Judge to rule Friday in Gurney’s murder trial

A Superior Court judge will issue his ruling Friday on whether Chad Gurney is guilty of murder.

Gurney, 29, is charged with murdering Zoe Sarnacki, 18, of Portland on May 25, 2009. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Justice Roland Cole will decide whether Gurney understood the wrongfulness of his actions when he strangled and then decapitated Sarnacki in his apartment on Cumberland Avenue before setting the body on fire.

If Gurney is found guilty, he will go to prison for 25 years to life. If he is found not criminally responsible, he will be committed to the state psychiatric institution.

The two-week bench trial ended Jan. 20 with Cole saying he would issue a verdict later. There is no jury. The verdict is scheduled to be delivered at 9 a.m. Friday in Cumberland County Superior Court.


Podiatrist facing drug charges closes practice

Dr. John Perry, who was charged in November with possessing cocaine and violating bail conditions, has closed his podiatry practice in Portland.

Patients of Perry, who practiced at the Atlantic Foot & Ankle Center on Congress Street, have been referred to other doctors since Perry closed his office on Dec. 31.

Perry, 49, of Cumberland, is scheduled to have a hearing Feb. 9 in Cumberland County Superior Court. At the time of his arrest in November, Perry was free on bail on a charge of drunken driving April 4 on Interstate 295 in South Portland.

Perry has been the target of an investigation by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


Lyman Moore students’ play raises $820 for nonprofit

A recent production of “Guys and Dolls” by students at Lyman Moore Middle School raised $820 for the Center for Grieving Children, say school officials.

More than 50 students appeared in the musical, which was sponsored by a local nonprofit, Perform for a Cure.

Lyman Moore students worked with children at the center to create giant dice that were used as props in the production.


Panel now supports cutback in fund for medical students

A legislative panel that objected last week to cutting $125,000 from a scholarship fund for medical students has reversed course.

In a party-line vote on Monday, the Legislature’s Education Committee backed the $125,000 cut to the Doctors for Maine’s Future scholarship fund.

The cut to the fund, which covers half of medical school tuition for eligible Maine students, was proposed in Gov. Paul LePage’s budget for the rest of this fiscal year.

On Thursday, committee members agreed to find a comparable cut elsewhere in the budget. But on Monday, the committee’s eight Republicans voted in support of the cut while the five Democrats opposed it.

Committee Clerk Ryan Boyd said a caveat will accompany the majority vote: Legislators say they want to restore funding for the scholarship program before the cut takes effect.

Beth Bordowitz, CEO of the Finance Authority of Maine, told lawmakers late last month that the cut wouldn’t take effect for four years.

Education Committee members will share their supplemental budget recommendations today with members of the Appropriations Committee.


Obama declares 3 counties eligible for disaster relief

Three Maine counties have been declared disaster areas by President Obama for damage they suffered in heavy rain and flooding from Dec. 12 to 19.

Gov. Paul LePage learned today that a disaster was declared for Aroostook, Piscataquis and Washington counties as well as the tribal lands of the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Washington County. LePage’s request for a disaster declaration in Penobscot County was denied.

With the declaration, state and local government are eligible for federal assistance for the costs of emergency response efforts and to repair or replace bridges, roads and other storm-damaged public infrastructure.

The White House said in a release this evening that Obama signed the disaster declaration for Maine.

“The president today declared a major disaster exists in the state of Maine and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts” in the counties struck by the storms and flooding, the White House said.

The White House said the federal funding is “available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and flooding” in the affected counties.


Headmaster at Thornton says he’ll retire in 2012

Thornton Academy Headmaster Carl Stasio plans to retire next year.

Stasio, who has been headmaster since 1986, will retire in July 2012. Rene Menard, a 1988 graduate of the academy, has been named by the Board of Trustees to succeed him.

“Having the opportunity to serve in this position has special meaning for me because TA has been so instrumental in shaping who I am today,” Menard said.

Menard has been associate headmaster since 2007. He worked previously as a history and political science teacher, a coach and dean of students. He has led the initiative to create the school’s international boarding program, and developed the Student Services Department and evening and after-school programs.

