January 8, 2013

Defendant's child: 'He shot my mom'

The oldest of victim Renee Sandora’s four children testifies about the 2011 killings he witnessed in New Gloucester.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The 8-year-old son of Joel Hayden testified on the opening day of his father’s murder trial Monday that he saw his father walk out of the family’s home in New Gloucester and shoot his mother as the child looked on in shock.

click image to enlarge

Defendant Joel Hayden said “Daddy loves you” after his 8-year-old son told the court that Hayden shot his girlfriend and a longtime friend in New Gloucester.

Troy R. Bennett/pool photo

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Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber holds a bag of spent shell casings found at the scene of the crime as he presents his opening arguments in the Joel Hayden double murder trial in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Monday.

Pool Photo / Troy R. Bennet

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Hayden, 31, is on trial in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court on two counts of murder, in the fatal shootings of Renee Sandora, the mother of his four children, and his longtime friend Trevor Mills on July 25, 2011.

Hayden’s oldest son, who was 7 at the time of the shootings, testified under questioning from Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese that he saw Mills, whom he referred to by the nickname Tre, “go through the glass” of the door of the house.

The boy, now a third-grader, said his father was in the house while his mother stood in the driveway and he watched from the grassy area beside the driveway at their home at 322 Bennett Road.

Marchese asked the boy what his father did after Mills went through the glass door.

“He went outside and he shot my mom,” the boy said.

Marchese asked the boy what he did when he saw his father shoot his mother.

“I was doing nothing. I was shocked,” the boy said. “I was shocked when I saw him do that.”

The boy said that during the shooting, his younger brother and twin baby sisters were strapped into car seats in the back of a sedan parked in the driveway.

After the boy finished testifying, as he left the courtroom, Hayden, seated between his lawyers, called out to the boy by name, saying, “Daddy loves you.”

The jury trial began before Justice Nancy Mills on Monday morning with opening statements, then went immediately into witness testimony.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said in his opening statement that the jury would hear testimony that Hayden was a drug addict prone to jealousy when he shot his friend Mills, 28, and his estranged girlfriend, Sandora, who was 27.

Macomber said that Sandora and Hayden had been fighting in the months before the shooting, that Hayden was a drug addict and dealer, and that Mills had come to Maine from Hayden’s hometown of New Bedford, Mass., to help mediate.

But Hayden accused Mills of having an affair with Sandora and used a .45-caliber pistol to shoot him four times, sending him through the glass door of the house, according to the charge. He then shot Sandora twice.

Hayden was arrested that night after a high-speed chase with police that ended when he wrecked Mills’ car in Lyman and broke his back, according to Macomber.

One of Hayden’s attorneys, Sarah Churchill, said in her opening statement that Hayden is presumed innocent and that the state does not have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hayden committed the crimes.

“The evidence you will hear here throughout this trial will lead you to believe that the state’s unable to meet that burden,” Churchill said.

She said the gun that was used in the shootings was never recovered, and tests on a bullet and shell casing recovered from the crime scene tested negative for Hayden’s DNA.

Churchill also said that police who arrived at the house didn’t check on the shooting victims until long after they had been shot. She said the victims were brought to the hospital more than an hour after the shooting had been reported.

“The law enforcement officers who arrived at the scene will tell you it was chaotic. They didn’t quite know what was going on here,” she said. “You will have to rely on testimony of a 7-year-old boy. You will have to decide if his memory is credible.”

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