A prisoner serving a life sentence for the September 2003 murder of a Medway woman died at the state prison in Warren on Monday from what corrections officers say is an ailment.

Edward Hackett, 64, formerly of Vassalboro, died at about 1:20 p.m., according to a statement from the Maine Department of Corrections.

Dawn Rossignol’s high school yearbook
photo. Credit: Contributed photo

Hackett pleaded guilty to murdering 21-year-old Colby College senior Dawn Rossignol of Medway and got a life sentence to which was added another 90 years for aggravated assault, robbery and kidnapping. The sentences were served concurrently.

Hackett was a Utah parolee living with his parents in Vassalboro when he was charged with abducting Rossignol from a Colby College parking lot on Sept. 16, 2003, and forcing her to go to a gravel road in Oakland about a mile from campus, where her body was found the next day near a stream.

She had been beaten and strangled.

Hackett was arrested early the next month. He was on parole for a kidnapping in Utah 11 years before and had been released from a Utah state prison the spring before the murder, moving to Vassalboro in March 2003 to be with his parents. Hackett came to Maine under a 50-state compact that allowed parolees and probationers to move from state to state when released from prison. The compact allowed states to accept or reject responsibility for supervising released prisoners.

Rossignol’s murder hit the Katahdin region and the Colby campus hard. About 500 people attended her funeral at St. Agatha Catholic Church in the town of St. Agatha. The biology major was described as a model student who planned to pursue a career in pharmacology. At Colby, Rossignol was a dean’s list student, an L.L. Bean Scholar and a member of the Colby Christian Fellowship.

A member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in East Millinocket, Rossignol was a leader in the church’s youth ministry group and served as a lector during Mass. Nearly 800 students and members of the community attended a service at Colby in her honor.

Hackett has been in jail most of his adult life. Prior to Rossignol’s murder, the Connecticut native had three previous convictions, two in Connecticut and one in Utah, for abducting women and attempting either to rob or rape them.

Rebecca Longworth, center, and Jessica Seymore pause for a moment of silence during a vigil, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003, near the Colby College parking lot where Dawn Rossignol was abducted last month. Rossignol, 21, was abducted. Credit: Joel Page / AP

His attorney, Pamela Ames of Waterville, said he had been diagnosed with bipolar, paranoid schizophrenia and has schizo-affective disorder. He told crisis workers in the days before the murder that his mental status was deteriorating and he was afraid he would hurt someone.

“Yet the notation by the caseworkers was that there was no psychosis present,” Ames said after the hearing.

The state accepted him into the 50-state program without first reviewing his medical records, Ames told the court.

During the sentencing for Rossignol’s murder, Hackett mumbled a simple “I’m sorry” to the court, not once looking over at the nearly two dozen members of the Rossignol family attending the hearing. He also shed a tear.

“He feels genuine remorse” and accepted responsibility for what he did, Ames said after the hearing. “He told me, ‘I can’t function in the outside world. Put me away for the rest of my life.’”