Killing her parents, Erin told Charlie, was their best option.
June 9, 2009 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Why did a small-town girl have her family brutally murdered?
posted by desjardins (157 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Because teenagers often suffer from extreme narcissism and lack of impulse control.

Next question.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:34 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


[thank you, but is this kosher? the original is behind a paid subscription wall...which I discovered when I tried to access it through slate.com's blurb on the piece.]
posted by availablelight at 9:35 AM on June 9, 2009


tl;dr

But I wish it wasn't. Fascinating story. Here's a condensed version from Huffpo (first link that popped up; ignore the comments)
posted by jabberjaw at 9:36 AM on June 9, 2009


The article was overly long, but give it a go. You can pretty easily pick out the paragraphs you can skim over without missing any of the story.
posted by Science! at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


What a tragedy.
posted by Slothrup at 9:52 AM on June 9, 2009


It was when he spoke about Erin that his voice softened and grew sentimental. “I would have done anything for her,” he said. “She was very smart. Very caring. I don’t know why she wanted it done, why it had to be like that, but she was a very nice person.” Weeks after the killings, when he was being held at the county jail on $1.5 million bond, he had been devastated to learn from his defense attorney that Erin had, in fact, asked a previous boyfriend to kill her parents too. Sergeant Vance had interviewed the boy whom Erin was caught kissing at Miracle Faith, and he had told the Texas Ranger that Erin had spoken to him about her desire to have them killed—several months before she had started dating Charlie.

“It made me question a lot of things,” Charlie said, his voice trailing off. “After months of pushing me and convincing me and all this, I got to thinking that maybe all I was was just a tool.” He had not spoken to her since the morning of the crime, and he is barred from communicating with her ever again; he will forever have to wonder if she wanted her parents dead so that she could be with him or simply so that she could be free of her family’s control. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her head,” he said. “She needs to have it looked at.”

But Charlie was more bewildered by Erin’s behavior than bitter. Knowing everything he knew, I asked him, did he still love her? He thought for a moment before answering my question, and I studied his face behind the Plexiglas. “Once you love somebody, you can’t quit,” Charlie said. “You always will.”

posted by box at 9:54 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


is this kosher? the original is behind a paid subscription wall

That sounds more like a TMP1 than an MP2.

1. Texas Monthly Problem
2. Metafilter Problem

posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was God's will.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I spent all yesterday trying to get past this subscription wall (BugMeNot you failed me yet again!). I was about to go down to Barnes & Noble on a hope and a prayer that they carried Texas Monthly, phew. Thanks!
posted by geoff. at 9:56 AM on June 9, 2009


Chilling.

(and by the way the link worked fine for me, no subscription)
posted by caddis at 9:58 AM on June 9, 2009


Back to the original article-- this reads like something that would make an excellent Flannery O'Connor short story, if she had been transplanted to Texas.

As does this one (which is publicly accessible).
posted by availablelight at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wasn't going to read to the end, but well,
"Erin had, in fact, asked a previous boyfriend to kill her parents too."
And where do kids in rural TX get "samurai swords," anyway?

And then the boyfriend's statement, "I joined the army to do whatever needed to be done without thinking." Who defines "needed"?

Fuck Job.
posted by emhutchinson at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2009


It's like a goddamn Coen brothers script.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2009 [18 favorites]


*makes note to spend more time with daughter*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2009 [9 favorites]



[(and by the way the link worked fine for me, no subscription)

caddis, the issue is that this is the public link, not the print-only subscriber view that is posted here. ]
posted by availablelight at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2009


This is not exactly awesome:
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. For public distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers, contact ccasey@texasmonthly.com for reprint information and fees.
posted by boo_radley at 10:08 AM on June 9, 2009


Why did a small-town girl have her family brutally murdered?
Because teenagers often suffer from extreme narcissism and lack of impulse control.


Thank you. I kept blinking as I read, reading about how this girl was just newly discovering the wide wide world after her parents had kept her sheltered, and part of that was suddenly now getting a boyfriend, which her parents then tried to take away; and I kept blinking at all the quotes from people saying, "gee, though, we just can't figure out why she'd do something like that," and I'd think, "....really? Because it looks kind of obvious to me."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


What a horrible story. I nearly cried when I read about the father forgiving his daughter and still telling her he loved her when he went to see her. I just don't think I could ever do that.

This reminds me of the Parker-Hulme murder in 1950s New Zealand (it was made into a movie called Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet as Julia Hulme).

There are a lot of parallels. In the Parker-Hulme case, two teenaged girls murdered the mother of one of them because Julia Hulme was moving to South Africa and Pauline's mother refused to allow Pauline to go with her. The two of them had developed an intense and obsessive friendship and created an elaborate fantasy world. They got into a kind of shared temporary insanity in which they believe they had to kill Pauline's mother in order to stay together, and though they planned the murder carefully, they seem to have had no realizing sense of what the aftermath might be, or understand that they could not possibly get away with it. Apparently it took Pauline Parker approximately five years to come out of whatever mental state she was in and realize she had done a horrible thing.
posted by orange swan at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Somebody brought me a Bible and told me to read the book of Job. Well, I’d read the story countless times before, but I read it again and it was almost like I was there with Job. He lost everything, his whole family, all his worldly possessions, but he did not lose his faith, and God blessed him doubly. That turned me around and got me thinking that God might have a plan for me. He didn’t bring me through all that for nothing.
Actually, "for nothing" strikes me as a pretty apt reason behind why "God" ruined Job's life.

