ALFRED — Carlton L. Young never touched or physically hurt 62-year-old Connie Loucks, but he has been charged with her death under Maine’s felony murder law.

Police believe that Loucks died of a heart attack in her home after suspected burglars, including Young, knocked on her windows and doors. But the burglars never came into her home in Wells that day, March 22, 2015.

Under Maine law, a felony murder conviction requires that one or more people causes another person’s death while committing or attempting to commit another crime, such as robbery or kidnapping. Legal experts say the case likely will revolve around whether Loucks’ death was “a reasonably foreseeable consequence” of Young’s alleged actions.

The state Attorney General’s Office, which prosecutes all homicides in Maine, applies the charge only about once every two or three years, said Timothy Feeley, a spokesman for the office.

In a fatal Portland shooting in 2010, for example, prosecutors used the charge to convict Moses Okot of felony murder as the getaway driver. In a mugging in Portland in 1980, prosecutors used the charge to convict robber Dennis Reardon after he roughed up a 67-year-old man to steal his wallet. The man lived long enough to flag down police and tell them what happened before succumbing to a heart attack.

In Reardon’s case, the state’s highest court rejected his 1984 appeal in which he argued in part that he shouldn’t have been held responsible for the heart attack suffered by the victim, George Webb, even though Reardon threw him to the ground.

In Loucks’ case, burglars broke into her Wells home on March 21, 2015, when no one was home. When burglars returned the next day and knocked on the windows and doors when she was present, Loucks died of a heart attack while talking on the phone with her daughter, telling her about the burglars’ return.

Police later identified Young as one of the burglars.

Jim Burke, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law, said many states have similar felony murder laws that could be used to convict someone in a case like Reardon’s, where an assault or direct contact took place between the defendant and victim.

But Burke said that in Loucks’ death, where there was no physical contact between her and Young, he expects both the prosecution and defense will have grounds to argue why or why not Maine’s felony murder law should apply in the case.

“I would think this is close to the line,” Burke said. “Showing up at the window and saying ‘boo,’ the jury will have to decide if that meets the definition of felony murder. Then if it does, the Law Court will have to decide which side of the line that falls (on).”

CASE MAY HINGE ON KEY CLAUSE

Almost every state in the U.S. has some type of felony murder rule in its criminal statutes, said Charles Weisselberg, who teaches criminal law and procedures at the University of California, Berkeley.

The threshold for proving that someone committed felony murder varies from state to state, but Weisselberg said the law is commonly used throughout the country because it is easier for a prosecutor to get a conviction for felony murder than it is for murder.

Weisselberg, however, could envision a court battle over the provision in Maine’s law that requires the prosecution to prove Loucks’ death was “a reasonably foreseeable consequence” of a felony crime committed by Young.

“The Maine case could be difficult to prove, that by banging on a window or door you intended to kill a person,” Weisselberg said.

Bob Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford University Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School in California, also pointed to the foreseeable consequence clause as the key to the case.

“The fact that (Young) never touched the victim is not legally relevant under the felony murder rule,” Weisberg said. “The statute creates a line of murder liability, even if you are just along for the ride.”

“The oddity here is there was no physical contact. It doesn’t shock me that a prosecutor would push for this,” Weisberg said. “If there was a reasonably foreseeable consequence, felony murder can apply, but that’s where the argument will focus in court.”

Weisberg said the Maine case will be interesting to watch.

“I think it’s a bit of a stretch, but it will depend on the jury,” he said.

Weisberg said there have been cases tried in courts nationwide involving felony murder convictions, and the circumstances almost always are very different.

In one case, two men entered a store with the intention of robbing it, but the store owner shot and killed one of the robbers. The dead man’s accomplice was convicted of felony murder.

“There are a lot of very complicated permutations to this law,” Weisberg said. “The bottom line is if you try to commit a dangerous felony, all kinds of crap can happen.”

Young, 24, of Sanford, was indicted by a York County grand jury on the felony murder charge Tuesday, more than a year after his arrest and as he remained in custody awaiting trial in the York County Jail in Alfred.

He had appeared in York County Superior Court on May 10 for a scheduled plea in the case on charges of burglary, attempted burglary and theft. But after he backed out of the plea deal, prosecutors sought an additional charge against him.

POLICE FIND UNRESPONSIVE VICTIM

Young is one of four people accused of participating in a burglary ring in southern Maine to support their drug habits. The others in the ring include Brian Cerullo, 26, of Alfred; Cathy Carle, 23, of Sanford; and Marissa Vieira, 24, of Sanford.

Of the four, prosecutors have so far charged only Young in Loucks’ death. His arraignment date on the felony murder charge had not been set by Wednesday afternoon. He had previously pleaded not guilty to the other charges against him.

Cerullo, Carle and Vieira are each scheduled to appear in court to enter their guilty pleas and be sentenced on June 23, although details of how their cases may be resolved are not included in court records.

The four are accused of breaking into Loucks’ unlocked home on March 21, 2015, and stealing many pieces of jewelry. Wells Police Officer Mark Rogers told Loucks after she reported the burglary that police believed the theft was committed by burglars who went door to door, first knocking to see if the houses were unoccupied.

The same burglars returned the next day, on March 22, to steal from her again, according to an affidavit filed in Young’s court files by Wells police Detective Todd Bayha. This time, Loucks was at home and told them to leave.

She then called Rogers on the phone to tell him she believed the burglars had returned.

“They were banging on the windows and doors of the residence. And when she asked them what they wanted, they stated they were looking for ‘Billy,’ ” Loucks told Rogers in that phone call, at 12:32 p.m.

Louck’s daughter, Sarah Loucks, called the Wells Police Department nine minutes later, at 12:41 p.m., to report that she had just been on the phone with her mother when the phone line suddenly went dead, Bayha wrote in his affidavit.

When Rogers and another officer arrived at Loucks’ home on Wire Road minutes later, they forced their way into the house and found her unresponsive on the couch. They were unable to revive her. It was determined that she had died of a heart attack. The dates in the police affidavit for the burglary and Loucks’ death differ from those released Tuesday by the Attorney General’s Office.

Investigators were able to charge the foursome with the string of burglaries after they discovered some of the stolen items had been sold at a pawn shop in Biddeford under Carle’s name. When confronted by authorities, Carle confessed that she and the others had committed the robberies, according to Bayha’s affidavit.

Young has a lengthy record of convictions dating to 2011 for crimes such as criminal mischief, assault, carrying a concealed weapon, driving under the influence, theft and burglary.

At the time of his arrest, he was serving a two-year probation term for a felony burglary conviction. A four-year prison sentence in that case had been suspended, according to a Maine State Bureau of Identification database.

If convicted of felony murder, Young faces up to 30 years in prison. The more serious charge of murder is punishable by a minimum of 25 years and up to life in prison.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.