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Panic button couldn’t protect woman

Newsday | June 21, 2005

Merline Port-Louis knew she was a woman in danger.

In the weeks before she was shot to death early Saturday morning, her estranged boyfriend, Marlon Fann, called and threatened to kill her and her family three times, Nassau police said.

Port-Louis took the appropriate measures: She made copies of the threats, filed charges with police and got a panic button to press in case of emergency.

But neither her efforts nor those of police were enough to stop Fann from pulling out a gun and shooting Port-Louis in the driveway of her New Cassel home, and then calling her mother and threatening to do the same to her and police if they tried to arrest him, police said.

Yesterday, Fann was still at large, and police moved Port-Louis' mother and 3-year-old daughter to an undisclosed location. That nearly every means of protecting Port-Louis was exhausted but insufficient is the frustration of police.

"I think she did everything she could," said Det. Sgt. Richard Laursen of the Nassau Homicide Squad. "There's only so much a court order will do. If the person wants to disregard it, he's going to."

Laursen said police have been looking for Fann since Port-Louis reported receiving a threat from him on May 15. During that call, made a month after Fann was released from jail for attacking her in a West Hempstead parking lot three years ago, he said he would kill her and her family.

Police tried to locate Fann by tracing his phone calls, contacting family in Queens and equipping Port-Louis with the emergency button. They also offered Port-Louis space in a shelter for victims of domestic violence, but she declined.

"Most people don't," accept that offer, Laursen said. "You have to understand that 99 percent of the time, orders of protection do work."

The situation escalated when Port-Louis received similar threats on May 26 and June 10. Police are investigating the possibility that Fann also made threats in person that Port-Louis did not report.

In spite of all the upheaval, Port-Louis made plans to go out with a friend Saturday night. To be safe as she left the house, she put the emergency button on her rear view mirror.

Port-Louis then left her car running for a minute and went back into the house, police said. When she returned, Fann was waiting for her with a gun. She reached into the car and pressed the button before being shot.

As Port-Louis lay on the asphalt, Laursen said Fann called Port-Louis' mother, Huguette Port-Louis, and said that "he had just shot her and that she was going to be next and if any police tried to arrest him, he would do that to them also."

Police said Fann made additional threats to another tenant at the home who witnessed the attack and was being kept yesterday in protective custody, according to police.

"This guy is extremely dangerous," said Laursen, who would not elaborate on their search, except to say that Nassau police had notified officers in Suffolk and New York City as well.

Merline Port-Louis' life seemed on the upswing after Fann was jailed and convicted of felony assault in February 2004. In January she earned her bachelor's degree at SUNY Old Westbury, and was working toward her master's in accounting and tax law at Long Island University.

"I think it was more the fact that she no longer wanted him in her life," Laursen said when asked what drove Fann's anger. "This was a young woman who was moving up in the world."


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