And that's being charitable.
posted by Flunkie at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2009 [18 favorites]


Something similar happened up here in Washington over a christmas eve - her parents, her brother, his wife and their two young children.
posted by nomisxid at 10:24 AM on June 9, 2009


And where do kids in rural TX get "samurai swords," anyway?

There are "cutlery" stores all over the place where you can buy cheap, crappy stainless steel swords.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:27 AM on June 9, 2009


It reminded me of In Cold Blood.

There's a companion slideshow.

Terry Caffey is badass:
He had been shot five times: once in the head, twice near his right shoulder, and two more times in the back. His face and upper body were caked with blood. Although it was a cold night, the 41-year-old was wearing a T-shirt, pajama bottoms, no shoes, and a single wet sock. He had stumbled and crawled five hundred yards from his home, where he had been left for dead, to Gaston’s—a journey that had taken him nearly an hour, all told. Along the way, he had fallen into a creek, where he had almost drowned, but he had kept moving, staggering toward Gaston’s house as the fire behind him grew more intense. There was so much blood that Dickerson could not tell where he had been shot.
He's also an incredibly forgiving father and model Christian.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:28 AM on June 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I bet there's a good deal of parents' fault there, and on top of that they had incompatible temperaments.. otherwise, it could have turned out differently: they'd be a normal, good, psychotic dysfunctional family and she'd move out at 18 and spend ten years trying to forget she ever knew them. They'd think they're the best parents evah and she's impolite for not calling and visiting. But that's just guesses, we'll never really know for sure. Those boys were mean to kill the kids, though, that's just not a good thing to do, even for love.
posted by rainy at 10:29 AM on June 9, 2009


> This reminds me of the Parker-Hulme murder in 1950s New Zealand (it was made into a movie called Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet as Julia Hulme).

Yeah, I forgot about that-- although as EmpressCallipygos noted, this seems less rooted in Erin's Undying Love for Charlie than her desire to not get cooped up again by the 'rents.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:33 AM on June 9, 2009


Wow. What a freaking sociopath. At age sixteen.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:34 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually, "for nothing" strikes me as a pretty apt reason behind why "God" ruined Job's life.

True enough.

I've been working my way through the five seasons of Six Feet Under recently and in so many, many episodes the bereaved keep asking, "Why? Why did this happen? My wife/husband/daughter/son/friend was such a good person, why would such a terrible thing happen to him/her?"

It's not a question I ever ask myself, at least not in terms of looking for some sort of universal plan or moving force behind a terrible event. I do want to know why people act the way they do, and trace the chain of human behaviour to find out how such horrible events can be prevented.

I see life as being something of a lottery in which most people draw shit tickets at least some of the time, some people get very lucky, and some people really get hammered. There's no real rhyme or reason to the ticket selection, and it certainly bears no relation to our intrinsic worth as human beings. And I'm glad it's that way. Think how awful it would be if there really were two powerful characters up in the sky playing what is essentially a game of chicken with our lives.
posted by orange swan at 10:35 AM on June 9, 2009 [24 favorites]


Heartbreaking and mystifying; I can't put myself in the mental space of either of those two kids. Even as a thoughtless teenager, I could never have considered wanting my family killed. And even if you could label her a psychopath, it's hard to imagine why those boys went along with it...there wasn't even any money promised.

Ironic how the father now uses this story in his testimony, when his family's murder meets every definition of "senseless tragedy."
posted by emjaybee at 10:36 AM on June 9, 2009


I'm normally not one for ZOMG MURDUR!!1! stories, but that was horrific.
posted by slogger at 10:36 AM on June 9, 2009


There doesn't seem to be any evidence that these parents were anything more than a little bit overprotective. When the girl wanted to go back to school, she did; she had a job; she had a car; and she had a boyfriend. The parents' reasons for not liking the relationship seemed pretty valid. I mean, I'm just as hurf-durf ha-ha reactionary lolxtians as the next person (here), but the parents seem like they were doing the right things to raise a nice family. I don't get the undertone of the commentary here that sounds like "well, what did you expect? They went to church all the time!"

Moreover, although I don't believe in the literal truth of the book of Job (or the bible generally), it's hard to find fault with a belief structure that would enable a father to forgive his daughter (and the others) for murdering the rest of his family. He could certainly have gone for the revenge and pushed for the death penalty, but he chose not to-- for all of them. That's admirable.
posted by miss tea at 10:37 AM on June 9, 2009 [27 favorites]


She sounds like a textbook-perfect sociopath to me: manipulative and conscience-free.

“I have worked with some good liars, but Erin was one of the best,” said Lewis, who has nineteen years’ experience counseling juvenile offenders. “She seemed totally sincere and genuine, and I would have put my license on the line to say that she was telling me the truth. She spoke with tears in her eyes—‘God will save me. He knows I’m innocent.’ I cried every time I left her jail cell.”

.....


Erin had seemed elated after the killings, Johnson explained, and said that she was “free.” In fact, Johnson said, Erin had wanted to get out of the car to make sure that everyone was dead. And it was Erin who had insisted that her brothers be killed, according to both Johnson and Waid. The boys picked on her, Erin had said, and she didn’t want them to be left in foster care. “They were ridiculous reasons—not even reasons—just an excuse,” Waid told me. “When we pulled away from the house, she was happier than a kid on Christmas morning.”

.....


