Maine man sentenced to life in prison for 2019 New Year's Day double slaying

Nov. 23—If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TTY 1-800-437-1220. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

A Peru man was sentenced Tuesday in Oxford County Superior Court to life in prison for a double slaying in South Paris on New Year's Day 2019, according to the Maine attorney general's office, which prosecuted the case.

Mark Penley, 52, fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, Heather Bickford of Canton, and her boyfriend, Dana Hill of South Paris, both 31, in front of the couple's young children.

Penley was convicted by a jury last month on two counts of murder.

In addition to the life sentence, Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren ordered Penley to pay more than $11,000 to the Victims Compensation Fund, the amount paid toward Bickford and Hill's funeral expenses.

Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam, who prosecuted the case, praised the jury verdict and Warren's sentence for the pre-meditated slayings.

"These murders, the ultimate acts of domestic violence, were committed in the presence of Heather and Dana's two young children," Elam said. "Mark Penley's efforts to evade detection by staging the murder scene, leaving the children behind, and later returning to pretend he had discovered a murder-suicide have earned this punishment."

Penley's defense attorney Maurice Porter of Norway did not immediately return a request for comment on the sentencing.

Just before the incident, Bickford discussed with friends getting a protection order against Penley, but was killed before she could apply for one, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said Tuesday. Bickford was afraid he would kill her when she considered getting one on Dec. 31, 2018 because he was following her, according to court documents.

Penley was jealous of Bickford's relationship with Hill and planned to kill her so that "no one else could have her," the police affidavit filed in the case said.

It was Penley who called in the deaths, telling a 911 dispatcher that he went to the home to visit the children when he discovered the bodies of the adults.

Bickford's children, who were 8 years old and an infant at the time, were in the apartment when the couple was killed but were unharmed, according to the affidavit.

Penley has been held without bail since his arrest on Jan. 3, 2019. He faced between 25 years to life in prison. Under Maine law, a life sentence may be imposed in multiple slayings.