Monday, March 10, 2014
Rita St. Peter murder case
SKOWHEGAN -- A woman who says she is the biological sister of homicide victim Rita St. Peter said Friday that the man accused of the 1980 killing is also the father of the victim's child.
SEEKING CLOSURE: Maxine Cross, left, who said she is the biological sister of murder victim Rita St. Peter, walks with a man who asked not be identified after an initial hearing for suspect Jay Mercier via video conferencing system Friday at Somerset County District Court in Skowhegan.
Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans
Maxine Cross, 54, of Skowhegan, said Jay Stephen Mercier, who made his initial appearance on the murder charge in District Court Friday, was the boyfriend of St. Peter and the father of Terri Lynn St. Peter, who was born in October 1977.
"This person told her when he picked her up that night, he says 'If I can't be with you and we can't be a family with our daughter, then nobody will,' that's why I believe she was killed," she said of Mercier. "That's what I was told from my mother before she passed."
Probate documents for guardianship of Terri Lynn St. Peter from 1979 on file at the Somerset County Courthouse do not list a name of the child's father. The father's name is listed as "undisclosed" on other documents related to Rita St. Peter. Rita St. Peter turned her daughter over to her mother, Eva St. Peter, in March 1979 when she was preparing to enter the military, according to the documents. An affidavit signed by Rita St. Peter also does not disclose the name of the father of her child.
Skowhegan Town Clerk Gail Pelotte said Friday that birth certificates no longer are available to the public unless the person requesting to see the document is a family member or the birth was more than 75 years ago.
A spokeswoman at the office of vital records in Augusta also said records of birth are closed if the petitioner has no direct interest in the family.
"She was my little sister," Cross said of Rita St. Peter. "She was adopted by my aunt, so she grew up in Anson; I grew up in Pittsfield. My mom's sister adopted her. She was just a baby, the last time I had seen her was when I was 16. I never saw her again after that."
Cross said her mother, the late Priscilla (Price) Steves, gave birth to Rita and gave her for adoption to Eva and Eugene St. Peter, of Anson, with whom she lived until she died July 5, 1980, at age 20.
Norma Holbrook, one of three stepsisters of Rita St. Peter, said outside the courthouse Friday that she remembers Maxine when they were young, but never got to know her well.
Another stepsister, Christine Belangia, of Weld, who was in court Friday, declined to comment, she said, until next week when Mercier is to be formally arraigned in Superior Court.
The third stepsister is Arlene Thomas, whose daughter Laurie Ann Robbins said she remembers well July 1980, when her Aunt Rita was killed.
"I had just turned 11 when we got the information that she had been murdered," Robbins said. "We never gave up hope. We always were wondering how somebody could do such a thing and keep it quiet. For so long we didn't really know. Now we know God was in control, no matter what."
Robbins, 42, of Waldoboro, posted a Facebook message Sunday on the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, in part to remember her Aunt Rita.
"Please pray for the families and friends left behind," she wrote.
Three days later Robbins said she learned of Mercier's arrest. She changed her Facebook profile photo to one of Rita St. Peter.
"Three days later and I'm getting ready to do chores and out of the blue my mother calls me and says ... Rita's murderer has been arrested -- I had no idea," Robbins said. "I can not express to you how incredible this really is. Every day, just about every week, I would go to the Maine.gov site for the unsolved cases and the cold cases and homicides and I would look at Rita's page and the other people that are there. It always is in your mind.
"It's a blessing. I just want to say thank God."
Doug Harlow -- 612-2367