January 17

Bill Nemitz: Maine killer’s appeal borders on the absurd

Double murderer Joel Hayden is right where he belongs – in prison for life.

I have two carefully chosen words for Joel Hayden, the two-time murderer who clearly has too much time on his hands in the Maine State Prison in Warren.

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Convicted murderer Joel Hayden

Staff File Photo

Shut up.

Hayden, 32, was not in attendance Wednesday when Clifford Strike, his court-appointed attorney, went through the motions of arguing Hayden’s post-conviction appeal before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Still, the half-hour proceeding – a waste of the state’s time if ever there was one – was held for one inescapable reason:

“My client wanted to appeal,” Strike said after trying, in all likelihood without success, to convince a skeptical court that his guy shouldn’t be serving two consecutive life sentences in the big house. “I don’t do an appeal if my client doesn’t want one.”

Before we get to that appeal, let’s look back on the crime.

It was the summer of 2011 and Renee Sandora was done with Hayden, her longtime boyfriend and the father of their four children, who made a living dealing illicit drugs when he wasn’t taking them himself. Long story short, Sandora told Hayden she wanted him out of the trailer in New Gloucester where they and the kids lived.

Trevor Mills, a friend of Hayden’s, had come up from Massachusetts to talk some sense into his buddy. It didn’t work. So Mills stuck around to at least help Hayden move out.

Instead, on July 25, 2011, Hayden grabbed his gun and shot Mills four times. Then, while Sandora tried to corral the kids into her car and flee, Hayden turned the gun on her.

“What are you going to kill me in front of my kids?” she screamed at him while a 911 line, which Sandora had called in desperation after the first shot penetrated her arm and abdomen, recorded her final words.

That’s exactly what he did. What’s more, Hayden is now behind bars in large part because the oldest of those kids – his then-7-year-old son, Ja’kai – had the guts to testify in open court last year that he watched as his father “shot my mom.”

Premeditation? Not only did Hayden buy ammo and go target shooting with his Colt. 45 in the days before the killings, but one of his drug customers testified that he told her he was “going to kill that bitch and get his boy too.”

Mental state? Hayden knew enough immediately after the shootings to hop in Mills’ black Cadillac and lead police on a high-speed chase through five York County towns before finally crashing in a futile attempt to run a police roadblock in Lyman.

Legitimate grounds for appeal? Let’s toss that one to Hayden’s attorney, who, to be fair, was only doing his job.

“I didn’t have as much to work with as I would have liked to,” Strike conceded after the court adjourned.

Hayden’s appeal follows two painfully predictable tracks:

First, his attorney argued, he was too drug-addled on the day in question to know what he was doing.

Despite all that trash talk in the days leading up to the shootings, despite his NASCAR-worthy driving in the hours that immediately followed, Hayden wants us to chalk it all up to what Strike called the “cornucopia of illegal and highly potent medications” allegedly coursing through Hayden’s veins.

Put more simply, Hayden wants us to believe the “oxy” made him do it.

Second, Strike maintained, the two concurrent life sentences handed down by Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills were excessive and quite possibly payback for Hayden’s decision to refuse a plea deal and go to trial – and in the process force his young son to relive the trauma by testifying against his own father.

(Continued on page 2)

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