OWLS HEAD — Helen Carver, who police say was killed Thursday in her Owls Head home, was remembered Saturday as a hardworking woman who persevered in life.

After her husband, Robert, died in April 2012, Carver was still suffering from grief and wanted something more. She found that something at the Owls Head Baptist Church, located several hundred feet from her longtime home on South Shore Drive, both her pastor and her eldest son said.

Her pastor, Paul Munro, said Carver began coming to church about a year after her husband died. She got to church every Sunday even though she had to get there by using a walker.

Helen Carver

One day, she fell over and landed in a ditch near the church but was unharmed, Munro recalled. From that point on, church members insisted on giving Carver a ride. The pastor and two other men built a ramp for Carver, who later used a wheelchair to get around.

Maine State Police said the 83-year-old woman died of blunt force trauma at the hands of Sarah Richards, 37, of neighboring South Thomaston.

Richards had been shoveling Carver’s driveway this winter.

Her son Robert Carver of Bath said Saturday he had talked to his mother Thursday morning and she suspected Richards had stolen her debit card and used it to make multiple purchases the previous day. His mother had contacted police about the theft, her son said.

He tried calling his mother later in the day but could not reach her and drove up to check on her and found her in the home. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office reported that they received a call at 1:30 p.m. Thursday from someone who found a woman covered in blood in the home.

The church has scheduled a gathering for 1 p.m. Sunday for people to share their feelings.

Sarah Richards

Richards is expected to make her initial court appearance Monday afternoon in Rockland on a charge of murder. She is being held without bail at the Knox County Jail.

“Everybody is just horrified,” Munro said. “This was not just a singular event. There must have been a lot of tragedies to bring her (Richards) to this point,” Munro said.

Richards has a lengthy criminal record for thefts and drug offenses. She was convicted along with her then husband, Christopher Stalcup, of stealing more than 100 lobster crates in 2013 from Fox Island Lobster in Cushing, where the couple worked.

She received a nine-month jail term in 2016 for unlawful trafficking in drugs. In June 2017, she was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating probation on a prior drug conviction. She was charged in 2012 by Waldoboro police with theft. In 2013, she served seven days in jail for violating a condition of release. In 2006, Richards was sentenced to five days in jail for violating probation for illegal importation of drugs. In 2004, she was sentenced to 48 hours in jail for theft.

Richards was married in February 2007 in Waldoboro to Stalcup. They divorced in August 2015. The divorce records show that permanent guardianship of two minor children was given to the paternal grandparents per a probate order.

Before she was arrested, Richards made several posts on Facebook with inspirational sayings on the evening of Carver’s death.

Maine State Police and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office stopped a vehicle connected to the case in South Thomaston on Friday morning but did not provide details on that stop. Richards was charged at 3 p.m. at the sheriff’s office in Rockland, where she had been undergoing questioning.

Munro said Carver was not normally a social person but that the church offered her a social outlet and the members took to her. Even before she became a member of the church, Carver volunteered to write cards from her home to members of the congregation for their birthdays, anniversaries and at times when they were sick or experienced a loss.

Carver found a relationship with Jesus, Munro said. During a visit to her home, the pastor said Carver had acknowledged she had been experiencing anxiety attacks but talked to Jesus and the attacks disappeared.

She was baptized in 2015 on the shore of Waterman Beach in South Thomaston. Carver was terrified of water due to an incident when someone threw her into the water when she was a child, her son Robert said.

So instead of immersing Carver into the ocean for the baptism, the church had her wear a poncho and poured water over her.

The pastor said another example of perseverance by Carver was the time she was in the hospital and vowed to return home. She did all the physical therapy and exercises so she could get home and return to church.

Carver was born Helen Pinkerton in 1935 in Rockland. She met Robert Carver and the two married in November 1957 at the First Baptist Church of Rockland. The couple moved to Hollywood, Florida, where Robert worked for the A&P grocery store chain. In 1968, they moved to Bangor when her husband was reassigned to a store there.

Helen worked at banks in Florida and at Northeast Bank in Bangor.

The couple moved to Owls Head in 1977 to a home that had been in her husband’s family for three generations. They operated Carver’s Market in Thomaston – located at the intersection of Main and Beechwood streets – from 1977 to 1989.

Her son Robert said his mother was a hard worker and that she was both the stern one of the parents and also the more organized.

Rob Potter of Vinalhaven said he knew the Carvers when they ran the store.

He said that the husband always worked at the meat counter and would talk at length while Helen always operated the cash register and was pleasant but quiet.

The son said his mother loved collecting souvenirs when she and her husband traveled after their retirement. The house is filled with knickknacks. One visit that his mother enjoyed most was to the Dollywood resort in Tennessee.

Munro said the Sunday gathering will allow church members to talk and share stories.

No service information for Carver has been announced. In addition to Robert Carver, she is survived by two other children, Glenn Carver of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Lucinda Carver of Tucson, Arizona.

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