“It’s hard to imagine Thornton Academy without Carl,” said trustees President Eric Purvis. “Carl has been the lifeblood of our school, overseeing change and advancing the school throughout his 25 years at Thornton.”

Under Stasio’s leadership, the academy has added a middle school program and welcomed international boarding students. He also oversaw many changes to the campus, including the addition of Garland Auditorium, Hyde Library, Atkinson Dining Commons, an arts wing and Nelson Residential Hall.


Armed man flees Rite-Aid after Oxycontin robbery

Police are investigating another pharmacy robbery.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m. Monday, a man entered the Rite Aid on Alfred Street, threatened pharmacy workers with a weapon and demanded Oxycontin, said Deputy Police Chief Joanne Fisk. The pharmacist gave the man an undisclosed amount of the prescription drug and he fled.

The man is described as white, about 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 130 to 140 pounds. He was wearing black-rimmed sunglasses, a black hooded sweatshirt, black pants and black gloves. Fisk said no one was injured.

It was the second robbery within five weeks at the same Rite Aid. Police are still investigating a robbery that occurred there on the evening of Dec. 28.

Biddeford police will seek help from the federal government, Fisk said. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced last week they could help authorities in southern Maine investigate pharmacy robberies and prosecute suspects.

While the agencies have been alerted of Monday’s robbery, Fisk said she does not know what their involvement will be in investigating the crime.

Authorities are asking anyone with information to contact police at 282-5127.


Cabral’s first day as director of McArthur Library is Feb. 28

The McArthur Public Library will welcome a new director this month.

Jeffrey Cabral will start the job on Feb. 28, said interim director Sally Leahey. He is now director of the Yeadon Public Library near Philadelphia.

“He seemed really interested in Biddeford and had done quite a bit of research. He is very interested in being active in the community,” Leahey said.

Cabrel has a master’s degree in library sciences from Victoria University in New Zealand and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Leahey has been interim director since Dora St. Martin left the position in early November to sail the world with her husband.


Discussion of beach park plan will resume in March

The Zoning Board of Appeals will resume deliberations in March on a proposed park at Scarborough Beach.

Black Point Resource Management, which operates Scarborough Beach State Park, wants to create a sister park next to the state park. The plan for Black Point Park calls for a new entrance, a gatehouse, parking for 500 vehicles, a concession stand, changing rooms, showers and bathrooms on 64 acres owned by the Sprague Corp., the parent of Black Point Resource Management.

More than 100 people turned out to oppose the project at the Zoning Board of Appeals’ meeting Monday.

Around 11:30 p.m., the applicant asked for the matter to be tabled so it can review and address residents’ concerns, said David Grysk, the town staff’s liaison to the board.

The project needs a special-exception permit for a commercial outdoor recreation facility from the zoning board and approval from the Planning Board.


Tickets go on sale for return of Blue Angels and air show

Tickets are now available for the first Great State of Maine Air Show to be held in Brunswick after the Navy departs.

The air show in August, featuring the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team, will coincide with the 100th anniversary of Navy aviation.

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority says advance tickets for the main event, Aug. 27-28, will cost $15 for adults and $10 for children, seniors and members of the military. There also will be a party on the night before the show, and higher-priced tickets for special seating with amenities.

The air show was free when it was run by the Navy. Brunswick Naval Air Station is due to be closed by May.


Residents approve closure of West Harpswell School

Harpswell voters have given their consent for the school district to close the West Harpswell School.

Results from Tuesday’s townwide referendum show that 834 residents voted to close the elementary school while 753 voted to keep it open.

Officials for School Administrative District 75 say the closure will take effect at the end of this school year. Starting in the fall, West Harpswell students will be bused to the Harpswell Islands School.

If voters had rejected closure, the town would have had to pay nearly $200,000 to keep the school open in 2011-12.

Tuesday’s referendum was the district’s second attempt in the last two years to close the school.

fficials say consolidation will save money and allow the district to provide higher quality programming to students.