Double murder trial of Peru man to begin this week

Oct. 5—SOUTH PARIS — The trial of a Peru man charged in the 2019 killing his ex-girlfriend and a man at a Market Square apartment on New Year's night is expected to get underway Wednesday.

Jury selection was scheduled to start Monday in Oxford County Superior Court in the double murder trial of 51-year-old Mark Penley.

Police reported Penley called 911 on Jan. 1, 2019, to report that he had gone to the apartment of Dana Hill, 31, at 24 Market Square in Paris where he discovered Hill and Heather Bickford, 31, of Canton, who were deceased.

Two days later, he was charged with intentional or knowing murder of Hill and Bickford.

Penley said in the call that he had gone to the apartment to see his children. That was when he discovered the two bodies.

He said there was "blood everywhere," and that Bickford had "a gun in her hand," according to a transcript of the call obtained by the Advertiser Democrat.

Bickford's two daughters — one 8 years old and the other 2 months old — were at the apartment, but were uninjured, police said.

In an affidavit, a police detective said she found the bodies of Hill and Bickford on the floor at the apartment; a black .22-caliber Ruger SR22 was in Bickford's right hand.

A Maine State Police trooper said he had been speaking with Penley outside the apartment that night, when he saw loose cartridges and a box of .22-caliber ammunition inside Penley's vehicle.

Another detective at the scene checked Penley's vehicle and found a box containing 50 rounds of ammunition that was missing eight rounds. That detective also found a pair of blue latex gloves on the front passenger floor of the vehicle, according to the affidavit.

An autopsy revealed Bickford was shot five times and Hill three times.

Penley is charged with killing the couple with a Ruger SR22p handgun.

He told police Bickford owned a Ruger .22-caliber pistol that she kept in her vehicle. He said she had made suicidal comments in the past year, but had never attempted suicide.

Penley told police he and Bickford had dated for 11 years, but had a break in their relationship in April or May 2018. He said they had talked about getting back together and that Bickford intended to find a counselor to assist in their effort to reconcile.

A witness told police that Penley had pursued the couple days earlier at a bar, then at a convenience store, urging Bickford to go home with him. He also repeatedly called her cellphone, the witness said. The couple drove to the Oxford County Sheriff's Office before Penley stopped following them, the witness told police.

Police said that on the morning of July 4, 2018, Penley told a different ex-girlfriend that a few hours earlier, he had driven to Hill's Market Square apartment where Bickford lived with Hill. He told her he had parked at a nearby gas station, put on a ski mask with sunglasses, entered the unlocked apartment and watched Hill and Bickford as they slept. He told that ex-girlfriend that he could have shot them at any time and not had to worry about them anymore, according to a police affidavit.

"When I'm ready, I'll do it," Penley is quoted telling her in the affidavit.

If he's convicted, Penley faces from 25 years to life in prison on each murder charge.

Through his attorneys, Penley indicated he doesn't plan to present any alternative suspects at trial.