Franklin Countys First News

Jay man accused of murder appears in court

Accompanied by transport officers, an American Sign Language interpreter and his attorney, James Sweeney enters the courtroom in Auburn Thursday.

AUBURN - A Jay man accused of killing the woman he was living with appeared in court today, with the arrest affidavit indicating that police believe the murder weapon was a baseball bat.

James “Ted” Sweeney, 56 of Jay, appeared in Androscoggin County Superior Court before Justice William Stokes Thursday, a little more than 48 hours after he drove himself to the adjoining jail in his black Lincoln MKZ sedan. Police say that he arrived at 7:53 a.m. with a note and, according to the affidavit filed with the court by Maine State Police Detective John Kyle II, that note read: “I'm going to jail cause I hurt my girlfriend. I live at 5 Jewel [sic] St Jay my name is James e Sweeney. Please check Wendy Douglas [sic] at 5 Jewell st jay I did wrong.”

James Sweeney (Photo courtesy of Franklin County Detention Center)

Jay Police Department was contacted and immediately conducted a well-being check at 5 Jewell Street, a small house located in Chisholm. Observing a silver Dodge Caravan registered to the resident and receiving no response at the door, Jay police forced entry. JPD Chief Richard Caton, Detective Mike Mejia and Officer Dylan Rider entered the house and once inside discovered a closed door, with a note taped to the handle and a blanket tucked underneath.

Opening the door, police located the home's owner, Wendy Douglass, 51, with a “visible injury to the facial area.” EMTs from NorthStar EMS entered the residence and confirmed that she was dead.

MSP and Maine Medical Examiner's Office personnel arrived at the scene, interviewing Sweeney's family. According to the affidavit, a family member of Sweeney's indicated that he had received a text at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, with Sweeney informing him that he was going to jail. Police were also informed that Douglass and Sweeney had been in a relationship and that relationship had ended a week earlier, but the two had continued to live in the same house.

Douglass' body was found in bed, covered with a blanket. The affidavit indicated that beneath the blanket her shirt had been pulled up, exposing her breasts. The affidavit said that the note taped to the door handle of the room Douglass' body was found to read: “Wendy I love you you ruin my love I already know you cheat on me you lie lie lie a lot. 'Ted.'” Ted is a nickname used by Sweeney, police later learned.

Police say they also discovered a wooden baseball bat beneath the base of the staircase leading to the second floor. That bat had red/brown staining, Kyle wrote in his affidavit, with that stain later testing positive for blood.

Sweeney was arrested Tuesday, with a complaint alleging that he “intentionally and knowingly cause[d] the death of Wendy Douglass” filed in Androscoggin Superior Court Wednesday. An autopsy conducted by the State Medical Examiner's Office Wednesday indicated that the cause of Douglass' death was “blunt force trauma” to the head and ruled the death a homicide.

Sweeney was in Auburn Thursday in order to appear before Justice Stokes, who has been assigned to the case. He appeared in court with attorney Walter Hanstein, who will be representing the Jay man with attorney Tom Carey, and with American Sign Language interpreters, as Sweeney is deaf. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese will be prosecuting the case for the state.

Stokes noted that no plea would be accepted Thursday and ordered Sweeney held without bail pending a Harnish hearing, which will take place prior to Sept. 1. In Maine, Harnish hearings are required before a defendant charged with a capital offense can be held without pretrial bail.

Addressing Sweeney through the interpreter, Stokes informed him that the crime of murder carried a sentence of 25 years to life.

[Editor's Note: Attorney Walter Hanstein and the reporter are related.]

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