PORTLAND — The 8-year-old son of Joel Hayden testified on the opening day of his father’s murder trial Monday that he saw his father walk out of the family’s home in New Gloucester and shoot his mother as the child looked on in shock.
Hayden, 31, is on trial in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court on two counts of murder, in the fatal shootings of Renee Sandora, the mother of his four children, and his longtime friend Trevor Mills on July 25, 2011.
Hayden’s oldest son, who was 7 at the time of the shootings, testified under questioning from Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese that he saw Mills, whom he referred to by the nickname Tre, “go through the glass” of the door of the house.
The boy, now a third-grader, said his father was in the house while his mother stood in the driveway and he watched from the grassy area beside the driveway at their home at 322 Bennett Road.
Marchese asked the boy what his father did after Mills went through the glass door.
“He went outside and he shot my mom,” the boy said.
Marchese asked the boy what he did when he saw his father shoot his mother.
“I was doing nothing. I was shocked,” the boy said. “I was shocked when I saw him do that.”
The boy said that during the shooting, his younger brother and twin baby sisters were strapped into car seats in the back of a sedan parked in the driveway.
After the boy finished testifying, as he left the courtroom, Hayden, seated between his lawyers, called out to the boy by name, saying, “Daddy loves you.”
The jury trial began before Justice Nancy Mills on Monday morning with opening statements, then went immediately into witness testimony.
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said in his opening statement that the jury would hear testimony that Hayden was a drug addict prone to jealousy when he shot his friend Mills, 28, and his estranged girlfriend, Sandora, who was 27.
Macomber said that Sandora and Hayden had been fighting in the months before the shooting, that Hayden was a drug addict and dealer, and that Mills had come to Maine from Hayden’s hometown of New Bedford, Mass., to help mediate.
But Hayden accused Mills of having an affair with Sandora and used a .45-caliber pistol to shoot him four times, sending him through the glass door of the house, according to the charge. He then shot Sandora twice.
Hayden was arrested that night after a high-speed chase with police that ended when he wrecked Mills’ car in Lyman and broke his back, according to Macomber.
One of Hayden’s attorneys, Sarah Churchill, said in her opening statement that Hayden is presumed innocent and that the state does not have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hayden committed the crimes.
“The evidence you will hear here throughout this trial will lead you to believe that the state’s unable to meet that burden,” Churchill said.
She said the gun that was used in the shootings was never recovered, and tests on a bullet and shell casing recovered from the crime scene tested negative for Hayden’s DNA.
Churchill also said that police who arrived at the house didn’t check on the shooting victims until long after they had been shot. She said the victims were brought to the hospital more than an hour after the shooting had been reported.
“The law enforcement officers who arrived at the scene will tell you it was chaotic. They didn’t quite know what was going on here,” she said. “You will have to rely on testimony of a 7-year-old boy. You will have to decide if his memory is credible.”
The first witness called in the case was a Maine State Police dispatcher, Marcia Gilpatrick, who received the first 911 call from 322 Bennett Road.
“It was a female, and she was a little panicked,” Gilpatrick said.
A prosecutor played a recording of the 911 call, in which a woman said, “My boyfriend just shot me. He shot his buddy too. I have four kids.”
The woman can then be heard yelling at someone else before the call ends abruptly.
The first person to arrive at the scene of the shooting was the Rev. Leslie Foley, who lived across the street.
On the witness stand, Foley said she heard the first round of gunfire, but dismissed it as hunters.
She then heard more gunfire as she went to her car to retrieve her cell phone.
“I heard a young voice saying, ‘Don’t shoot.’ I heard a couple more rounds of gunfire, and I heard a voice saying, ‘Don’t leave,’” Foley said.
She said she then saw a dark-colored car “peel out” from the gravel driveway of 322 Bennett Road and “race by.”
Sandora was still alive at that point, with “her body working hard to take in air and expel air,” Foley said.
Foley helped gather the children and spoke to the first police officer who arrived. The officer told them to gather in the basement of her home for safety, she testified.
Two state police troopers, Nathaniel Jamo and Douglas Cropper, testified about arriving at the scene of the shooting, their differing priorities and how they removed Sandora from the driveway and Mills from the doorway, both of them still alive.
Testimony is expected Tuesday from police about the high-speed chase that led to Hayden’s arrest, and from a doctor regarding the autopsies on the victims.
Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at [email protected]