DEXTER – As people across Maine react to Monday’s triple homicide and suicide, they are asking whether and how the tragedy could have been prevented.

Some people may reproach the courts for letting Steven Lake, 37, out of jail on bail after he violated a protection from abuse order issued after he was charged with threatening his wife and children in June 2010, said R. Christopher Almy, district attorney for Piscataquis and Penobscot counties.

Others may point out that he got a shotgun despite being prohibited from possessing one.

Ultimately, however, Lake is fully responsible for his actions, Almy said. Lake shot his 38-year-old estranged wife, Amy Lake, and their two children, 13-year-old Coty and 12-year-old Monica, at their home in Dexter. He then killed himself.

“I think people always want to find someone to blame, but the blame should be put on the person who pulled the trigger at least four times,” Almy said. “That guy pulled the trigger. He’s responsible.”

Amy Lake taught kindergarten at Ridge View Community School in Dexter and had worked in the district since 1995, according to her obituary. She coached basketball and field hockey and was valedictorian of her 1991 Dexter Regional High School class.

Coty Lake was in eighth grade at Ridge View. “He enjoyed sneaking into his mother’s classroom each day and couldn’t go to sleep without hearing his mother’s voice each night,” according to his obituary. He played basketball and soccer and enjoyed tenting, fishing, hunting, four-wheeling and snowmobiling.

Monica Lake was in sixth grade at the school and was earning straight A’s, her obituary states. She played field hockey, basketball and softball and performed in the “Wizard of Oz.” She played both saxophone and violin.

As Maine State Police continue to investigate the case, another agency will, too: The Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel. Each year it examines murder-suicides for a report submitted to the Legislature.

In the most recent report, released in January 2010, former Attorney General Janet Mills wrote: “When the newsprint fades and the headlines are forgotten, the hurt yet endures, and a community begs for understanding. … Each of these deaths is real. Each is different. Each brings permanent consequences.”

Of the 31 homicides in 2008, 65 percent, or 20, were domestic violence-related, according to the report. Of the 25 homicides in 2009, 35 percent, or 10, were domestic violence-related.

The numbers may change, but one thing remains the same, wrote Lisa Marchese, a homicide prosecutor and chairwoman of the panel: The most dangerous time for victims is when they try to end an abusive relationship.

“The majority of domestic violence homicides occur when the batterer recognizes loss of control over their partner,” wrote Marchese, an assistant attorney general. “Referring a victim who is contemplating leaving a relationship to one of the several domestic violence projects around the state for assistance in safety planning could save a life.”

Amy Lake reported to police an incident in June 2010 when her husband held a gun and talked about killing himself, the children and her, while at their Wellington home. He was charged with a felony of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and a misdemeanor of domestic violence criminal threatening.

Amy Lake also filed for a protection from abuse order against her husband, which he was later accused of violating by contacting her.

They were undergoing the divorce process when he shot his family Monday.

Firearms are the most common weapon used to kill victims of domestic violence, according to the panel’s report. Police are still determining how Steven Lake obtained a shotgun when he was prohibited from doing so by both the protection order and his bail conditions.

It’s not likely that he bought the gun from a licensed dealer, said Dale Armstrong, the resident agent in charge of the Portland Field Office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. All dealers are required to perform background checks on people purchasing guns.

Any private individual, however, can sell a gun to another individual and is not required by law to do a background check, Armstrong said. “They don’t even have to ask their name,” he said.

It’s “extremely rare” for licensed gun dealers to not complete a record check, he said. If they don’t, the bureau usually discovers it during the inspection process.

People have also questioned why Steven Lake was allowed out on bail after he violated his conditions of release and the protective order.

Almy said there are thousands of domestic violence cases pending every year in Maine courts, and it’s unusual for bail to be revoked.

“The general mindset is to let a person go back out on the street after a bail violation,” he said. “In hindsight, it’s easy to say someone should be locked up, but how do you know which one’s going to pull the trigger?”

Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said he plans to propose a bill next session to amend the bail code. It would require judges to consider whether there is a history of domestic violence when setting bail conditions.

The law currently includes language about ensuring public safety, but Fredette said he wants it to specifically address domestic violence.

Brenda Kielty, spokeswoman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office, described bail conditions as “effective most of the time, but it’s no guarantee.”

Though no one will be prosecuted in the Dexter case, police continue to investigate until they gain answers to any questions they might have, Kielty said.

There’s no formal moment when a case becomes closed.

Visiting hours for Amy, Coty and Monica Lake are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Dexter Regional High School. The funeral will be there at 10 a.m. Saturday.

In lieu of flowers, an account in honor of the family will be set up at Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union, 73 Main St., Dexter, ME 04930. People may leave written tributes at www.crosbyneal.com.

Viewing hours for Steven Lake will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Smart & Edwards Funeral Home in Skowhegan. The funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Skowhegan.

The parents of Amy and Steven Lake did not return phone calls Wednesday.