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.