Nobody drove Steven Lake to kill his family

We know love when we see it, and it wasn’t love that compelled Steven Lake to kill his wife and two children in Dexter on Monday morning.

Lake was a bully, a coward and a classic abuser, a man so consumed with rage that his wife and children must have lived in constant, paralyzing fear.

His last act of rage was to kill his family and then himself. It was the final chapter in a troubled relationship he built over a period of years.

Lake was arrested a year ago for holding his family hostage at gunpoint and threatening them. He was about to go on trial for that crime, and was expecting a jail sentence.

To Lake, that would have been the ultimate loss of face and control, something a true abuser cannot accept.

But that is very different from the picture painted Wednesday by Lake’s father, who blamed everyone except his son for the shocking tragedy.

George Lake told the Bangor Daily News that his wife and District Attorney Christopher Almy drove his son to his violent end.

“He lost hope,” Lake’s sister told the newspaper. “They broke him down,” his father added. “I can’t imagine a man loving his children as much as Steven loved his.”

To George Lake, his son was a model father who showered his children with gifts and attention, according to the Bangor Daily News, everything from four-wheelers to trips to Jamaica and Mexico.

George Lake has a rationalization for everything his son did. Sure, Steven “regretted some of the things he said to her. He said he was horsing around. He was like that. But he said Amy took it seriously.”

All of those things are so totally, painfully, classically the techniques of a domestic-violence abuser.

The threats and abuse are followed by the gifts and apologies, often lavish and out of proportion to what other children receive.

But the goal is the same — absolute control and domination.

Then there are the threats, like, “I could kill your dog right now.” Quickly followed by the half-hearted qualifier, “Hey, I’m just kidding!”

Abusers are master manipulators and kidders. They can be funny one moment and blue with rage the next. Loving toward their wife and children in public, then wrathful and violent behind closed doors. They will tickle kids until it hurts, then hug them until it hurts even more.

They can be a pillar of the community during the day, while their children quiver in fear by night.

When challenged, they are quick to blame everyone — cops, lawyers, in-laws, judges and social workers — but themselves.

It is, of course, worth acknowledging that adults do argue. Parents do get angry at children. Practically all marriages are imperfect and divorces can be messy.

But people go on loving one another even through the tears and the apologies. They work things out. Nobody lives in fear or with bruises.

Abusers aren’t interested in compromise, solutions or love, only control and domination.

Rather than lose his, Steven Lake took his shotgun and punished his victims one final time.

 The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Licia Kuenning's picture

Reply to Melanie MacArthur

Melanie, what a long lecture you preached me in response to a very simple point. WE DON'T KNOW what was in Steven Lake's mind. In particular, the idea that his goal was "absolute control and domination" (as stated in this editorial) is not a "cold hard fact"; it is sheer speculation on the contents of Steven Lake's mind, which the editorialist doesn't have any more access to than you or I do, no matter how often that particular speculation gets repeated. And if one reads the editorial carefully one will find many other speculations about Lake's mind.

I was not saying that Lake's actions were morally justified. But just going on and on about what a bad guy he was, and giving free play to our imaginations in attributing motives to him, will not help us prevent the next domestic murder.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Ms. Kuenning presents a

Ms. Kuenning presents a strong argument and makes a very good point. However, one must question the philosphy that espouses that one could love their children so much that they could be capable of fatally harming them.

Jerome Young's picture

Great Editorial. Mr. Lake had

Great Editorial. Mr. Lake had a year long rage and loss. Where was his father? Shouldn't his father or friends pulled him aside and confronted the behavior? What a terrible loss.

Licia Kuenning's picture

I know presumption when I see it, too

Most of the people who are so confidently telling us what Steven Lake's motives were, what sort of person he was, etc., never even met him. The man is dead; we don't have to judge him. Leave it to God.

Melanie Macarthur's picture

There is a difference between

There is a difference between making presumptions/passing judgement and simply stating the truth of a particular situation. A presumption would be if the author had said "I bet he took drugs or drank a lot or was abused as a child", without knowing if any of that is true or not. Instead, the author laid out what are the cold hard facts of this particular case, and backed it up with long-proven behavioral analysis of abusers and the abused. It is what it is.

You may have known what sort of person the younger Mr. Lake was, but NO ONE (not even you) can ever truly know what goes on in another person's mind. The senior Mr. Lake is trying to rationalize a situation that cannot be rationalized. And we will never know his motives because he took it to the grave instead of facing up to his crimes and accepting responsibility for them. In essence, those who did know him are also only able to make presumptions.

While I agree that people can at times be too quick to judge, it is extremely prevalent in today's society for people to blame Mommy & Daddy for their problems. It's everyone else's fault that they make inappropriate choices, and are miserable and don't get what they presume they are entitled to. What they need to do is grow up and take responsibility for their actions. If your situation is bad, then do what you need to do to change it, BUT DO SO IN A HEALTHY WAY.

Regardless of how we are raised, we are all given the same chance to make the choice of which life path to follow. Some choose to repeat toxic behaviors because that is all they know. Others choose to go in the exact opposite way of how they were raised. Some have the emotional strength to get through it and instinctively make the right choices, while others, such as myself, occasionally need the help of a therapist and medication to help us find and keep us on the right path.

That all being said, there is absolutely NO logic and NO excuse for killing your spouse and children. If life were a Shakespearean play, it might still be considered romantic to die for love, like Romeo and Juliet. But there is no such thing as KILLING for love. "I need to posses and control [i.e., toxic behavior mistaken for love], so I'm going to kill you to prove it. Because if I can't have, possess or control you, no one else will either." People are not possessions.

The younger Mr. Lake's actions should sound familiar - because that was what OJ Simpson did too. The only difference is that OJ's narcissism is so great that he couldn't pull the trigger on himself, and instead made a run for it. I'd be interested to hear what your opinion was of THAT case during it's time, especially when he was acquitted (which does not mean he was innocent - it means he was found not guilty).

And to be frank, if you've never felt the pain of an innocent loved one brutally murdered, it's really not your place to tell others how they should think or feel. The family of Mrs. Lake may not be able to "leave it to God", which in my opinion, is an inappropriate over-simplification. The general public is always going to have their opinions whether we like it or not. I have my opinion, you have yours, and others have theirs. We may not agree, and that's OK. But one should not try to dictate how people should think or feel.

Please know, I'm not here to criticize you. I just feel that by going to the press, and by making every excuse in the book to the general public, Mr. Lake opened that door himself. Thus, the general public should be allowed to respond. The senior Mr. Lake's own line of thinking is extremely misguided. HE needs help for even thinking there can be a reasonable argument made to justify his son's actions. Toxic love is not real love. Real love does not try to possess or control. Those are just the facts.

As the great Neil Young said "You lose your love when you say the word 'mine'".


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