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Maine supreme court dismisses life prison sentences in double-killing conviction

Mark Penley was found guilty by a jury of fatally shooting Heather Bickford of Canton and her boyfriend, Dana Hill of Paris.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine's highest court on Thursday threw out life prison sentences and ordered a new sentencing proceeding for a man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend.

Mark Penley was found guilty by a jury of fatally shooting Heather Bickford, of Canton, and her boyfriend, Dana Hill, of Paris, at Hill’s apartment on New Year’s night in 2019. Penley later dialed 911 to report the deaths, and police arrived to find him holding Bickford’s infant and 8-year-old child.

The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the convictions but faulted the judge who sentenced the Peru man for failing to follow the proper steps when considering the history of domestic abuse in the case.

“The court’s analysis here cannot be viewed as harmless error because it may have affected the court’s determination of the basic term of imprisonment at life in prison,” the court said.

Court documents indicate the 31-year-old Bickford feared for her life and claimed Penley had been following her.

Surveillance video showed Penley arriving and departing from Hill’s apartment on the night of the killings. He later returned, saying he was there to visit Bickford’s children, and made a 911 call to report that he’d discovered the bodies. The children were unharmed.

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