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Domestic abuse homicide review finds 19 deaths in 2018-19

May 02, 2021

Augusta — The latest biennial Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel Report examined 19 cases that resulted in deaths — 18 domestic abuse homicides and one suicide.

The biennial report, released April 28 by Attorney General Aaron M. Frey in a virtual press conference, addresses the fatality reviews completed by the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel since 2018. The panel reviews domestic abuse homicide cases after sentencing or acquittal, and domestic abuse homicide-suicide cases after investigations are complete.

During the period established for this review, the panel reviewed 19 cases involving domestic abuse that occurred from 2014 to 2019. Of the cases, 18 were classified as domestic abuse homicide cases and one was classified as a suicide preceded by prolonged intimate partner violence.

A total of 20 perpetrators in the cases reviewed were responsible for 21 victims of domestic abuse homicide, one suicide, and one victim of serious injury who was a bystander.

In the current biennial review period, the following homicides occurred in Maine:

• In 2018, 19 perpetrators committed 20 homicides, nine of which the Department of Public Safety categorized as domestic abuse homicides.

• In 2019, 19 perpetrators committed 22 homicides, nine of which were categorized as domestic abuse homicides.

• Together, these 18 domestic abuse homicides accounted for nearly 43% of Maine’s total homicides during this two-year period.

The Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel, which was established by the Maine Legislature in 1997, meets monthly to review and discuss domestic abuse homicide cases. The panel coordinator works with the prosecutor and/or the lead detective to present to the multi-disciplinary panel detailed data about the homicide, information about the relationship of the parties, and any relevant events leading up to the homicide.

The panel reviews these cases to identify potential trends in domestic abuse and recommend systemic changes that could prevent future deaths from occurring in Maine. The panel plays a significant role in the prevention and intervention work that occurs in Maine by gathering opinions, analysis and expertise from a variety of professional disciplines across the state.

Joining Frey at the April 28 press conference were Gov. Janet Mills, Francine Stark of Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, chief of the Criminal Division of the Office of the Attorney General and chair of the panel. The report features a 20-year retrospective on the progress made in preventing domestic abuse homicides and the challenges that remain.

Saying it is critical that Maine prioritize funding for domestic and sexual violence prevention and intervention, Frey said, “People who commit domestic and sexual violence have a societal and economic impact on all of us. Continued funding for victims’ services must be realized to keep the momentum going forward.”

"... I hope that legislators seriously consider the recommendations in this report as they have in the past.”

Mills said the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel for 20 years "has helped lawmakers understand why domestic homicides occur so that we might take every action we can to prevent them. That guidance has shaped meaningful changes in public policy, but more must be done.”

Stark said, “In so many cases family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers were aware of domestic abuse occurring, often providing help, while others felt helpless to do anything. There is nearly always something to be done.

“A good first step is calling a community-based advocacy organization — your local Domestic Violence Resource Center is available 24/7 to talk with you about what is happening and help you think about next steps, resources and strategies to keep yourself and the person you are worried about safe. These resources are listed in the appendices of the report.

“Most importantly," Stark said, "all of us — professional responders, community, and family — must work together to create systems of accountability that center on the humanity of all involved but do not minimize the harm done and potential lethality of those who choose to be abusive and violent against their intimate partners or families.”

Frey and Mills encouraged anyone in Maine experiencing domestic abuse to call the statewide hotline at 866-834-4357.

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