Peru man gets 2 life sentences in Paris murders

Nov. 24—SOUTH PARIS — A judge imposed two life sentences Tuesday on a Peru man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and the father of her two children at a Paris apartment on Jan. 1, 2019.

In Oxford County Superior Court, Justice Thomas Warren ordered Mark Penley, 51, to serve the sentences concurrently, or at the same time.

Warren also ordered Penley to pay $11,423.63 in restitution to the families of his ex-girlfriend, Heather Bickford, 31, of Canton and her boyfriend, Dana Hill, 31, of Paris through a fund that covered their funeral expenses and their families' counseling fees.

It took a jury of seven women and five men in October just two-and-a-half hours to convict Penley in the fatal shootings of Bickford and Hill on the night of Jan. 1, 2019 at Hill's apartment on Main Street in Market Square.

Bickford's and Hill's two daughters, one 8 years old and one 3 months old, were in the apartment at the time their parents were fatally shot. The two girls, now 11 and 3, live with Bickford's sister, Sarah.

During the two-week trial, prosecutors portrayed the case as a classic domestic violence situation and Penley as a jealous ex-boyfriend who had tried to control Bickford and had stalked her up to the time of her murder.

Bickford's mother, Tammy Guertin, read in court Tuesday from prepared remarks.

She talked about how Penley had been attentive to Bickford's older daughter, Emily, whose father was Hill, when she had been stricken with kidney cancer at age 3.

But Guertin said she "started seeing a side of Mark that I had never known existed" after Bickford had told him she was leaving him.

Bickford's family had decided that Penley should continue to be a part of her daughter's life because he had been so attentive to her and the girl had thought of him as a father.

"I could not have been more wrong," Guertin said.

After Bickford left him, Penley "started doing vindictive things to her," Guertin said.

Penley had taken action against her in court, including filing a "bogus" protective order against Bickford and had filed to get custody of her child, Emily.

"He would lure her to his house by threatening suicide or threatening to hurt her dogs," Guertin said. "When she would finally go, he would call the cops and she was arrested for breaking the protection from abuse order, twice. She spent two full weekends in jail while being six months pregnant," Guertin said.

"He sullied her name and painted her a bad and abusive mother. He pinned a handwritten note calling her a whore to a public bulletin board at the variety store in Canton," Guertin said.

"He accused Dana of touching Emily inappropriately. We had to bring Emily to the doctor to be examined to refute this. (Penley) pushed Heather down and pinned her on the bed when he knew she was pregnant. He stalked her, watched her sleep (and) stole her keys," Guertin said. "Mark stole her freedoms, her peace of mind, her self-esteem and ultimately her life."

Guertin said Penley had "claimed and professed" to have loved Bickford's daughter and left many voice messages seeking to see Bickford's children.

"But that appears to have been a ruse, because on Jan. 1, 2019, Mark Penley did the unthinkable," Guertin said. "Mark went to Dana's home and in front of 8-year-old Emily, he shot and killed both of her parents. Based on the number of bullets fired, it is a miracle that neither of the children were struck.

"Based on the vast amounts of Heather's blood in every room, she was up and moving and bleeding profusely. There is no way that Emily didn't witness the majority of the scuffle. Mark spent 28 minutes in that apartment, doing who knows what, while Emily sat on or stood next to the couch, paralyzed in fear. I can only imagine that she may have asked him her favorite question: "What are you doing?"

The children were left in the apartment with their slain parents for more than two hours before Penley returned to the crime scene and called 911, Guertin said.

"Watching the video of the responding officer's body cam was heartbreaking," Guertin said. "Hearing Maddilynn screaming in the baby carrier and seeing the shell-shocked look on Emily's face when the officer rounded that corner. Listening to her say, "mama, daddy, doctor," and sobbing. Sobbing in a way we had never heard her sob. That tells me that she knew they were hurt and not just sleeping. Her little innocence was forever gone."

After Bickford's death, Guertin said she learned about Penley's violent past, including a conviction for stabbing his ex-wife.

"I started to realize that Mark appears to be a predator. He preys on young vulnerable girls. Heather was just 19 when they started dating; Mark was 38," she said.

Guertin asked the judge to show Penley the same mercy in sentencing that he showed his victims: "None," she said.

Victim impact statements also were given by Sarah Bickford, as well as Hill's aunt and cousin.

Prosecutors had played for the jury an audio recording by Penley, who had threatened to kill Hill if Bickford were to get back together with him. She had left Penley and had been dating Hill months before the two of them were murdered.

Other evidence presented at trial against Penley included Bickford's plans to file a protection from abuse order against Penley shortly before her death. And she had asked a local police officer to keep an eye out for Penley's vehicle because she was afraid of him.

Video surveillance outside Hill's apartment showed a figure approaching the stairs to the apartment shortly before 6 p.m., then leaving half an hour later on the night the couple was killed.

Penley's cellphone's Facebook GPS showed he had been at that location at the time of the surveillance video and again later that night when he called 911 to report he had discovered Hill and Bickford dead, according to prosecutors.

The footwear shown in the video and from footprint impressions in snow outside the apartment were the same style as a pair of boots belonging to Penley, one of which had Bickford's blood on it, prosecutors told the jury.

Bullets and shell casings recovered from the gun found under Bickford's hand at the crime scene added up to more than that gun would hold, suggesting the shooter must have reloaded with another clip, prosecutors said.

Penley's bloody fingerprint was found on Bickford's cellphone in the apartment; the blood belonged to Bickford, prosecutors said.

A search of Penley's car, parked at the crime scene, contained a box of ammunition that matched the size, style and manufacturer of the ammo found in the apartment, prosecutors showed at trial.

A search of Penley's home turned up an empty box for the same model and serial number .22-caliber Ruger found at the crime scene, prosecutors showed.

The same ammunition found at the crime scene and in Penley's car was also found in his home, prosecutors said.

And a magazine clip with Bickford's blood on it was found in a kitchen cabinet at Penley's home, according to prosecutors.

Penley's DNA was found on the magazine release lever on the gun recovered at the crime scene, according to evidence presented by prosecutors.

A medical examiner's report showed that Hill had been shot in the shoulder, hand and top of the head.

Bickford had been shot five times, including several times in the head and face.

Assistant Attorney General Megan Elam said after the verdict she'd been glad the jury had understood the "domestic abuse dynamic" in Penley's relationship with Bickford.

For more information about domestic violence assistance, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at