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       November 06, 2011 1:55 PM

 Everyone knew something bad was going to happen


Amy Lake, 38, was a popular kindergarten teacher at Ridge View Community School in Dexter, Maine. A bright woman and the loving mother of two children, she had been valedictorian of her 1991 Dexter Regional High School Class. Photo: Amy with her children

But her relationship with her husband had taken a dark turn. In June 2010, Steven Lake had taken Amy and their two children, Monica and Coty, into a bedroom while armed with a handgun.

Amy did everything right.
She reported the incident to police and filed for a protection order. The case file notes are chilling. Steven kept a gun on the bedpost and told Amy: "If I have to I’ll use a knife and I’ll do things to you you wouldn’t do to farm animals.”

For Coty, a thirteen-year-old Red Sox fan, hearing about his father’s horrible intentions became part of his life.

His father once told him that a divorce from Amy would cost only 29 cents. "Do you know what that means? That’s the price of a bullet.”

Such was life in the Lake household.

Following the June 2010 incident Steven Lake was charged with criminal threatening with a weapon and released on bail.  Amy took her children and left their home in Wellington, Maine, and rented a house in Dexter. By then, she had filed for divorce. Saying she feared for her life, she asked for and received around-the-clock patrols of her neighborhood by the Dexter Police Department. She also asked friends and co-workers to contact police if they noticed anything amiss.

Five months later Steve followed Amy into a convenience store and then drove by her home. He was charged with violating the bail order and Amy’s protection order. Mug shot at right

Again, he was let out on bail.

On June 12, 2011, a year after the initial incident, Amy didn’t show up for work. Steven Lake’s car had been spotted in her driveway. A Dexter police officer went to her house at 8 A.M. The officer pulled into the driveway, heard multiple gunshots and called for help. Multiple police agencies surrounded the house and tried to make contact with anyone inside. They received no response.

At 2 P.M. a state police armored vehicle with a battering ram moved in on the house. When officers went inside they found four bodies in the living room, some with multiple gunshot wounds. After murdering his wife Amy, his 13-year-old son Coty and his 12-year-old daughter Monica with a shotgun, Steven Lake had shot himself.

According to statistics gathered by the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, prior to the Lake murders there had been three other domestic homicides in Maine during the first half of 2011; there were nine in 2010 and eight in 2009. In fact, domestic violence assaults represented more than 45 percent of all assaults reported to Maine law enforcement agencies in 2009.

Lisa Marchese, a homicide prosecutor and member of the Main Domestic Abuse Homicide Review panel, says the most dangerous time for victims is when they try to end an abusive relationship. "The majority of domestic homicides occur when the batterer recognizes loss of control over the partner.”

Firearms are the most common weapon used. The fact that Lake was prohibited from obtaining a gun by the protection order and bail conditions did not prevent him from getting one. Dale Armstrong, AIC of the FBI’s Portland Field Office, said it was unlikely that he bought it from a dealer. All dealers are required to perform background checks on people purchasing guns.

But Cathie Whittenburg, spokeswoman for States United to Prevent Gun Violence, said it’s not hard to buy a gun in Maine: "... all one needs to do is pick up a copy of ‘Uncle Henry’s,’ choose your gun, show up with cash and avoid a background check.”

Many Maine residents were angry that Steven Lake was let out on bail after he violated a protection order. But Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said: "There are hundreds of cases pending in this state where defendants are out on bail. Everybody can look back and say the judge shouldn’t have let him out on bail, but there are a lot of people just like him out there. It’s just not possible to put all of them in jail. People want to find someone to blame, but the blame should be put on the person who pulled the trigger. [Steven Lake] pulled the trigger. He's responsible."

Amy, Coty and Monica were buried in the same casket. After the funeral, family and friends, even strangers who had heard of the shooting, gathered at Dexter Regional High School to honor them. They remembered Amy, the beloved kindergarten teacher who touched so many lives.

David Vautier, who lived next door to Amy's parents, said: "Everyone knew something bad was going to happen. Amy was a princess, someone you could admire. She took care of her children and raised them right. They were such beautiful children."

They remembered Coty, an avid reader and a budding athlete, and Monica, an athlete and an honor student like her mother.

Erin Palady, who wore purple for domestic violence awareness, said the tragedy melted her heart. "They really did have an impact on everybody.”

Cornell Martin, who had played basketball with Coty, said, "We all cried together.”

I invite your comments on this terrible tragedy. Senseless? Yes. Preventable? Perhaps. What do you think?

Sources: Bangor Daily News, 6-13-2011, 6-14-2011 and 6-18-2011; Kennebec Journal, "Domestic violence deaths remain intractable problem" 6-16-2011

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[ Posted by Sandra McLeod Humphrey, November 09, 2011 8:58 AM ]
     What an incredible loss! It does make one wonder about the efficacy of our legal and mental health systems!

[ Posted by Myrna Griffith, November 09, 2011 11:13 AM ]
     Having lived in rural Maine from time to time, this scenario sounds all too familiar. Sad , sometimes hard to believe, but true.

[ Posted by Art Smukler, November 16, 2011 8:27 PM ]
     As usual, your history is fascinating. I'd love to read your analysis of Sandusky, the Penn State child molester. Thanks! Art

[ Posted by Susan, November 21, 2011 5:15 PM ]
     You're welcome, Art. But I think YOU should do the analysis of Sandusky. You're much more qualified than I am!


posted by SUSAN FLEET   November 06, 2011 1:55 PM  Domestic Homicide 


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