Suspect in Saco supermarket stabbing had planned random attack, police say— (Portland Press-Herald)

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The Portland Press-Herald

Posted August 20, 2015

By Eric Russell Staff Writer,

Wendy Boudreau, who was married and the mother of four adult children, was stabbed by Connor MacCalister, an apparent stranger, on Wednesday afternoon, police say.

SACO — The suspect charged in the fatal stabbing of a Saco woman in a supermarket Wednesday had been planning the random attack for a month, according to court documents.

Connor MacCalister, 31, of Saco, was “angry with life” and “wanted to get back at someone,” Maine State Police Detective Kristopher Kennedy wrote in the complaint formally charging MacCalister with the murder of Wendy Boudreau, a 59-year-old

Police initially identified MacCalister as a woman, but MacCalister’s brother, Jeremey Hopkins, told the Press Herald that MacCalister is a female-to-male transgender and has identified as a man for more than a decade.

MacCalister was being held at the York County Jail in Alfred until his initial court appearance, which is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

York County Sheriff William King Jr. said late Thursday afternoon he was still trying to determine whether to house MacCalister with male or female inmates. He was in a single cell as of early Thursday evening. The state has filed a motion seeking a psychological evaluation for MacCalister.

The criminal complaint filed Thursday in York County Superior Court outlined the chilling details of Wednesday’s attack.

Kennedy wrote that MacCalister went to the Shaw’s Supermarket with plans to kill several people and wanted to target an elderly woman who wouldn’t resist.

Police said MacCalister saw Boudreau in the parking lot and followed her into the store. In the ice cream aisle, he grabbed Boudreau from behind and slit the woman’s throat, Kennedy wrote.

Others in the store then responded to screams.

Alexandra Gogos, who works in the Shaw’s bakery, ran to the scene and tried to stop Boudreau’s bleeding. Gogos asked MacCalister, “Why. Why did you do this?”

MacCalister replied, “She looked at me funny.”

Another witness who responded to Boudreau’s screams, Benjamin Williams, also asked MacCalister, “Why?”

“I’m off my meds,” he said. “She looked at me wrong.”

Kennedy said MacCalister confessed to the crime in an interview with police.


Boudreau was a lifelong Saco resident who married her high school sweetheart, Jeffrey Boudreau. They had four children, all grown, and several grandchildren.

She did the books for her husband’s contracting business and was quick to volunteer at community events or at her children’s schools.

No one answered the door Thursday morning at the Boudreaus’ home in Saco, less than a mile from the supermarket. No cars were parked in the driveway.

Fred (Dennis) Thibeau, a long time neighbor, spoke briefly about Boudreau Thursday evening while standing on the lot across the street from the couple’s home.

“She was a sweetheart of a person,” Thibeau said. “I just can’t believe what happened.”

A family member – who was outside the couple’s home Thursday evening speaking with a woman who had brought the family food – asked that the media respect the family’s privacy.

A small memorial for Boudreau was set up outside the entrance to Shaw’s on Thursday. One jar of flowers was accompanied by a note that read, “Wendy, be at peace.” Another bouquet said, “thoughts and prayers,” and was signed Sue J.

Several customers paused to observe the flowers on their way into the store.

Linda Valentino, a state senator from Saco, said she and Boudreau were cheerleaders together when they went to school at Thornton Academy in the mid-70s.

Valentino said Jeffrey Boudreau graduated with them as well.

“They were high school sweethearts. He played football; she was a cheerleader. They are lovely people,” Valentino said.

Wendy Boudreau lived for her family, Valentino said.

“She was always one to volunteer, whether it was at the concession stand or with the alumni association,” she said.

Bonnie Ouellette, who is related to Wendy Boudreau by marriage, said Boudreau’s daughter and grandson were shopping in the store when the attack happened. They had gotten separated from Boudreau at one point and when the daughter came around a corner, she saw the grisly scene.

“She saw the blood on the floor and then she said, ‘That looks like my mother’s purse,’ ” Ouellette said Thursday outside the store. “Everybody is in shock, obviously.”


Less is known about MacCalister.

Born Tanisha Hopkins and originally from Newburyport, Massachusetts, he has lived in the Biddeford-Saco area for much of his life, legally changing his name to Connor MacCalister in January 2005, according to court documents.

