HARMONY, Maine — If the more than 100 people who gathered under the hot sun Tuesday at C & R Variety in Harmony have their way, a local bridge will be renamed in this small community after a beloved teacher and her two children who were killed in Dexter last month.
The petition is the start of a local woman’s campaign and her supporters to tell Maine Legislators that domestic violence will no longer be tolerated. The deaths of Amy Lake, 38, Coty Lake, 13, and Monica Lake, 12, might have have been prevented if laws had been tightened and enforced, supporters said.
Amy Lake had taken out a protection from abuse order against her estranged husband Steven Lake, 37, in June 2010 after an incident in which he had gathered his family in a bedroom and held a gun to his side. That protection order was renewed in August 2010 and was in in effect when Amy and her children were shot and killed by Steven Lake, who then turned the gun on himself.
“We say we have this motto, ‘Maine the way life should be,’ well, I don’t think that we have the right to say that until we can protect the women, and the children who are victims of domestic violence,” organizer Sandra Mitchell of Harmony said Tuesday. “I know there are men who are victims of domestic violence as well, it’s just less heard of, but there’s just no excuse for that violence and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Mitchell, who recalled two other domestic violence deaths in recent years, said her goal was threefold. She wants the Legislature to rename Higgins Bridge in Harmony the Amy, Coty and Monica Bridge and the Main Street Bridge in Harmony renamed the Remember Me Bridge as a reminder of all of Maine’s victims of domestic violence who died in the last 20 years. Her third and most important goal is to get the Legislature to adopt a law that would require a domestic violence assailant, who is under a restraining order, to wear an ankle bracelet that would sound an alert on a monitor carried by the victim. If the assailant was within a certain distance of the victim, the alert would give the victim plenty of time to get to a safe location, she said.
Mitchell’s goals have wide support. Amy Lake’s parents, Linda and Ralph Bagley, who were the first to sign the two petitions Tuesday, said there has got to be changes. “Domestic violence can’t be tolerated,” Ralph Bagley said. His daughter worried about her and her children’s lives for a year while her estranged husband was out on a small bail, he recalled.
C & R store owner Ron Robinson was supposed to go to court because Steven Lake broke the June restraining order by coming into the store when Amy and their daughter were there, Mitchell said. She said Robinson was notified when the court hearing was to be held, then all of a sudden the hearing was postponed and a few weeks later the killings occurred. Had Steven Lake been required to wear an ankle bracelet, this might not have happened, she said.
Rep. Douglas Thomas, R-Ripley, who attended Tuesday’s event, plans to submit bills to rename the bridges but he was cautious about the ankle monitors. He said there should be careful consideration of how to address domestic violence. “You need to protect the rights of innocent people but at the same time, we need to stop this,” he said, referring to the killings.
“It’s a really cruel experience for a parent to have somebody else cause them to have to bury their own child,” Art Jette, community relations coordinator of Womancare, a community-based organization working to end domestic violence, said Tuesday. “I think it is an extremely, extremely cruel experience for somebody to cause grandparents to have to bury their grandchildren, but it’s another dimension of cruelty when the very person who’s the cause of the death of the child or the grandchildren, is someone who very, very often mouthed the words, ‘I love you.’ Love is not supposed to hurt, love is not supposed to kill.”