Attorney General Presents the 7th Report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel

March 14, 2008

Attorney General Steve Rowe made the following comments at a press conference on March 14, 2008:

We are here to present the seventh report of the Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel.

The Panel was created by the Legislature more than 11 years ago in response to the unacceptable number of domestic violence related homicides. Over the years we have seen that half the homicides in Maine are domestic violence related, a statistic that is unfortunately still true today.

Domestic violence homicide is where an individual was killed at the hand of a family member or former intimate partner.

They are directed by statute to issue a report to the legislature every two years outlining their activities, conclusions and recommendations.

Members of the Panel represent a variety of professions whose work brings them in contact with battered individuals or the children. It is comprised of representatives from state and local law enforcement agencies, doctors and other health care workers, a judge, a journalist, advocates from the domestic violence community, and public policy makers from state government and academia.

It is charged with looking at all of the circumstances surrounding the homicide and to offer suggestions so such tragedies can be prevented.

The panel meets 8 or 9 times each year. I want to express my thanks and appreciation to Lisa, Margo, and members of the panel for their excellent work.

Before we cover the Panel?s work I would like to take just a few moments to talk about what domestic abuse is.

Quite simply, domestic abuse is caused by one person believing they have a right to exercise power and control over another.
The effects of domestic abuse are devastating.

But the targets are not the only victims. The mark left on a child who witnesses abuse can be so dire it often times cannot be erased.

Frequent exposure to violence can actually change the structure of the developing brain, particularly among children younger than three.

In fact, a child?s exposure to the father abusing the mother is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.

Kids who witness their parents? domestic violence are 3 times more likely to abuse their own partner than children of non-violent parents.

It takes no more than common sense to conclude that the best way to cut down on the number of domestic violence homicides is to cut down on the amount of domestic violence.

The recommendations outlined in this report are designed to do just that.

Over the past two years the panel reviewed 14 cases of domestic violence, incidents that led to the death of 15 Maine people.

The panel found that of the fourteen perpetrators, thirteen of them were adult men. It is also important to note that five of the fourteen killers also took their own life. Of the fifteen victims, thirteen were females.

Eleven homicides reviewed involved relationships between heterosexual couples. Six perpetrators were married to their victims at the time of the homicide. Two were live-in boyfriends, and one was a live-in girlfriend. Two of the perpetrators were former husband/boyfriend. One was a son. One was a son-in-law, and one was a brother. Finally, one perpetrator was the victims? boyfriend?s adult son.

Out of the fifteen victims, only one had a protection from abuse order at the time of the homicide.

Of the fourteen perpetrators involved in the cases reviewed by the panel, eleven killed their victims with firearms, two used knives, and one beat his victim.

For years we have seen pattern in domestic violence homicides where the perpetrator has a history of threatening suicide. It is essential that these threats be taken seriously. If someone is capable of hurting themselves then often times they are capable of hurting those around them.

The weapon of choice in all but three of the homicides was a firearm. In every murder suicide the perpetrator killed with a gun.

The information that was analyzed over the past two years continues to illustrate the devastating impact domestic violence has on children. You will read that of the fourteen cases reviewed, fifteen minor children lost one or both parents. Even more alarming is that ten of these children were present when their parent or parents were killed.

While these are stunning and unacceptable numbers, we must remember that even when domestic violence does not end in death, it exacts a tremendous toll on our children.

The report not only outlines the circumstances surrounding the homicides but also offers specific steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of domestic violence in Maine, and reduce the number of families plagued by this great evil.

One of the many people who worked very hard to produce this year?s report is the Panel?s chair, Lisa Marchese.

Lisa is an assistant attorney general in the criminal division of my office. In addition to being one of the State?s top homicide prosecutors she has served on the Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel for the past eleven years.

I would like to now turn this presentation over to Lisa who will tell you more about the work of the panel and the recommendations they have made.

David Loughran 626-8577