Weeks after the killings, when he was being held at the county jail on $1.5 million bond, he had been devastated to learn from his defense attorney that Erin had, in fact, asked a previous boyfriend to kill her parents too.
posted by elfgirl at 10:37 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


FWIW, I think we as adolescents are closer to sociopathy than at any other time in our lives. The formation of genuine empathy comes later in life for many of us.
posted by Xoebe at 10:38 AM on June 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


And where do kids in rural TX get "samurai swords," anyway?

Bill: You hocked a Hattori Hanzon Sword?
Budd: Yep.
Bill: It was priceless.
Budd: Well, not in El Paso, it ain't. In El Paso I got me $250 for it.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:38 AM on June 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


There are "cutlery" stores all over the place where you can buy cheap, crappy stainless steel swords.

My cousin bought one at a mall while on a vacation one time when he was in high school. While his mom was out at one point he had the hilarious idea to dress up in a makeshift ninja outfit (he had a Japanese flag bandana, a hotel robe, and of course his new sword). His plan was to jump out and scare her when she returned. When she knocked, he flung open the door with the sword raised above his head and yelled "AAAAHHHH!" The problem was that, instead of his mom, it was the hotel maid who had come to clean the room. All he could think of to say as an explanation was "Sorry, I thought you were someone else."
posted by burnmp3s at 10:42 AM on June 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


This reminds me of a similar story, where a girl manipulated her boyfriend into murdering her father. It might be this one, but I remember that the boyfriend was clearly schizophrenic and believed the dad was some evil demon or something, yet his insanity plea was rejected. I can't find anything about that related to the Christina Rubin thing. Am I making this up?
posted by granted at 10:44 AM on June 9, 2009


Found it.
posted by granted at 10:47 AM on June 9, 2009


emhutchinson: And where do kids in rural TX get "samurai swords," anyway?

Gun shops. Knife shops. Martial Arts "supply" shops.

Same place northern US kids do.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:49 AM on June 9, 2009


And where do kids in rural TX get "samurai swords," anyway?

My uncle brought all his back after being stationed in Okinawa.
posted by educatedslacker at 10:51 AM on June 9, 2009


Sociopathy does not happen to someone later in life. A sociopath at age forty was a sociopath at age ten. It was lost in the noise of "well, boys will be boys" and "girls can be so spiteful at that age," but it was always there, waiting under a timely lie like a copperhead in the autumn leaves. A little arsenic in the sugar bowl does not diminish the sparkle.

The next time you go pick your kids up at school, take a good look around. If your child has a hundred peers, one or two of them might want to hold your darling face down in the mud until she never gets up again.
posted by adipocere at 10:52 AM on June 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


This really turns the conventional model of a film noir femme fatale on its head. Conventionally the femme fatale exudes sexuality and confidence, everyone knows she's bad, she's the downfall and yet they cannot resist her. Body Heat is a perfect example, I doubt you could find someone with such a strong sexuality as Kathleen Turner. Notice how all the supporting characters warn about Kathleen Turner, she's bad and they all want him.

Here you have the exact opposite, not only does she not exude sexuality, she shuns it. Her only sexual experiences are public and humiliating. Even the post-murder copulation was exposed and an embarrassment. It is sad really, you get the sense that she really had no idea the ramifications of killing someone, like it was sort of a Disney cartoon. The cell phones, the packing of a suitcase, has she not seen Law & Order? Her mere survival would have made her suspect number one, not to mention the sloppiness of it all.

I really do think her sheltered, innocence lead her to this conclusion. It is not as if she committed the perfect crime, where poor Charlie wakes up the next morning, finds that she had drug herself with GHB to create a plausible alibi, had been using his friend's cell phone the entire time and finds himself completely framed. No she really couldn't see a world 2-3 years beyond where she was right now, under her parents influence. No college, no moving away with a shitty job in some exurb of Houston or Dallas, living in her own apartment.

Small towns are scary.
posted by geoff. at 10:54 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


...it's hard to imagine why those boys went along with it...there wasn't even any money promised.
posted by emjaybee at 1:36 PM on June 9 [+] [!]


Actually there was:
Charlie had promised [Waid] $2,000 if he would help him kill the Caffeys—cash that Erin had told Charlie he would find in a lockbox inside the house.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:54 AM on June 9, 2009


This was probably a cry for help.
Her parents should start taking … oooh, right.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:04 AM on June 9, 2009


Every time I want to say "Why me?", I stop and reconsider: "Why not me?"

Think how awful it would be if there really were two powerful characters up in the sky playing what is essentially a game of chicken with our lives.

They are not our lives. We had nothing to do with getting them, and cannot avoid losing them. That's a perfect definition of "not mine" if I ever heard one.

That said, lets look at how awful would it be if we were at the mercy of an ongoing spiritual struggle between good and evil. Well, it might be so awful that self-absorbed young people with no perspective of the results of their desires might be easily influenced by evil to act on them and commit horrible crimes without any sensible reason, and it might be so awful that a loving and merciful God, because He gave those young people free will, would allow them to excercise that will, and would wade into the resulting mess and arrange to have a man learn the meaning of forgivness and love in a capacity most of us can't even imagine, and go forth and touch the lives of many who saw his trials and hear his testimony. In fact, life might just be about as awful as it is.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


The formation of genuine empathy comes later in life for many of us.

Evidently


I used to think I was always too empathic for murder, but now I sometimes wonder if a little more bullying as a teenager could have pushed me to it. Despite generally good impulse control, when moved to anger my reactions were sometimes disproportionate.

