Police believe that financial stress may be the motive behind a father’s thinking when he killed his wife, his three young children and then himself in their Saco, Maine, apartment this weekend in what’s being referred to as one of the worst cases of domestic violence in the state’s history. The five family members had seemingly enjoyed themselves at a barbeque held at their apartment complex on Saturday evening. But when they got back to their apartment afterwards, State Police in Maine say that the father, Joel Smith, “took a pump-action shotgun from room to room, killing his wife and children as they lay in bed and then taking his own life.”
The Boston Globe reported on July 28 that police think that the dad shot and killed his 12-year-old stepson first. Smith then systematically went to the next bedroom where he shot and killed his seven-year-old son. He then moved on to the master bedroom. And that’s where he shot and killed his four-year-old daughter and his wife before ultimately turning the shotgun on himself in a quadruple murder-suicide.
His body was found on the floor next to his wife and daughter, beside the 12-gauge shotgun. The victims, some who had multiple gunshot wounds, were identified as 35-year-old Heather Smith; Jason Montez, 12; Noah Montez, 7; and Lily Smith, 4.
The Smith family moved to Maine from Arizona two years ago to escape harsh economic conditions in Arizona. Smith worked in Maine as a maintenance man for the RiverView apartment complex. His wife Heather was employed as a medical assistant. Police say that Smith didn't leave a suicide note.
Sergeant Chris Harriman with the Maine State Police said investigators discovered that Smith was experiencing financial difficulties and exhibited suicidal behavior just prior to Saturday’s murder-suicide. Earlier on Saturday, the day of the shootings, Smith’s wife Heather confided in a family friend that “her husband had threatened suicide earlier in the week by pointing a gun at his head.”
Police say that there’s no record from anyone in the family reaching out or seeking assistance following that incident. ABC News reported that the family friend “later contacted an apartment complex worker to express concerns about the family's well-being, leading to the grisly discovery on Sunday.” Stephen McCausland, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said that the Smith family murder-suicide was “among the worst in modern history in Maine.”
Neighbors of the Smiths', whose children all played and rode bikes with the Smith kids, are having a difficult time coping with the Smiths' tragic deaths. Twenty-eight year-old neighbor Annie Dore said, “It’s very painful, you know, just knowing my kids are the same age as them. I just don’t understand why someone would do this.”
“There’s a lot of, ‘How can a parent do that to their child?” said Ryan Lamb, 30, who lives two doors down from the crime scene. “We just can’t believe they would do something like that.”