‘I’ll tell her I did the best I could’: Losing a daughter to murder, raising her children

The scope of Pat Pendleton’s life changed entirely on Nov. 5, 1987, when she learned her daughter, Vicki, 25, had been killed in Rockland by her ex-husband.

Pat remembers her mother-in-law coming into her house in the early morning to say she’d gotten word Vicki had been shot at. Pat dressed, thinking she would be at Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport a long time. She thought she’d be able to take her daughter home. It was a doctor there who told the family Vicki didn’t make it.

Vicki’s ex-husband, Edmund Winslow, had broken into the house while Vicki was sleeping, shot her father who was asleep on the couch — he survived — and then broke into her bedroom. He shot her in the head. Their 3-year-old daughter was in the room, and their 5-year-old son was in an adjoining room. Edmund was later sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Vicki Pendleton is pictured here around the age of 17, eight years before her ex-husband shot and killed her in Rockland.

“The pain was unbearable in the beginning,” Pat said. She faced not only the loss of her daughter but the reality that she would be the one left to raise Vicki’s two children. Pat’s youngest biological son at the time was 19.

Taking care of the children, though, may have been a lifesaver for Pat, who is now 72 and lives in Rockport. “It couldn’t have been any other way. People say they were lucky to have me. I say I was lucky to have them,” she said.

Each year, an estimated 30,000 people are victims of domestic violence in Maine. Even if people don’t experience the crime directly, it leaves a wide path of devastation. People never know when the crime will happen to someone they love and tear into their own life.

After Vicki’s death, Pat sometimes drove by her daughter’s old workplace, and her young granddaughter would point it out. Pat would have to say, “Mama doesn’t work there.” She said one of the hardest things was having no hope to give her grandchildren, whom she adopted.

Vicki Pendleton is pictured as a child around 1965.

There are still many reminders of the loss. Pat said it might be a line from a song or a sentence someone utters that tears out her heart. She might see someone Vicki went to school with who now has gray hair, or she might see a friend who’s now a grandmother, and a sadness sweeps over her, knowing Vicki never got to experience her full life.

What did he do it for? she wonders.

The last time Vicki and Edmund were together, they lived in Warren. One night, Edmund broke her wrist, Pat said. A minister lived nearby and later told Pat he had heard crying. He thought at first it was an animal, but it was Vicki, outside.

Another time, Vicki arrived at Pat’s workplace wearing sunglasses to hide a black eye, Pat said.

To this day she asks people about their bruises.

The grief never leaves, but it gets better, she said. It took her years before she could drive from Rockport across Route 90 without crying because that’s the route she always took to her daughter’s home.

“Vicki’s memory never ever leaves my mind and heart,” she said.

“All I can hope for is one day we’ll see each other, and I’ll tell her I did the best I could.”

Vicki Pendleton circa 1977.

In Memoriam

Pat Pendleton is a member of the Maine chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, which is trying to reach the families of loved ones who have been killed, to place the victims’ names on a memorial.

The monument will be erected at Holy Family Cemetery on Townsend Road in Augusta and will be dedicated to the lives of murder victims with connections to Maine families.

The state chapter has a list of more than 450 known Maine-related homicides over the past few decades but has family contacts for fewer than half of them.

If families are interested in having their loved ones’ names added to the list, to be inscribed into the monument, they may contact Art Jette at 277-3518 or mainepomc@gmail.com.

“I like the idea of a monument very much,” Pendleton said. “The victims’ names will be here long after we’re gone.”

The full cost of the landscaping, building the monument and installing granite benches is about $40,000. The group has $12,000 left to raise.

Checks may be sent to Parents of Murdered Children, 6 Ballard Road, Augusta, Maine 04330, with a note for “memorial monument” in the memo line.

Erin Rhoda

About Erin Rhoda

Erin Rhoda is editor of Maine Focus, a journalism and community engagement initiative by the Bangor Daily News.