PORTLAND — As his girlfriend lay dead on the blood-stained floor of his bedroom, William Hanaman poured himself some coffee brandy, swallowed a massive dose of prescription medications and wrote a suicide note.

It was around midnight on Nov. 10, 2009.

Hanaman lit candles throughout his apartment on Ocean Avenue and turned the television to a country music channel. A Bible on the bed, a few feet from Marion Shea’s body, was opened to the Psalms.

“I can’t live in this hell anymore,” Hanaman wrote in the note, addressed to his sister. “We both loved each other but the evil world had its way. All that’s good turns bad.”

The next morning, police used bolt cutters to get inside Hanaman’s apartment. They found him barely breathing, lying on the bedroom floor with his arm draped over Shea. He eventually regained consciousness at Maine Medical Center.

A year later, the details of that surreal scene and the contents of Hanaman’s suicide note are crucial evidence in Hanaman’s murder trial, which opened Tuesday in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Prosecutors say the evidence will show that Hanaman, 52, murdered Shea by stabbing her eight times with a kitchen knife, and the note he wrote is further proof of his guilt.

“Marion Shea did not deserve to die,” Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said in her opening statement to the jury. “It was a relationship filled with drinking and drug use. It became toxic and dysfunctional until it became violent.”

Hanaman’s lawyer says his client stabbed Shea only after she came at him with the knife, and he reasonably believed that his life was in jeopardy.

“He’s not guilty because he acted in self-defense,” attorney Robert Levine said in his opening statement. “He’s going to testify and he’s going to tell you what happened.”

Levine described the suicide note as a love letter to Hanaman’s sister, and an ode to Shea, whom Hanaman had dated for about a year. The note showed that Hanaman was broken-hearted and devastated by what had just happened in the apartment, Levine said.

Jurors will have to decide which story to believe, and whether Hanaman should be convicted of murder, a crime that carries a penalty of 25 years to life in prison. Hanaman has been held without bail in the Cumberland County Jail since his arrest.

Shea, 47, had five children. She lived with a son in Gorham, but in the year leading up to her death she spent weeks at a time living with Hanaman at his apartment. Shea and Hanaman had known each other for about 30 years, but didn’t start dating until 2008.

Levine said Shea was the physical aggressor in the relationship, and that she assaulted Hanaman three times in the fall of 2009. All of those incidents happened when Hanaman confronted Shea over her abuse of prescription medications, including OxyContin and Valium, Levine said.

On Oct. 7, 2009, about a month before the killing, a police officer who was driving on Presumpscot Street in Portland saw Shea walking in the rain at 4 a.m. Hanaman was walking behind her. Shea had an injury to an eye and she was bleeding.

Hanaman told the officer that they had been fighting about Shea’s use of prescription medications and he was trying to get her to come back to his apartment.

The officer arrested Hanaman on a charge of domestic assault. He was released on bail, and one of the conditions prohibited him from having any contact with Shea. But the two continued to see each other.

Levine said Shea came to Hanaman’s apartment on Nov. 10, 2009, and Hanaman intended to bring her and her belongings to her son’s home in Gorham. Instead, according to Levine, they ended up in a fight over the prescriptions.

Levine said Hanaman had a collection of Shea’s empty pill bottles, which he intended to use in court to defend himself against the assault charge.

“When the pill bottles fell to the floor, he looks up and sees the knife,” Levine said. “It was coming down at him.”

Although Shea’s blood was on the knife that police found in Hanaman’s kitchen sink, Levine said, forensic evidence will show that Shea had handled the knife at some point.

“That’s how you’ll know that Bill Hanaman is telling the truth,” Levine said.

Zainea, the prosecutor, said the self-defense claim doesn’t pass the common-sense test. She said Shea died from stab wounds to her chest, abdomen, arm and buttocks, and the back of her legs. The cuts showed that Shea was trying to defend herself and get away from Hanaman, Zainea said.

After the stabbing, Hanaman put bloody clothing in a closet, put the knife in the sink and packed some personal mementos in a box. He called a cab and took the box to his sister’s house around 11 p.m., Zainea said. Then Hanaman returned to his apartment and attempted to commit suicide.

Police checked the apartment the next morning because Hanaman’s sister was concerned about him.

Hanaman, not Shea, was the violent and physically aggressive person in the relationship, Zainea told the jury.

“Marion Shea was stabbed eight times, starting at the center of her chest and moving down her body,” Zainea said. “She was trying to get away.”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]