A photo issued by the Maine State Police shows a suspect in the May killing of Kimberly Neptune outside of Neptune's Perry home. Neptune is one of 17 Maine homicide victims so far this year, just one shy of Maine's homicide total for all of 2021 just 6 1/2 months into the year. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Department of Public Safety

Seventeen people have died of homicides in the first six and a half months of this year, after two more were killed this past weekend in Skowhegan and Lewiston.

That figure is just one fewer than the number of people killed in homicides in all of 2021, which puts Maine on track to surpass the modern record of 31 homicides set in 2008 and raise the state’s 10-year average of 22 per year.

While one slaying in an Augusta tow yard was recently ruled to be self-defense, defendants have been charged in all but two of the deaths, and all but one of those suspects has been arrested.

Raymond Lester, 35, of Portland is still wanted in the death of Nicole Mokeme, 35, of South Portland in Winter Harbor last month. Lester, who was Mokeme’s boyfriend, allegedly struck her with his car in a parking lot at the Schoodic Education and Research Center campus in Acadia National Park either late at night on June 18 or early the following morning.

About half of Maine’s homicides each year are classified as domestic violence homicides, and that trend is holding true this year. The state characterizes a case as a domestic violence homicide when a family member kills another family member or intimate partner.

Last year, nine of the 18 homicides were related to domestic violence. So far in 2022, eight of the 17 slayings are considered to be domestic violence killings, including the deaths of three partners, one child who was almost 2, and three adults and one juvenile who were either biological parents or household members.

Last year, the high-profile deaths of four Maine children, allegedly at the hands of parents, led to renewed scrutiny of the state’s child welfare system. This year, just one parent has been accused of killing a child.

Andrew Huber-Young, 19, of Wells was charged with murder after his father, brother and a young child were shot at his home at 97 Crediford Road on May 21.

Young’s father and brother were taken to the hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening while the child — Octavia Huber Young, who was just under 2 — died of her injuries, according to the Maine State Police.

Young is charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, according to the Maine Attorney General’s office.

In 2022, three adults and one juvenile have been charged with killing a parent or adult with whom they lived. They include Darren Laney Jr., 36, who is charged in the March 10 stabbing death of his father, Darren Laney Sr., 62, at the family home on Sunshine Lane in Big Lake Township in Washington County.

The higher number of homicides this year have taken place in Washington County, where four people have been slain. Two homicides were also recorded Down East toward the end of 2021.

The most recent was the May slaying of Kimberly Neptune, 43, of Perry. Donnell Dana, 39, and Kailie Brackett, 38, both of Perry, have been charged with stabbing Neptune nearly 500 times.

Three homicides each have occurred in Androscoggin and Cumberland counties while two were recorded in Kennebec County with one each in Sagadahoc, York, Waldo, Hancock, and Somerset counties.

Maine’s two most recent homicides took place over the weekend.

A 19-year-old Massachusetts man, Jason Servil, was arrested Saturday and charged with murder in the death of Alice Abbott, 20, at her parents’ Skowhegan home earlier that day.

On Sunday, Mark John Sinclair, 28, of Lewiston was charged with murder in the shooting death that day of John Paquin, 20, of Worcester, Massachusetts, after a standoff with Lewiston police.

So far no deaths this year have been ruled homicides in Aroostook, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Oxford, Franklin, Knox and Lincoln counties.