A Falmouth man pleaded guilty to murder Monday for fatally shooting his mother at their home in 2013 and was sentenced to 27 years in prison as part of a plea agreement.

Andrew Leighton, 48, had been scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 12 at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland for killing his mother, Shirley Leighton, but decided to plead guilty instead as the date approached.

Leighton’s attorneys, Robert LeBrasseur and Scott Houde, met with him repeatedly over the past couple of weeks at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, where their client had been held, to go over evidence with him to prepare for the upcoming jury trial, LeBrasseur said.

“We both felt we would proceed to trial, but Andrew, after reviewing all of the evidence, decided to plead guilty,” said LeBrasseur, speaking outside the courtroom after the sentencing hearing. “Any case like this, where a son is accused of killing his mother, is a very difficult case. There are no winners.”

His father, Thomas Leighton, and sister, Katherine Keene, said afterward that they have continued to support Andrew Leighton and believe his actions were a result of mental illness.

“His mother died trying to get him help,” Thomas Leighton said, adding that he hoped society would do more for the mentally ill. “You bring a child into this world and you don’t give up on them. … It’s been a roller coaster ride, very emotional. Somehow you find the strength and pull yourself up and continue on.”

Leighton sat between his two attorneys during much of the court proceeding, with LeBrasseur putting an arm around him at times, as the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, explained the evidence she would have expected to present against him at trial.

LeBrasseur told Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren that Leighton had refused to read any of the police reports or review the evidence against him for most of the time since his arrest and that Leighton had only heard the state’s case against him in “bits and pieces” before Zainea explained it in detail Monday.

Leighton shot his mother, 68, on May 3, 2013, just before she and his father were to have him committed for mental health treatment. Leighton had lived with them at their home at 19 Edgewater Road in Falmouth for about six years, Zainea said.

His father had left to take the dog for a walk before bringing Leighton to a psychiatric facility, Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook. When he returned, Leighton told him he had shot his mother, Zainea said.

Leighton and his father initially struggled over a gun, a .40-caliber Baby Eagle, and his father ultimately escaped by running away. Leighton was arrested after a five-hour standoff with police, the prosecutor said.

Warren asked Leighton, who stood before him in an orange jail uniform, whether the facts presented by Zainea were true. “Yes,” Leighton responded. The judge then accepted the plea deal – including the prison sentence of 27 years – agreed upon by the attorneys.

“Obviously, a tragic situation,” Warren said.

As Leighton was led out of the courtroom, he waved to his father and sister, who sat in the spectator section. They waved back to him.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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Twitter: scottddolan

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