Was Derek Poulin really capable of her savage killing?
By most accounts, Derek Poulin, 23, was a popular young man who loved his family.
But in 2012 he’d been struggling to find a job and a place to live…
So he was staying with his grandmother Patricia ‘Patty’ Noel, 61, in the small town of Old Orchard Beach in Maine, New England.
He’d been collecting unemployment benefits for nine months while out of work.
Only, he spent his days idling round the house, often smoking marijuana, listening to music, playing video games.
Patty loved her grandson dearly, but she was getting impatient with his layabout ways, wanted to dish out some tough love to help him move on with his life.
On 18 October 2012, she confided in friend Deanna Frith that she planned to give Derek a deadline to move out.
Just days later, she’d been brutally murdered in her own home, the house set alight.
Neighbours had called the fire brigade, who’d found Patty’s charred remains on a bedroom floor.
The police took Derek in for questioning almost immediately. But his grieving family just couldn’t believe he was capable of killing beloved Patty.
The crime was so brutal –Patty’s body was so badly burned, it wasn’t immediately possible to tell how she’d died.
But an autopsy revealed it was before the blaze was set.
Police found a golf-club handle and shaft, a golf-club head, a wrench and a 3in knife in the bedroom’s en suite bathroom.
The defenceless old lady had been attacked with all three, stabbed 72 times in her head, neck, chest, back, arm and leg.
Her skull was fractured in several places by blows with the golf club and wrench.
Investigators told reporters the tip of the knife had bent due to the ferocity of the attack.
‘It is difficult to imagine a more savage killing,’ one said.
Derek told police he’d last seen his grandmother at around 11.30am on the day she was killed, sitting in the kitchen with a coffee and cigarette.
He claimed he’d then left for Portland. Security footage, receipts and his mother’s alibi confirmed where he’d been.
But his timeline was off…
Derek said he was in Portland about noon, but video footage showed he was there about 4pm, well after Patty was killed.
Suspicions were aroused still further when his main concern after the horrific murder of his grandmother seemed to be where he’d live.
Police keeping a watchful eye on Derek found his behaviour odd, cold. Plus, there was no evidence of a break-in.
The only people who had keys were Patty, Derek and a handful of other close relatives.
Convinced they had their man, police arrested Derek Poulin, charged him with first-degree murder and arson.
He denied the charges and seemed to have the support of his bereaved family.
His lawyer said, ‘His family is standing behind him. His father, who lost his mother and who is now in the process of losing contact with his son, is behind his son, supports him 100 per cent and does not feel that these charges have any basis in fact.’
But cracks in the family unit began to show.
Patty’s daughter Darcy Daniels wasn’t convinced of her nephew’s innocence.
She’d told police the relationship between Derek Poulinand his grandmother had deteriorated in the weeks leading to her murder.
She revealed Patty had spoken of striking Derek across the face during a row.
Police also found letters in Patty’s gutted house. Journals detailing Derek’s increasingly unpleasant and aggressive behaviour.
‘I don’t know what to think. I’m just very confused – and I miss my mom,’ Darcy wept.
In June 2015, the case went to trial at York County Superior Court and prosecutors focused on the apparent conflict between Derek and Patty.
Both Darcy and Deanna Frith testified that Patty was unhappy with Derek Poulin living with her, intended to ask him to leave.
The prosecution maintained there’d been an argument about this. That Derek Poulin had flipped, killed his grandmother.
Producing Patty’s letters, they told the jury, ‘That’s Patty’s note to you telling you who killed her, who set the fire to her body and to her house. This tells you it was Derek Poulin who killed his grandmother.’
The prosecution also cited compelling forensic evidence – Patty’s blood was found on the underside of Derek’s shoe – damning evidence, surely?
But now the defence suggested Derek’s father Reginald may be an alternative suspect, and said they intended to bring in a Forensics specialist from Texas, who’d argue that an untested blood stain on Reginald’s shoe confirmed this.
The defence said Reginald Poulin was working that day for a lawn-care company, but was alone and his whereabouts unaccounted for during the late morning and early afternoon. And his vehicle’s GPS was turned off.
But a hurricane grounded the expert’s flight and she was unable to take the stand.
In the closing statement, Derek’s defence said, ‘Somebody needs to be held accountable, but that somebody is not Derek Poulin.’
Could Derek really have killed Patty because she asked him to move out, or was someone else to blame?
That decision would lay with the jury…
After just over two hours, the jury found Derek Poulin guilty of first-degree murder and arson.
Sentencing him to life in prison, Justice John O’Neil Jr called Poulin ‘completely and utterly remorseless’.
Poulin didn’t react as he was sentenced, but his mother wept and his father called out,
‘I love you, D.’
In 2016, the Maine Supreme Court unanimously upheld the conviction on appeal.