February 6, 2013

For two killings, Maine man gets life plus verbal lashing

Joel Hayden, who killed his girlfriend in front of their young son, is told he is beyond rehabilitation.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The judge who gave Joel Hayden two life sentences Tuesday spent more time explaining his punishment than a jury spent finding him guilty of murder.

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Joel Hayden listens to comments from the families of murder victims Renee Sandora and Trevor Mills prior to his sentencing in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Tuesday.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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On Tuesday, Feb. 05, 2013, Patricia Gerber, left, mother of Renee Sandora, murder victim, breaks down as she speaks before Joel Hayden was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences for killing the mother of his four children, Renee Sandora and his best friend, Trevor Mills.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Hayden, 31, was convicted last month of two counts of murder for shooting Renee Sandora, the mother of his four children, and his friend Trevor Mills on July 25, 2011, at Sandora's home in New Gloucester.

The murders happened while Hayden's then-7-year-old son watched.

"The evidence in this case was overwhelming, yet you forced your own son to testify against his father in a courtroom packed with strangers," Justice Nancy Mills said to Hayden before announcing the concurrent life sentences.

The judge noted that after the boy finished testifying about watching his father shoot his mother, Hayden called out to him, saying, "Daddy loves you."

"I can only suggest that your actions speak louder than words," Mills said to Hayden.

The judge delivered the sentences after hearing statements from family members and friends of Sandora, who was 27, and Trevor Mills, of New Bedford, Mass., who was 28. Other friends submitted letters for the judge to read in considering her sentence.

Sandora's mother, Patricia Gerber, and stepfather, Mark Gerber, took in Sandora's four children after her death. They have since been raising them like their own, they said.

Mark Gerber said he can't imagine the horror that Hayden's son, who's now 8, must relive after seeing his father shoot his mother. He said the boy, the oldest of the four children, has been getting counseling since then and does well in school.

"He's a brave and special boy. He prays to God to bless his mother every night," Mark Gerber said.

Patricia Gerber said she's a good mother to the children, but she can't replace their own mother.

"When Joel took my daughter's life, he had no idea what he took from me," she said. "He not only took my daughter, he took my best friend."

Trevor Mills' mother, Eleanor Mills, said she hasn't had time to mourn her son's death, and has been focused on trying to hold her family together without him.

"We were very close. And when he was murdered, part of me was murdered, part of my family was murdered," she said. "It just hurts me, and I ask why."

She looked directly at Hayden as she spoke. Hayden looked back at her.

"I wonder sometimes how Mr. Hayden feels, if he has a heart," she said.

Sandora's best friend, Amanda Moon, said Sandora stayed with Hayden despite his drug addiction and paranoia because she thought she could "save him" and help him get sober.

"He would keep her up for days with accusations that she was unfaithful to him, when we all know he was the one running around," Moon said. "It tears me apart that I let that coward come between us."

During Hayden's trial in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court, witnesses said Sandora had told Hayden to move out of her home days before the shooting, that she had had enough of his drug use, and that Hayden's best friend, Trevor Mills, had driven up from Massachusetts to help with the move.

Hayden shot his friend four times, leaving him to die in the doorway of Sandora's home on Bennett Road. Sandora was shot once before she called 911, then was shot in the head at point-blank range, witnesses and prosecutors have said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Amanda Moon, Renee Sandora's best friend, speaks before the sentencing of Joel Hayden for killing the mother of his four children, Renee Sandora, and his best friend, Trevor Mills.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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click image to enlarge

On Tuesday, February 05, 2013, Eleanor Mills, mother of Trevor Mills who was murdered by Joel Hayden stares at him as she speaks, before Hayden was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences for killing the mother of his four children, Renee Sandora and his best friend, Trevor Mills.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

 


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