DIXFIELD — Several residents and police officers from the River Valley area gathered Monday evening at the Dixfield Village Green gazebo for a candlelight vigil to recognize victims of domestic violence.
The vigil was organized by Safe Voices, a nonprofit organization that supports those affected by domestic violence in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties.
As several residents and police officers from the River Valley area walked onto the gazebo to receive their candles, a few people gathered around a red silhouette cutout of a woman that included a brief description taped to the front.
Dixfield police Chief Richard Pickett said the silhouette represented Nancy Smith, an East Dixfield woman who was killed 10 years ago in a domestic violence dispute.
“It was 10 years ago that one of my reserve officers got a call about a fight between Nancy and her partner,” Pickett said. “He drove up on their car, which had one of the doors partly open and the lights on. He approached the car, and it ended up being Nancy. She had been shot and killed by her partner, and the partner had turned the gun on himself.”
“While Nancy may not be here today in person, she is certainly here in spirit,” Pickett continued. “I think it’s only fitting that we recognize her today.”
Pickett said the vigil was to recognize “those who have been affected by domestic violence,” and “those that have found the courage to break away from these type of relationships and take control of their lives.”
He provided statistics on domestic violence, including the fact that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, “more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined,” and that “one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.”
“For every instance of domestic violence that goes reported, several go unreported,” Pickett said. “It knows no boundaries. Domestic violence takes place in every country, every state and every town. Each of us must work hard to make sure that we live in a culture where abuse is no longer tolerated. It’s going to take men willing to stand up and be men, to speak out against domestic violence whenever they see it.”
Pickett told about Maine State Police detective Giles Landry who he had trained in 1989.
“He had been promoted, and I had just kicked him loose,” Pickett said. “I was his training officer. On March 31, he gave me a call and said he was going to take care of interviews on a domestic violence case.”
Pickett said Landry drove to a trailer in a secluded area of Leeds, and as he drove up to the trailer, “a woman came running out.”
“She got in his car and said that he had to leave,” Pickett said. “She had been involved in a terrible and violent situation. Thankfully, there were no children at the house, but she was. Landry was there to interview her about allegations of domestic violence and possible child abuse.
“While the woman was in Landry’s car, telling him that he had to leave, the suspect came out of the trailer and fired two rounds with a .44-caliber rifle at the back window of Officer Landry’s cruiser,” Pickett said. “One of the rounds struck Landry and he died instantly. Then the man walked up to the car, where his partner was crouched in the front seat, trying to hide under the dashboard.”
Pickett paused. “I can’t even begin to imagine what she was feeling while she was crouched there. The suspect stuck his rifle into the car and ended her life,” he said.
“Domestic violence touched me in a real way that day,” Pickett said. “My friend lost his life, and his wife and daughter lost their husband and father. He was there to combat that particular offense, and he was never able to see his family again. The woman who was killed that day had four children, and after that, they had no mother and no father. It touches us all, no matter who we are.”
Pickett said, “We can help those who are trapped in abusive relationships by becoming community heroes, and standing up and speaking up for those who need help.
“I’m not talking about community heroes that receive pats on the back for what they do,” Pickett said. “We’re not doing this for the recognition. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Together, we can try and combat domestic violence.”