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Attorney General: Half of Maine Homicides Result of Domestic Violence

More than half the homicides in Maine over the past two years have been linked to domestic violence, according to a report released Thursday.

The Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel says that trend has held steady over the past decade. Now Gov. Paul LePage, a survivor of domestic violence, is reiterating his call for increased surveillance of those accused abusers.

Attorney General Janet Mills read the names of the nine children killed in domestic homicides over the past two years.

“Korbyn, Jason, Noah, Lily, Sean, Duwayne, Destiny, Larry, Leo,” Mills read.

Then Mills provided more grim details. A 4-year-old watched his father kill his mother. Two children were home when their father killed their mother. Seven kids lost their mothers when they were murdered. In many cases, other immediate family members were forced to step in and become parents.

“Aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, older siblings are raising these children out of a wilderness of violence, out of a forest of fear, the darkness of death and loss,” Mills says.

This year Mills and the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel chose to focus its two-year report on the survivors. It found that of the 46 homicides reported, more than half were acts of domestic violence.

The panel has been doing these reviews since the Legislature voted to require them in 1997. While Mills and advocates say that progress has been made since then, the statistics for the past two years point to a decade-long trend.

And LePage, who spoke at the press event in the Hall of Flags marking the report’s release, reintroduced a possible solution.

“Whenever someone is accused of domestic violence, a condition of bail has to be an ankle bracelet,” LePage says.

LePage has long called for increased use of electronic monitoring devices for domestic violence offenders. Four years ago he matched an $18,000 donation to fund a task force to research increased use of ankle bracelets.

But now LePage says the pretrial monitoring of domestic violence defendants will be a priority when a new Legislature convenes in January. If such a proposal passes, Maine would become the 20th state to permit pretrial electronic monitoring of domestic violence defendants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“I believe in taking the safe approach because dead people have no rights. They lost ‘em. When you kill ‘em, it’s final,” LePage says.

Meanwhile, the abuse panel is promoting increased awareness. It’s urging law enforcement, potential victims, health care providers and family members to be on the look out for the “three S’s” — that’s stalking, strangulation and suicidality. According to the report, one or more of those behaviors was observed in the 16 homicide cases reviewed by the panel.

“Lack of respect in your own life often leads to homicide and other acts of violence towards other people’s lives,” Mills says.

The panel reviewed 16 cases. There were 19 victims, including nine children, one as young as 10 weeks old. Fourteen of the 16 perpetrators were men and 12 of the 19 victims were women.

Despite Maine’s relatively low crime rate, an analysis of 2013 homicide data determined that Maine ranked ninth highest in the country for homicides that men committed against women.