Still, she seems exceptionally remorseless, a true sociopath. She knows her best hope relies on staying on script so she repeats the framework of lies that serves as her camouflage.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:12 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why did a small-town girl have her family brutally murdered?

Because teenagers often suffer from extreme narcissism and lack of impulse control.

That's ridiculous.
posted by granted at 11:20 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry for the urban provincialism re: Samurai Swords in Rural TX.

There is a "Martial Arts" store right around the corner from my house here in extremely non-rural(except for my backyard) N. Oakland, (where murder is usually more about drugs and gangs than repressed roller-skating carhop girls). I have been known to purchase fake nunchucks for my sons' Halloween costumes there. All foam and vinyl.

As to sociopathy and teen brains. This whole situation seems to have boiled down to issues of convenience:

Parents were posing an inconvenient obstacle to daughter's just beginning to flower, let alone burst teen sexuality. Daughter says to boy (instrument of said flower/bursting activity, already indoctrinated into the "Do whatever must be done cult,"):

"They must be gotten out of the way, because they say we can't 'see' each other anymore."

Murder and mayhem ensue. Romeo and Juliet, me no thinks.

This kind of shit gives homeschooling a bad name and I for one am against it.

Religion, on the other hand, you know, the other right hand, I abhor, abjure, and try not to get too worked up about.
posted by emhutchinson at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2009


There doesn't seem to be any evidence that these parents were anything more than a little bit overprotective. When the girl wanted to go back to school, she did; she had a job; she had a car; and she had a boyfriend. The parents' reasons for not liking the relationship seemed pretty valid.

Well, yeah, to an adult this seems that way. But how many teenagers would agree? How many wouldn't react to this kind of treatment with a loud shriek of "GOD, you are RUINING my LIFE!" and a stomp off to the bedroom?

Granted, there is a large, large field between "you're ruining my life" and "I need to kill you." I acknowledge that. I'm speaking more of the people who can't figure out 'why would she want to do something like this'.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:25 AM on June 9, 2009


Wow from this article:

Charles Waid at 20 had graduated and was married to, but separated from "Diane." He was in the middle of a divorce and wanted custody of his 5 month old child. Charles was hoping to gain custody, but he needed $2,000.00 for legal fees. His new girlfriend was Bobbi Johnson, who worked down at the local Diary Queen. A friend of Bobbi's stated "He was nice, he treated her well, but we never saw her." Diane Waid, his estranged wife described Charles as "loving children" and coming from a strong christian family."

And from the main story:

Waid, who was still downstairs, raised the .22, aimed at the balcony where the brothers stood, and shot Bubba in the face. He fell to the floor and did not move again. Charlie, who had narrated the night’s events with stoic detachment, broke down as he recounted how Waid had then come upstairs and stabbed eight-year-old Tyler. “I could not do it,” he said, covering his face with his hands. “Why did he have to die?” Yet Charlie said he thought he had also stabbed Tyler at least once.


Its a good thing this guy will never get custody of this child. And the pictures of the dog lying down in front of the burned house and of Terry standing by Erin in court are just painful to look at.
posted by lilkeith07 at 11:29 AM on June 9, 2009


Small towns are scary.

Its not just small towns; the story availablelight linked in this comment is eerily similar to a murder that happened in the suburbs of Augusta, GA in the 1990's (summarized in the first couple of pages of this court decision). At the time it was big news, but it has pretty much been forgotten by anyone who wasn't connected to the people involved. I think it just goes against the idyllic image we have of small towns that bad things happen there, too. I also agree that the main article is reminiscent of In Cold Blood (another small-town murder). Indeed, if you go back a few decades, small-town America, especially in the deep south, could be quite brutal.
posted by TedW at 11:40 AM on June 9, 2009


well, that story was intensely disturbing. here's a photo of Erin.

To those who said the parents were too controlling - serious question - do you have children? Their actions, while probably frustrating to any teenager, didn't seem unreasonable to me.
posted by dubold at 11:45 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The parents' reasons for not liking the relationship seemed pretty valid. I mean, I'm just as hurf-durf ha-ha reactionary lolxtians as the next person (here), but the parents seem like they were doing the right things to raise a nice family.

As far as I can tell from the article, the reasons pretty much came down to sex (which they found out about by checking his MySpace page at the library). Does telling a daughter who's sixteen to break up with her boyfriend because they were sexually active ever work? Obviously the end result in this case was a horrifying aberration that could never be expected from normal teens, but the other options they discussed (running away or purposely getting her pregnant) are a lot more common and have destructive consequences of their own. There aren't any easy answers in these kinds of situations, especially if your moral views on sex come from the Bible, but it seems like a lot of these kinds of efforts to raise a nice family backfire spectacularly.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:55 AM on June 9, 2009


This seems to be a recurring crime theme--I read a true-crime book, many years ago, in which a teenage girl seduces a slightly older boy (who was overweight and shy) and convinces him to kill her parents. The book ended with epilogues showing the two of them a few years later; he'd lost weight in prison and generally seemed to be getting his shit together, and she had already gotten out (I think that she may have gone to juvie instead of grown-up jail) and was working as a prostitute. Can't remember their names, though.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:59 AM on June 9, 2009


Yet another strike against home schooling.
posted by snofoam at 12:13 PM on June 9, 2009


Having her siblings killed is a particularly strange touch. It isn't as if they were in the way of true romance. "Oh they were mean to me and I don't want them in foster care." The penalty is death.

