Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Domestic Violence Remains #1 Cause of Homicide Death in Maine

So far this year in Maine, 19 people have died by murder or manslaughter in the state. In 10 of those cases, the killer and the victim had been closely involved in a relationship, continuing an unfortunate trend in Maine homicides.

"In Maine you are far more likely to be killed by someone who loves you, or who loved you, than by a stranger," said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Maine's 19 homicides is the highest total recorded in the state since 2001, when there were also 19. The lowest number of homicides in the last decade came in 2002, when there were 14 killings, with three attributed to domestic violence. The highest number of homicides ever recorded in Maine was 40, in 1989.

This year's cases included:

Janet Hagerthy, 74, who was beaten to death in her Farmington home on Nov. 30. Her son-in-law, David Grant, has been charged with murder.

Mark Dugas, 39, who was stabbed to death in his home in Waldoboro on June 4. His wife, Amy Dugas, 32, was indicted for murder in July.

Chevelle Calloway, 41, and Sarah Murray, 71, were both shot to death at Murray's home in Boothbay Harbor on Aug. 21. Jon Dilley, Calloway's husband and Murray's son, was charged with two counts of murder.

The victims in the 10 domestic cases included seven women, two men and one 2-year-old child.
The Deprez case raised serious questions about the state's ability to protect domestic-violence victims. Days before the beating that killed her, Deprez's one-time boyfriend Gregory Erskine, 50, was jailed for threatening her with a kitchen knife and was released on bail. The judge who released him did not know that Erskine had an extensive history of domestic abuse, both with Deprez and other women. Erskine is scheduled to go on trial for murder next month.

Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Cantara says the state continues to work to lessen domestic violence and create safe options for its victims who want to escape abusive relationships. He is scheduled to deliver a report in February to Gov. John Baldacci that identifies state priorities to reduce domestic violence. Cantara says police receive more training in recognizing and responding to abusive relationships than ever, and the public is more likely to report what once may have been seen as minor incidents, but he predicts that over time, some of the work will have to be done outside the criminal justice system for the number of homicides to decrease.

"It's bigger than the Department of Public Safety," Cantara said. "We are going to have to expand our efforts throughout society for the barriers of silence to be broken down."
Cantara says the courts are implementing domestic violence programs around the state in which a single judge rules on the civil aspects of an abusive relationship, such as a protection-from-abuse order, alongside criminal charges. He also cites a recent effort by the state Department of Labor to create standards within workplaces so victims can be safe and abusers cannot hide behind their jobs while they harass.

Besides the domestic cases, there is no single cause connecting other homicides in the state.
Julius Petrovic, 60, was shot to death in the Yarmouth Information Center parking area on May 15. Authorities believe he was killed in the course of an attempted armed robbery, which is a common cause of murder in other states, but rare in Maine.

Rafael Rosado III, 26, was shot to death outside his home in Biddeford on June 8. No one has been charged with causing his death. It is the only homicide this year that is still under investigation.

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