Report: Almost half of Maine homicides are domestic violence – Recommendations

The 68-page report outlines the detailed observations and recommendations made by the panel. In 2012 and 2013, the roughly 30 members of the board reviewed 21 cases of domestic-violence homicide that occurred between April 2009 and September 2013. The cases represent those that were closed during the review period.

Of those 21 cases, 17 homicides involved intimate partners, while the remaining four involved violence committed against family members other than a spouse. The 21 perpetrators attacked 27 victims. Nearly all the victims were killed, while several others were seriously injured and just one escaped the attack without injury.

Of the 21 killings reviewed, one involved a father killing his 4-month-old child. In another case, a 6-week-old boy was in his mother’s arms when the attacker shot her multiple times in the back. Other children were forced to watch as one parent killed another. One was even put to bed by his father in the same room as his mother’s dead body, moments after she had been killed by the child’s father.

All told, the 21 cases of homicide exposed 14 children to killings by an abusive parent, the report states.

“That’s 14 children who lost one or both parents, 14 children of all ages, from three weeks to 17 years, whose lives were forever disrupted and traumatized.”

RECOMMENDATIONS
The report includes dozens of pages of recommendations, including proposals for police, prosecutors, judges, health providers, state officials and the public. They include recommendations that:

• Law enforcement agencies increase collaboration with domestic abuse resource centers.

• Police officers offer victims and offenders domestic abuse referral services and other necessary information, similar to a “blue card” handed out by officers in the Bangor Police Department.

• Health care providers regularly screen all patients, in private, for physical abuse and coercive behavior.

• Schools offer ongoing and consistent education about domestic abuse and dating violence at all levels.

• The judicial system and police work even more diligently to secure all firearms that courts order be relinquished by perpetrators.

PRESENCE OF FIREARMS
Lisa Marchese, assistant attorney general for homicide and member of the panel, said the group observed that the presence of firearms makes bad situations likely to become worse. More than half the domestic-violence homicides reviewed were perpetrated with guns, which continue to be the weapon of choice for killers.

“Domestic violence often escalates in severity over time, and the presence of a firearm increases the likelihood that it will escalate to homicide. All too often, the only difference between a battered woman and a dead woman is the presence of a gun,” she said, quoting a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

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