The quote "I joined the army to do whatever needed to be done without thinking." makes me think that we've got at more than one sociopath in the bunch.
posted by adipocere at 12:15 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


They are not our lives. We had nothing to do with getting them, and cannot avoid losing them. That's a perfect definition of "not mine" if I ever heard one.

Since when is "not mine" been defined as "acquired involuntarily and used until ended by a means beyond my control"? To be consistent with that line of thinking, you would also have to say that you consider your body parts aren't really yours either. After all, you didn't have anything to do with getting them and nothing you can do will prevent them from turning to dust some day. And I have a hard time believing you don't speak and think of your various body parts as yours on a daily basis.

I infer from the rest of your post that you are a religious person and probably believe that all our lives belong to God since he created them. I'm not going to debate your belief in an existence of an all powerful and intelligent force vs. my belief in a sort of cosmic crapshoot in which the only laws are certain natural patterns that have evolved, but I will say that for you to claim that a commonplace term should be used in accordance with how it is defined within your religious beliefs makes for a really silly semantic argument.
posted by orange swan at 12:23 PM on June 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


dubold, I think you meant to link to that image in a thread a bit higher up on the front page

This seems to be a recurring crime theme

As the folks at TV Tropes would say, it's probably older than dirt.

Horrible, sad story. As the father of a little girl, one part really stood out to me: when Mr. Caffey meets Charlie for the 1st time, and Charlie doesn't stand up or shake his hand. I'm proudly liberal but I'm also staunchly "old-fashioned" on some things. If my little girl ever brings a young man to the house and he disrespects me like that -- in my own goddamned house while having designs on my daughter -- I think I'm going to have to tell him to GTFO and come back when he learns to behave like a human. I hope to high heaven that I'm raising a daughter who will understand and agree.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:28 PM on June 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


That said, lets look at how awful would it be if we were at the mercy of an ongoing spiritual struggle between good and evil. Well, it might be so awful that self-absorbed young people with no perspective of the results of their desires might be easily influenced by evil to act on them and commit horrible crimes without any sensible reason, and it might be so awful that a loving and merciful God, because He gave those young people free will, would allow them to excercise that will, and would wade into the resulting mess and arrange to have a man learn the meaning of forgivness and love in a capacity most of us can't even imagine, and go forth and touch the lives of many who saw his trials and hear his testimony. In fact, life might just be about as awful as it is.

Alternatively, your omnipotent (that's all-powerful, for those of you playing along at home) god could have just have just utterly destroyed (or even not destroyed it, just rendered it completely incapable of acting, ever) the force of evil, then we could exercise our free will without being "easily influenced" by evil. Then three people wouldn't have had to die and another four people wouldn't have had to have their lives ruined forever by having committed horrible murders and going to jail for the rest of their lives, just so that one man could learn "forgiveness and love."

Especially since his forgiveness and love led to him getting remarried seven months after his family was brutally murdered. Seven months. That is co-dependence style fucked up, right there. Harmless maybe, but still fucked up.

(Short version: Any god who would let this happen sucks, and there's no way to twist that shit otherwise.)
posted by Caduceus at 12:31 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


his forgiveness and love led to him getting remarried seven months after his family was brutally murdered. Seven months. That is co-dependence style fucked up, right there. Harmless maybe, but still fucked up.

It was a quick turnaround, but people do grieve in different ways. The man's second marriage may (or may not) be a good one, but we can't tell that from the mere timing. I certainly hope it works out for him.
posted by orange swan at 12:36 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Terry Caffey parking his RV on the burned-out ground zero of his torched house. On the one hand, there's something kind of awesomely badass and Gran Torino about that. But it mostly just breaks your heart. I'm glad he has a family again.

I don't really want to think about the killers at all. I have a feeling they will one day come to understand what they've done, and I don't think that'll be a happy day for them. I'm not sure Terry Caffey's request that they be spared the death penalty is quite what it looks like...it may be Christian, but I don't know whether it's merciful.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:55 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Short version: Any god who would let this happen sucks, and there's no way to twist that shit otherwise.)

I actually agree with you on this, but the usual counter-argument is that life as we know it is basically just a temporary test on which your real existence in the afterlife is decided. Still not a very satisfying way for a deity to set things up if you ask me, but the idea of expecting a reward in the afterlife that is more important than anything in life is a crucial part of Christianity. Also, it makes sense that such a theological concept would come from a religion created by people who were persecuted by the ruling class (rather than by the ruling class itself, as in a religion like Confucianism) because to an oppressed group of people the idea that those who endure the most in life will be rewarded in the afterlife is very attractive.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:58 PM on June 9, 2009


Interesting story. As others have said, it reads as an O'Connor story or a Coen film. In fact, the final touch of Terry Caffey parking his used RV on the burned ashes of the old homestead is a plot point too far, and would be read as ridiculous and trite if found in a story. The other thing that is interesting is that all the actors behaved without any amount of remorse. They showed no conscience. It is not rare to find sociopaths in small towns, but I've got to say it is odd that all four of them in this small town ended up working a job together. Mighty strange. Thanks for the link.
posted by billysumday at 1:17 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


As far as I can tell from the article, the reasons pretty much came down to sex (which they found out about by checking his MySpace page at the library). Does telling a daughter who's sixteen to break up with her boyfriend because they were sexually active ever work?

