A woman is asking Maine’s highest court to consider whether she was legally sentenced to six years in prison for the death of her newborn 38 years ago.

Lee Ann Daigle, 60, pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter in the 1985 death of her infant daughter, who she abandoned in a cold gravel pit in Frenchville immediately after her birth. Daigle was given a 16-year sentence that June, but was only ordered to serve six years behind bars and three years of probation. Her earliest release date is November 2026.

Lee Ann Daigle Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Daigle’s appeal to the state’s Sentencing Review Panel, which has broader authority to reconsider a sentence, was denied in September. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed to consider her case, but can only consider whether her sentence is illegal.

The high court did not appear amenable to Daigle’s appeal during oral arguments on Thursday and it’s not clear when it will issue a ruling. Daigle’s new attorney argued that her sentence was determined using standards that didn’t exist at the time of the crime and that a judge violated her rights by directly questioning her remorse at sentencing.

Her appeals lawyer, Neil Prendergast, argued that Superior Court Justice Stephen Nelson used laws enacted in 2021 that called on judges to consider a victim’s age, and specifically whether they were too young to protect themselves, when deciding on the length of Daigle’s sentence, rather than the laws in place at the time of the crime.

The supreme court justices pointed out that Maine sentencing law also asked judges to consider a victim’s age in 1985, although not in such specific detail.


The justices devoted most of their time Thursday on whether Nelson had violated Daigle’s due process rights or honored them when he asked her how she could reconcile a remorseful apology she gave that day with statements she gave police a year earlier, suggesting she didn’t think of the newborn.

“I’m trying to reconcile your claim at sentencing with the statements that were made to the officers during the investigation,” Nelson said. “They were either not accurate today at sentencing or they were not accurate statements to the officers. There’s no other option, from what the court can see.”

Daigle met privately with her attorneys for about 10 minutes and then told Nelson she had been honest in court and not with police because she had been nervous.

She had tearfully told the judge she hadn’t realized her newborn was alive after she gave birth. Her attorneys suggested it was a “cryptic pregnancy,” and that neither Daigle nor those closest to her realized she was pregnant. Daigle had only pulled over that night because she thought she needed to use the restroom, her previous attorneys stated.

Prendergast had argued that Nelson put Daigle in a “nearly impossible position” where she either had to admit she was dishonest or know that the judge believed she was dishonest. He likened it to an attorney’s intense cross-examination at trial, rather than a judge’s inquiry.

The justices asked if Prendergast believed it would have been more fair for Nelson to not give Daigle a chance to comment.

“He gave her a chance,” said Associate Justice Rick Lawrence. “It’s not that she had to respond immediately. He also said, ‘You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.’ ”

Assistant Attorney General Lara Nomani argued Thursday that Daigle “created a dilemma of her own making” by offering such different responses to authority. At sentencing, the state argued Daigle was fully aware of her pregnancy and hid it, before choosing to leave her newborn for dead.

“I think the record shows a judge that was very careful and protective of her due process rights, and very careful and deliberate in the language he used,” Nomani said.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.