OAKLAND — A night of horror one year ago that ended with four people dead at an apartment on Belgrade Road started with a children’s tea party.

Around 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2015, Michael Muzerolle, his girlfriend, Amanda Bragg, and their daughter, 3-year-old Arianna, had sat down to play with the new tea set the couple had given her as an early Christmas present.

“We were just having a tremendous time, just talking and playing with her,” recalled a friend, Carla Chaput, who was with the family that night. Chaput, who was on her way to see a friend at a nearby hospital, had stopped to visit the family and left around 7 p.m. – shortly after Bragg’s sister, Amy DeRosby, and her boyfriend, Herman DeRico, came to the apartment.

She gave a high-five to Muzerolle and said goodbye to Arianna as the girl was in the kitchen getting some chocolate milk.

About an hour later, as she was driving back through Oakland on her way home to Belgrade, the street was blocked and there were police lights and caution tape everywhere. DeRico had shot and killed the three adults before turning a gun on himself, committing suicide in the driveway of the apartment building at 41 Belgrade Road, where they all lived.

“I was in shock for quite a while, because I was right there,” Chaput, 57, said in an interview last week, speaking publicly for the first time about the incident. “That guy had to have the gun on him in that apartment when I was there. I never saw the gun and I couldn’t tell you what happened (after I left) or why.”

Friday marked one year since the tragedy shook the small town of Oakland. It’s been about 10 months since police closed their investigation, and while some facts about who DeRico was and his state of mind at the time of the killings have emerged, friends and family say they still don’t – and likely never will – have answers for what motivated the sudden killing spree.

What they do know is that DeRico had been hospitalized four times in 2015 for mental health problems and that the weapon he used, a 9 mm handgun, was likely not obtained through a licensed firearms dealer. Police have been unable to trace its origins, said Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.

“I think about Arianna and what kind of effect this will have on her as she gets older,” Jackie Bragg, 54, the mother of sisters Amanda Bragg and Amy DeRosby, said in an interview. “Why can’t people think about her and other children that this has happened to? Because I know there’s a lot of them out there without parents because of guns.” Jackie Bragg said she doesn’t understand why or how DeRico was able to get a gun. She said the incident should also prompt people to support expanded background checks on gun sales.

HISTORY OF DRUG USE

Bragg said her daughter Amy met DeRico at the Chez Paree, a Waterville bar she had been living above at the time.

They had been together only about six months, but Jackie Bragg, of Vassalboro, said her 28-year-old daughter was in love.

DeRico had been in the military, but she wasn’t sure what branch, and she said he had been discharged. He didn’t work but collected a pension from the military, she said. When he met DeRosby, he told her he wanted to change his life and make it better.

“Amy just fell right down for that,” Bragg said. “She was like, ‘Wow, I finally found someone that loves me for me and is going to treat me like I should be treated.’ ” The couple moved into the apartment above Muzerolle and Amanda Bragg about four months before the shooting.

Jackie Bragg said she had met DeRico only twice, but other family members also told her that they never saw him raise his voice with DeRosby or do anything that raised questions, although she said she was aware that he had some history of drug use.

Police said toxicology tests showed DeRico had amphetamines, methamphetamine, marijuana and alcohol in his system after the shootings, and there was evidence of recent cocaine use. He also had been hospitalized four times in 2015 for mental health problems and had been prescribed drugs for anxiety, depression, paranoia and sleep problems. McCausland, in a January news release, called him a “troubled man with mental health issues, who had been using a variety of prescribed and illegal drugs.”

Aside from those details, though, police say they don’t know much more about DeRico and have never released a photo of him.

‘THAT BAD MAN’

The only witness to what happened was 3-year-old Arianna, now 4 and living with her aunt Narissa Seamans and her husband, Dan, in Waterville.

Bragg said for the most part, Arianna is doing well and has adjusted to life with her aunt and uncle, even learning to call them “Mom” and “Dad,” though she has moments that are difficult, such as when a classmate at school teased her for not having parents, or when a cousin showed her a toy gun.

“She knows what happened,” Jackie Bragg said. “She tells you, ‘That bad man shot my mom and dad and Amy and he killed them.'”

She said Arianna tried talking to her father as he was dying, and couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t respond.

“Her daddy’s laying dead on the floor and he’s looking at her, she’s looking at him, because that’s the way he went,” Bragg said. “She said, ‘Daddy, how come you won’t talk to me? I’m trying to talk to you, Daddy, and why won’t you talk back? What is wrong, Daddy?’ ”

Lisa Hassam, Muzerolle’s mother, who lives in Florida, said in an email that as a parent her life will forever be defined in terms of before and after the killings.

“While we may look calm and cool on the outside, do not doubt that we will never be whole again,” Hassam said. “The only positive thing that I can say about this horrific tragedy is that our two families have truly become one. Our granddaughter is being raised by kind and loving souls, for whom our gratitude will never be enough.”

There are no public memorials or vigils planned for the victims, but Jackie Bragg said that relatives and friends were planning to celebrate their lives at a dinner.

“I can’t go (to the dinner) and be sad when they’re having a good time, because it’s still too hard for me,” she said. “But it’s a good thing for Arianna. The two families have come together as one for her, so she gets to know her dad as well as her mom.”

SAVING A LIFE

Oakland Police Chief Mike Tracy, who was also Muzerolle’s uncle, said that after the tragedy, there was an outpouring of support from residents, including some who gathered money to invest in new equipment for the department, such as helmets, body armor and rifles that they didn’t have before.

Tracy and Sgt. Tracey Frost said a review of police procedures showed they did everything they were supposed to in responding, but they don’t think they will learn anything more about the motive.

“I’d like to think we would, to provide more closure, but the truth is we probably won’t ever find out more,” Frost said. He said reviews of emails and text messages from DeRico turned up nothing, and he didn’t leave a note.

Both Bragg and Hassam said gun legislation has become an important issue for them in the aftermath. In a recent post on Facebook, Bragg said she is pushing every day for the passage of Question 3, a referendum that would initiate universal background checks for gun transfers in Maine. The issue is due to be voted on in Tuesday’s election.

“We aren’t the only family out there suffering from what guns do,” Bragg wrote on her Facebook page. “There are other families that feel the same way we do. They are suffering as well! We want stiffer gun laws!”