Sure, I think it would lots of times, especially in the situation they were in --- kid doesn't have a car, you can yank her cell phone, they live too far from town for her to hook up with friends easily. To cut off all contact between the two would probably be impossible, but to make impossible for them to date or to sneak off alone together would be pretty easy to do, in their situation. And I think that for the vast majority of the time, the kid would hate you for a couple years and you'd have a lot of screaming matches. They might move out as soon as they could. But running away from home? Deliberately getting pregnant? Sure, it happens, it happens frequently. A hundred times everyday in a country this big. But the majority of the time? So much that you should _expect_ that outcome from attempting to discipline your child in this way? I rather doubt that. The stats at the center for missing and exploited children (taken from the PDF which breaks down the survey) gives an estimate of about 350,000 runaways or throwaways, reporter missing to authorities. That would seem to be the appropriate category for a kid running off with a boyfriend for an extended period --- but that 350,000 figure includes all kids under 18 reported missing/booted out of their homes. Kids running away with a significant other because of parental opposition would be some small fraction of that --- maybe 35,000? And I'd have to think there's more than 35,000 sets of parents out there who've tried to break up two teenagers....
posted by Diablevert at 1:18 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm speaking more of the people who can't figure out 'why would she want to do something like this'.

I find this explanation -- teen rebellion gone overboard! -- glib and unconvincing, though. It's also self-serving, in that it conveniently places the blame on the conservative-christian upbringing, rather than acknowledging that this is not a problem we can box up neatly and store on the "lolxtians" shelf. Some people (a very few) are sociopaths -- manipulative, conscience-free, completely lacking in empathy. It's horrible, and it's not a result of overprotectiveness. That's just not a factor that unites cases like these.
posted by palliser at 1:23 PM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


What a horrible story. I nearly cried when I read about the father forgiving his daughter and still telling her he loved her when he went to see her. I just don't think I could ever do that.

Yeeeaaaaah but:

He has, thus far, chosen to accept the story line she has provided him: She was planning on running away that night, but then she changed her mind. The phone calls, she told her father, were to dissuade Charlie from coming at all. It was Charlie who had wanted the family dead, and when he came to the house, she had been powerless to stop him.

“I think she thought Charlie was just blowing smoke,” Terry said. “I don’t think she actually thought he would go through with it. I know my daughter. She cried one time when we were in my truck and I ran over a squirrel; she’s tenderhearted. No kid’s an angel, but I know what she is capable of, and I know she’s not capable of murder.”


It seems like from his point of view, he's not so much forgiving her for planning the murder of her family as he is for having gotten caught up with the person who did. He is letting himself believe what he wants to believe about her role in the crime.
posted by padraigin at 1:27 PM on June 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is not rare to find sociopaths in small towns, but I've got to say it is odd that all four of them in this small town ended up working a job together. Mighty strange.

That is always what shocks me in these stories! Not "oh, some small number of people are born with faulty wiring that prevents them from developing empathy," but "some person chosen not quite at random, but almost, goes along with this crazy shit." How about the driver, who learned about the plan that night? The "mastermind" was in the house, calling them on her cell phone, right? So the fourth person, knowing two children are about to be murdered, could have said, look, guys, I'm driving us home, this is bananas. But no!
posted by palliser at 1:31 PM on June 9, 2009


Thank you. I kept blinking as I read, reading about how this girl was just newly discovering the wide wide world after her parents had kept her sheltered, and part of that was suddenly now getting a boyfriend, which her parents then tried to take away; and I kept blinking at all the quotes from people saying, "gee, though, we just can't figure out why she'd do something like that," and I'd think, "....really? Because it looks kind of obvious to me."

Reminds me of Krikkit.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:34 PM on June 9, 2009


Yet another strike against home schooling.


I assume you were not homeschooled, and yet your (public?) education left you stupid enough to make this kind of ridiculous generalization from an event that would be aberrant no matter what the family's circumstances. Too bad the school year just ended here; your example makes me want to run right out and enroll my kids.
posted by not that girl at 1:34 PM on June 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I wonder what the difference in psychosis is between the girl who orders the murder and the boy who feels compelled to do as she commands.

In Toronto, a teenage girl ordered her boyfriend to murder another schoolmate.
posted by Rora at 1:37 PM on June 9, 2009


The overwhelming, may I use your term "self-serving," blow-up-neatly paradigm doesn't work. Ever. Try Wisconsin Death Trip on for size.

Meantime religion in all its erstwhile guises is responsible for more uninformed, immature thought processes/"decisions," life changing to those immediately involved and others than just about anything of which I can think. (FDR eschewed ending any sentence with a preposition.)

The pseudo-Christ-ians, with their moralizing hatreds make me rethink.

Sorry I don't have time for more. I have to pick up my son and his friend.

I repeat, Fuck Job.

oh, p.s. the "conservative-christian upbringing" is, in the most charitable way I can phrase it, an intrinsically "uncharitable downbringing."

