Did a Maine Teen Murder His Parents Because He Thought They Wouldn't Accept Him as Transgender?
A Maine teenager who has been in custody for more than a year will be tried as an adult in the bloody slayings of his parents and the family’s dog on Halloween 2016, PEOPLE confirms.
Andrew Balcer, 19, is charged with two counts of intentional or knowing murder and one of aggravated cruelty to animals in the homicide of parents Antonio and Alice Balcer, both 47, and their Chihuahua at their Winthrop home in the early morning hours of Oct. 31, 2016.
Andrew was indicted on Friday by a grand jury in Kennebec County, Maine.
Court documents obtained by PEOPLE detail a grisly sequence of events: how the academically gifted and socially isolated teen, who had no prior criminal or disciplinary issues, savagely stabbed his mom and dad in their home and then callously described what he’d done to authorities.
Defense attorney Walter McKee says a conflict between Andrew’s gender identity and his parents may have triggered the early morning killings. (Robert Ellis, the state’s assistant attorney general, declined to comment to PEOPLE on a possible motive.)
“He [Andrew] disclosed to the state forensic service psychologist that his identity was a challenge and that given his parents … he fully expected and knew they would never accept him identifying as female,” McKee says. “Just living with them for his entire life, they had a certain attitude and way that became very clear to him that this would simply not be accepted without question.”
Although 17 years old at the time of the killings, Maine District Court Judge Eric J. Walker in November granted the state’s petition to have Andrew tried as an adult, noting then his concerns about the possibility Andrew could be violent again and would likely need lengthy treatment, beyond what would be required under a juvenile sentence.
The teen intends to plead not guilty to his charges, McKee says.
“The only possible motive for the murders appears to be Andrew’s perception that his parents were unwilling or unable to deal with his transgender issues,” Walker wrote in his ruling, which was obtained by PEOPLE. “We will never know if Antonio or Alice Balcer would have been accepting because they were ambushed and murdered by Andrew.”
McKee says that Andrew began to more openly identify as female while in juvenile custody, and court documents show the teen went by “Andrea” while there.
However, McKee says, Andrew is again using male pronouns after being moved to an adult facility out of a concern over how a transgender identity might be received by other inmates. (Transgender people are more likely to be abused while in custody, experts say.)
“The juvenile facility allowed him to identify as female and made accommodations for him to identify as a female. He has decided to set that aside, as challenging as that may be, in recognition that transgender individuals may have greater difficulties in adult correctional facilities,” McKee says. “I say ‘he’ because as of today — if you asked me three months ago, [Andrew] was identifying as female and receiving all the support needed to be transgender, but that is not what he is doing now.”
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‘There’s No Helping Them’
Winthrop police were called to the Balcers’ home around 1:30 a.m. on that October morning in 2016 by Andrew himself, according to Judge Walker’s Nov. 2 order on bind-over motion.
The ruling states that Andrew told a 911 dispatcher he had stabbed his parents about 30 minutes earlier and, when asked by the dispatcher if he was sure they were dead, he responded: “Yeah, there’s no helping them.”
The teen said he “snapped” and had stabbed his mother in the back in his bedroom and that when his father awoke to his wife’s screams, he “stabbed the f— out of him,” the documents state.
“Andrew then laughed,” according to the documents, and he told the dispatcher he didn’t “even know anymore” why he would kill his parents. “Oh, I stabbed the dog too,” he said, according to the documents. “He was barking.”
Autopsies showed Antonio had 13 “major” stab wounds while Alice had been stabbed seriously nine times. Some of the wounds on both of them were so severe they went through their chests and “out the other side.”
Andrew also told the dispatcher that his 25-year-old brother, who was in the home at the time, had run down the street after begging for his life and being spared.
When police arrived, Andrew — who was covered in his parents’ blood — surrendered without incident. Once in the back of the police cruiser, officers reported that he was singing an opera he had heard Pavarotti perform.
Police found Antonio, a retired member of the Coast Guard, dead on the kitchen floor. Alice’s body was found in a back bedroom. The family’s Chihuahua was also dead in the home.
