Jeff McKinney, the father of Brittney Cockrell, who was shot and killed along with her partner in front of their children in Westbrook last week. McKinney gave a statement to the public and asked for support for his grandchildren. Marcel Lagrange Jr. has been charged with murder in deaths of Cockrell and Michael Hayter. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Brittney Cockrell’s father says more should have been done to prevent the ‘senseless’ violence that took the life of his daughter and her partner in Westbrook last week. 

“If someone displays they are a danger to an otherwise safe community, the danger must be reduced by removing that threat,” Jeff McKinney told reporters during his first public remarks since the June 19 slayings. “We cannot save everyone from being exposed to evil. We can reduce the risk.”

Marcel Lagrange Jr., 24, is accused of shooting and killing the Westbrook couple in front of their two young children. Lagrange’s history of violent and threatening behavior and mental illness has been reported, but little information had been shared about Cockrell, 37, and Michael Hayter, 41, before Tuesday.

Brittney Cockrell, right, with her three children, and partner Michael Hayter. Photo courtesy of the McKinney family

McKinney said his daughter was a “precious gift from heaven” when he talked about her birth just before Christmas in 1986. “We could not have smiled any bigger looking into her tiny face,” he said. She grew from a smiling baby into a doting mother of three, including the two young children she was raising with Hayter: Mason, 11, and Mattie Belle, 7.

McKinney described Hayter as a devoted parent and a joyful presence.

“He had a million-dollar smile and a twinkle in his eyes,” he said. “It was impossible to stay down with Mike around.”


The couple had only recently moved from Texas to Westbrook, where Hayter had a job at a car dealership.

Marcel Lagrange Jr., 24. Courtesy Cumberland County Jail

According to police, the couple did not have any relationship with Lagrange, who officers say shot Cockrell and Hayter in their car near the intersection of Main Street and Bridge Street in Westbrook on June 19. The couple’s kids were in the car.

“A senseless tragedy occurred when an individual … mercilessly shot and killed two people and shattered the lives of many others,” McKinney said.

He refused to answer questions about the case so as not to interfere with the ongoing police investigation.

He said he will soon bring the children back to Texas where he lives with his wife. The family has launched a GoFundMe page to support the kids.

“Today we are four strong trying to hold each other up,” he said. “We’re going to need a lot of prayer. We’re going to need a lot of counseling.”


Lagrange made his first appearance in court last week but was not required to enter a plea.

On Tuesday, McKinney thanked the several citizens who police said tackled Lagrange as he ran down Main Street after the shootings. He applauded responding police officers and community members who helped take care of the children during the last week.

Jeff McKinney, right, walks by a memorial for his daughter, Brittney Cockrell, 37, and her partner, Michael Hayter, 41, who were killed in this Westbrook parking lot last Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

But he criticized onlookers who he said pulled out their phones to broadcast the shootings instead of stepping in to help – behavior Maine State Police said they were not aware of.

“Our little baby died on livestream,” he said. “We can all do better than that. We must all be better than that.”

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