for a 20-year sentence with all but nine years suspended. He said the 25-year sentence requested by District Attorney Stephanie Anderson was too harsh.

Strike noted that Bennett is a preacher and has counseled hundreds of inmates in the Cumberland County Jail in Portland. Several inmates wrote letters to the court on Bennett’s behalf, saying that his help has made a difference in their lives.

Anderson argued that Bennett is a threat to public safety. She gauged his risk of reoffending as “a guarantee.”

“What the victim went through that night, your honor, can only be characterized as torture,” Anderson said. “All this time, for several hours, he did not know if that breath he was taking would be his last.”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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