Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Caught: Michael Boucher, right, is escorted by Kennebec County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Testerman in this file photo from July 9, 1991.
Kennebec Journal file photo
LIFE SENTENCE: West Gardiner resident Vicki Dill is outraged that the man who is serving a life sentence for murdering her sister, Debra, has been transferred to a minimum-security facility and is performing supervised work projects in the community. Michael Boucher was convicted in 1991 for beating Debra Dill, 18, to death in 1973 with a hammer in Litchfield.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
“They’re treating him like he’s going to get out some day,” said Dill, who is West Gardiner’s fire chief. “He may be 62, but it doesn’t mean that he’s an invalid.”
The Maine State Parole Board is composed of three lawyers and a Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office employee. Scott Fish, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said there is no way of knowing how that board will act at Boucher’s hearing in May. Because he was sentenced under state law as it existed in 1973, Boucher is eligible for parole regardless of how he conducts himself in prison.
“The decision whether to actually grant parole is a separate issue in which good conduct is one factor,” Fish said.
At his last parole hearing, in May 2011, Boucher said he had last been out of prison in 2001 when he was returned to Warren from a stint at the former Central Maine Pre-Release Center in Hallowell. Prisoners at that unit participated in public restitution work crews and a work release program, according to the Department of Corrections website. Boucher said he worked at the center before his first parole hearing in 2001. He was returned to the maximum-security prison in Warren when that parole was denied. Boucher told the parole board that he was allowed to work out of the facility. It’s unclear whether he was supervised during that time.
“It was still too early for me (to be released),” Boucher said.
He remained at Warren until May, when the department sent the Dills a notice that Boucher was being transferred to the Downeast Correctional Facility. The corrections website describes the prison as a minimum-security facility where caseworkers assist prisoners and families with treatment programs, “within the community and in therapeutic and rehabilitative settings.” The prison offers an array of educational and vocational programs. The community restitution program to which Boucher has been assigned provides other state agencies, local towns and nonprofits with help maintaining facilities.
When the Dills were first notified of Boucher’s transfer, corrections officials erroneously claimed the Downeast prison was a medium-security facility, Dill said. The letter announcing Boucher’ transfer, a copy of which was provided to the Kennebec Journal, says Boucher “is not allowed off grounds of facility.”
The department sent the Dills another letter in November announcing that Boucher had been assigned to the community restitution crew that works throughout the area.
“We were told he wasn’t healthy and they go up there to die,” Dill said. “He must have been cured. Now he’s working. We went from he’s not allowed off grounds in May to now he’s in the community. I don’t think the people of Washington County know they have a murderer walking amongst them.”
Fish declined to talk about Boucher’s health, but he said community restitution crews are supervised from the time they leave the prison until they return. Fish said Boucher is one of “several” convicted murderers with histories of violent felonies who have been sent to the facility and been allowed to work in the community, but an online search of inmates Friday indicated Boucher is the only one of 15 inmates who has been sentenced to life in prison. Every other inmate at the facility has an earliest possible release date by the end of 2016. All but a handful can be out by the end of 2015.
Vicki Dill said the family’s recent history with the Department of Corrections is littered with unreturned phone calls and misinformation. When her family received the letter in May, it indicated Boucher had been freed on a furlough pass. It took several calls, and a plea for help from Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, to learn the furlough simply meant Boucher had been transferred.
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