Paroled convict from 1974 murder sent back to prison

8 years ago

Paroled convict from 1974 murder
sent back to prison

    MASARDIS, Maine — Gary Mahaney, a man whose name some Aroostook County residents remember in association with violent crimes during the 1970s, is back in prison after a decade on parole from a life sentence for murder.

    The Maine State Police Tactical Team took 71-year-old Mahaney into custody from a home in Masardis on Dec. 2, 2015, less than a month after he was allegedly caught by game wardens hunting deer over bait in Lincoln County and then providing a false name.
Mahaney had been living in the Augusta area since 2005, after spending 25 years in prison for the 1974 murder of Rand Blanchard in Westfield. His parole required that he not enter Aroostook and Penobscot counties and not use firearms, among other conditions.
After the deer hunting encounter, Mahaney apparently fled to Masardis, a sparsely populated town along the Aroostook River at the edge of the North Woods.
“When his true identity and criminal history was revealed, a search for Mahaney began,” said Maine Warden Service Cpl. John MacDonald.
Mahaney was found “held up” in a home on Garfield Road owned by another convicted felon, who MacDonald would not identify because of ongoing work in the case.
Mahaney is now at Maine State Prison. He faces new charges of aggravated forgery, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and hunting over bait. According to the parole board, the hunting incident and attempted escape that followed were the only known violations of his release. He will be eligible for parole consideration again in 2018, although he still faces additional time in prison for the hunting violations.
Mahaney grew up in the Mars Hill area and had a reputation for fighting and links to crimes ranging from drug trafficking to incidents of violence.
“I remember hearing the tales of the so-called ‘Mahaney gang,’” said Aroostook County Sheriff Darrell Crandall, whose father was county sheriff from 1965 to 1983. “Countless people have told me stories of their bullying, terroristic behavior.”
In 1980, Mahaney and co-defendant David Bradbury were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 26-year-old Blanchard, in what prosecutors said was retaliation for Blanchard’s involvement in the burning of Mahaney’s trailer.
Blanchard’s body was found with six bullet wounds on Dec. 16, 1974, in his grandfather’s car along a logging road in Westfield known locally as “the burntlands,” according to court documents.
In 1974, Mahaney had recently been freed from a two- to 10-year sentence on a conviction for “assault with intent to kill” for shooting at a game warden in 1970 as he was poaching deer. The next year, as the investigation into Blanchard’s murder was underway but without clear suspects, Mahaney was accused of shooting at another person’s car, possession of a firearm by a felon and plotting to set another person’s mobile home on fire.
Blanchard, Mahaney and then-Maine State Police Detective Charles Powers, among others, allegedly were involved in an Aroostook County drug-smuggling operation in the 1970s, according to a 1979 Maine attorney general investigation.
In 1979, Bradbury and Mahaney were indicted in connection with Blanchard’s death but weren’t arrested until April 1980, after a nationwide search found Bradbury in Florida and Mahaney in Westfield. They also apparently went to great lengths to try to manipulate the investigation and trial.
In 1979, Powers was accused of offering a state lie detector expert $1,000 an hour to discredit one of the prosecutor’s witnesses testifying against Mahaney and Bradbury, and he later was found guilty of bribery. Others, including William Shrout, Percy Cote and Mahaney’s brother Paul Mahaney, were accused of trying to intimidate witnesses.
Lawyers for Gary Mahaney and Bradbury, claiming the two were too well known locally, were successful in getting the trial moved to Kennebec County, but the two were both found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Their subsequent appeals failed.
Because Blanchard was killed before Maine eliminated parole in 1976, Mahaney and Bradbury are eligible for release through the parole system. Mahaney was released on parole in 2005, as was Bradbury who is living under supervision in the Portland area, according to the Department of Corrections’ online records.
Mahaney spent his first year of his murder sentence incarcerated in county jails around Maine and then was transferred to a federal prison in Pennsylvania “because he was considered a security risk.” In 1993, he returned to Maine, to the then-new “supermax” prison in Warren.
In various media accounts, Mahaney denied that he murdered Blanchard.
“I never did it,” he said in a 1993 parole hearing. “I didn’t pull the trigger on that man. David Bradbury didn’t, either.”
At that time, Mahaney had a 13-year-old son and was still married, and he sought to be released and granted permission move to Alaska to be with his brother.
“I want to spend some time with my son before he is too old. I want to try to be a good influence,” he told the board, before they rejected his parole request.
In 1998, Mahaney again sought parole, still maintaining that he was innocent and asking to be released to live with his mother in Mars Hill, less than a mile from the home of Blanchard’s mother.
Then-parole board chair Donald Hawley, explaining the rejection of the request, said the board still had concerns about Mahaney’s denial of responsibility for Blanchard’s murder and his repetitive criminal history.
“We are balancing your interest with the interest of society and the potential risk to the community,” Hawley said.
But at their 2005 parole hearings, both Mahaney and Bradbury admitted to shared responsibility for Blanchard’s death. Mahaney said he alone fired the gun, according to Richard Harburger, a sergeant at the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office who is now chair of the parole board.
“Bradbury was there and assisted in the aftermath,” Harburger said.
Harburger, who voted in favor of the paroles, said that while it took years for Mahaney to admit his guilt, the parole board believed the two men did not have to continue be incarcerated.
At the time, for crimes pre-dating the end of parole, 25 years in prison for murder “was in the ballpark” of what other convicted murderers received, Harburger said. “Now a life sentence is in fact a life sentence.”
Mahaney will be eligible to seek parole again in mid-2018, but he could still face additional time behind bars for the charges associated with last fall’s hunting incident.
With two counts each of the three charges, Mahaney faces the potential for a maximum of more than 30 years in prison, although the time could be served concurrent with the parole violations or beyond 2018, depending on the judge’s actions, said Lincoln County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Kanwit.
Mahaney is expected to appear in court for a dispositional conference on the hunting charges on Feb. 22, 2016 in Wiscasset.