WATERVILLE — Family members and friends of murder victim Melissa Sousa huddled under umbrellas in the pouring rain Sunday night outside the apartment building where she lived and died, holding candles, consoling one another and promising to help support her 8-year-old twin daughters.

Melissa Sousa Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

“I really hope the children are taken care of and I hope they have the support that they need,” said Dustin Thibodeau, 39, of Waterville.

Thibodeau, tears streaming down his face, said he lives just up the street from where Sousa was murdered and felt compelled to attend the vigil.

“I didn’t even know her, but this just doesn’t happen in our community,” he said.

The body of Sousa, 29, was found Wednesday, wrapped in a tarp in the basement of the apartment building at 32 Gold St. in the city’s South End, where she lived with her longtime boyfriend, Nicholas Lovejoy, 28.

She had been shot twice in the stomach. Lovejoy was later charged with her murder.

On Sunday night, a red light shone in a room on the second floor of their apartment. Purple balloons and bouquets of flowers lined the eastern side of the building.

State Rep. Bruce White, who represents Waterville, was talking with people and offering help. He said he wanted to be a resource for them because people often do not know where to turn.

“It just seems like when tragedy strikes, people support one another,” he said. “This is our way of showing support for the family and friends, the twins and Melissa’s mother.”

Sousa’s mother, Theresa Sullivan, was with her sister, April Sibert, of Milo. They said a funeral for Sousa will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at Veilleux Funeral Home on Elm Street. Everyone is welcome to attend, Sibert said.

Jennifer Moore worked briefly with Sousa for a time at Walmart. She asked the approximately 50 people at the vigil to bow their heads for 60 seconds. As they did, the song “Dancing in the Sky,” by Dani and Lizzy, played on a recorder. It started:

“Tell me what does it look like in heaven? Is it peaceful, is it free like they say? Does the sun shine bright forever? Have your fears and your pain gone away?”

Moore said afterward that research shows every 60 seconds, 24 people are victims of domestic violence.

Sousa was last seen Tuesday, putting the couple’s twin daughters onto a school bus. Friends and family, fearing for her safety because they had not heard from her, contacted police at about 6 p.m. Friends and family said Lovejoy had mental health issues, owned guns and had threatened to kill Sousa.

Police stopped Lovejoy around midnight Tuesday on Summer Street, near the couple’s apartment. He was driving Sousa’s Jeep with a loaded gun inside. He was arrested for having a loaded gun inside the vehicle, and for endangering the welfare of a child because he had left his children alone at the apartment.

Theresa Sullivan, mother of Melissa Sousa, stands with a candle Sunday night during a vigil in memory of Sousa outside Sousa’s apartment on Gold Street in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

At about 4 p.m. Wednesday, during a search of the apartment, Maine State Police found Sousa’s body in the basement.

Lovejoy appeared Friday in court in Augusta. He did not enter a plea and is being held without bail pending a Dec. 6 hearing.

In a police interview, Lovejoy reportedly confessed to killing Sousa with a .38-caliber handgun, claiming she pushed him down the stairs at their apartment, picked up a gun and tried to shoot him, but the gun did not fire.

Lovejoy reportedly told police he picked up the gun and shot her twice in the stomach. Then he wrapped her body in a tarp, secured it with duct tape and dumped it in the basement.

Lovejoy came to Maine from Massachusetts several years ago. He has no criminal record in either state, according to statewide criminal records checks conducted by the Morning Sentinel last week.

Friends of both Sousa and Lovejoy said he had become angry when he learned she had had an affair. Sousa was planning to leave Lovejoy, but the plan was they would each have their girls part-time, according to friends, who said they believed he could not accept he would be without her.

At Sunday night’s vigil, Nikkia-Ria Vear, a friend of Sousa’s, said she wanted to spread the word that victims of domestic violence are not alone and will never be alone — that they will be supported. People must watch out for their neighbors and report anything that is amiss, she said.

“I worked with Melissa,” Vear said. “Her personality was what sucked you in and stuck. Her love for her children definitely showed through.”

A few years ago, Vear said,  Sousa walked from her apartment every day to Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street in an effort to get a job there.

“She was determined as whole holy heck,” Vear, 35, said. “Her whole, entire focus was to get the girls, not just what they needed, but what they wanted.”

Sousa, for whom another memorial event will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, loved her work family, according to Vear.

“This is hell,” she said, motioning to the apartment building. “Her home was Main Street Dunkin’.”

Friends of Sousa’s shared stories, some humorous.

Shannon Juliette Lewis, 35, who works at the Main Street shop, said Sousa was a bright light who would make employees laugh by hiding in large disposable cup boxes or behind the oven.

“She was tiny but she was strong,” she said.

Sousa recently dyed her hair but it did not come out just right, according to Lewis.

“She was going for a reddish color and the color turned into purple,” she said. “She tried to fix it. She had light purple, dark purple and a little tint of dirty blonde.”

Mandy Jolly, 32, said she met Sousa when they were in ninth grade at Foxcroft Academy in Dover.

“She was always there for me,” Jolly said. “She was like the kid sister I never had. She was full of life.”

 

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