WATERVILLE — Melissa Sousa was allegedly shot twice in the stomach by her boyfriend, who wrapped her in a tarp and placed her body in the basement of their Gold Street apartment building.

Melissa Sousa Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

That’s according to a police affidavit released Friday in support of a murder charge against Nicholas Lovejoy, 28, whom friends and family described as a troubled man who was abusive and often made threats involving guns. His own brother told police that Lovejoy “has been crazy lately,” suffers from a traumatic brain injury and is a “loose cannon.”

Lovejoy made his initial court appearance in Augusta on Friday afternoon.

Sousa, who worked at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Waterville, had last been seen Tuesday putting her twin 8-year-old daughters onto a school bus. She was reported missing by friends that night when she didn’t respond to calls and wasn’t active on social media. Sousa’s body was found in the basement of their apartment building by authorities about 4 p.m. Wednesday and identified on Thursday.

On Friday morning, Sousa’s friends and family gathered outside her apartment on Gold Street to mourn her death.

Sousa’s mother, Theresa Martin of Haverhill, Massachusetts, attended the memorial event, in which people brought purple flowers and balloons. She said she would do whatever it takes to get the girls, even if it means staying in Maine.

“I want justice to be served,” Martin said. “I definitely want my grandchildren. I love them and they love me and they need me. The pain is in their eyes. The pain is always in the eyes. I hope (Lovejoy) is punished for a long time.”

The court documents written by Maine State Police Detective Ryan Brockway say police were told multiple times during the investigation that Lovejoy threatened Sousa with guns during arguments and police came into possession of a recording of Lovejoy saying he would kill Sousa. The documents say that police made contact with Lovejoy before Sousa’s remains were discovered, and he said she left and was “acting weird for the past few months” and had a new boyfriend.

In an interview with police after Sousa’s body was found, Lovejoy allegedly confessed to killing her with a .38-caliber handgun. Lovejoy said that after their twin daughters left for school Tuesday morning, Sousa pushed him down the stairs at their apartment, picked up a gun and tried to shoot him, but the weapon didn’t fire. Lovejoy told police he picked up the handgun and shot her twice in the stomach, rolling her body in a tarp, wrapping it in duct tape and dumping it in the basement.

Family and friends of Sousa told the Morning Sentinel this week that Lovejoy was mentally unstable and could not stand the fact that she was planning to leave him and he would be without her. A co-worker of Sousa’s told the Morning Sentinel on Wednesday that Lovejoy had previously threatened to kill her.

Friends said Lovejoy and Sousa had been together about 15 years but were not married, and they came to Waterville from Massachusetts.

Lovejoy appeared at the Capital Judicial Center on Friday afternoon for a short initial hearing. Judge Michaela Murphy read the charges against Lovejoy, who was represented by appointive attorney Darrick Banda while Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese represented the state. Lovejoy, who did not enter a plea, is being held without bail pending a hearing Dec. 6.

Marchese said after the hearing that the Attorney General’s Office was not aware of any complaints related to the couple beforehand. The Morning Sentinel this week conducted statewide criminal background checks on Lovejoy in both Maine and Massachusetts, and there were no results.

“The investigation is obviously still ongoing about their relationship,” she said. “Certainly my office, and I don’t think the state police, had any knowledge of what was going on.”

Marchese said this “is a serious case of domestic violence” and encouraged victims in abusive relationships to reach out for help. “In some matter and some ways, it’s a little bit discouraging,” she said. “But we remain hopeful … for victims when they find themselves in a bad relationship that they reach out and they get some help from any of the domestic violence resource centers.”

SEARCH FOR MELISSA

Police first received a call from one of Sousa’s friends on Tuesday at 6:44 p.m., requesting a welfare check, because “nobody has heard from Melissa all day and she has not been active on Facebook.” The friend told police that her boyfriend, Lovejoy, is “abusive and threatens Melissa with guns all the time.” Two other friends of Sousa came to the Waterville police station shortly after 8 that night also concerned about their friend, with the same concerns.

The friend who initially asked for a welfare check on Sousa later provided authorities with an audio recording of an argument between Sousa and Lovejoy, in which Lovejoy “can be heard racking a gun and saying he has two options, ‘Kill you before I do that, or kill you before I do that.'”

Nicholas Lovejoy, left, stands with his attorney, Darak Banda, on Friday during his initial appearance on murder charges at Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

Police caught up with Lovejoy at 32 Gold St. Tuesday night. He denied knowing where Sousa was and said she had left on foot around 9 a.m. Tuesday, telling authorities they had been arguing for the last few months and she wanted to leave because she had a new boyfriend. Lovejoy refused to show police his phone or video from surveillance cameras that he claimed showed her leaving, and told police he had been “out looking for Melissa all day” and had done laundry.

“Nicholas asked if it would be a good idea to go look for Melissa and leave his 8-year-old children at home, which they told him not to and to stay with his children,” the affidavit states.

After that conversation, officers watched Lovejoy from the street. He began mopping the floor and reportedly staring up and down the street “for a few minutes at a time.” Half an hour later, he was arrested during a traffic stop for having a loaded gun in the vehicle. He was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child because he and Sousa’s twin 8-year-old daughters were left alone in the apartment.

