Friday, May 24, 2013
BY GLENN ADAMS
AUGUSTA -- A report analyzing Maine's domestic violence-related homicides is "tough reading," Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday as he and other top law enforcement officials vowed to continue efforts to prevent the crime that accounts for roughly half of the state's killings.
Of the 48 homicides in Maine in 2010 and 2011, 21 were domestic violence-related, says the report by the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel. By far most of the domestic violence homicide victims were female; four were children. Victims ranged in age from 4 months to 89 years.
"I read the report last night, and I tell you, it's tough reading," said LePage, who was a victim of domestic abuse during his childhood. He credited the Legislature with making "significant progress" attacking the problem with laws it's passed during the last few months.
On Thursday, he signed into law a bill that bars judges from waiving $25 fees that perpetrators in violent crimes must pay to the Victims' Compensation Fund. Lawmakers have also enacted a bill he supported to keep domestic violence defendants from getting bail if they have a history of those offenses. In February, LePage ordered the creation of a task force to look into the use of electronic monitoring to prevent offenses.
The 37-page report released Thursday looks at the causes and impact of the homicides and makes recommendations. Among the cases reviewed is one of the state's worst in years, last June's murders in Dexter of Amy Lake and her two children by her estranged husband, Steven Lake, who then turned the gun on himself.
While the report includes a lot of numbers, it does not attempt to compare Maine's domestic violence homicides year to year.
"The report takes the approach of examining the cases that occurred during the two-year period and taking lessons from those cases that we can use going forward. It doesn't analyze whether the problem is getting any better or any worse," said Attorney General William Schneider.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who chairs the panel that compiled the report, said that over any given time roughly half of Maine's homicides are connected to domestic violence, but the report doesn't attempt to spot a trend.
"Annually, domestic violence homicides comprise somewhere around 50 percent of our deaths," said Marchese. "That number stays somewhat steady. It has dropped down, and it has crept up a little bit. So what that has taught me is that I'm not making any prediction on trends."
The big question, Marchese said, is whether ongoing efforts to prevent domestic violence have prevented deaths.
"We'll never know that," she said.