At the time of his arrest, Andrew was allegedly shaking “but also smiling and chuckling and … he had a ‘matter of fact’ demeanor,” according to the ruling.
‘Andrew Showed Almost No Emotion’
During a subsequent police interview, Andrew told detectives that the night before the murders, his family had dinner at home and watched a movie, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, according to the court documents.
“Andrew said ‘everything was good’ and that around 9 p.m. he laid down in his bed and went online,” the documents state. Around 1:30 a.m., he said, he went to the kitchen and got a large hunting knife — and at this point, he “had decided to kill his parents.”
“Andrew couldn’t remember what he was thinking but … he heard a ‘tone’ going off in his head, as it had done in the past,” the documents state.
He went to his parents’ bedroom and spoke with his mom, who brought him back to his bedroom and hugged him, at which point Andrew stabbed her repeatedly in the back and body as she fell, according to the documents. Her screams drew Antonio, who Andrew attacked as his father tried to flee toward the kitchen, unsuccessfully trying to fight off his son.
While Andrew said he “felt contempt” and annoyance at his dad during the stabbing, and that “these feelings had been building for some time,” he told police he didn’t get “any feeling of relief or satisfaction” from the killings, the judge’s ruling shows.
He said he “didn’t know why he had murdered his parents,” the court documents state. Though he felt guilt, it wasn’t “much,” but he noted that he began to feel sick as the adrenaline wore off.
“Andrew stated the dog was ‘collateral damage’ and he hadn’t planned to stab the dog initially,” the ruling states.
“Throughout this lengthy interview with police, Andrew showed almost no emotion and a totally flat affect aside from occasional laughter,” the judge wrote. “Andrew described the bloody slaughter of his parents and the family dog with the tone of a person going to the store to get groceries.”
The ruling allowing Andrew to be prosecuted as an adult describes a lengthy series of apparent contradictions in his background, some of which seemed to foreshadow that while he had no outward issues, he was unsuccessfully grappling with mounting psychological stress and had an uneasy relationship with his parents.
According to the documents, Andrew said he had “been struggling with his gender identity since he was about 5 years old,” feeling as though he was a transgender woman. He first told his mother about his gender identity issues when he was 10 and she allegedly “was not pleased.” In subsequent conversations, he claimed, she was “always vehemently opposed.”
While he thought his father didn’t know about his transgender identity, he “worried about how” Antonio would react and said his dad had expressed a lack of support for gay people. Antonio was often absent from Andrew’s life as the teen grew up, given Antonio’s military service, but he had retired from the Coast Guard three or four years earlier and was at the house full time, which “had caused some tensions” in the family, the judge wrote.
While the court documents are explicit in noting there was “never any domestic violence” in the home, Andrew said Antonio could “fly off the hinges sometimes.” The night before the killings, Andrew said he and his father argued after Antonio allegedly spoke derogatorily about transgender people.
Still, “all [of Andrew’s] family members agree that they never saw any clues that Andrew was capable of any crimes of violence,” the judge’s ruling states. He had excelled in school and “enjoyed a good childhood” but was “very socially stunted.”
Though he saw a psychiatrist as a teen, he was never diagnosed with any mental health condition.
Now estranged from his older brother, to whom he had grown closer in the years before the killings, other relatives have visited Andrew while he has been in custody, according to the court documents. He had no disciplinary issues while in the juvenile detention center and continued to thrive academically, though he reported previously attempting suicide and having repeated nightmares about his parents’ deaths.
As one doctor noted in evaluating him: “At some early juncture in his life, it appeared clear that Andrew adopted a markedly restricted emotional style … It appears abundantly clear that Andrew’s efforts/abilities to cope with the thoughts and feeling he was experiencing were woefully inadequate.”
McKee says those who know Andrew are stunned by his actions.
“No one had any idea this was in the offing at all,” McKee says. “It was a complete surprise to his friends, teachers and anybody who ever dealt with him.”