Monday, May 20, 2013
AUGUSTA -- Supporting their son, who is serving 45 years in prison for murder, is the driving force behind a couple's return to Maine.
From left, Peter George Bathgate II, Ann Bathgate, and Stephen Bathgate.
Stephen and Ann Bathgate, of New Port Richey, Fla., spent much of this summer in Maine, visiting the Maine State Prison in Warren twice a week to see Peter George Bathgate II.
"We love the contact visits," Ann Bathgate said. "They are so wonderful."
The family wants to continue those visits year-round, so they've put a bid in on a three-bedroom, two-bath home in Freedom, and are awaiting word about their mortgage application. They're returning to Florida this week to pack up.
The Bathgates lived in Vassalboro until 1988, when they moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Stephen Bathgate, 65, is retired, but considering going back to work. Ann Bathgate, 59, who worked for years as a paramedic, is no longer able to work and receives disability. Any money they can scrape up helps support Peter.
When Peter Bathgate says he needs something, the family tries to get it for him, like the $400 TV for his prison cell.
They ask themselves, "What are we going to give up?" Ann Bathgate said.
"Just about everything we do is about Peter," Stephen Bathgate said.
Peter Bathgate, 31, pleaded guilty in January to murdering 47-year-old Paul Allen of Augusta. At that hearing, the prosecutor said Bathgate struck Allen with a cane, stomped on him with steel-toed boots, and then ran him over with Allen's own pickup before dragging the body off the road near an entry to the quarry on Winthrop Street in Hallowell.
A member of Allen's family who lives in Augusta declined recently to speak about the case. However, at the sentencing hearing earlier this year, Terrance Allen, a brother of Paul Allen, expressed sympathy for Bathgate's family, saying: "They are all innocent bystanders as well."
The Bathgates are also no strangers to adversity.
In September 1983, they lost their Taber Hill Road home to fire, and bunked temporarily in a garage and a converted school bus on the site. Fellow church members helped them rebuild a home near the garage Stephen Bathgate used for his vehicle-repair business.
Now the Bathgates will move back to the state because their son needs them and will need a place to live when he is eventually released from prison.
The couple have their hopes pinned on a post-conviction review, a process in which lawyers argue whether there was some fault with the case. There is no appeal, since Bathgate pleaded guilty.
"We keep going after the next step," Ann Bathgate said in a recent interview in Augusta.
"We do everything we can to keep hope alive," Stephen Bathgate added.
They hope, specifically, to see their son released from prison. They'd like him to be walk out of prison free one day.
But both parents acknowledge that is a remote possibility. The 45-year prison term was recommended by both the defense attorney and the state. Bathgate had no prior criminal record.
Authorities said Bathgate was jealous and angry because Jessica Jones, the mother of Bathgate's young daughter, apparently had flirted with Allen.
Ann Bathgate firmly believes her son was protecting his daughter from Allen, who had been convicted in 1997 of gross sexual assault and unlawful contact involving his girlfriend's daughter, then about 5 years old.
"Do I agree with what he did? Absolutely not. He's still my son and I still love him," Ann Bathgate said.
She has been the more vocal parent.
"I went for a long time when I couldn't talk about it without breaking down," said Stephen Bathgate. Now, he can talk calmly about his son.
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