December 7, 2012

Maine man gets 70 years for 1980 murder

Jay Mercier of Industry, who killed Rita St. Peter of Anson, could be released after serving 40 years.

By DOUG HARLOW Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN – Jay Mercier was sentenced Friday to 70 years in prison for the murder 32 years ago of Rita St. Peter of Anson.

click image to enlarge

Jay Mercier reacts after being sentenced to 70 years in prison for the 1980 murder of Rita St. Peter, at the Somerset County Superior Court House in Skowhegan on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012.

Michael G. Seaman / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Christine Belangia, right, hugs Laurie Ann Robbins, left, following the sentencing of Jay Mercier at the Somerset County Superior Court House in Skowhegan on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. Mercier received 70 years for the 1980 murder of Rita St. Peter.

Michael G. Seaman / Staff Photographer

Justice John Nivison said he could not impose a life sentence on Mercier, of Industry, because it did not meet standards of extreme cruelty, torture or premeditation set by the state in 1990.

Mercier was arrested Sept. 28, 2011, and charged with murder.

Friends and members of St. Peter's family said they were satisfied with the sentence, even after being told that the state good time rules in place in 1980 mean Mercier, 57, could serve about 40 years. Good time is earned by a prison inmate each month for keeping to the prison rules and not getting in trouble.

"It's going to be life for him either way because he's 50-something years old now, he'll never make it out," said St. Peter's sister Christine Belangia of Weld. "It's good. We're happy."

Another sister Maxine Cross of Skowhegan agreed, but said she was bothered that Mercier never admitted to the murder or showed any emotion during his trial.

"That's what I don't understand -- why doesn't he have any apology? No remorse, no nothing," Cross said outside the courthouse. "There was closure, but there will always be pain. It's been 32 years and he's had his life free and she never got to live hers."

St. Peter's daughter Terri Foulkes of Norridgewock said the difference between Mercier being in his 90s when he is eligible to be released and 127 makes little difference.

"It wasn't going to make it either way," she said. "It's been a long time, but it's finally come."

Allowed to address the judge inside the courtroom Friday morning, Foulkes, who was 2 when her mother was killed, said in a statement read by a victim's advocate, "You took my mother away and all the good times growing up.

"Do I laugh like her? Do I look like her? Do I smile the same?"

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case, said state rules that were in place when St. Peter was killed had to be applied in the Mercier sentencing.

"There was a decision made back in the mid-80s by the Legislature and the governor to increase good time because of jail overcrowding issues," Benson said. "That decision was retroactive back to the date of Mr. Mercier's offense."

Under those guidelines, Mercier will have to serve 55 percent to 60 percent of his sentence, Benson said. Under current good time rules, a prison inmate now would serve 85 percent of his sentence.

A jury found Mercier guilty of murder in September.

 

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