WEST BATH — The Bowdoinham teenager accused of killing his grandmother last year pleaded not guilty Tuesday in West Bath District Court.

Dominic Sylvester was 16 when 55-year-old Beulah “Marie” Sylvester was found unconscious inside their Bowdoinham home in February 2018.

He was initially charged in her death as a juvenile, but a judge’s ruling last month means Sylvester, now 18, will be tried as an adult with depraved indifference murder, which carries a sentence of 25 years to life. Tuesday was his first appearance in adult court.

The official charge alleges that Sylvester “did engage in conduct that manifested a depraved indifference to the value of human life and which in fact caused the death of Beulah Sylvester.”

The charge means that even if he didn’t intend to kill her, Sylvester acted in a way that showed no regard for whether she lived or died.

Court records indicate he called 911 in February 2018 and told detectives at the hospital that he had hit his grandmother on the head with a stick.

At a hearing in March, testimony revealed details from more than 4,000 pages of records from the state Department of Health and Human Services and other social workers, treatment providers, schools and police.

Defense lawyers Thomas Berry and Meegan Burbank portrayed Sylvester as a victim. They cast his attack on his grandmother as self-defense, a reaction to years of abuse and neglect.

They argued Sylvester has benefited from stability and individualized treatment at Long Creek Youth Development Center.

“It is not appropriate to prosecute Dominic as if he was an adult,” Berry said at that hearing. “Dominic’s conduct, though serious, was justified as self-defense. Dominic’s characteristics have improved dramatically now, perhaps for the first time in his life that he’s had structured socialization, nutrition, treatment and safety.”

Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam painted Dominic Sylvester as an aggressor prone to violence at a young age. She suggested Sylvester would still be a danger to the public if he remained in the juvenile system, which would release him at age 21.

“The evidence is just overwhelming that Mr. Sylvester is a long-term violent offender beginning at an extremely young age, and while I do believe that the evidence will support that he was raised in a chaotic environment, that is not sufficient to meet his burden,” Elam said during the March hearing. “There will be no evidence that meets any definition recognized under the law of self-defense.”

While another defense attorney was appointed by the court to represent him, Sylvester requested that Berry and Burbank continue to represent him, which Justice William Stokes allowed Tuesday.

Stokes pushed for a trial in late April but no date was set Tuesday. Elam’s trial schedule was otherwise largely booked through to next July, more than two years after the alleged attack occurred.

“I don’t want to push three years,” Stokes said.

Sylvester had been held without bail at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland since his arrest. He was transported to Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset on May 17. He will continue to be held at Two Bridges with no bail.

Megan Gray of the Portland Press Herald contributed to this report. 

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