“We all knew …that they were having trouble, but we never thought anything like this would happen.”
Those were the words of a co-worker and friend of 35-year-old April Haskell who was stabbed to death by her long-time boyfriend in the couple’s Old Town apartment Wednesday evening.
Haskell was stabbed to death by Christopher Ouellette, 28, in a domestic violence homicide. The couple’s two children, ages 2 and 4, were inside the apartment at the time of the homicide, but Ouellette released them to the police before he was shot and killed by a Maine state trooper.
There had been signs of trouble.
Ouellette was charged in 2009 with domestic violence assault against Haskell and her son. Ouellette was not the father of that child.
The charge involving the child was dismissed and Ouellette pleaded no contest to the assault against Haskell and paid a $300 fine.
Less than two months ago Haskell sought a protection from abuse order against Ouellette and two days later withdrew it. She reportedly told friends she was done with the relationship but the two would continue to share the apartment so Ouellette could stay with the couple’s children.
The death of April Haskell was as tragically typical of domestic violence homicides as the words above uttered by Tracie Peters, who was married to Ouellette’s brother and worked with Haskell at a local motel.
I can assure you of that as a member of the state Attorney General’s Domestic Homicide Review Panel and as a family member of a domestic violence homicide victim.
Though each case is different, so many patterns are the same.
Friends and family members may know the relationship is rocky, perhaps even unhealthy, yet not understand the risk.
Abused women may waver in their resolve to leave the relationship because of love, concern for children or financial challenges.
Protection orders get filled out in times of hurt, fear and anger and then withdrawn after a calming conversation filled with promises and compromise.
And when the homicide occurs, family members and friends are left not only to grieve their loss but to struggle with the guilt as to whether they should have done something more, whether they should have sensed the threat.
In my sister-in-law’s case she had received a protection from abuse order against her husband but asked that it be amended to allow him to live in the vacant house they jointly owned across the street.
They normally rented it out, but it was empty at the time and it would save the family some money if he didn’t have to pay rent somewhere else.
Unfortunately the judge who heard the case reluctantly approved the amendment which allowed them to live within close proximity to one another.
Her husband sat across the street and watched out the window as she and the children went about their lives and his anger grew until one day he walked out of his house and killed her in the middle of the street in front of their two children.
As for us, her family members?
We all knew they were having problems, but we never thought anything like that would happen.
The National Domestic Violence hot line is 800-799-SAFE (7233), its website is http://www.thehotline.org/. The website has an entire section devoted to helping a friend or family member who may be in an abusive relationship.