MacCalister lived in at least one group home in Biddeford and also had an address at a subsidized housing complex in Saco that serves adults with mental disabilities. Court documents from 2011 indicate that MacCalister didn’t work and lived on General Assistance. He also had applied for Supplemental Security Income.

Though MacCalister’s current address on Therrien Avenue in Saco was just one street from Boudreau’s house, police don’t believe MacCalister and Boudreau knew each other. Neighbors said MacCalister lived in an apartment at Kallock Terrace, an Avesta housing development.

According to Avesta’s website, Kallock Terrace’s subsidized apartments are designed for persons 62 and older who are disabled.

A neighbor, 89-year-old Marie Ouellette, said MacCalister never caused any trouble. She said MacCalister did not have a car and walked everywhere, including the grocery store. Shaw’s is within walking distance of Kallock Terrace, a nicely maintained complex of 20 single-floor apartment units.

MacCalister has one prior charge in Maine for misdemeanor criminal mischief in 2012 for allegedly damaging a Biddeford police cruiser. The charge was dropped.

A criminal history search for Tanisha Hopkins did not turn up any records.

Jeremey Hopkins, MacCalister’s brother, declined to provide details about MacCalister’s mental health, saying he wanted to focus attention on the victim.

“My family is incredibly sorry for what happened,” he said. “We grieve for the Boudreau family.

“If they would like to reach out – I know it probably means nothing – but I was Connor’s caretaker and I will do everything in my power to help them find closure, to make this easier, if that’s even possible.”

MacCalister also has a sister. Their mother, Patricia Rae Hopkins, died unexpectedly last year.

A Facebook page belonging to MacCalister is active but includes no new posts since 2010. Photos of MacCalister on the page show him wearing a Marine Corps baseball cap and frowning into the camera. There is no indication that MacCalister served in the military, but a Tanisha Hopkins from Maine posted to the site several years ago that she was considering joining.


The supermarket had reopened Thursday morning, but employees and customers were still shaken by the previous day’s events.

Dave Pitman, who lives about a half mile from the store and shops there regularly, voiced a question on many minds.

“From what I heard, there were plenty of witnesses and certainly there will be security footage,” he said. “But I’m not sure this will be about what happened, but why it happened.”

Employees of Shaw’s Supermarket said they were told not to talk to media, but said the mood has been solemn.

“I feel like grocery stores are supposed to be some of the safest places,” said one employee, a young man working a register.

Wednesday’s random attack was the latest of several violent events in Saco in just over a year that have left the community shaken, Police Chief Brad Paul said.

On July 27, 2014, resident Joel Smith killed his wife and three children before killing himself.

Last Dec. 18, two people were injured during a home invasion and shooting on Hillview Avenue.

“I think communities struggle to make sense of why things like this happen in a community like Saco, which is by and large a safe community, a community that many people raise their families in and build their lives in,” Paul said. “As public safety officials, sometimes we struggle to put this into context for the community. Sometimes communities slowly come to the resolve that awful things happen to very decent people.”

Paul said the city’s rate of serious crimes has held relatively steady in recent years despite the latest violence.

Before the quadruple murder in 2014, the last murder in the city was in 2012 at a hotel on Route 1 where a woman died in a domestic violence homicide.

Paul said it is extremely rare to see violent crimes involving strangers.

The Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 20 Jenkins Road in Saco, will hold a community prayer vigil for Boudreau at 7 p.m. Sunday.

According to the church’s Facebook page, the Saco community is invited to “pray for healing and the loss of a wonderful woman from our community.”

The event is being hosted by the clergy of local churches and Shaw’s Supermarket of Saco. Participants may bring their own candles or candles will be provided.

Staff Writers Dennis Hoey, Gillian Graham and Scott Dolan contributed to this story.


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Connor MacCalister pleads guilty to murdering woman in Saco supermarket

The Portland Press Herald

The defendant waives her right to a trial and any mental health defense and makes the rare choice to quickly admit her crime at the first possible opportunity.

ALFRED — A Saco woman pleaded guilty to murder Thursday and asked a judge to sentence her to life in prison for fatally stabbing a woman in the neck in a random attack at a Saco supermarket in August.

Connor MacCalister, 31, who formally identified as a transgender male, waived all mental health defenses at a hearing in York County Superior Court in Alfred and rejected arguing for a lesser sentence. Murder in Maine is punishable by 25 years to life in prison.

