WESTBROOK, Maine - Lavinia Gelineau was found dead in her home Friday, a year after she endured the bitter and overwhelming loss of her husband, Spc. Chris Gelineau, a Maine National Guardsman killed in Iraq.
Gelineau's body was discovered at her new home in Westbrook along with that of her estranged father, Nicolae Onitiu, 51, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. McCausland said Onitiu arrived Wednesday from Romania.
Chris & Lavinia Gelineau
Police are investigating the case as a homicide, but provided few details Friday night. They said they do not believe anybody else was involved.
Gelineau's mother lived with her, but McCausland said Iuliana Onitiu had gone to Vermont to the home of Gelineau's father-in-law before Nicolae Onitiu's arrival.
"This obviously has domestic violence overtones," McCausland said. "We're looking at that very closely."
He said police "have a very good idea of what went on inside the house." However, he declined to reveal details until the state Medical Examiner's Office determines the cause of death. Autopsies on both bodies are scheduled for 1 p.m. today.
Police found the bodies about 10:45 a.m. after they were asked by Gelineau's co-workers to check on her well-being. It was her last day at work and her friends were holding a party for her. They were concerned when she did not show up, said Westbrook Police Chief Paul J. McCarthy.
Gelineau, 25, was thrust into the spotlight one year ago this month when her soldier-husband was killed in an ambush while serving with Maine's 133rd Engineer Battalion in Iraq. Her grief over his death was palpable, as she lamented the loss of her soulmate and clung to the e-mails he sent every day before he died.
The two were students at the University of Southern Maine and married three years ago. She said he was her world, and she provoked resentment in some quarters for being angry at the war that she felt stole her husband from her.
Gelineau said recently that she was leaving her job with a nonprofit in South Portland because she was so distraught that she was having trouble concentrating on her work.
"It's just a shock and a tragedy," Staff Sgt. Harold Fitch of Fairfield said of her death. He said he heard the news from another unit member around 5 p.m. Friday.
Fitch was friends with Chris Gelineau and later befriended Lavinia. They had been trading e-mails for a few months, and Fitch just heard from her a few days ago.
"She was starting to come around," Fitch said. "Her and Chris were definitely soulmates. She'd have her good days and bad."
Fitch and his wife, Melissa, had planned to give a house-warming party for Gelineau in the coming weeks. "We were looking forward to visiting," he said.
Matt Shardlow, 28, lived next door to Gelineau for more than a year at Forest Park, an apartment complex in Portland. Gelineau, Shardlow said, was finally starting to get back into the community.
"Chris' death just knocked her off her axis," Shardlow said. "It was a slow progression for her from when it happened last April until now. Hearing her talk about the future was encouraging."
Gelineau planned to return to school, Shardlow said. She had applied for the extended teacher education program at USM. Her mother was taking English classes there.
"She popped her head in the night before she moved," Shardlow said. "She was talking about having us over for dinner after she got settled."
Gelineau was from Romania and said the loss of her husband left her alone. She became very close to his parents.
"She is my daughter," said Victoria Chicoine, who lives in Starksboro, Vt., and lost her only child when Chris Gelineau was killed April 20. She was overwhelmed by the news of her "Lavi."
Chicoine said her daughter-in-law's relationship with her mother was "very, very good."
"Her relationship with her father was not so good," Chicoine said, adding only that the two were estranged. The father was from Sibiu, in the Transylvania section of central Romania.
Gelineau moved into the new house about three weeks ago, neighbors said. The green colonial, its lawn not yet planted, sits on a hill near the corner of Central and Prospect streets. She chose to live in Westbrook, she said, because it was not far from where her husband is buried.
Connie Bond had met her new next-door neighbor just once, as they shoveled out from a recent snowstorm.
"She said she wanted to meet all the neighbors and have a house party and invite the whole neighborhood," Bond said.
Most neighbors had not introduced themselves to Gelineau, but they had seen her moving in and hanging drapes.
"We never heard anything going on over there," said Maria Oncale, 63, who has lived at 183 Central Ave. for nearly a decade. "This is a nice calm neighborhood. There's no trouble at all."
Staff Writer Tess Nacelewicz contributed to this report.
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