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Peru man charged with murder of South Paris couple

Mark Penley, 49, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Heather Bickford and Dana Hill, both 31.

A man from Peru has been charged in connection with the deaths of a couple found dead inside their apartment in South Paris on New Year's Day.

Maine's Public Safety spokesperson Steve McCausland said the arrest was made at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Rumford Police Department.

Mark Penley, 49, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Heather Bickford and Dana Hill, both 31.

RELATED: Deaths of South Paris couple continue to puzzle community

Police on Jan. 1 found the couple's bodies in Hill's downtown, first-floor apartment at Market Square on Main Street. Police said Penley made the 911 call to officers to report the deaths.

Bickford's two young children, an 8-year-old and a 2-month-old, were in the apartment when the bodies were found. They were uninjured and taken into the custody of the Maine Department of Health & Human Services.

McCausland said Penley had gone to the Rumford Police Department station on Thursday night to be interviewed by detectives.

According to court documents, Penley filed a request in May 2018 for a protection from abuse order against Bickford. He wrote that he feared his daughter was in danger because of abuse by her and claimed Bickford repeatedly slapped their daughter.

Shortly after, Bickford also filed a protection from abuse order against Penley. She claimed Penley was controlling and at one point even followed her in his vehicle and rear-ended her.

Penley and Bickford both dropped the charges in June.

Bickford's mother Tammy told NEWS CENTER Maine on Thursday night that the family was happy to hear the news of the arrest and that they had a "good idea" the suspect was Penley. She called the situation very much a case of domestic violence.

Tammy Bickford also said the family wanted to thank the community for its incredible support through the ordeal.

RELATED: Police ID man, woman found dead in South Paris apartment

Penley was taken to Oxford County Jail and was scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday at Oxford County Superior Courthouse.

Additional information on the investigation was expected Friday.

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