Sunday, March 9, 2014
PORTLAND — It took a jury just over an hour Monday to find Joel Hayden guilty of murdering the mother of his four children and his childhood friend.
Joel Hayden listens to the jury announce the verdict during his murder trial in the Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court in Portland on Monday afternoon January 14, 2013. Hayden was found guilty of killing Renee Sandora, the mother of his four children, and his longtime friend Trevor Mills.
Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer
Hayden's son, who was 7 at the time of the shootings in 2011, proved to be the strongest witness against his father.
In emotionally wrenching testimony, the boy had described seeing Hayden shoot Renee Sandora and Trevor Mills at Sandora's home in New Gloucester.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated through the lunch hour Monday after closing arguments in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court, and returned to the courtroom around 1 p.m. to find Hayden guilty of two counts of murder.
Hayden, 31, will face 25 years to life in prison for each murder when he is sentenced. That hearing is tentatively scheduled for early next month.
Sandora's mother and stepfather, Patricia and Mark Gerber, embraced after the verdicts were read.
Hayden sat with his back to the spectator seats, surrounded by sheriff's deputies and judicial marshals, and showed no response to the verdict.
As he was led from the courtroom, Hayden turned to his mother, Marie Hayden, and said, "I love you, ma."
Marie Hayden, who was in court for every day of the trial, responded, "I love you too."
Hayden shot Mills, 28, in the front doorway of Sandora's home at 322 Bennett Road in New Gloucester, then shot her in the driveway.
The shootings occurred on July 25, 2011, the day Hayden was supposed to move out of the mobile home because Sandora had told him to leave.
Mills, who was from Hayden's hometown of New Bedford, Mass., was there to help Hayden move out, according to testimony in the trial.
Both victims died at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston a day after the shootings.
In the trial that started last week, the first two witnesses delivered what one of Hayden's attorneys, Clifford Strike, considered the strongest evidence against him.
A Maine State Police dispatcher recounted taking the 911 call from Sandora around 6:41 p.m., after she had been shot once.
On a recording of the call, she could be heard saying, "My boyfriend just shot me. I am at 322 Bennett Road. He shot his friend, too. I've got four kids."
Later in the call, she could be heard saying to someone, "What, are you going to kill me in front of my kids?"
Shortly thereafter, the phone call disconnected.
Hayden's son, now 8, was the second witness, testifying that he saw Mills "go through the glass" of the door of Sandora's home, where police say he was shot four times.
The boy testified that his father then "went outside and he shot my mom."
In her closing argument, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said, "He basically executed both of them."
Since that night, all four children of Sandora and Hayden have been raised by her mother and stepfather, who live two-tenths of a mile up Bennett Road from where she was killed.
"We're very pleased justice has been served, and we'd like to get on with the business of raising our family," Mark Gerber said outside the courthouse Monday, with Sandora's mother at his side. "We're doing really well, every day getting better. We look forward to the next 25 years."
Patricia Gerber was the final witness in the trial, piecing together the last days of her daughter's life through a written dialogue they created by "constantly" text messaging.
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Mark Gerber, Renee Sandora's step-father, hugs Wanda Estes, Sandora's aunt, after Joel Hayden was found guilty of killing Sandora, the mother of his four children, and his longtime friend Trevor Mills in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland on Monday afternoon January 14, 2013.
Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer