SKOWHEGAN — If Steven Lake had been wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet in June 2011, he might not have had a chance to drive from his business in Harmony to Dexter, where he murdered his estranged wife and their two children before turning the gun on himself.

Lake, 37, had a court-imposed protection from abuse order against him and bail conditions preventing him from having contact with his wife and children. With a monitoring device, Lake could have been tracked when he approached his family’s home.

There was no such device available to law enforcement then, and Amy Bagley Lake, 38, and her two children, Coty, 13, and Monica, 12, were murdered with a 12-gauge shotgun.

This week, Somerset County commissioners approved use of a Blutag – a one-piece GPS monitoring device for tracking the movement of people charged with domestic violence crimes.

The program is the first in Maine, and money from an event sponsored by Bagley Lake’s parents helped get it rolling.

“What we want to do is provide a higher level of safety to the victims,” said Dale Lancaster, chief deputy for the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department. “This tool is to enhance the safety of the victim – a tool for us to fight domestic violence.”

Lancaster said if Lake had been wearing the bracelet as a condition of his bail in June 2011 the sheriff’s department would have received notification immediately that he’d approached his family’s home in Dexter.

Increased use of GPS devices to track accused abusers who are under a protection from abuse order after a serious domestic violence incident was recommended in a 2011 report by four police officers who were commissioned to investigate the Lake case. Their report detailed Lake’s repeated violations of domestic abuse protection orders.

Wearing the device will be a voluntary condition of bail during the pre-trial period – either wear the bracelet or face high bail – and the possibility of not being able to post the amount required for release.

When an enrollee leaves the area to which travel is limited, the device sends a signal to the Somerset County Regional Communications Center where dispatchers alert law enforcement officers.

Lancaster said he and District Attorney Maeghan Maloney attended a 5K walk-a-thon in Dexter last June that held to raise public awareness of domestic violence. The event was sponsored by Ralph and Linda Bagley of Harmony, Amy Bagley Lake’s parents, and raised $14,000 for an electronic monitoring program, Maloney said.

The Bagleys couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but in 2012, Ralph Bagley said the program is essential.

The devices are rented by the county for $4.25 a day.

Melody Fitch, executive director at the Family Violence Project in Augusta, said the Somerset County project is a positive step in reducing cases of domestic violence.

“We’re pretty excited about the possibility of this as a deterrent for perpetrators and hopefully for increased safety for victims of domestic abuse,” Fitch said. “We know the district attorney’s office has been looking very carefully at this issue.

Use of the monitoring device as a condition of bail would have to be approved by a judge during a defendant’s bail hearing, Maloney said.

“If the defendant declines,” she said, “there will be an option for cash bail – this isn’t something that’s appropriate in every case.

“We’ll be using screening tools to make sure that we’re not missing a case and to make sure that those cases that have the highest score are the ones that are brought to our attention, and those are the ones we’ll be seeking electronic monitoring as a condition of bail.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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