Jared Remy’s 17 years of second chances ended tragically last summer, when police say he murdered Jennifer Martel, the mother of his 5-year-old daughter, in Waltham, Mass.
Before that, Remy had been the subject of 19 criminal cases, almost all for terrorizing, threatening or assaulting women. But as described in a detailed story last weekend in the Boston Globe, Remy, the son of Jerry Remy, the popular Red Sox broadcaster, was rarely held accountable.
It may be an extreme case, but it is a familiar story. And in Maine, where police record more than 5,000 domestic assaults every year and domestic violence plays a role in almost half of all murders, it is reminder that threatening and violent behavior cannot be waved off. Left unaddressed — by families, by the community, by law enforcement and by the courts — these actions escalate, leading to ruined and lost lives.
According to the article, Remy was aggressive, threatening and violent, with little fear of repercussions, from an early age. Heavy use of alcohol and drugs, including steroids, only made it worse.
Julia Colpitts, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said behavioral and mental health issues combined with substance abuse are a potentially lethal mix. Unfortunately, she said, the presence of those factors often produce sympathy for the perpetrator.
In Remy’s case, witnesses refused to testify, his family pushed for weak punishments, and judges complied, all out of a desire to keep his record clean. They succeeded in keeping Remy out of jail for the most part, but spared him a reckoning with his actions.
“They just wanted to give him one more chance,” said Colpitts. “But they denied him the one thing that might have had a chance at changing his behavior. … The person needs to be held accountable.”
Maine has vastly improved how it handles domestic violence.
There are strong community-based organizations. Law enforcement is better at recognizing and dealing with the problem situations they encounter. The courts, in general, are more aggressive in their prosecution of offenders, and more attuned to the plight of victims.
In addition, there is a movement toward collaboration and coordination among all these groups, to make sure that cases are handled well from start to finish.
The misunderstandings around domestic violence persist, however, within the criminal justice system and in the wider community. As a result, threats and assaults are minimized and explained away. They are made the fault of anger, or of drug and alcohol abuse, and people think, “If we can only solve that issue, it all will be OK.”
The record, however, shows that one more chance often ends badly. That is the lesson of the Jared Remy case, and one we should make sure is learned in Maine.