When York Police Detectives found the body of John “Jack” Bevins on his bathroom floor, surrounded by blood and shell casings, it was obvious they were dealing with a homicide. But what unfolded from that April afternoon in 1990 was a complex criminal case and a defense never-before seen at trial in the State of Maine.
Are there exceptions to murder? That’s what the defense was prepared to argue for their client, the victim’s wife, Jacqueline Bevins. Their own investigation into the life and marriage of Jackie and Jack painted a clear picture of why Jackie believed that pulling the trigger was her only option.
If the end of this story leaves you feeling conflicted, that makes two of us.
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This series contains descriptions of domestic abuse and violence. Please listen with care.
April 3, 1990
At the end of a tree-lined driveway, off a seaside dirt road just a gull’s caw away from one of Maine’s most picturesque lighthouses, detectives enrobed the home of Jack and Jackie Bevins with yellow crime scene tape. York Police Detective Kevin LeConte had just discovered the body of Jack Bevins in a pool of his own blood in the bathroom. The scene was teeming with police and crime scene technicians, collecting every last one of the over a dozen shell casings littering the tile floor.
According to the Biddeford Journal Tribune, it appeared that a struggle preceded the shooting, and before that, Jack might have been getting out of the bathtub, as he was found nude. Detectives surveyed the rest of the Bevins property and noted that two trucks believed to belong to Jack and Jackie were parked in the driveway, but Jackie’s signature 1989 black Cadillac DeVille was missing. Police issued an all-points bulletin for the car, which they had reason to believe was driven by Jackie’s son, Peter.
The commotion at the Bevins household got around town quickly. By the next morning, local newspapers printed comments from local business owners and those who had crossed paths with both Jackie and Jack. An employee at the Village Food Market told the Biddeford Journal Tribune, “Two lives gone down the drain.” Another saying that it wasn’t just a tragedy for the Bevins family, but for the community as a whole.
Police hadn’t yet made an arrest or even indicated a suspect at the time of those comments in the paper; Maine State Police Spokesman Steve McCausland saying only that they had an idea of what went on in the household and that they were dealing with a homicide. He also told the Journal Tribune that they’d made contact with Jackie Bevins on the night of the discovery, but did not let on to their suspicions surrounding the victim’s wife until later that evening.
Investigation & Arrest
On April 4, 1990, almost exactly 24 hours after police responded to the anonymous call at the Bevins home, police arrested 49-year old Jacqueline G. Bevins on charges of murder. She’d been at Maine Medical Center, where she admitted herself for voluntary psychiatric treatment the night before. They’d actually questioned Jackie the same day of Jack’s murder, but kept an eye on her before finally placed the handcuffs around her wrists the next day.
When it comes to a homicide case, many of the specific details are kept quiet until the formal court proceedings to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial. However, the state police spokesman indicated that they had a good idea of the motive and the series of events that led to Jack’s death. Their marriage would be put under a microscope, and State Police indicated that several past incidents between Jack and Jackie were under review.
State Police Sergeant Michael Harriman said that police were checking on a quote-altercation between Jack and Jackie from a few years prior. Reportedly, the pair were in Florida and when pressed for more information, Ogunquit Police Chief William Hancock Jr. weighed in, revealing that Jackie had stabbed or attempted to stab Jack with a screwdriver. As quoted in the Biddeford Journal Tribune, “I think she found her husband with another woman.” Jack never pressed charges.
It wasn’t the first time anyone had heard about the infidelity that plagued the Bevins marriage. Rumors were rich with salacious stories, and more than a few people speculated that Jack carried on with women both at home and in the Cayman Islands, where he apparently owned and operated a cement business. Reporter Emily Caldwell asked a fisherman about the accusations of Caribbean girlfriends, to which he replied, “Chances are.”
While the State built their case, Jackie awaited arraignment in the York County Jail.
Episode Source Material
- Youths Held in Robbery, Boston Globe, 01 Sep 1960
- Those arrested in FBI raids, Boston Globe, 13 Sep 1972
- 89 arrested in Boston-area gambling raids by William F. Doherty, Boston Globe, 14 Sep 1972
- Woman foils agents trying to seize car, Boston Globe, 01 Mar 1973
- 2 arrested in loanshark indictments, Boston Globe, 25 Apr 1974
- Homicide victim’s son sought by Emily Caldwell and Tom Berg, Journal Tribune, 04 Apr 1990, Reaction, page 2
- Wife charged in York murder by Tom Berg, Biddeford Journal Tribune, 05 Apr 1990, page 2
- Struggle preceded fatal shooting by Emily Caldwell, Journal Tribune, 06 Apr 1990, page 2
- John W. Bevins Obituary
- Bevins’ hearing on bail begins by Emily Caldwell, Biddeford Journal Tribune, 10 Apr 1990, page 2
- No bail for Bevins pending evaluation by Emily Caldwell, Journal Tribune, 10 Apr 1990, page 2
- Bail hearing delayed: Begins to undergo psychological testing by Emily Caldwell, Biddeford Journal Tribune, 11 Apr 1990, page 2
- Bevins to plead wife abuse by Emily Caldwell, Journal Tribune, 25 Apr 1990, page 2
- Witness worries as Bevins makes bail by Emily Caldwell, Biddeford Journal Tribune, 19 Jun 1990
- Opening arguments heard in Bevins case, AP/Bangor Daily News, 18 Oct 1991
- Bevins acquitted of murder, AP/Bangor Daily News, 31 Oct 1991, page 2
- Battered Woman Syndrome/The Self-Defense Theory in Homicide by Joseph D. Thornton, JR., CLI, 31 Oct 1991
- Candidate’s Life: Bullets and Batter to Bread and Butter by Pamela Ferdin, Washington Post, 14 Apr 1999
- Acquitted killer to run for post in Ogunquit, AP/Bangor Daily News, 30 Mar 1999
- Jury selection set to begin in Gogan trial by Brenda Seekins, Bangor Daily News, 14 Mar 2001
- Voters re-elect woman who killed husband, AP/Bangor Daily News, 09 Apr 2001
- A race for three selectmen seats by Jennifer Hagan, Kennebunk York County Coast Star, 20 Mar 2003
- Domestic abuse involved in many Maine homicides by Abigail Curtis, Bangor Daily News, 13 Feb 2010
- The Battered Woman Syndrome by By Lenore E. A. Walker, EdD, accessed via Google Books