“…there are cases in the literature that identify a pattern of behavior that is observable in the days, months or years preceding these monstrous events that may signal a need for high risk containment”
Taken from Psychological Autopsy of Steven Lake in 2011 presented to Governor’s DV Abuse Board
WESTBOROUGH, MA October 31, 2016 People often see signs of imminent violence in the days weeks or months in the lead up to DVH. As a society, these signs must evoke action on behalf of potential victims. The roadmap to understand domestic violence requires clarity and courage that should not be placed solely in the hand’s of victims.
It is frequent that the abuser tips his hand as to what his intentions might be. In the Lake homicide-suicide in 2011 in Dexter, Maine, Steven Lake hinted to his son that “the cost of a divorce is 25 cents – the price of one bullet.” Lake also verbalized that when he “did it – it would be on CNN.”
New Braintree, MA August 5, 2013 Whenever a sensational event takes place – especially one involving crime and violence people wonder what could drive such unthinkable human action? In the police service it is a common occurrence – that people violate the perfunctory right to exist as an individual being with choice and free will. This frequent action dehumanized victims by robbing self-esteem and thereby shaping future decisions relationships and life force.
“… He stood in the doorway with a loaded gun and talked about killing himself and/or children and myself. He was bringing up old verbal threats and I thought they were going to come true”
Amy Lake – July 2010
The words above were taken from a requested order of protection in the state of Maine in 2010. The threats upon this victim and her family became a reality exactly one year to the day after this order was put in place in 2011. Amy
Lake and her two children were murdered by her husband Steven Lake who killed himself as well. Immediately following the killings a Maine district attorney said “there was nothing we could have done to prevent these killings”. These were the words that triggered a team of professionals including myself to research the sequence of events that lead to this event. A formal psychological autopsy was undertaken in 2011 following these murders and over 50 recommendations were generated (Allanach, et al 2011).
I am sick to my stomach as I write about another senseless killing of Wanda Rosa in Methuen, Massachusetts in late summer 2016. The case resembles so many cases of domestic violence homicide – manipulation and control. Ms. Rosa had a permanent order of protection but had recently modified the order to allow Emilio Delarosa to see the child they had in common. Why in the world would anyone allow Delarosa to see his son? He is no role model and the potential for terminal violence was readily apparent as depicted in the order of protection. He expressed his intent to kill his girlfriend on more that one occasion. Delarosa’s history of intimate partner violence had risen to the level of a permanent ban – signaling that the pattern of violence was undeniable and the red flag indicators for domestic violence homicide (DVH) were apparent in the eyes of the police and judiciary when the permanent order was granted.
Permanent orders of protection are rarely granted unless the pattern of violence was so prevalent and unremitting that the potential of harm or death to the victim and her family was unsurpassed as in this case. It is known that Delarosa was manipulative and controlling of his girlfriend getting her to drop charges over and over and later alter the terms of the restraining order – ultimately resulting in her death. Secondly, the person against whom the stay away order is granted must have demonstrated a blatant indifference of the order of the court by having recklessly violated the order over and again. It should not have been altered. In the past 18 months cases meeting these requirements (such as this one) have resulted in intimate partner violent deaths. The Jarod Remy 2013 murder of Jennifer Martin is a despicable reminder of the need for change in cases of DV. Remy killed his girlfriend by stabbing her multiple times as the couple’s 4-year old child bear witness. In spite of laws designed to reduce the likelihood of DVH Rosa was not adequately protected.
Rosa’s boyfriend Emilio Delarosa is on the run as of September 20. He is accused of murdering his former girlfriend after years of abuse, strangled her to death as their 4-year-old boy pleaded with him to spare her life, according to court records. “No Dad” the child was heard to say over and over. As in the Remy case, the 4-year old witnessed his father choking Wanda Rosa until she was dead.
“I suspect there is a strong likelihood that he too will be among the deceased in the coming days as is the common eventuality among those who commit the unconscionable, violence that manifest in this terminal event” according to Michael Sefton, Ph.D., director of psychology and neuropsychology at Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital in Westborough, MA. When some men violate the permanent protection order it is the result of unbridled rage and defiance against a “system” they believe has failed or unfairly humiliated them said Sefton in a release. They are murderous and often turn their rage inward in an act of suicide. I would look for the triggers of what set Delarosa’s terminal rage into action. It could be something as simple as being told he needed to have monitored visitation with is son or learning that the female was seeing another man – both conjectural on my part. After the alleged killing Delarosa was heard to say “It’s over, it’s over, it’s over” when speaking to his sister.
“Domestic violence is not random and unpredictable. There are red flags that trigger an emotional undulation that bears energy like the movement of tectonic plates beneath the sea.” according to Sefton. A psychological autopsy should be undertaken to effectively understand the homicide and in doing so contribute to the literature on domestic violence and DVH according to Michael Sefton who with colleagues published the Psychological Autopsy of a case from Dexter, Maine where a father murdered his child, estranged wife and ultimately himself (Allanach, et al, 2011). In the days preceding the murder there are usually red flags or pre-incident indictors that people see that signal the intentions of the murderer. These clues provide police and the judiciary with data to craft protection plans and are the commonalities found in cases of DVH across the state and across the world. Some red flag behaviors signal the emergence of imminent terminal anger that can be seen in the social media accounts of intimate partners who go on to kill their spouses. I am quite interested in the compelling reasons that Delarosa may have argued that resulted in the change in the permanent order of protection. The outstanding Boston Globe article about the slaying is a sad reminder of the early warning signs of DVH. All the red flags were present. In a blog published in 2013 I list the tell tale warning signs of intimate partner homicide and the need for tougher bail conditions (Sefton, 2013).
The impact on the child will be lifelong. At age 4, children are developing their sense of gender identity in the setting of developmental growth, cognitive maturity, social functioning and continued individuation. Imagine the child who is reunited with his parent after a period of mandated protection due to DV. He is now able to see his family and may be fraught with both excitation and fear. It would be normal for the child to have fantasies of reunification of the family and perhaps self-blame for not having stopped the action of his father. Just like the daughter of Jennifer Martin and Jarod Remy this 4-year old boy will forever be reminded of the life he will not have.
Ronald Allanach et al., Psychological Autopsy of June 13, 2011, Dexter, Maine Domestic Violence Homicides and Suicide: Final Report 39 (Nov. 28, 2011), http://pinetreewatchdog.org/files/2011/12/Dexter-DVH-Psychological-Autopsy-Final-Report-112811-111.pdf.
Sefton, M. The red flags of intimate partner violence. Blog post taken October 2, 2016.
Sefton, M. Prior history of crime not predictive of DVH. Blog Taken October 2, 2016. post: http://enddvh.blogspot.com/2013/07/prior-criminal-history-used-to.