AUGUSTA — A Waterville man accused of fatally shooting the woman who was his girlfriend and the mother of their children pleaded not guilty in court Monday to a murder charge.

Melissa Sousa Photo provided by Maine State Police

Nicholas P. Lovejoy, 28, denied allegations he killed Melissa Sousa, 29, his girlfriend and the mother of the couple’s twin 8-year-old daughters, on Oct. 22, 2019, in Waterville.

Following the court hearing, members of Sousa’s family said their lives have been a nightmare since her death.

“It’s just been hell,” April Sibert, sister of Sousa’s mother, Theresa Martin, said outside the Capital Judicial Center after Lovejoy pleaded not guilty.

“We just want it over with and to see him be put away for life, and move on, you know? My sister is really, really, really sick of it all.”

In an interview with police after Sousa’s body was found, Lovejoy allegedly confessed to killing her with a .38-caliber handgun, according to court documents written by Maine State Police Detective Ryan Brockway. Lovejoy claimed Sousa had attacked him and attempted to shoot him, so he retaliated.

Justice William Stokes granted a motion from state prosecutors Monday to have a forensic mental health evaluation done of Lovejoy, despite the objection of the suspect’s lawyer, Darrick Banda.

Banda said he objected to that motion because such an evaluation anticipates Lovejoy’s defense will be based on his having a mental health problem. So far, Banda said he has seen no indication in his interactions with Lovejoy that a mental health evaluation is needed.

Banda said state prosecutors seem to want to have a mental health evaluation done in most cases now, which he suggested could be a way for the state to be able to question suspects.

“I can say myself, personally, I haven’t seen anything that causes me concern at this point, that warrants an evaluation,” Banda said in court.

“It’s almost like an opportunity for the government to get an interview. I don’t see a need for an evaluation at this point, and if one is ordered, I’m not sure I’d advise my client to cooperate.”

Stokes said it is important to have a mental health evaluation as soon as possible after such an incident in case the defense later decides to make a defendant’s state of mind part of its defense, such as by claiming Lovejoy was not criminally responsible for his actions.

Stokes said the findings of the evaluation would be impounded and available to Banda but not to state prosecutors, unless Banda makes Lovejoy’s state of mind part of his defense, at which point the findings would be released to the state.

“You’ll get it, Mr. Banda,” Stokes said of the findings of Lovejoy’s mental health evaluation. “And if you decide not to raise state of mind as a defense, then the state will never see it.”

Following Lovejoy’s arrest, his brother told police Lovejoy “has been crazy lately” and suffers from a traumatic brain injury. Family and friends of Sousa told the Morning Sentinel that Lovejoy was mentally unstable and had threatened Sousa’s life previously.

Jordyn Towers, who knows Lovejoy and was Sousa’s friend and co-worker at Dunkin’ in Waterville, wore a T-shirt with Sousa’s photo and “Justice 4 Melissa Sousa” on the front and “Love should never hurt” on the back.

Towers said outside the courthouse Monday she was not surprised by Lovejoy’s not guilty plea. She said she and others want to see Sousa get the justice she deserves.

“I always thought that Nick himself was just unpredictable, so I really didn’t know which way he was going to go today,” Towers said. “We’re making sure (Sousa) gets everything that she deserves, which is justice. She was a pure person and everybody needs to know her story, to know what happened. She did not deserve this.”

Theresa Sullivan, mother of Melissa Sousa, stands with a candle Oct. 27, 2019, during a vigil in memory of Sousa outside Sousa’s apartment on Gold Street in Waterville.

Sousa’s body was found Oct. 23 in the basement of the Gold Street apartment building in Waterville where Sousa and Lovejoy lived.

Lovejoy told police that after their twin 8-year-old daughters left for school the morning of Oct. 22, Sousa pushed him down the stairs at their apartment building. He said she then picked up a gun and tried to shoot him, but the weapon did not fire.

He told police he picked up the handgun and shot her twice in the stomach, then rolling her body in a tarp, wrapping it in duct tape and dumping it into the building’s basement.

Sibert and Towers urged anyone suffering from domestic abuse to reach out to people or an organization that can help, and find a safe place to escape the abuse.

“If my niece would have spoken up, she would have gotten help,” Sibert said.

Some of Sousa’s friends have said they knew Lovejoy was abusive but said Sousa declined offers for help because she lived in fear of what would happen.

Lovejoy, who was brought into court Monday in handcuffs and wearing an orange jail uniform, is being held without bail.

Stokes said a bail hearing can be held when Banda requests one. The next likely step in the case is a status conference planned for April.

Sibert said Martin, who also attended Monday’s arraignment in court, is fighting to get custody of Sousa and Lovejoy’s two daughters, whom she said are now in foster care.

“My sister has to live this over, every day, again and again,” Sibert said, “and she’s trying to get those girls home. It has just been a struggle and the girls want to come home to nana.”

Friends said Lovejoy and Sousa had been together about 15 years but were not married. They came to Waterville from Massachusetts.

Lovejoy was indicted on a charge of murder by a grand jury in late November. An indictment is not a determination of guilt but indicates there is evidence to proceed with formal charges and a trial.

 

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