ALFRED — A Limington man who allegedly killed his neighbor with a machete was experiencing “a break from reality,” a forensic psychiatrist testified Wednesday.

Bruce Akers, now 61, is charged with murder in the death of Douglas Flint. The two men lived next to each other. When family members reported 55-year-old Flint missing in June 2016, police found his body under a pile of deer hides and debris on Akers’ land.

Douglas Flint

Akers is on trial this week at the York County Superior Court. The state rested its case Tuesday, and the defense called three witnesses Wednesday to suggest Akers was experiencing an abnormal state of mind at that time. For a person to be convicted of murder, the state has to prove that the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly to cause another person’s death.

“He was very, very paranoid at the time,” Dr. Jhilam Biswas testified Wednesday. “He had a break from reality. His understanding of the reality around him was warped.”

Biswas, who works at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, evaluated Akers for the defense team. She diagnosed him with bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and she told the jury that he experiences paranoia to the point of delusion.

“If someone is reacting from a paranoid state of mind, what would you expect?” defense attorney Valerie Randall asked.

“Often they are trying to protect themselves, trying to defend themselves,” the psychiatrist answered.

The prosecutor challenged that diagnosis. Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis asked questions about the materials the doctor used to reach her diagnosis and a forensic test she used in her evaluation.

He also asked her about other theories for the way Akers behaved and spoke at the time of Flint’s death, suggesting that Akers was acting rationally in those moments if he knew he would be in trouble for killing his neighbor. Ellis quoted a statement Akers made to police before they arrested him: “The guy just wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“That would be consistent with a paranoid thought process,” Biswas said.

“Or it could be consistent of a guy who is mad at his neighbor because he had problems with him?” Ellis said.

“That would be one interpretation,” the doctor answered.

The defense also called two clinicians who have worked with Akers in the jails since his arrest. They both described symptoms they perceived as depression and paranoia.

Bruce Akers walks into York County Superior Court in Alfred at the start of his trial on Monday. Akers is charged with murder in the death of his neighbor Douglas Flint in Limington in 2016. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Darren Sandler, a licensed clinical professional counselor, has interacted with Akers more than 100 times since he was first detained at the York County Jail. Sandler said Akers would experience periods of depression, when he would experience low energy and suicidal thoughts. But he would also experience periods of mania, when he would have intense energy and stay up all night writing.

“Was it possible in your interactions for him to appear very lucid at times?” Randall asked.

“I think if you have a quick conversation, very quick, he can appear lucid,” Sandler answered. “But any length of time, it’s going to be very evident that he’s not, that he’s very ill.”

Sandler also said Akers often appeared to be delusional. Akers often told him other people were stealing from him or plotting against him. He told Sandler that people were trying to poison his dogs, a story similar to what he told police in a recorded conversation on the day of his arrest.

Roland Sawyer, a licensed clinical social worker, interacted with Akers when he was at the Cumberland County Jail last year. He said Akers arrived there after a period of treatment at Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta because he was found incompetent to stand trial in 2018. A judge eventually decided Akers had regained competency, and Sawyer said Akers was on medication at the jail to manage his mental health diagnoses.

The prosecutor read the same excerpt from multiple reports in that time: “Concentration – good. Hallucinations – denies. Delusions – absent.”

“He may well be experiencing auditory hallucinations but didn’t appear to be at the time of the interview,” Ellis read in one report. “Is that correct?” he asked Sawyer.

“Yeah,” Sawyer said.

The trial will continue Thursday.

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