June 15, 2011

Police seek answers to slaughter in Dexter

BY ERIN RHODA Staff Writer

DEXTER -- Police investigators continue to search for answers as to why a father shot his two children and estranged wife dead, and then himself.

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In the months before Steven Lake, 37, used a shotgun to kill 38-year-old Amy Lake and their two children, 12-year-old Monica and 13-year-old Coty, at their home in Dexter on Monday, he exhibited a history of emotionally abusive behavior, according to court records.

Despite criminal charges brought against Lake for threatening his wife and children in June 2010, and a protection from abuse order served shortly thereafter, the court allowed Lake contact with his children.

A spokeswoman for the Chief Medical Examiner's Office said Tuesday that Steven and Coty Lake died from cranio-cerebral trauma caused by a gunshot wound to the head. Amy and Monica Lake died from being shot in the head and chest.

A spokeswoman for the Chief Medical Examiner's Office said Tuesday that Steven and Coty Lake died from cranio-cerebral trauma caused by a gunshot wound to the head. Amy and Monica Lake died from being shot in the head and chest.

Maine State Police were not present Tuesday afternoon at the red house on Shore Road, near Lake Wassookeag. Next to the driveway someone placed a white cross with pink flowers. Police continued to speak with family and friends and examine written and electronic records, said Steve McCausland, a spokesman for state police.

"We're looking at the whole range of issues that have come up in the aftermath of this tragedy, but today is really an information gathering day," he said.

Investigators are looking into how Lake entered the home and how he obtained a shotgun, McCausland said. Lake was prohibited by his bail conditions from both being at Amy Lake's residence and possessing a firearm.

Amy Lake, a teacher, did not call 911 on Monday morning. One of her co-workers at a Dexter school called police after driving by the house and seeing Steven Lake's jeep in the driveway, police said.

Police later found a shotgun near the bodies. An accelerant had been spread inside the house, but it hadn't been lit.

Steven Lake's legal paper trail shows a history of emotional and verbal abuse toward his family. On the night of June 14, 2010, Amy told police her husband held a gun and talked about killing himself, the children and her, while at their Wellington home.

"While sitting on my bed with my children, my husband stood in the bedroom doorway with a loaded gun and started talking about hurting himself and/or myself and children. He was bringing up past verbal threats he has said to me and I felt they were all going to come true that night," Amy wrote in her complaint filed in Piscataquis County District Court.

When asked by police whether Steven had a history of violence, she wrote, "not really, but a lot of emotional abuse." When asked if he owned a firearm, she wrote, "yes, but not currently in his possession."

Steven was charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and domestic violence criminal threatening; he was to go to trial next month.

Amy also filed a protection from abuse order against him. Both his bail conditions on the criminal charges and the protection order prohibited Steven Lake from contact with his family, from going to their school or home, and from possessing a firearm.

About two months later, however, Steven Lake, through his attorney Anthony Shusta II, requested the court allow him contact with his children.

"It is anticipated that the minor children will be having contact with the defendant as recommended by their counselors," Shusta wrote in court documents. "Said contact is recommended by the counselors and is in the minor children's best interest."

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