SKOWHEGAN — A former Skowhegan woman was found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity Tuesday in the Christmas Eve 2009 stabbing death of Richard Howe of Troy.

Karen McCaul, 46, was put in the custody of the commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. She was committed indefinitely to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

The medical examiner determined Howe, 63, died from an excess of blood in the heart cavity caused by a stab wound to the chest. Two other stab wounds, not life-threatening, also were reported by investigators.

Howe’s body was found inside McCaul’s front door. His death was ruled a homicide.

Superior Court Justice John Nivison made his determination Tuesday based on an agreement accepted by both the state and McCaul’s defense attorneys.

“There is no specified period of time,” Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case, said following the brief sentencing hearing Tuesday. “I don’t think she is eligible to apply for any modification of restrictions for at least six months. As a practical matter, it will be years, if at all, before her restrictions are reduced to the extent that she will be able to get out of Riverview for any extended period.”

McCaul has been in treatment since the day of the homicide. A warrant for her arrest was issued Dec. 28, 2009.

Howe was a volunteer driver for the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program. McCaul had been a client of Howe’s, but he had not been scheduled to pick her up that day.

She lived in an apartment diagonally across from the Somerset County Courthouse, where her case was heard.

Benson called three witnesses in court Tuesday, each painting a picture of a woman long troubled by mental illness.

Maine State Police Detective Jason Richards testified Tuesday that McCaul and Howe had been together at a home in Waldo County the day before Howe’s death. People at that residence reported McCaul as being agitated and acting strangely.

Clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Luke Douglas, who had done contract evaluations of McCaul for the State Forensic Services, said McCaul suffered from a paranoid type of schizophrenia, and had been hospitalized many times over the last 20 years.

Dr. Charles Robinson, a forensics psychologist with many years of experience in criminal cases, agreed with the assessment. He said McCaul had improved with treatment, medicines and a stable environment at Riverview, but was in the midst of psychosis on the day of Howe’s death.

McCaul was psychotic when she stabbed Howe and was unable to determine that what she was doing was wrong, he said.

Defense attorney Philip Mohlar of Skowhegan did not offer any argument to the evidence, agreeing that his client suffered from a major mental illness.

Howe’s family members who had assembled for the hearing Tuesday, declined to comment as they left the courthouse.

Doug Harlow — 474-9534

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