Hundreds in Falmouth mourn mother, friend Shirley Leighton

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FALMOUTH — Hundreds of Shirley Leighton’s friends and relatives packed the Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin Monday for her funeral.

Leighton’s son, meanwhile, who is charged with shooting and killing his mother May 3, continues to hear voices and is still awaiting a state psychiatric evaluation, his attorney said Tuesday.

Andrew Leighton, 46, is being held on a murder charge at Cumberland County Jail in Portland, where staff are having difficulty prescribing the appropriate medication to help with his mental state, attorney Robert LeBrassuer said.

“The next step is determining whether Andrew is competent to process,” LeBrassuer said, noting that it’s still unclear when the mental competency evaluation will be completed by the state forensic service. “At the court hearing he was hearing voices, and unfortunately, he’s continuing to do that.”

Shirley Leighton, who was 68 when she was killed at her Edgewater Drive home, was eulogized in a traditional Episcopal ceremony at the Foreside Road church, with hymns and readings from scripture.

Mourners filled the pews and additional folding chairs, stood along the sanctuary walls, and the overflow crowd spilled out into the foyer. Charles Grover, a friend of the Leightons, remembered Leighton as a fun, energetic, kind and private person.

He said she was a tireless worker, at home and professionally, who enjoyed assigning nicknames to friends, and was an avid, master gardener.

In her professional life, Leighton owned a business making cat-nip pillows and toys, which were sold at pet stores and gift shops, while also working at Cuddledown and L.L. Bean in Freeport.

Grover described her as a loving mother and friend.

Andrew Leighton has been held at the jail without bail since his arrest. According to a police affidavit, he told investigators that he shot his mother as she was trying to call Spring Harbor, a psychiatric hospital in Westbrook, to have him committed.

Since the arrest, LeBrassuer said, the jail has not allowed Leighton to make any calls to his family because of his mental condition, and he has not had any direct contact with them.

According to court records, Thomas Leighton, Andrew Leighton’s father, told police his son has a history of mental illness, including bipolar disorder, and that he and his wife had attempted to get mental health assistance for their son for several years.

Andrew Leighton has two children, according to court records, and had moved back in with his parents about six years ago after a divorce.

A family friend and longtime neighbor to the Leighton’s summer cabin in Harpswell, Christina Losey-Brink, 32, said the family dealt with Andrew’s behavior since she was a teenager, but never imagined it would lead to a death.

“We watched the news that night before any names were given, and we knew it was happening in their neighborhood, but it didn’t dawn on me until a friend of ours called and told us it was Shirley,” she said. “We were all absolutely shocked. I never thought a thing like that would touch someone I know personally.”

Losey-Brink said growing up she split her time between their cabin and the Leighton’s, in a quiet, “tight-knit” neighborhood, just feet from the shore. She said Shirley Leighton would teach her how to maintain, weed and grow flowers in her garden.

“Shirley taught me all that I know about flower gardens,” she said. “She was very matter of fact, kind, soft-spoken, and very funny, always with a quick wit. And when something was done wrong, she would never jump to yelling. It was a very gentle correction. I try to emulate her with my kids.”

Losey-Brink said Shirley Leighton was a loving mother, who always enjoyed coming to the cabin.

“She would want to be remembered for her love for her children, her love for the summer cabin – she worked two jobs to be able to afford it,” she said. “It was her getaway from the daily struggles of her family. It was her little paradise and she worked very hard to make it a relaxing place she could come to.”

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow Will on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.

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Mourners line up for Shirley Leighton’s funeral on Monday, May 13, at the Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin on Foreside Road in Falmouth. Leighton, 68, was remembered as a fun, energetic, kind and private person.