LOWELL — The 26-year-old Maine man arrested in 2017 for beating his mother, maternal grandparents and a home health aide to death with a baseball bat while visiting the grandparents’ home in Groton admitted in Middlesex Superior Court on Wednesday to committing the horrific murders.
Orion Krause, initially charged with four counts of first-degree murder, accepted a plea deal offered by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office that had him plead guilty to four counts of second-degree murder. As part of the deal, Judge Kenneth Salinger sentenced Krause to life in confinement with the possibility of parole in 25 years.
Krause faced a potential sentence of life without parole if found guilty of the first-degree murder charges.
During Wednesday’s hearing Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Thomas Brant explained the plea deal took into account Krause’s lack of criminal record, his youth and his mental health condition. Krause told Salinger during the hearing that doctors at Bridgewater State Hospital — where he was held after the brutal murders — determined he suffers from schizophrenia.
“The resolution of this case today in no way can erase the incalculable loss felt by the family and friends of these victims,” said District Attorney Marian Ryan in a press release following Wednesday’s hearing.
Those killed on Sept. 8, 2017 were Krause’s 60-year-old mother, Elizabeth Krause, of Rockport, Maine; his grandparents Frank Darby Lackey III, 89, and Elizabeth Lackey, 85; and the Lackey’s home health aide Bertha Mae Parker, 68, of Groton.
“The utter brutality, the human indecency, the cruelty of these acts is beyond comprehension,” said a woman who identified herself during Wednesday’s hearing as a sister of Elizabeth Krause and the daughter of the Lackeys.
“These are acts that with the voracity, the ferocity, the complete cruelty that our loved ones met that day is a darkness that is beyond any theology, or any philosophy and maybe any psychology of understanding,” she said.
Before the sentence was handed down, Brant detailed the day of the horrifying murders.
Around 5:50 p.m. Krause knocked on a neighbor’s door and told the resident he had just killed four people. Groton Police officers arrived a short time later. After talking with Krause, police went to his grandparents’ home where they saw through a window two elderly people in a seated position facing them. The couple was covered in blood and both suffering head trauma.
Brant said police entered the home where they discovered blood all over the floor and the ceiling throughout the length of the 25-foot kitchen. A third woman — later identified as Elizabeth Krause — was also found sitting in the room suffering from clear head trauma. The fourth victim — Parker — was discovered with similar injuries outside the home.
The cause of the death of all four victims was determined to be blunt force trauma, with injuries to the brain and skull, Brant said.
Police learned around 4:40 p.m., Krause contacted a former professor at Oberlin College in Ohio and told the professor of his plans to kill his mother and his intentions to do so with golf clubs in his grandparents’ garage. In response to the ominous phone call from Krause, the concerned professor attempted to intervene by making phone calls to Krause’s family and the Groton Police Department, according to Brant.
“Those calls, your honor, came too late,” the prosecutor told Salinger.
After the phone call, Krause went to the garage to retrieve the golf clubs, but instead picked up a baseball bat. During the hearing, Brant pulled the weapon from a long paper exhibit bag and held it up in the courtroom. The bat was stained red.
“He walked outside and practiced swinging by hitting apples,” Brant said. “He then went inside and immediately started hitting his mother in the head and face severely and repeatedly with this baseball bat.”
According to Brant, Krause’s grandparents yelled at him to stop as the violence unfolded. Despite their pleas, Krause attacked them with the baseball bat. Brant said Parker was upstairs reading the Bible when she heard the commotion and rushed downstairs. She tried to get the baseball bat out of Krause’s grip, but unable to do so, she attempted to flee the scene.
“The defendant caught up to her and struck her severely in the back of the head again with this same bat,” Brant said. “The defendant than dragged her lifeless body several feet to the flower bed.”
Salinger asked Krause if the prosecution’s depiction of the murders was accurate, to which Krause said, “Generally, yes.”
Salinger went through each victim’s name individually, asking Krause if he killed them. Krause replied with a “yes” after each name — his voice growing more faint with each response. He sat slouched next to his attorney Edward Wayland as he spoke.
Salinger also asked Krause if he struck the victims in the head with the baseball bat on purpose, which Krause again answered in the affirmative.
“I was basically in a psychotic state that impaired my ability to do anything, but yes,” Krause told the judge.
Members of the victims’ family were given an opportunity to speak on Wednesday, which aside from the woman who identified herself as a sister of Elizabeth Krause and the daughter of the Lackeys, included Najah Alford. Alford — Parker’s daughter — described her mother as a loving and faithful Christian woman who “wanted to live her life in service to others.”
“She basically had a vibrant life,” Alford said. “She wasn’t slowing down even at 68 years old. She loved what she did. She loved her job because she was able to care for people and still spend time with family and grandchildren.”
“I cannot begin to articulate how this unimaginable horrific crime has forever changed my life, my family and all our futures, because my mom did not just pass away naturally and in a state of peace,” she concluded. “She was violently murdered without reason and that’s not something that can be processed or communicated well.”
Krause also addressed those in the courtroom on Wednesday. He remained seated and did not face the grieving families as he spoke.
“I acknowledge there is confusion and … my family hasn’t been able to process this,” Krause said. “It is an insane thing. I pray that we will be able to process it in the future — hopefully together.”
“Najah Alford I am so truly sorry,” he added. “I’ve turned to Christ myself and I’m happy that your mom is with her Lord right now. I’m sure of it. I send all my love …”
According to Brant, after Wednesday’s appearance, Krause was set to be taken to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution — Cedar Junction, in Walpole, where he will receive a mental health evaluation. Based on the evaluation’s outcome, Krause could go to any state institution, Brant said.
During Wednesday’s hearing, several members of the Groton Police Department sat behind the grieving families in the courtroom gallery.
“While this conviction doesn’t change the horrific events that occurred on September 8, 2017, we hope that this verdict today provides the family some peace,” said Groton Police Chief Michael Luth in a statement released after the hearing.
Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis.