A Morrill man was sentenced to 35 years in prison Monday after admitting he strangled his girlfriend to death in the summer of 2010 in a house they lived in on Main Street in Morrill.

Dennis Edgecomb, 41, had initially pleaded not guilty following his arrest in July of 2010, after he was charged with murder in the death of his 42-year-old girlfriend, Pamela Green.

Monday morning, in Waldo County Superior Court, Edgecomb formally changed his plea to guilty. He was then sentenced to 35 years in prison, a sentence agreed to by both Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, the prosecutor in the case, and Edgecomb’s attorney, Jeremy Pratt.

Justice Robert Murray, who presided over the hearing, went through a checklist of questions, asking Edgecomb if he understood what he was doing by changing his plea and what rights he was forfeiting as a result (such as a trial by jury).

Edgecomb, dressed in khaki pants and a tan sweater with dark brown stripes, answered each of Justice Murray’s questions quietly, with either “Yes, your honor” or “No, your honor,” depending on the question asked. Although handcuffed when he was led into court by a Waldo County corrections officer, the handcuffs were removed while Edgecomb was in the court room.

Zainea began by outlining the information the state would have presented had the case gone to trial. She said the Waldo County Regional Communications Center received a 911 call from a man, later identified as Edgecomb, just after noon on July 20, 2010.

In that call, Edgecomb reportedly told the dispatcher that he had “lost it” and that there was a woman, later identified as Green, dead at the house. That, according to Zainea (as well as previously filed court documents), followed an argument over living arrangements — Edgecomb had reportedly told Green he was going to move out and find a new place to live.

While Zainea was outlining the case and began describing some of the details of Green’s death, several people seated among Green’s family and friends left the courtroom in tears, their crying still audible from the hallway outside.

Zainea said law enforcement and ambulance personnel arrived on scene that July afternoon and found Green’s body in the residence. She said they observed that she was not breathing, and that they also saw signs of bruising around her neck.

The day after Green’s death, Chief Medical Examiner Margaret Greenwald conducted an autopsy on Green’s body. Zainea said Greenwald determined that the cause of death was asphyxia by manual strangulation, and that “many of the injuries observed [on Green’s body]… would have been characterized as injuries received as the result of a struggle.”

Zainea said Edgecomb’s employer, Sharon Benjamin of Belfast Variety, received a phone call from Edgecomb on July 20, 2010, stating that he couldn’t get a ride, and also telling her that he had killed a woman. Edgecomb reportedly told Benjamin his actions followed an argument with Green earlier in the day. Benjamin, according to Zainea, advised Edgecomb to call the police.

“[Edgecomb] said he didn’t want to do that yet, because he didn’t want to go to jail,” said Zainea.

Another Belfast Variety employee called Edgecomb after Benjamin spoke with him, and Edgecomb reportedly told her he had “flipped out.”

Later, Detective Matt Curtis of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene in Morrill. Zainea said Edgecomb made an “unsolicited statement” to Curtis that he “just didn’t stop,” and the prosecutor said Edgecomb made that statement while making a squeezing motion with his hands.

Maine State Police detectives Dean Jackson and Scott Bryant later interviewed Edgecomb after his Miranda rights had been read to him, and Zainea said Edgecomb told them Green had flailed her arms at him during their argument but had never actually struck him.

Edgecomb then told the detectives that he pushed Green onto a couch, got on top of her and put his hands around her neck, all while she was flailing her arms. Still, he reportedly told detectives, she never made contact with him.

“She never hit him,” said Zainea. Although not mentioned in court during the sentencing, the affidavit filed with the case in 2010 indicates that Edgecomb told police he choked Green for at least a few minutes, and that he only stopped choking her when she stopped moving. That affidavit also indicates Edgecomb told police he couldn’t see Green’s face while he was choking her because it was covered by a couch cushion.

Following Zainea’s summary of the events, Justice Murray asked Edgecomb if there was anything he needed to correct. Edgecomb indicated there was nothing he needed to correct.

When it came time for sentencing, Zainea began by saying it is always difficult to stand in front of a victim’s family and friends and “place their loss on a scale of seriousness.”

