OLD TOWN, Maine — When downtown resident Christopher Ouellette called 911 on Oct. 9, and said he had stabbed his girlfriend of seven years, responding police found the couple’s two young children were still inside the apartment with him.
Old Town police Sgt. Michael Hashey and Detective James Slauenwhite were the first to arrive, and their actions resulted in the children being released safely, family members of the deceased and the sergeant’s supervisor said recently.
“When we originally went there, the children were inside the home and Sgt. Hashey convinced [Ouellette] to let the children leave,” Capt. Kyle Smart said.
Slauenwhite “was the one who carried both of those kids out of there,” Hashey said of the children, ages 2 and 4.
Ouellette had stabbed his longtime girlfriend, April Haskell, multiple times in the neck and chest, according to police. He was inconsolable when police arrived, which only added to law enforcement’s fears that the children were in harm’s way, Smart said.
Ouellette “was in the doorway and he had the little girl” pinned against the doorframe when Hashey and Slauenwhite arrived at the third-floor apartment, Slauenwhite said.
“The goal at that point was to get the kids out and get inside the apartment to see if the victim was alright,” the detective said.
Hashey said both officers repeatedly told Ouellette, “You need to let the kids go.”
“Soon after we got there, he agreed to let the little girl go but said he would not release the little boy,” Hashey said. “Jamie and I just kept talking to him about releasing the boy and eventually he just changed his mind.”
After Ouellette agreed to release the girl, he put her down by the door but she kept going back inside the apartment, so “I went up to the door and as he shut the door, I grabbed the girl,” Slauenwhite said. “I started down the steps, but I didn’t want to leave Hashey alone, so I turned back and that is when I heard the door open and the boy came out and I grabbed him.”
The detective took the children down to a waiting ambulance, he said.
Local police, followed by other law enforcement agencies in the region, responded to the couple’s apartment located above the Subway restaurant on Main Street in Old Town at around 6 p.m. Oct. 9. Ouellette, 28, and Haskell, 35, who was pregnant with the couple’s third child, and their two children had moved into the apartment just two months prior.
Responding law enforcement did not know whether Haskell was dead or alive when they arrived, Smart said.
“At that point, all we knew was what he told us — that she had been stabbed,” the police captain said.
Hashey did what he and others in law enforcement are trained to do and separated the aggravated person from the potential victims, in this case the two children, said Smart, who was called in to work the night of the homicide and police shooting.
“We always try to remove them from the situation the fastest way we can so they’re not dealing with the trauma of listening to their parents or guardians arguing,” the police captain said of responding to domestic violence calls involving children. “We’re always looking to put them in a safe situation, the best way we can.”
The officers are trained, but they said real world experience is what they relied on to get the job done.
“We had to work with what we had in front of us at that point,” Slauenwhite said. “It’s what we do.”
After Ouellette released his children to police, he barricaded himself in the apartment and a standoff ensued. Within hours, he was shot and killed by State Trooper Barry Meserve, a 15-year veteran.
Haskell’s autopsy found that she had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and chest and the autopsy for Ouellette showed he died of a single gunshot wound to the head, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland and Mark Belserene, spokesman for the medical examiner’s office.
Meserve was placed on administrative leave with pay as state police and the Maine attorney general’s office investigate the incident, as is standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting.
Brian McMaster, who heads the attorney general’s office investigations division and investigates all police-involved shootings in Maine, said Monday that the Old Town investigation is still pending and could take “upwards of a couple of months” due to a backlog in cases. Meserve returned to duty on Nov. 7, according to McCausland.
Haskell was 27 weeks pregnant with a baby boy she planned to name Oliver, said Tracie Peters, who is married to Ouellette’s brother, Scott, and who worked with Haskell at the Quality Inn in Bangor.
Haskell and the unemployed Ouellette had been having relationship trouble, “but we never thought anything like this would happen,” Peters said the day after her death.
Local police from Old Town and Orono, as well as personnel from the Maine State Police major crime unit, Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office and Maine Warden Service went to the scene.
April Haskell was a mother to four children. The two young children she had with Ouellette were placed in the care of Haskell’s sister, Tracey Haskell of Orono, who described Sgt. Michael Hashey as a hero.
The sergeant downplayed the importance of his role, saying, “that whole part of the incident seems like it only took a few minutes.”
The decisions made by Hashey and Slauenwhite in those precious minutes prevented any additional tragedies that fateful day, Haskell said Tuesday by phone with noise of children playing in the background.
“They had to make really hard choices, life choices,” she said. “Those officers definitely did save their lives.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.