PORTLAND – The man accused of killing the mother of his four children and his longtime friend earlier this week made an initial court appearance in the case Thursday.

Joel Hayden has been charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of 27-year-old Renee Sandora of New Gloucester and 28-year-old Trevor Mills of New Bedford, Mass. Hayden, 29, is accused of shooting them in front of Sandora’s home on Bennett Road in New Gloucester on Monday evening. Sandora and Mills both died the following day.

Hayden did not enter pleas during the brief proceeding in Cumberland County Superior Court. He said only “Yes,” “No” and “No, ma’am” in response to procedural questions from Justice Nancy Mills. He indicated that he was on medication but was not impaired.

Hayden walked stiffly into the courtroom wearing yellow jail clothing. A brace and what appeared to be a hospital gown were visible underneath.

Maine State Police said Hayden suffered serious back injuries when his car crashed in Lyman after a police pursuit on Monday night following the shootings. He appeared to have great difficulty sitting down and standing up.

The judge ordered that Hayden continue to be held without bail, though his court-appointed lawyer, John Ney, can ask for bail.

The judge agreed to a request by Ney that a police affidavit concerning the case be sealed.

Ney said he could not comment substantively on the case at this time. He said he met Hayden briefly for the first time Wednesday and again Thursday afternoon.

Hayden and Sandora had four children, from 3 months to 7 years. Their eldest child told police that Hayden and Sandora had been arguing about visiting “Auntie,” and that Hayden was holding Sandora’s car keys away from her, according to a police affidavit obtained by the Portland Press Herald.

The affidavit indicated that the child saw Hayden push Mills, whom police have described as Hayden’s longtime friend, through a door and then shoot Mills and Sandora. The other three children were in Sandora’s car when neighbors found the 7-year-old running around the yard.

Sandora’s parents told police Sandora and Hayden had been fighting continuously since June, according to the affidavit. They said Sandora would kick Hayden out of their home, but that he would later return.

Hayden’s criminal history in Maine indicates that in addition to New Gloucester, he has also had addresses in Lewiston, Gray and New Bedford, Mass.

Police said there had been a history of domestic violence between the couple. Sandora sought two protection-from-abuse orders against Hayden in Portland District Court during 2008. One was dismissed when she did not appear in court. She asked that the second be terminated because their child was asking to see his father, who was serving an 11-month sentence at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham on a conviction of eluding an officer. Sandora wrote that she was the only one who could take the child to the prison.

Maine has had three fatal instances of domestic violence that involved children since early June. In Winslow, Nathaniel Gordon shot his wife, Sarah, while their two children, ages 8 and 9, watched. Later that month in Dexter, Steven Lake killed his estranged wife, Amy, and their two children, 13-year-old Coty and 12-year-old Monica. Both Gordon and Lake committed suicide.

In the New Gloucester case, Hayden will have to stand trial for homicides committed in front of his children, said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese.

“The state believes it has a very good case,” she said after Hayden’s court appearance.

It’s not clear when Hayden will be back in court. The next step likely will be indictment by a grand jury and arraignment, Marchese said.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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