YORK — Karin Moller was quick-witted, creative and a great storyteller.

That she also had become depressed and ultimately suicidal came as a shock to Pamela Benedetto of Eliot, a longtime friend who knew the 55-year-old York resident as someone who made people feel good about themselves and stood up for the underdog.

“I didn’t know she was struggling like this,” said Benedetto, who met Moller 18 years ago when the two were part of a “30-somethings” church group in Kittery. “I never saw her violent or aggressive. Not ever. She may have turned it in on herself if she was feeling angry or down.”

Moller was fatally shot by police Thursday afternoon about a quarter-mile from the small house she shared with her father, Ronald. She had threatened to harm herself in a 30-minute telephone call to a medical facility and warned she had a gun. When she tried to drive away from the house, police used a spike mat to stop her car.

As officers from South Berwick and York approached the car, she got out, pointed a gun at them and was shot, police said.

On Friday, police released the names of the officers involved in the shooting: South Berwick Lt. Christopher S. Burbank, 42, a 22-year veteran of that department, and York Detective John Lizanecz, 44, a York police officer for the past 18 years. Both men have been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, which is standard procedure in such cases.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office is investigating to determine if the shooting was justified, as it does in all cases in which officers use deadly force. It was the 10th officer-involved shooting in Maine this year. Six people were shot and killed by police in those incidents; the other four resulted in injuries.

The confrontation that occurred Thursday just over the line in South Berwick hardly reconciles with the Moller her friends knew and threatens to obscure the memory of a caring and supportive person.

“Her life was so much more than that story,” Benedetto said Friday. “There are people you see and worry about them and see the situation could escalate, but she didn’t pop up in my mind.”

“I still can’t believe it. It seems surreal,” she said, starting to cry. “I think about her out there alone. I would have done anything if she would have called.”

Moller was raised in Reading, Massachusetts, before moving to Maine as a young woman. She graduated from the former Nasson College in Springvale in 1981. She had worked as a nanny and at the Ethan Allen furniture store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she would graph the layout of customers’ rooms to demonstrate how the furniture would fit.

She spent a lot of time caring for her mother, who was sick and died three days after Thanksgiving in 2010, almost exactly four years ago. Two brothers had died when they were young, something Benedetto said stuck with her friend.

“It always was in her mind that there was like something missing, that she was here and they were gone,” she said.

Moller also had a sister who lives in Illinois.

Michael Dow of York knew Moller and knows her father, her aunts and uncles, and others in the family.

“I am deeply saddened for her family and mostly her great dad, who lost his loving wife just a couple of years ago,” he said. “They are all the best of people and my heart breaks for all of them.”

Dow served on a York Planning Board subcommittee with Moller years ago and said she was bright and a pleasure to work with. Moller helped take care of her mother and then her father.

“I am deeply saddened her life had to end prematurely. Mental illness is a remorseless plague that changes people in horrible ways,” Dow said.

Moller disliked the heat, and preferred the rain and snow. She liked to knit, and scolded Benedetto for throwing out a sweater because she could have made it into mittens. She was fond of her dog. She was a fan of the PBS series “Downton Abbey.”

Moller had moxie. Last month, she was selected as a storyteller for an event at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and performed in front of an audience, something Benedetto said took courage.

Recently, Moller had been looking to move into a place of her own and had checked out an apartment in Eliot, Benedetto said.

Her work as a nanny seemed a good fit, Benedetto said. Single, with no children of her own, Moller often joined Benedetto on excursions to the beach and elsewhere as her two children grew from toddlers to teenagers.

“I think she could connect with young people,” Benedetto said. “She cared about my kids incredibly. They’re looking for understanding something I’m not sure I’ll ever understand.”

Moller was invariably an advocate for the underdog.

“Probably because in a lot of ways she maybe felt like one,” Benedetto said “She had concerns for people that were struggling, or someone being bullied. If someone was hurting, I think she could relate to that.”

Perhaps Moller’s best quality was how she made others feel about themselves.

“She always made me feel like what I was saying was the most important thing. She made me feel amazing,” Benedetto said.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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