“There is no sentence that can be imposed that will replace their loved one or return them to where they were the day before Pam’s death,” she said. “There is no sentence that can be imposed that will bring Pam Green back into their lives.”

Zainea said a sentence must be determined, though, and that in this case — a domestic violence homicide — the guidelines suggest a basic sentence of 40 years, from a range of 25 years (the mandatory minimum) to a life sentence.

A 40-year sentence would be appropriate, Zainea explained, because not only did Edgecomb kill Green, he killed her by strangling her, an action that, in the prosecutor’s words, “involves a high level of intentional conduct.” Edgecomb knew he could have left the house, Zainea argued, because his mother had told him she could give him a ride.

Zainea said Edgecomb, however, chose to act in the way that he did, “instead of simply walking away from the situation.”

Zainea explained how aggravating and mitigating factors must then be considered, and outlined what those factors were in this case. The aggravating factors, she said, were the emotional impact and suffering of Green’s family, who have attended numerous court hearings and have had to hear the unpleasant details of her death. Additionally, said Zainea, Green did not die instantly.

“One can only imagine the horror she must have experienced,” said the prosecutor, as Green unsuccessfully tried to fight Edgecomb off while he was strangling her.

Zainea said Edgecomb has a “long history of alcohol abuse,” but said he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the crime occurred. She also reviewed his criminal history — Edgecomb had several prior criminal convictions, she said, including one for robbery with a weapon and another for theft.

Mitigating factors, according to Zainea, were that Edgecomb has support from his family (some of whom were in attendance at Monday’s court hearing) and that he has admitted and accepted responsibility for his actions on July 20, 2010.

When all factors are considered, Zainea said, a 35-year sentence is appropriate. In addition to prison time, Zainea said the state would seek $1,225 in restitution from Edgecomb for the Maine Victim’s Compensation Program as well as an additional amount of money (up to $500) for a burial marker that Pamela Green’s daughter, Hannah, wants to purchase for her mother.

Hannah Green was one of two people to read impact statements before the court Monday. Speaking somewhat quickly, but in an even tone, Hannah Green outlined how her “whole world changed” the day her mother died.

Hannah Green said she and her younger sister were not on speaking terms with their mother in the days prior to her death, and said that was because Edgecomb’s relationship with Pamela Green had created a split between the mother and her daughters. Edgecomb, said Hannah Green, “stole” her mother from her and her sister, and destroyed much that they loved.

“The house we always called home, he turned into a crime scene,” said Hannah Green.

The other person to speak Monday was Pamela Green’s sister-in-law, April Small, who said she was speaking on behalf of her husband (Pamela Green’s brother) and daughter, as well as herself. Echoing a point made by Zainea, Small said the question that lingers for her family is, “Why?”

“Why didn’t [Edgecomb] just walk away?” she asked. His actions that summer day, she said, “set in motion the total destruction of what was left of our family.”

Small said no matter how bad Edgecomb’s life may seem to him right now — no matter how unhappy he may be, nor how unpleasant he may find his time in prison — he has more than Pamela Green will ever have.

“He still has his life,” said Small, “miserable and restricted as it may be.”

Throughout the time that Hannah Green and Small spoke, Edgecomb sat quietly at the defense table, his head slightly lowered.

Small made a point to say her family has empathy for the Edgecomb family, and said Dennis Edgecomb’s actions should “in no way be seen as a reflection on them.” Small also thanked police, prosecutors and the court for their “attention and effort in making sure justice was done for Pam.”

Justice Murray indicated two written impact statements were also submitted, though neither was read aloud in court. He then asked Pratt if either he or his client had anything to say, and Pratt said neither of them had anything to add. Pratt did reiterate that the 35-year sentence was a joint recommendation, though.

Justice Murray concluded the hearing by saying that he accepted the joint recommendation, as well as the points made by Zainea in explaining why that sentence was appropriate. The loss suffered by Green’s family, according to Justice Murray, was “certainly an aggravating factor in the case.”

“The court cannot appreciate the depth of that impact,” he said. “I can only hope that the defendant begins to do so.”