SKOWHEGAN – Attorneys for Karen McCaul of Skowhegan told a judge Thursday that she is not guilty, and not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect, in the stabbing death of a man from Troy on Christmas Eve.

McCaul, who will turn 46 next week, is accused of murdering Richard Howe, 63, whose body was found in the doorway of her apartment about 2 p.m. on Dec. 24.

McCaul appeared in shackles and handcuffs for her arraignment Thursday in Somerset County Superior Court, where Justice John Nivison asked if she understood the charge against her. She quietly said that she did.

An affidavit in the case says the state Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Howe died from an excess of blood in the heart cavity because of a stab wound to the chest.

Detectives found a knife under Howe’s body and other knives and sharp objects within easy reach in other places around the apartment.

McCaul’s court-appointed attorney Philip Mohlar said she will continue to be evaluated at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. She is in the custody of the state Department of Health and Human Services pending a bail hearing.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers have 30 days to submit motions in the case. If the judge finds that McCaul is not competent to stand trial, she will be held indefinitely at Riverview, with periodic evaluations of her psychiatric condition.

McCaul has been in treatment since the day of the homicide. A warrant for her arrest was issued on Dec. 28.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case, said McCaul’s state of mind has been an issue from the beginning.

“There were, obviously, concerns about her competence, so it is perfectly reasonable for there to be a competence evaluation,” he said. “We’ll be back for a pretrial conference in about a month, once we get all the reports from the State Forensic Service.”

After that, Benson said, there will be a hearing, either on the not-guilty plea or the criminal-responsibility plea. The judge will make the final decision.

McCaul lived in an apartment diagonally across from the Somerset County Courthouse, where the arraignment was held. Howe was a volunteer driver for the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program. McCaul had been a client of Howe’s in the past, but he was not scheduled to pick her up that day.


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