Daughters of murdered Maine couple believe proposed ‘cool-down period’ law might have saved parents

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 6:37 PM EST
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TURNER, Maine (WMTW) - The daughters of a Turner couple killed in their home last February believe their parents would still be alive if the police would have been able to take the man accused of killing them into custody before the crime was committed.

Shelby Varney and Audrey Varney testified Thursday in support of a bill before the Maine Legislature that will allow police to take people into protective custody for a cool-down period if they pose a violent threat to others.

“If the policemen were able to bring Patrick into custody the night before, and he entered a cool-down period, he may have never entered my home,” Shelby Varney told lawmakers.

Patrick Maher is accused of breaking into Troy Varney and Dulce Varney’s home on Feb. 12 of last year and killing them before officers could arrive. The Varney’s were Maher’s landlord.

“I kind of knew exactly what was happening. I had a suspicion that Patrick had broken into the house,” Shelby Varney said.

Shelby Varney was inside the home when her parents were killed.

The Varney’s had called police the day before they were killed to report that Maher was behaving erratically. They believed he posed a threat to others, but no action was taken by law enforcement.

“The police informed my parents that nothing could be done about the situation because Maher was not a serious threat,” Audrey Varney testified.

It is often difficult for police to intervene in a mental health crisis unless that person has broken the law.

Advocates who oppose the bill to allow police to take people into protective custody said those barriers are essential to protect civil liberties.

“We caution this committee against making it easier for the state to deprive someone of their fundamental liberties without adequate safeguards,” said Michael Kebede of the ACLU of Maine.

Sen. Jeff Timberlake sponsored the bill in response to the killing of the Varney’s in hopes that law enforcement will gain more tools to intervene in a crisis before it escalates to violence.

Maher remains in custody charged with murder.

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