Keep your gods away from me and mine, and we will be (not really, but maybe) just fine.
posted by emhutchinson at 1:41 PM on June 9, 2009


WTF are you talking about? I'm not christian or conservative; I just find that whole explanation for this particular tragedy dumb, when it happens in families that are neither. Pay attention.
posted by palliser at 1:50 PM on June 9, 2009


[raises eyebrow] [emhutchinson leaves] [looks around room] [stands] [epic slow clap]
posted by billysumday at 1:50 PM on June 9, 2009


Not to mention, I was quoting Empress Callipygos.
posted by palliser at 1:51 PM on June 9, 2009


It is not rare to find sociopaths in small towns, but I've got to say it is odd that all four of them in this small town ended up working a job together. Mighty strange.
That is always what shocks me in these stories! Not "oh, some small number of people are born with faulty wiring that prevents them from developing empathy," but "some person chosen not quite at random, but almost, goes along with this crazy shit." How about the driver, who learned about the plan that night? The "mastermind" was in the house, calling them on her cell phone, right? So the fourth person, knowing two children are about to be murdered, could have said, look, guys, I'm driving us home, this is bananas. But no!
According to the article:
  1. Erin's boyfriend says that the driver didn't know what was going on when she started driving them;
  2. The driver herself says that by the time it became clear what was happening, the others started threatening her, saying that "if anybody said anything to anyone, that person would be taken care of".
I'm not saying this to excuse her, but I think that in the context of sociopathy, "teenager in fear for her life" hardly qualifies.
posted by Flunkie at 1:54 PM on June 9, 2009


Flunkie: according to the article, "Chief deputy Fischer picked up Bobbi Johnson outside the restaurant where she washed dishes, and he pulled Charles Waid over driving her car. Johnson, who had recently played a minor role in the Rains High School production of Oklahoma!, seemed to be in high spirits. At the sheriff’s office that afternoon, she played dumb with the officers until they told her they had Waid and Wilkinson in custody, at which point she admitted what she knew."
posted by billysumday at 1:58 PM on June 9, 2009


Boys often came to Miracle Faith just to see her, and several of them credited her with bringing them closer to Jesus.

Apparently they were just practice.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:58 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


But running away from home? Deliberately getting pregnant? Sure, it happens, it happens frequently. A hundred times everyday in a country this big. But the majority of the time? So much that you should _expect_ that outcome from attempting to discipline your child in this way?

No, I agree that those situations are also relatively rare (although far more common than murdering parents). I would say anecdotally the vast majority of the time it results in the massive screaming arguments you mentioned, along with the girl sneaking out or otherwise finding ways to continue seeing her boyfriend. Thus making the whole exercise as pointless and damaging as religious parents trying to stop their kids from being gay.

To cut off all contact between the two would probably be impossible, but to make impossible for them to date or to sneak off alone together would be pretty easy to do, in their situation

I don't have anything to back it up with, but I would say it's not easy to do at all and instead borders on being impossible. Usually it's just as simple as her finding a female friend to be her alibi while she secretly visits him instead of her friend. It would be interesting to see the statistics on this sort of thing, but I would say the odds are very much against a parent trying to stop a sixteen year old from dating.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:58 PM on June 9, 2009


Yeah, well, "teenager in fear of going to prison for the rest of her life" doesn't exactly strike me as sociopathy either.
posted by Flunkie at 2:02 PM on June 9, 2009


Okay, I'll be more specific: "Johnson, who had recently played a minor role in the Rains High School production of Oklahoma!, seemed to be in high spirits."

So, after helping kill three (supposedly four) people, she gets up, puts a smile on, and heads off to the local diner to clean some dishes and shoot the shit with her coworkers. All in a day's work, right?
posted by billysumday at 2:07 PM on June 9, 2009


Horrible, sad story. As the father of a little girl, one part really stood out to me: when Mr. Caffey meets Charlie for the 1st time, and Charlie doesn't stand up or shake his hand. I'm proudly liberal but I'm also staunchly "old-fashioned" on some things. If my little girl ever brings a young man to the house and he disrespects me like that -- in my own goddamned house while having designs on my daughter -- I think I'm going to have to tell him to GTFO and come back when he learns to behave like a human. I hope to high heaven that I'm raising a daughter who will understand and agree

I'm not a parent, and I hope never to be one, so take this with a grain of salt -- but it seems to me that the only lesson to be learned from this tragedy is that the best chance you have of raising children that know they deserve respect from others is to show them respect as you're raising them. Yes, that's a gross oversimplification, but it's still pretty damned important.

As far as the Coen-esque feeling of the story goes, just as I was finishing the article, William Elliott Whitmore's "It Does Me No Good" popped up on my ipod. That was effing creepy.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:08 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hate that I read this. I hate even more that I looked up the picture of Erin.

Which isn't to say that this is a bad post at all, but rather that I just feel ill.

It seems clear to me (from the article, of course - we're not getting the whole story) that the parents' actions certainly led her to this decision, but it also seems very wrong to blame them for it, or to think that they were being unreasonable. (Okay, the take-her-out-of-school-because-another-girl-kissed-her thing is absolutely unreasonable, and was clearly the decision that most led Erin down this road, if her ultra-narcissistic, sociopathic tendencies weren't already going to do so. Jesus, I don't even know what to think of this anymore, or why I'm thinking it over at all...)

I know I don't blame the father for remarrying so soon, though, and his forgiveness is remarkable.

I need something happy now.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:09 PM on June 9, 2009


The quote "I joined the army to do whatever needed to be done without thinking." makes me think that we've got at more than one sociopath in the bunch.

Yet another strike against home schooling.

Meantime religion in all its erstwhile guises is responsible for more uninformed, immature thought processes/"decisions," life changing to those immediately involved and others than just about anything of which I can think.

No, no, and no again. Look, I'm not here to defend the military, home schooling, or fundamentalist Christianity--there are plenty of things wrong with each of those institutions that God knows have been beaten to death on this site. But to place all of the blame for this horrific act on those three favorite targets is to be so blinded by ideology to completely miss the point here (ironically, something that adherents of religion, homeschooling, the military are often mocked and disdained for), especially when the principal cause shines through quite clearly in the article--the girl is a psychopath. Did you read the actual description of the killer's actions and feelings after the deed? Those speak much louder than his words about his philosophy of the army, yet you fixated on that culturally loaded sentence to brand him a 'sociopath.'

