NORTH WATERBORO — Family members of a woman who police say was shot and killed by her husband Saturday have no idea what led to the tragedy.

Christal Denis, with a dragonfly on her sun visor, was on the family’s pontoon boat Friday, the day before police say she was shot and killed by her husband, Christopher Denis, at their North Waterboro home in Maine’s third domestic violence-related murder-suicide since March. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Watson

Christal Denis’ children, her sister and her mother gathered in the living room of the mother’s North Waterboro home Monday night to grieve and share their memories of a woman whom they all loved deeply. Clustered around dozens of photographs of their mother and her husband, Christopher Denis, spread on the floor, they reminisced about her life and accomplishments.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Lisa Hanson, Christal’s sister, had said earlier Monday. She said her sister was happy, a workaholic who lived for her children and, more recently, her two grandchildren.

Christal Denis has three adult children: Kathleen Goodrich, 22, of Limerick; William Goodrich, 20, of Waterboro; and Jaclyn Carson, 18, of Porter, from previous relationships. Her oldest daughter has two children.

“When (the grandchildren) walked in the door, she just lit up,” Hanson said.

Police were called to the Denis’ home just before 8 p.m. Saturday by a relative who was concerned. Inside the living room, police found both dead from gunshot wounds. Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said detectives determined that Christopher Denis shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself. They were both 45.

Hanson said her family saw no warning signs that her sister was in danger.

While the family is devastated by her death, they didn’t want to speculate on what might have led to the tragic shooting, choosing instead to focus on the life of a woman who made their lives better through her strong work ethic and love of family. They also said they do not blame Christopher, because he was a big part of their lives too.

“I don’t think we’ve ever going to get answers about what happened,” said Jennifer Watson, Christal’s cousin. “And I think the family wants to focus on the positives and looking forward.”

The Denises had been married since 2009 and lived in a two-story gambrel-roofed house on New Dam Road in North Waterboro on the south side of Lake Arrowhead. The Denises spent time on the lake, often in their pontoon boat. A picture taken of Christal on Friday, the day before she was killed, shows her smiling with the water in the background. She is partially shaded by the boat’s awning and a dragonfly is perched on her sun visor.

Hanson said that’s how she wants to remember her sister.

“Her laugh made people smile. She had that laugh, you know,” she said.

Christal Denis grew up in the area and went into the family business after she graduated from Massabesic High School in 1991. Her parents, Billy Hanson Jr. and Sherri Hanson, founded Deer Pond Fuel in 1998. Christal became her mother’s partner after her father died.

Lisa Hanson said customers of Deer Pond Fuel should know that the business will continue to operate unimpeded.

Christopher Denis worked for Deer Pond Fuel, as well, but was originally from Fairfield. Hanson said the couple had been together for about 12 years. Pictures on Christal’s Facebook page show the couple kissing and posing next to a fireplace.

“We loved her. We loved him, too. This is so hard,” Hanson said.

Sherri Hanson said that her daughter met Chris Denis through work.

“He was a customer. That’s how they met,” she said.

Christal Denis’ children said their mother knew no boundaries when it came to making a better life for them. She worked long hours, mostly for their benefit.

“She worked very hard for her family,” said her youngest daughter, Jaclyn Carson, who plans to study nursing this fall at the University of Maine in Orono. “She cared about everyone, but she always put her children first.”

She said her mother enjoyed country music concerts and NASCAR racing.

“She took pride in enjoying the little things in life,” Carson said.

“She was my everything,” said Kathleen Goodrich, who has two children, a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old. “I looked up to her and was always proud of her.”

Goodrich also works at Deer Pond Fuel.

Christal Denis’ son, William Goodrich, spent part of Saturday with his mom and his stepfather. He said he admired his mother for being the strongest person, in terms of character, he ever met.

“She shaped us into who we are today,” said William Goodrich, who works at Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick. “She wanted the best … for all of us.”

Christopher treated Christal’s children as his own and they said they are saddened by his death as well. William said his stepfather worked hard to give them “a hell of a life.”

William and Kathleen’s biological father, Peter Goodrich, died in 2000 as the result of an ATV accident. He was just 28.

Family members remember seeing an unusually large swarm of dragonflies at the cemetery when he was buried. Since Saturday, Denis’ children said they have seen several dragonflies in different locations, a phenomena they attribute to the insect being a symbol of their mother’s spiritual presence.

Local police said there was no history of domestic violence calls to the house. Christopher Denis was arrested in 2005 in Lewiston and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence assault. It’s not clear whether he was convicted and a spokesman for the Lewiston Police Department said he was not able to locate a case file immediately because records from that year are not archived electronically.

The Denises were the third domestic violence-related murder-suicide in Maine since March.

That month, 48-year-old Kenneth Bryant killed his wife, Autumn Bryant, 44, in Gardiner and then took his life. In May, police found two people dead inside a home in Lebanon and determined that Thomas Doyon, 27, shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, Allyson Parker, 30, and then killed himself.

Domestic violence is among the leading causes of homicide in Maine. Last year, nine of the state’s 21 homicides were related to domestic violence, which includes as victims partners, children or parents. In 2017, eight of 22 homicides were caused by a family member.

Funeral services for Christal Denis have been scheduled for Monday, July 29, at 11 a.m. at the Dennett-Craig & Pate funeral home in Buxton. Visiting hours at the funeral home will be held from 3-7 p.m. Sunday.

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