Stephanie Gebo was scared, but she did a lot of the things right for her and her family. Still, that wasn’t enough, and she was killed in her home.

Now that her former boyfriend has been caught, the tough task of figuring out what that means, and what more could have been done to keep her safe, will fall to domestic violence victim advocates and law enforcement.

They may find answers frustratingly elusive, but they also could realize something that will save future lives and heartbreak.

In any case, Gebo’s death is a reminder of how hard it is for someone to leave an abuser, how dangerous it can be once they do, and how things can go wrong even if you do what’s right.


Gebo, 37, was found shot to death in her Parkman home on the morning of June 5. A camouflage jacket and backpack belonging to her ex-boyfriend, a violent felon, were found outside.

That set off one of the longest manhunts in Maine history, as the ex-boyfriend, Robert Burton, eluded officers for more than two months before he turned himself in last week.

Burton, 38, is being held without bail on a fugitive from justice warrant. He has not entered a plea, and he has not been charged in Gebo’s death.

Still, Burton, who has a lengthy criminal record and spent 10 years in prison for domestic violence, is the only suspect.

Burton lived with Gebo for about a year and a half, according to the testimony of Gebo’s daughter that is included in the arrest affidavit. He lived at the Parkman home until less than a week before the shooting, when Gebo broke off the relationship.

Burton was always angry, the daughter said, and frequently yelled at Gebo, her 13-year-old daughter and her 10-year-old son.

At some point, Burton began suspecting Gebo of cheating on him. Burton’s father said he was “upset” and at the “end of his rope.”

One of Burton’s friends said the man’s eyes looked “black” as he talked about the breakup, and that Burton said, “It ain’t over yet.”

Previously, the friend told police, Burton had said he would never go back to jail, and that “if he has problems with a woman again he is going to kill her.”


Burton’s anger and menace did not get past Gebo, who after the breakup was entering a dangerous time — women who leave abusers are at a much greater risk of being killed than those who stay.

Gebo changed the locks and slept with a gun near her bed. She warned the kids about Burton.

What else could she have done?

In hindsight, it’s easy to say she could have run.

But she obviously felt safe at home, and advocates say staying is often the best and least disruptive choice for someone leaving an abusive relationship.

It’s unclear whether Gebo reached out for help, and if not, why.

It’s impossible to get inside her head to see how she was weighing all the information and emotions after she broke things off with Burton.

It’s impossible to know how much of a danger she saw him to be.

And it’s hard to say whether acting any differently would have made a difference.

But those questions will all be asked.

Eventually, this case will come before the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel. With any luck, that group will be able to make some sense of it.

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