SKOWHEGAN — A group of about 20 people were gathered at the Centenary United Methodist Church on Dr. Mann Road by 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Some were community leaders, advocates and officials, and others were members of the community recently sent into shock after a Madison man shot and killed his wife, his son and a neighbor, and injured another family member.

Skowhegan Selectwoman Betty Austin, a lay leader at the church as well as a state representative from Skowhegan, had called the meeting to help the community heal after what happened.

“I really felt like the community is hurting and need a place to go and share their hurt and find comfort,” Austin said.

On July 5, Carroll Tuttle Jr. shot and killed his wife, Lori Hayden, 52, and their son, Dustin Tuttle, 25, at their home at 316 Russell Road. Tuttle Jr. then shot and killed Mike R. Spaulding, 57, at Spaulding’s nearby home. He also shot and wounded Harvey Austin, 57, of Skowhegan, before returning to his home, where he was killed in his driveway in an exchange of gunfire with Somerset County sheriff’s deputies.

At the church, people were given a number of ways to deal with the trauma or grief they might be feeling.

Betty Austin invited Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, and Melody Fitch, executive director of the Family Violence Project, to the gathering for anyone who wanted to talk.

“What’s most important is that victims know that there are people who care and that they can speak up,” Maloney said.

She added that people don’t have to see themselves as victims to talk to her office or Fitch’s.

Often people just see themselves as someone in a relationship, Fitch said, but counselors at the Family Violence Project can ask them questions that will lead them to an answer of whether what’s happening is OK.

‘A GREAT HOLE IN OUR HEARTS’

Janice Malek, a Sunday school teacher at the church, had set up areas where people could relax or sit and talk. In one windowsill was a small zen water fountain, encircled by pine boughs. At one of the tables, covered with light purple tablecloths and topped with flower vases, were healing stones for people to write on and keep. There were candles in another room, and refreshments were brought out as people arrived. Most sat or stood in groups, talking in soft voices about what had happened.

Lisa Toles, overseer of the poor in Skowhegan, donated her reiki practices for those who wanted it; and her husband, William Toles, provided massage therapy. Lisa also made reiki blankets people could take.

Lisa Toles donated her time because she was a co-worker of those were affected by the shooting.

“I’ve seen the domino effect. That’s another reason I’m here,” she said. “(The victims) were tremendously loved. … The loss of them will leave a great hole in our hearts.”

Paul Frederic, a Starks selectman, was also at the gathering. He said domestic violence is “an issue in every community in the state, large or small.”

Frederic knew Spaulding, who worked at the Madison paper mill. Spaulding would stop at his farm and occasionally help out by driving a hay truck.

“He usually had an interesting story or two to tell,” Frederic said. “He was a great guy.”

Frederic said the shooting had caused a ripple effect, as the family was well known and Mainers in small communities tend to know each other.

DEALING WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

There are also a number of tools available to law enforcement to keep people safe in cases of domestic violence and abuse, Maloney said.

While jail is No. 1, officers also can use electronic monitoring to track whether someone is following bail conditions.

Somerset County had the first program of that kind in the state, she said.

In areas that don’t have good cellphone service, they will make the exclusion zone larger, Maloney said. At times, the zone has been as large as Somerset County to allow for enough response time.

Maloney’s office also has a full-time domestic violence investigator, Mike Pike, who works solely on cases related to domestic violence.

Statewide, roughly half of all homicides are related to domestic violence, she said.

Fitch, who tracks the number of contacts people have with her services, said that while the number of people has remained fairly steady, the number of contacts people had with the Family Violence Project increased from 11,624 to 14,243 from 2014 to 2016.

“We are contacted sometimes between five and seven times by individuals,” she said.

Maloney said the key is for someone to speak up. In many of the domestic violence cases that ended in murder in the past few years, her office was never contacted.

“For me, my goal is to encourage people to speak up if they feel they’re in an unspeakable situation,” she said, adding later, “If you feel like life has become a nightmare, please tell someone.”

She also encouraged people to report potential cases of domestic violence when they see them.

“It is important to say, ‘This has to stop,'” she said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour