June 20, 2018
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Machias vigil honors woman slain in ’08 domestic violence case

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

MACHIAS, Maine — Every once in a while, RayAnn Wilder thinks of picking up the phone to call her daughter.

“It’s silly, I know,” she said. “Some days are harder than others to accept that she’s gone.”

Two years ago Saturday Katie Cabana and her friend, Aaron Settipani, were murdered inside Cabana’s home in Marshfield. Her three young children witnessed their mother’s shooting, and Cabana’s 6-year-old daughter was wounded.

The killings were fueled by the jealousy of Richard Widdecombe Jr., Cabana’s former boyfriend, who later confessed, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison for his actions.

Wilder and many others who knew and loved the two victims honored their memory Saturday with a vigil that brought the harsh reality of domestic violence to light.

“Sometimes you think you are the only one in the world who knows what it’s like,” Wilder said, “so you don’t want to talk about it.”

But the mother knows her daughter Katie can no longer talk or stand up for the cause that took her life, so Wilder speaks for her.

“We miss her. We miss the way things were,” she told an audience of more than 50 gathered inside the Performing Arts Center at the University of Maine at Machias.

Saturday’s vigil was a chance to remember Cabana, who was 29, and Settipani, who was 41, but also an opportunity to bring awareness to domestic violence. Carrie Callahan with the Next Step Domestic Violence Project said the two victims paid the ultimate price of domestic violence, but there are many more living victims.

One in every three couples has experienced some form of domestic violence during the course of their relationship, Callahan said, so the list of potential victims is long.

“Domestic abuse takes on many forms — threatening, stalking, sexual abuse — but it doesn’t discriminate by gender, religion, age or education,” she said.

Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith also spoke about the horrors of domestic violence that he sees every day on the job.

For all the statistics that are out there, Smith said, Cabana and Settipani were not statistics at that moment in time. They were people.

“And there are so many more lives affected by these murders,” he said. “I knew mine wouldn’t be the same after that.”

After Saturday’s vigil, representatives of Next Step unveiled a “silent witness” statuette of Cabana, in conjunction with the Maine Silent Witness Project, which offers wooden silhouettes with personal biographies of domestic violence victims who have been murdered. Cabana’s silent witness joins many others across Maine, where half of all homicides are the result of domestic violence.

Not everyone who attended Saturday’s vigil was connected to Cabana or Settipani. A young female college student, who asked not to be identified, said she didn’t know either of the victims but attended for herself. She recently ended an abusive relationship.

“I’m scared about what’s going to happen,” she said. “It sucks to live with that fear.”

Agencies like Next Step provide safety, shelter, support and resources to victims of domestic violence, but the group’s director, Laurie Fogelman, said there is always more to be done.

“Don’t perpetuate the stereotypes that blame victims,” Fogelman told the audience. “People can always make choices. Abusers need to be held accountable.”

Wilder, who has adopted one of Cabana’s children, 11-year-old Gabriel, said she has tried to move on with her life, but she doesn’t forget. Every holiday, every birthday, every special moment, she thinks of Katie.

Cabana’s two other children, Autumn Rogers and Ethan Rogers, who were 6 and 5 years old at the time of the shootings, now live with their father.

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