MacCalister’s attorney, Robert LeBrasseur, said that MacCalister pleaded guilty against his advice out of a desire to take full responsibility for killing Wendy Boudreau, a 59-year-old mother and grandmother.

“By proceeding in this manner, Connor wants to make it easier on Mrs. Boudreau’s family and her friends,” LeBrasseur said outside the courthouse.

MacCalister attacked Boudreau from behind without provocation after randomly targeting her at Shaw’s on Aug. 19.

Members of Boudreau’s family sat in silence in the courtroom throughout the hearing, some wiping away tears.

Justice John O’Neil Jr. scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 23, when Boudreau’s family members will have an opportunity to speak in court. A victim-witness advocate, speaking on behalf of the family members as they left the courtroom, said they had no comment at this time.

LeBrasseur said the judge would not have accepted MacCalister’s plea if she were not mentally competent to make that decision on her own. MacCalister underwent two evaluations to assess her mental competency leading up to Thursday’s hearing and another late Thursday morning just hours before the hearing, he said.

In pleading guilty, MacCalister did so at the earliest legal opportunity after being indicted Sept. 10 by a grand jury on the murder charge. Thursday was MacCalister’s first time back in court since Aug. 21, when O’Neil ordered her held without bail.

MacCalister, dressed in a blue polo shirt and tan pants, answered O’Neil’s questions in a clear voice, addressing him as “your honor” each time.

“Guilty, your honor,” MacCalister answered when the judge asked her about her plea.

At Thursday’s hearing, O’Neil questioned MacCalister at length before accepting her plea.

“If you plead guilty today, you will forever be giving up your trial rights. Do you understand?” O’Neil asked. MacCalister responded that she did.


After MacCalister’s plea, the judge unsealed multiple documents that had been kept secret, including two letters of apology that MacCalister wrote on the day of the murder. One was to Boudreau, written within 45 minutes after the attack and before MacCalister knew Boudreau was dead.

“Dear Mam, My name is Connor n today I messed up n slit your throat. You did nothing to deserve that n I want you to know that I’m really sorry for wat I did,” MacCalister wrote.

MacCalister addressed a second letter to Boudreau’s family on the same day, after learning that Boudreau had died.

“I thout I lost evrything n made the worst mistake of my life by taking her from you,” MacCalister wrote.

MacCalister told witnesses at the Shaw’s supermarket immediately after the stabbing that she had stopped taking her medication. But a transcript of her interview with a police detective after her arrest indicates she had never stopped taking her medications.

At Thursday’s hearing, MacCalister told the judge she had resumed taking four different medications: two antipsychotic medications, an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication.

LeBrasseur said that while in jail, MacCalister, who was born Tanisha Hopkins, had stopped taking testosterone treatments that had been part of her transition from female to male. Since then, MacCalister has returned to thinking of herself as a woman, he said.

The judge also unsealed a mental evaluation report, filed with the court by Debra Baeder, chief forensic psychologist for the State Forensic Service, on Sept. 15 after she evaluated MacCalister twice.

In that report, Baeder wrote that MacCalister had previously been hospitalized at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta and Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, both psychiatric facilities. MacCalister had been previously diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.

“Her insight was limited and she also was significantly fatalistic about all aspects of her future. Her impaired insight/fatalism appeared borne of some form of mental illness, most likely of the depressive quality. That fatalism, however, did not exceed the bounds of rationality,” Baeder wrote.


Maine State Police Detective Kristopher Kennedy said in a written affidavit filed with the court in August that MacCalister confessed to police in the hours immediately after the murder that she was “angry with life” and “wanted to get back at someone.”

Kennedy wrote that MacCalister, who lived a block away from Boudreau, went to the Shaw’s in Saco with plans to kill several people and wanted to target an elderly woman who wouldn’t resist. Police have said MacCalister and Boudreau didn’t know each other.

MacCalister saw Boudreau in the parking lot and followed her into the store, police said. MacCalister grabbed her from behind in the ice cream aisle and stabbed Boudreau, Kennedy wrote. One of her daughters and a grandchild were shopping in the store with Boudreau, but didn’t see the attack.

MacCalister lived just one street away from the home on Bonython Avenue in Saco where Boudreau lived with her husband, Jeffrey, for more than 30 years. Family and friends have described her as active and admired in the community and fond of entertaining their four children and many grandchildren.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: