Stephanie Gebo knew that her boyfriend, Robert Burton, had a rough past. He had kidnapped one of his ex-girlfriends and spent a decade in prison on domestic violence charges.

That didn’t stop her from thinking she could help him.

The two dated for about two years before breaking up in late May. Gebo’s father, Vance Ginn, said he and his wife knew little about the relationship during that time and saw less of Gebo and her children.

In a phone call the night before she was killed, Gebo told her stepmother, Angel Ginn, that she would share the details of the breakup soon.

Angel Ginn asked her, “Do you think (Burton) learned his lesson last time?”

Vance Ginn said that Stephanie said, “Oh no, I don’t think he did.”

In an interview Friday, Ginn said his daughter didn’t have a protection-from-abuse or restraining order, and that even if she had, he doesn’t think it would have protected her from Burton, who police say shot his former girlfriend to death on June 5. Gebo’s bloodied body was discovered the next morning by her 13-year-old daughter and her 10-year-old son.

Ginn believes that Gebo would have been safer if she had left her house rather than having Burton leave when they broke up. A police affidavit says Gebo changed the locks on her house after the breakup and slept with a gun by her bed.

Looking back, Ginn says the separation he and his wife felt from his daughter may have been a sign of her abusive relationship with Burton.

“We had a pretty constant relationship with Stephanie, and then as time went on with Rob, we saw less and less of her, and less and less of the kids,” Ginn said Friday. “We didn’t recognize it, sadly.”

Dr. Margaret Greenwald, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Gebo’s body June 7, found multiple gunshot wounds to the lungs, spinal area and trachea, determining the death was a homicide.

Burton, 38, who turned himself in to police on Tuesday after a nine-week manhunt in Piscataquis and Somerset counties, is in custody on a charge of being a fugitive from justice and is a suspect in the slaying of Gebo, 37.

Signs of abuse not always obvious

Every relationship is different and it can be hard to know when one has become abusive, said Margo Batsie, justice systems coordinator for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

“A lot of times I tell people to trust their gut,” Batsie said Friday. “If you think something is going on, it’s OK to ask the person you care about, or to call and talk to an advocate if you’re not sure what to do.”

Burton has a lengthy criminal record that includes spending more than 10 years in prison for domestic violence. He was convicted on three domestic violence charges in 2000 when he threatened to kill a woman who broke up with him, Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy told the Bangor Daily News in June.

Almy said that after Burton was released in 2002 following a prison term on multiple convictions, he threatened and assaulted his victim’s mother. After a two-week manhunt and a four-hour standoff, he gave himself up to police and was sentenced to 10 years on multiple charges. Almy said he was released in June 2011, and four years of probation ended June 4.

An affidavit released at Burton’s court appearance Wednesday in Dover-Foxcroft told a chilling story of his relationship with Gebo, his anger, and her fear for herself and her children.

A man described as a lifelong friend of Burton’s told police that when he spoke with him before Gebo was killed, Burton had talked about breaking up with her and his suspicions she had cheated on him.

He told the friend, “It ain’t over yet.”

The friend told Burton to not do “anything stupid with Steph,” to which Burton said not to worry – he was just mad at Gebo, according to the affidavit.

Another friend told police that Burton once said that if he has problems with a woman again, “he is going to kill her.”

Father hopes good comes of tragedy

Vance Ginn hopes his daughter’s death can bring more attention to some of the signs that family members can look for if they suspect a loved one is in an abusive relationship – things such as increasing separation from family and friends, not wanting to do things outside the house, or wanting to keep everyone in the family at home.

Ginn believes that Burton tried to control his daughter, a trait that led to accusations that she was cheating on him.

“That’s what Rob did with the first girl that he kidnapped and the same thing he accused my daughter of,” Ginn said. “It’s something he tried to build in her head, and then he lashed out.”

Not every accusation of cheating is an indication of an abusive relationship, Batsie said, and it can be hard for family and friends to notice.

“For family and friends it can be really difficult, because there may not be any outward signs, which is why we really try and reach the actual victim. No one can really know that you need help in a relationship if you don’t think you do,” she said.

“Go someplace,” Ginn said Friday. “I don’t care about if it’s your place of residence or not. Go someplace, whether it’s your parents or some protective housing, but get out. Don’t try to make them get out. You get out. Because if you try and make them get out, this is what happens.”

But for many victims of abuse, leaving stable housing is not easy, Batsie said.

“For the vast majority of people, the problem of housing is so great,” she said. “Does she have a job? Are her kids in a school system? You can’t just disappear anymore. We need a way to keep people safe in their homes.”