February 5, 2013

Grand jury indicts Biddeford landlord on murder charges

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A York County grand jury has indicted a Biddeford man on charges of murder and attempted murder after he allegedly shot three tenants in December, killing two of them.

Prosecutors say James Earl Pak, 74, of 17 Sokokis Road, shot to death Derrick Thompson, 19, and Thompson's girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18, on Dec. 29.

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In this Dec. 31, 2012 file photo, James Pak appears in York County Superior Court to face charges of fatally shooting Derrick Thompson, 19, and Alivia Welch, 18, who were his tenants. Joel Vincent, Pak's attorney, is to his right.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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Derrick Thompson, left, and Alivia Welch

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Thompson's mother, Susan Johnson, also was shot but survived.

The indictment, handed up Tuesday, includes two counts of murder as well as charges of attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and burglary.

Police were first called to 17 Sokokis Road, in a neighborhood of single-family homes on the outskirts of the city, when Thompson reported that Pak was yelling, threatening him and banging on the door of the apartment attached to Pak's home.

Officer Edward Dexter responded, and after 32 minutes told the dispatcher, "This was a civil issue and the caller did not feel threatened at any time," according to a summary of radio communications provided by Biddeford police.

That appears to be at odds with a state police affidavit in support of Pak's arrest on murder charges. In that affidavit, police say: "Thompson told Officer Dexter that Pak claimed he was going to shoot them and made a hand motion in front of them."

Thompson later old police he didn't think Pak would hurt them.

Two hours after Pak's arrest, his blood alcohol content was 0.15 percent, almost twice the legal limit to drive.

Police would not characterize Pak's demeanor or level of intoxication or what he said to police after Thompson's initial call around 6:15 p.m., when Pak and the tenants were told by officers to keep away from each other.

Pak was arrested three hours after the shootings, which occurred shortly before 7 p.m., and it's not clear whether he drank before the deadly encounter.

The Portland Press Herald has requested the transcripts of the 911 call made by Thompson before the shooting.

The newspaper is challenging what it considers a blanket policy of the state Attorney General's Office of withholding transcripts from 911 calls connected with open criminal investigations.

Sigmund Schutz, the newspaper's attorney, filed a motion in January in Cumberland County Superior Court asking a judge to overturn the state's denial of the newspaper's Freedom of Access Act request for all 911 transcripts associated with open homicide investigations.

William Stokes, head of the Attorney General's Office's criminal division, said that the position of his office has been consistent and conforms with an exemption in state law that says information can be withheld if its release would jeopardize an investigation.

Schutz said that's not what the law says.

"There is a specific language in state law that says 911 transcripts are public records," Schutz said. "If they can't release those records, they need to say what information contained within would compromise the investigation. Then, that information can be redacted. The (state's) position is to not release any information and say, 'Trust us.'"

Cliff Schechtman, the newspaper's executive editor, said 911 transcripts are essential because they allow the public to evaluate how law enforcement does its job.

"It's easy to cite 'investigative information' as a blanket cover to keep everything secret," Schectman said. "But then how can the public know that first responders are doing their job well?"

The community has mourned the loss of Thompson and Welch.

Thompson worked as an auto detailer for Real Clean, a company that provides cleaning services for Patriot Subaru in Saco. He graduated from Biddeford High School in 2011. Welch, 18, graduated in June from Thornton Academy in Saco and worked at Aroma Joe's in Biddeford. She was a pre-nursing student at Southern Maine Community College.

They had dated since at least last spring.

Welch, who was called Liv by friends, had been staying with Thompson and his mother at their apartment in the month leading up to the shootings.

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Additional Photos

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A makeshift memorial for Derrick Thompson, 19, and his girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18. on Sokokis Rd. near the site of the shooting in Biddeford.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer


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