By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
BARRE—The killing of 29-year-old Courtney Gaboriault in Barre earlier this week was the fifth domestic violence related homicide in Vermont this year, the state attorney general’s office said on Friday.
“Right now,” said Auburn Watersong, policy director at the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, “we’re kind of unfortunately on the same path we were last year.”
“Everytime we experience a tragedy like this we feel that weight,” she said.
The attorney general’s office, which tracks information for the Vermont Fatality Review Commission, has not yet issued a formal report for 2017.
But the current confirmed number is that 10 of the 16 homicides in Vermont in 2017 involved domestic violence, Bram Kranichfeld, chief of the attorney general’s office criminal division, said.
Halfway through 2018, Kranichfeld said, five of the 11 homicides committed so far this year have involved domestic violence.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Avaloy Lanning, executive director of NewStory Center, a domestic violence shelter in Rutland. “We would like to say that there would never be a domestic violence homicide, that’s the goal.”
Gaboriault, an employee of the Department of Public Safety for the last five years, was shot to death on the morning of the Fourth of July, by her ex-boyfriend, Luke Lacroix, police say.
Police described Lacroix as barging into Gaboriault’s apartment on Long Street near Barre’s city center, brandishing a 9mm handgun. He engaged in a struggle with Fred Longchamp, a friend of Gaboriault who also was in the apartment. Longchamp broke free from Lacroix, escaped, and phoned the police.
By the time officers arrived it was too late. Lacroix had fatally shot Gaboriault and then turned the gun on himself.
Lacroix had no criminal record, nor any restraining orders against him, according to police. Lacroix and Gaboriault had split up about eight months ago, police said.
Domestic violence prevention specialists said on Friday that this was not atypical. “I wish I could say that circumstance is unusual,” Lanning said.
“The nature of domestic violence is such that we may not know it until it reaches its most dangerous point,” Watersong said, adding that when firearms are in the mix the risk of homicide is greatly increased.
Watersong said domestic violence is all about power and control by one person over another.
“Whenever the perpetrator’s world becomes threatened or smaller, that’s always the most dangerous time,” she said. “When the perpetrator feels no longer in control, that’s when things tend to escalate.”
Gaboriault’s neighbors on Long Street declined to talk with a reporter, some saying they had no information to share.
Long Street is residential, with a number of its homes converted to apartments, well-kept in appearance, with freshly mowed lawns, flags flying out front, and a few with pools in the back.
Gaboriault, a lifelong Vermont resident, well-liked by her colleagues, had worked for the state Department of Public Safety for about five years.
She spent the past 18 months as the administrative services coordinator with the department’s Vermont Marijuana Registry.
Lacroix, also a Barre resident, coached boys’ lacrosse at Spaulding High School in Barre, where he also worked as a substitute teacher, Paul Malone, the high school’s board chair, confirmed Friday.
Lacroix’s father, David Lacroix, is vice chair of the school board, Malone said.
Lanning and Watersong offered a sobering assessment on Friday of the scope of domestic violence in Vermont. Both said they believe that the number of domestic violence victims they assist and support represent a fraction of those who need help and who are at risk.
“We do our best to get the word out and talk to people and let people know about all agencies out there,” Lanning said. “It’s our goal to reach those people who we are not hearing from, this is still primarily a hidden crime.”
Watersong talked of a multi-pronged approach to reducing domestic violence, which includes speaking up and offering support to victims and those who help them, as well as building community and creating events that bring people together.
“Violence happens more easily in isolation,” she said.
Lanning stressed the importance of spreading the word, letting victims know they’re not alone, and that there are resources available.
She said when she is sitting at a table, at an event, and someone stops and takes a pamphlet or other information, she never knows if they are taking it for a friend, a family member, or for themselves, to have a number to phone, that day or months in the future.
“The information will be there and they will make a call when they are ready,” Lanning said. “We’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Resources for those dealing with domestic violence situation in Washington County are available at Circle at 1-877-543-9498.
Courtney Gaboriault, 29, a Vermont Department of Public Safety employee, was killed Wednesday in Barre by a former boyfriend, police say.