DEXTER, Maine — The Wellington man who killed his wife and two children Monday came to his estranged wife’s Shore Road home in Dexter heavily armed, according to the Maine State Police.
Steven Lake, 37, used a 12-gauge shotgun to kill his wife, Amy, 38, and their two children, Coty, 13, and Monica, 12, but he also carried a .22-caliber handgun, extra ammunition, and a knife, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. He said there is no evidence that Lake used the handgun or knife in the attacks. A flashlight also was found at the scene, McCausland said.
Police still do not know when Lake arrived or how he entered Amy Lake’s rented house since there was no forced entry, McCausland said Thursday. He said they are trying to determine Steven Lake’s movements before the murders.
Amy Lake had filed for and received a protection from abuse order against Steven Lake after a verbal confrontation in June 2010. In that incident, Lake gathered his family in the couple’s bedroom and held a gun down to his side that he had removed from a holster hanging on a bedpost, according to statements made by Amy Lake to a victim witness advocate. He also threatened to kill his wife and take revenge on a list of people who he said had wronged him, including her parents, sibling and friends.
Fearing for her life, Amy Lake filed for a divorce, which was pending at the time of her death, and moved her children to Dexter, where she taught school, to avoid contact with her estranged husband, who was staying in Wellington. She told Dexter police of her fears and asked that they keep an eye on her and her children.
Dexter police did just that, and even notified surrounding police agencies to be on the lookout for Lake’s dark blue Jeep. Dexter police Sgt. Kevin Wintle said his department made frequent patrols to Shore Road to check on the family. Even when he was off duty, Wintle, who lives on Shore Road, said he kept an eye on the family. The welfare check made Monday morning when Amy Lake and her children failed to show up for school was part of that safety net.
As he neared Lake’s home Monday, Wintle said he spotted the Jeep and pulled his cruiser up to the mailbox in front of the home. He immediately heard six or seven gunshots from inside the house, followed minutes later by one or two more gunshots, he recalled Tuesday. Wintle, who wasn’t sure if someone was shooting at him, said he backed his vehicle up Shore Road a short distance and called for backup.
More than 50 law enforcement officers arrived at the scene. In the belief that Steven Lake was holding his family hostage, state police negotiators attempted to make contact with him for several hours without success. The state police tactical team then entered the home at about 2 p.m. and found the bodies.
State police believe Lake planned to kill his family and then set the house on fire because he had poured light diesel fuel throughout the house. Lake’s plan, however, was disrupted when Wintle arrived, they said.
No suicide note has been found. “No written trail has been found, and sometimes in cases like this, with a suicide, something turns up later [that] either is mailed or relatives find it as they’re cleaning up paperwork,” McCausland said.
McCausland said there are still many questions that must be answered during the investigation, including where Lake acquired the guns. Lake had been prohibited from possessing firearms through the protection of abuse order.
As police continue their investigation, residents in the Dexter area continue to grieve for a beloved kindergarten teacher and two well-liked children.
Visiting hours for Amy, Coty and Monica Lake will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 17, in the Dexter Regional High School. The funerals for the family will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 18, at Dexter Regional High School. Purple balloons will be launched for domestic violence awareness at 5 p.m. Saturday at the public beach.
Dexter Town Manager David Pearson said extra police officers will be on hand at Saturday’s funeral to ensure that everything stays peaceful. “We don’t want any incidents or demonstrations,” he said Thursday.
Despite being a small town, Dexter has had its share of violent deaths over the years.
In 1970, Meredith Labree, 28, was gunned down near a funeral home on lower Main Street as she was fleeing from her boyfriend. Labree, the mother of five, was carrying her infant daughter Shannon when the incident occurred. Shannon received a gunshot wound to her hip but survived. The gunman was Norman Ellis, 24, of Cornville, who attempted to take his own life afterward but survived. He was found guilty of manslaughter.
Diane Titus, a mother of two, was murdered in April 1978 in her home. She had been stabbed 55 times by Charles W. Page, 32, of Levant was convicted of murder in the slaying.
In December 1999, Mindy Gould, 20, and Treven Cunningham, 21 months, were slain execution-style, in a Church Street home. Gould had been babysitting the boy for one of her close friends. Jeffrey Cookson, 36, of New Gloucester and later Dover-Foxcroft, was convicted of the murders, but he has maintained his innocence and has filed numerous appeals over the years. Police said Gould had moved to Dexter from New Gloucester to get away from Cookson.
Former Dexter Police Chief David Clukey, who served in the police department for 42 years, remembers the earlier murders. He noted that most of the murders involved people who were not Dexter residents, but people who had moved to the community.
Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said few towns escape such incidents. “I don’t think it is a matter of geography, it’s just happens to be where these crimes occur,” he said Thursday.