After an officer went into the Gold Street residence to retrieve the twin daughters, he noticed a pair of tan work boots with red-brown stains, a towel with red-brown stains, a roll of duct tape with red-brown stains and cardboard with red-brown stains. In a bathroom, the officer saw red-brown droplets in the sink and a Crayola marker with red-brown stains. The officer found an ammonia bottle on the toilet and described the residence as smelling like ammonia. A Maine State Police detective also reported seeing red-brown stains on Lovejoy’s socks and pants after he was arrested that night.

The two girls voluntarily told police “that dad was mad at mom because mom had a new boyfriend” and that “when dad tucked them into bed he told them that the police were going to come take him out of the house.”

Witnesses told police that Lovejoy dropped blankets off at a property he rented at 337 Taylor Road in Winslow on Monday, and on Tuesday he returned to the property with a shovel. Police searched the property and determined it was a “fresh dig site,” which was later excavated but didn’t contain any evidence authorities deemed valuable.

On Wednesday, Maine State Police searched at 32 Gold St. and Sousa’s body was discovered in the basement. Multiple firearms were also found at the property in Winslow.

According to court documents, the state’s Medical Examiner’s Office examined Sousa’s body and ruled the death a homicide.

 

FAMILY IN MOURNING

Purple flowers and stuffed animals adorned the yard outside the apartment building at 32 Gold St. on Friday morning, as friends and others mourned the death of  Sousa.

Outside the Gold Street home, approximately 20 of Sousa’s closest friends and family members gathered to share stories about her and figure out how to get her 8-year-old daughters into their grandmother’s care. The girls are currently in foster care in Waterville, according to friends. They have been notified that their mother passed away and “won’t be coming back home,” said Sousa’s aunt, April Sibert, though they were not informed of their father’s involvement with the case.

“The girls are already going through a hard time,” said Mandy Jolly, Sousa’s best friend from Foxcroft Academy, where they went to high school together. “What they need is to be with family that they know.”

Marchese, the deputy attorney general, said Friday that the children are “safe at the moment” and the state Department of Health and Human Services will be looking into where they will be placed. She said it is possible they could be placed with family members.

“The future of the children is still up in the air as to where they will go,” Marchese said. “Under Maine law, when children no longer have their parents, … DHHS has to look into … the most suitable place for the children and that’s what’s going on at the moment.”

Martin, Sousa’s mother, said she has been in contact with the Department of Health and Human Services, has visited her granddaughters and feels fairly optimistic about the prospect of getting custody of them. Martin noted that she hopes what happened to her youngest daughter helps others facing domestic violence realize that they “can’t be afraid and have got to speak up and seek help.”

“You can’t be trapped in that,” Martin said. “You must take immediate action.”

Ashley Walker, a friend of Sousa’s and co-worker from Dunkin’ Donuts, said that what has happened to Sousa, unfortunately, happens to so many others as well, and that needs to change.

“We need to start doing something about it. We need to start educating young children that are going to school of the signs of domestic (violence),” said Walker, who said she has been a victim of domestic violence herself and has taken classes on recognizing red flags. “It’s time for people and women to start coming together, and unfortunately, we live in a world where we’re supposed to mind our own business. We’re supposed to turn a blind (eye) when people are fighting. We’re supposed to close our ears and forget that the neighbors are screaming at each other all night without reporting it, and that needs to come to a stop.”

She also urged law enforcement to take calls about people fighting seriously and dig deep to understand the underlying issues of the conflict so that unnecessary harm can be prevented.

Walker said that when she was pregnant with her son more than a year ago, Sousa would take extreme caution to block anything and anyone from bumping her belly. She would even take packets of sugar from her so that she did not have to carry anything.

“She was the friend you always wanted,” Walker said. “You always knew whatever you told her was safe. She would never tell anyone. She was so innocent. She did no wrong.”

Many of Sousa’s friends said they knew Lovejoy was abusive and said that Sousa declined offers for help because she lived in fear of what would happen. Billy Morse, who said Sousa was his manager at Dunkin’ Donuts, recalled a time when Sousa stayed at his home two years ago. Morse and his wife, Shauna, grew to be close friends with her over the years.

“She was black and blue and you could see knuckle marks and you knew it was Nick,” Billy Morse said. “She said it was the dog, but I said I know what’s happening. I was going to beat him up, and she told me, ‘Don’t do it, it was my fault.'”

Many people on Friday said that Sousa’s daughters were her passion and Dunkin’ Donuts was her home. She was close with not only her co-workers at the Main Street franchise, but at the College Avenue location as well. She would walk through snow and sleet to get to work sometimes, where Walker said, “she left everything at the door” from her personal life and was a lively, bright presence who loved to make others laugh.

Brandie Poore, who worked with Sousa, recalled times when Sousa, who was only 5 feet tall, would hide in delivery boxes and jump out to scare her friends. Sousa also loved listening to music and could rap even the wordiest, most breathless Eminem songs, which made everyone laugh.

A friend of Sousa’s, Nikkia-Rai Vear, 35, of Waterville, said people were being asked to drop off purple flowers and stuffed animals outside the 32 Gold St. apartment building because the color purple signifies domestic violence awareness. The stuffed animals would be given to affected children, she said.

“We’re trying to open it up to the public because we definitely want to get domestic violence awareness out there, especially Melissa’s story,” Vear said.

Another event will be held at 3 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Main Street Dunkin’ Donuts where Sousa worked, according to Vear, who said balloons will be released in her memory. Sibert, Sousa’s aunt, set up a GoFundMe page to help finance funeral expenses.

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