BELFAST, Maine — Ralph and Linda Bagley believe in their hearts that if their daughter Amy Lake’s estranged husband had been monitored four years ago, things would have been very different for her and her two children, Coty and Monica Lake.
That’s why the Bagleys are driven to help sheriff’s offices around the state start electronic monitoring programs so police can keep better tabs on high-risk domestic violence offenders. Amy, 38, Coty, 13, and Monica, 12, were murdered in 2011 by 37-year-old Steven Lake, who then shot and killed himself.
“They would have been alive today if he’d had one of these ankle monitors on when he was first bailed out of jail,” Ralph Bagley said Monday morning at the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office. “We aren’t going to save them all, but if you can save one, it’ll be worthwhile.”
The Bagleys and Kelly Gay, one of Amy Lake’s close friends and co-workers, were in Belfast on a special mission — to donate $13,000 to the Waldo County Domestic Violence Task Force in order to initiate an electronic monitoring program in Waldo County. The funds came from the annual June walk in memory of Amy, Coty and Monica Lake. The funds from the 2014 walk helped start a monitoring program in Somerset County.
Gay said Monday that she and the Bagleys have been striving to see the program expanded statewide ever since they learned that proximity monitoring of Steven Lake might have saved his family from being killed at his hands.
“Even if we have to do it one county at a time, we will do it one county at a time,” she said. “The state’s kind of dragging their feet on electronic monitoring. We appreciate the counties that are doing it on their own.”
Sheriff Jeff Trafton of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office said that the funds for the monitoring program will make a “huge difference” in his territory.
“We can do amazing things with technology. There’s no reason why we can’t use technology to fight domestic violence,” Trafton said. “This won’t guarantee someone’s safety, but it will be a tool we can use to help keep people safe.”
He said that officials in Waldo County would like to get started with the program as soon as possible, and likely will get four or five monitors to have on hand. They can be used when domestic violence offenders are out of jail with bail conditions set by the court.
Deputy Teresa Brown of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office said that her county is currently using five of its eight monitors. Generally, domestic violence offenders in the program agree to pay her county $7 per day to wear the electronic monitoring bracelet, which allows them to be released from jail while they are awaiting trial.
“I feel as though the people wearing the bracelet are more cognizant of their victims,” she said.
While the bracelets haven’t stopped the wearers from illegally reaching out to victims by telephone, for instance, no offenders have physically ventured too close to where they shouldn’t go while they’ve had them on.
“The people I have in the program are generally the more violent offenders,” Brown said. “I feel these [bracelets] are a phenomenal tool and we’ve had great success with them.”
She said that in Somerset County, officials try not to use the money from the Bagley fund except in certain circumstances, preferring that the offenders pay for the real-time monitoring themselves.
Ralph and Linda Bagley said that they would encourage people in domestic violence situations to seek help and “try to get protection from somewhere.”
They said that they appreciate the way the community supports the annual walk and has not forgotten the Lake family.
“They are forever remembered,” Linda Bagley said. “We get cards every year on the date they were taken from us.”