James “Ted” Sweeney, 58, formerly of Jay, enters Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday in Farmington, followed by jail transport officer Cpl. Phillip Richards and court officer Cpl. John Irving. Sweeney pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity in the bludgeoning death of his girlfriend in Jay last year. Sun Journal/Donna M. Perry

FARMINGTON — A former Jay man charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend last year pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity and waived a jury trial in Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday.

James “Ted” Sweeney, 58, is accused of killing of Wendy Douglass, 51, while she slept at the house they shared at 5 Jewell St. in Jay on July 11, 2017.

The cause of death was “blunt force trauma to her head,” according to an affidavit filed with the court by Maine State Police Detective John L. Kyle II of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit.

Sweeney, who was wearing a gray sweatshirt and orange jail pants Thursday, had pleaded not guilty to the charge in September 2017, following an indictment on a charge of intentional or knowing murder on Aug. 24, 2017.

Sweeney is deaf and watched a sign language interpreter sign tell him what Justice William Stokes said. The interpreter then gave Sweeney’s answers to the court.

A second interpreter sat at the defense table with Sweeney and defense lawyers Thomas J. Carey and Walter Hanstein.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea represented the state.

A bench trial before Stokes is set to begin Jan. 7, and is expected to last more than a week. Pretrial motions filed by prosecutors and defense are due by Dec. 14.

Sweeney has been held without bail at the Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington since shortly after he turned himself in at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn the day his girlfriend was killed. He presented a note that read, “I am going to jail cause I hurt my girlfriend,” according to an affidavit filed with the Farmington court last year.

The note asked that police check on Douglass. Her body was found in her bed with “significant injuries to her head.”

A baseball bat found in her home is believed to be the murder weapon.

Douglass was well-known in the Jay-Livermore Falls area, working as produce manager at Food City in Livermore Falls for five years before she died. Friends described her the day she died as “happy-go-lucky.”

Sweeney underwent a forensic evaluation for competency, criminal responsibility and other mental health conditions this year.

A conviction on a murder charge carries a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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