ALFRED — An Old Orchard Beach man accused of killing his grandmother and setting her body on fire in 2012 has been found competent to stand trial even though a psychologist testified Wednesday that his mental fitness varies, sometimes day to day.

Justice John O’Neil Jr. found 26-year-old Derek Poulin competent to stand trial for the murder of 61-year-old Patricia Noel after psychologist Joseph Wojcik told him that Poulin, for now, seems clear-headed about the proceedings and able to assist attorneys in his defense.

O’Neil asked Wojcik, who does work for the Maine State Forensic Service, to be available to examine Poulin again if his condition changes during the trial, which begins Thursday in York County Superior Court in Alfred.

“I think at this point that Mr. Poulin is competent to stand trial,” O’Neil said after a hearing with Poulin present in the courtroom on Wednesday.

O’Neil had postponed the start of Poulin’s trial to allow to the late-stage competency hearing more than two and a half years since Poulin’s arrest. Patricia Noel’s burned body was found Oct. 23, 2012, in her home at 44 Wesley Ave. in Old Orchard Beach.

Poulin, dressed in a dark suit and tie, could be seen with his attorneys during the proceeding on Wednesday, but didn’t say anything that was audible from the spectator section of the courtroom.

Also at Wednesday’s hearing, attorneys revealed part of Poulin’s defense strategy: That his father, Reginald Poulin, could have killed Noel. Poulin, his father and grandmother all lived together at Noel’s house.

A prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, argued that defense attorney Amy Fairfield shouldn’t be allowed to name Reginald Poulin as an alternative suspect without providing evidence or witness testimony to support the claim.

O’Neil agreed with Zainea, ordering Fairfield not to name Reginald Poulin unless she produces details for the court to assess the claim.

The judge also delivered two blows to the prosecution, ruling that police discovered GPS data on a device in Poulin’s car too late to be admitted for trial and that letters apparently written by Noel about her relationship with Poulin could not be admitted into evidence.

Prosecutors did not learn until last Thursday that police had GPS data that showed Poulin was not where he said he was on the day of Noel’s death, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber told the judge.

Macomber called the GPS data “crucial evidence,” but agreed that it should not be allowed into evidence.

The letters rejected by the judge as hearsay evidence included two letters found in Noel’s house near her purse after her death and five more that were torn up and found in her bedroom wastebasket.

In the letters, Noel described having been physically and emotionally abused by Poulin in the weeks before her death, saying he had called her names, blown cigarette smoke in her face and “gotten physical” with her, according to police.

Poulin’s aunt, Darcy Daniels, said that Noel was upset with Poulin for not working, not contributing to the household and his lack of motivation.

Since his arrest, Poulin’s mental health was examined at least four other times by psychologists, including at the York County Jail in Alfred and during a longer commitment at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

Fairfield said on Wednesday that she has had trouble communicating with Poulin in the past because of his mental state, but that at the moment he is communicating well with her.

“I do not have concerns about his competency,” Fairfield told the judge.


Wojcik, the psychologist, said that as recently as Monday, when he interviewed Poulin for two hours at the jail, Poulin did not seem to understand the need for a trial.

“He seemed to feel very strongly on Monday that he should be able to talk to the judge and that (the judge) should decide it,” Wojcik said. “But he seemed more understanding today.”

Firefighters who first found Noel’s burnt body inside her bedroom did not immediately notice that she had stab wounds on her left arm and left side of her neck.

Investigators later learned from an autopsy that there was no evidence of soot or smoke inhalation in her throat, indicating she was dead before the fire began, according to the affidavit Maine State Police filed in 2012 seeking a warrant for Poulin’s arrest.

Noel died from multiple blunt impact injuries to the head, skull fractures and multiple stab wounds, the affidavit said.

Police found a golf club handle and shaft, a golf club head, a wrench and a knife with a 3-inch blade in the shower connected to the bedroom where her body was found, state police Detective Scott Harakles said in the affidavit.

A “red brown stain” found on one of Poulin’s boots matched Noel’s DNA profile, as did a swab of the wrench found in the shower, Harakles wrote.

Attorneys completed jury selection on Monday and Tuesday. Preliminary witness lists for both sides name more than 75 people.

Poulin has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and arson. He has been held without bail since his arrest.

If convicted, he faces from 25 years to life in prison for murder and up to 30 years in prison for arson.

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

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Twitter: @scottddolan