A Peru man charged with the double-murder of a couple found shot to death on New Year's Day made his first court appearance Friday.
Mark Penley, 49, in cuffs and flanked by law enforcement, entered Oxford County court at about 2:30 p.m. Friday for an arraignment.
Penley is charged with the first-degree murders of Heather Bickford and Dana Hill, both 31, who were found dead Jan. 1 inside a South Paris apartment. He was arrested Thursday night at the Rumford Police Department.
According to an affidavit released Friday, police said Penley entered the apartment and shot Bickford – his ex-girlfriend – and Hill multiple times.
Penley called 911 to report the situation, police said, and court documents state that when police arrived they found Penley inside the apartment holding Bickford's infant child. Her 8-year-old daughter was on the couch.
Penley, according to court documents, told police he had gone to the apartment at 24 Market Sq. to see his children and found "them" dead. The dispatcher asked for clarification as to who he was talking about, and Penley said he found Bickford and Hill dead. Officers then responded.
The affidavit also details witness accounts of Bickford’s fear of Penley, and mentioned her plans to file an order of protection against him.
According to court documents, investigators at separate times observed loose cartridges and a box of .22-caliber ammunition in Penley's vehicle; a black handgun in Bickford's right hand and five casings and one cartridge on the bedroom floor, and three casings and one cartridge in the living room.
A detective quoted in the affidavit told an official that the 8-year-old child "was unable to communicate any information of substance" and "it appeared [she had] a developmental disorder that affect[ed] her cognitive ability."
Penley, according to court documents, later told police he had gone to Hill's apartment to see his children, knocked on the door and was let in by the 8-year-old child. He told them the door was unlocked, which was unusual, and that he found Bickford and Hill's bodies on the floor.
Witnesses listed in the court documents also detailed Penley’s jealousy of Bickford and Hill’s relationship, and his drawn out preparations to quote “blow his whole paycheck on bullets and kill them both."
An ex-girlfriend of Mark Penley told police Penley constantly issued threats toward Bickford. One threat issued was, "if I can't have Heather, no one can have her."
According to court documents, Bickford texted her landlord, a local court marshall, on Sunday, Dec. 30, asking if the courthouse would have a judge available on Monday, Dec. 31, so she could apply for a protection from abuse order against Penley because he was "bugging her." The landlord told Bickford the courthouse would be closed Monday.
Autopsy results described in the affidavit show Bickford's death was caused by five gunshot wounds, and that Hill's death was caused by three gunshot wounds. A doctor at the chief medical examiner's office said a gunshot wound to Hill's finger "could be characterized as a defensive wound."
Colleen Elias tearfully remembered her childhood friend.
"[Bickford], I can say, was just what you would call a happy go lucky person," Elias said. "[She] had this laugh that I wish I had recorded because everyone should hear it. She could make anyone laugh."
Elias said Bickford and Hill were a happy couple.
"Dana was not in any way a negative part of Heather's life," she said. "They were very much in love and very happy together."
Elias set up a GoFundMe to help both families cover expenses and take care of the children. As of Friday night it had reached half of its $10,000 goal.
Elias also organized a vigil to remember the couple, so that the community can grieve. It's scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday in Moor Park in South Paris.
"The whole state of Maine is really a small town feel," Elias said, "and for that reason I feel the community needs a place to go to express their emotions."