PARKMAN, Maine — When Stephanie Ginn Gebo decided to break off a relationship with her boyfriend, Robert Burton, her best friend tried to warn her to protect herself.
“I begged her to go to the police and just let them know about the situation due to his history,” Erika Kennedy said in an email interview, referring to Burton, who remains at large and wanted for murder in connection with Ginn Gebo’s death.
Burton, 38, also known as Robert G. Elliot, is accused of taking Ginn Gebo’s life on June 5, a week after they broke up and the day after his probation for previous domestic violence crimes ended.
“She at no time felt threatened for her personal safety or her kids’ safety,” said Kennedy, who is from Guilford.
That lack of concern likely was because Ginn Gebo, 37, was not fully aware of Burton’s complete criminal history.
“My family had been warned by other close friends to be careful of him because he was not a good person,” Kennedy said. “My family and I always kept him at an arm’s length.”
But she, too, was surprised by what she learned of Burton’s past after the incident.
With Burton still missing, Kennedy said she has taken her family and left the area.
“I’m out of state and will be until Rob is apprehended,” she said.
Burton’s criminal record shows he was arrested and spent time behind bars for domestic violence terrorizing involving another local woman in 2000. Upon his release from prison in 2002, he went searching for the woman and ended up threatening her mother with a rifle and knife before fleeing into the woods. He was on the run for 12 days and was found at an abandoned camp in Willimantic.
Burton was sentenced to 10 years in prison. When he was released on June 3, 2011, he was put on probation for four years. Burton’s probation ended on June 4, and he is accused of taking Ginn Gebo’s life the day after.
“We still have both wardens and state police in the area or close by,” Stephen McCausland, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman, said Thursday.
Kennedy said she had known Ginn Gebo since childhood — because Ginn Gebo was five years ahead of her in school — but they became closer about five years ago, when Kennedy took her two children to Ginn Gebo’s farm to go swimming in a pond with Ginn Gebo’s two children.
“All four kids became best friends almost immediately — so did Stephanie and I,” Kennedy said. “It was more like we were sisters than friends. Stephanie was an amazing woman, mother and friend. Nothing meant more to her than her two children; they were her life.”
Kennedy also set up a GoFundMe account Wednesday to raise reward money for people who help police find her friend’s accused killer.
“I would like to think that if somebody already knew something that they would speak up, but this isn’t always a perfect world and ‘money talks,’” Kennedy posted on the fundraising page.
On Thursday, she said that “through all of this nobody truly knows the ‘real’ Stephanie. They’ve only heard about Mr. Burton.”
Kennedy said she was shown true friendship by Ginn Gebo when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“The only people that didn’t make me feel like this was a horrible and terrible thing was Steph and my husband,” she said. “She not only sat through my [intravenous] treatments with me on her days off, but also did my horribly painful injections for me at home. If I stumbled, she would be right there to catch me, and we would laugh about it always. She would randomly tell me how strong of a person I was and how she looked up to me, but in my eyes it was her that I looked up to.”