The role of his army training, or her homeschooling, or their religion (which as far as I can tell is nothing but a positive force for the father) is so tangential to the actual narrative here that to focus on it is honestly as much an example of factual cherrypicking as the stories 'those people' tell about gays forcing straights to do X.

We decry 'the conservatives' for having bigoted opinions about what they, in caricature, refer to as "those people," yet it seems from these comments that at least some liberals think in terms of 'those people' as well. Let's try not to do that.
posted by notswedish at 2:10 PM on June 9, 2009 [19 favorites]


The other thing that is interesting is that all the actors behaved without any amount of remorse. They showed no conscience.

When I visited the subject of his role in Tyler’s murder, he grew quiet and studied his hands, his eyes slowly filling with tears. “I don’t really like to talk about that,” he said.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:11 PM on June 9, 2009


You didn't have to be more specific. I understood what you meant.

What would you do? I mean, assuming that you're resolved to keep it secret? I would try to act normal. That's not sociopathy.

You can argue that her reasons for not stopping it are bad. I would agree. But that's not sociopathy.

You can argue that her reasons for trying to keep it secret are bad. I would agree. But that's not sociopathy.
posted by Flunkie at 2:12 PM on June 9, 2009


But notswedish, he is a sociopath. He flatly states, while being interviewed, that he "has no conscience." How is that not sociopathic?
posted by billysumday at 2:12 PM on June 9, 2009


Assistant attorney general Lisa Tanner, a seasoned prosecutor who has sent four men to death row in her eighteen years as a trial lawyer, was assigned to the case. “This was not the most brutal or cold-blooded case I had ever prosecuted,” she told me. “But when you took all the different factors and put them together—how young and seemingly normal the perpetrators were; how ruthless they were; how stupid they were; how cavalier they were; how utterly undeserving this family was—it was, without question, the most disturbing case I’d ever dealt with.”

And wow. I remember when this was playing out in the newspapers.

It did seem a bit odd the way Pamela Colloff worked herself in at the end, but I guess it would be near impossible to stay dispassionate about a story like this.

Seemed to me that Charlie reacted like he'd somehow been cheated on when he found out that the girl had previously asked another man to do the killings. Totally odd that this guy never brought it to anyone's attention. Sad.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:14 PM on June 9, 2009


What would I do? I'd burst out fucking crying and go home and call the cops right away and say, keep me away from those motherfuckers, they said they'd kill me if i told you but jesus oh jesus they killed those poor people. I mean, seriously?
posted by billysumday at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2009


Jesus Christ. Did you stop reading at "What would you do?"

Try reading the sentence after that one. It directly contradicts the premise of your answer.

There's nothing in the article that suggests that she's necessarily a sociopath, as opposed to a scared kid in an awful situation who made some horrible choices.
posted by Flunkie at 2:17 PM on June 9, 2009


Okay, I'll stop after this. I've derailed enough. But seriously, I find it really, really odd that if you were the accomplice in a murder that you did not plan, and were subsequently threatened by the killers to "stay quiet or get what's coming to you," that you would simply "try to act normal" and would not go tell the police. In fact, it's so odd that the state of Texas has laws against shit like that, laws where you might just end up in jail for 40 years or so for just, you know, trying to act normal.
posted by billysumday at 2:21 PM on June 9, 2009


Seemed to me that Charlie reacted like he'd somehow been cheated on when he found out that the girl had previously asked another man to do the killings

I think that was exactly the point that he finally came to the realization that she'd deliberately shopped around for a man to kill her parents, and that her love for him was a lie. Until then he'd thought she'd wanted to kill her parents because she loved him.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I find it really, really odd that if you were the accomplice in a murder that you did not plan, and were subsequently threatened by the killers to "stay quiet or get what's coming to you," that you would simply "try to act normal" and would not go tell the police. In fact, it's so odd that the state of Texas has laws against shit like that, laws where you might just end up in jail for 40 years or so for just, you know, trying to act normal.
And a dumbass kid, suddenly thrust into a truly horrible situation, confronted on one side by people who said that they would kill her if she told and on the other side by police who might either lock her away forever or else let her go after which the people who are threatening her with death might wonder why she was talking to the police, isn't necessarily going to be the best judge of her options.

I'm not arguing that she's definitely not a sociopath. But you're not being even remotely convincing in your apparent claim that she definitely is.
posted by Flunkie at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2009


Also, assuming that you meant "you", and not "one", when you said "you", please note that I never said that I would do what you're claiming I said I would do. If you have any question on this, please once again read the sentence that I previously suggested that you read.
posted by Flunkie at 2:31 PM on June 9, 2009


OMG. This is not the fault of Christianity, overprotectiveness, parental discipline, home-schooling, sex, run-of-the-mill teenage self-centeredness, samurais, swords, fire, black labradors, Texas, George W. Bush, global warming, Ayn Rand, Prop 8, Dustin Diamond, Sylar, anencephaly, or any random cause célèbre that happens to be tangentially related to the story.

As they were driving away after murdering her ENTIRE FAMILY, Erin Caffey said, "Holy shit, that was awesome!"

"HOLY SHIT, THAT WAS AWESOME!"

This is the fault of her being A PSYCHOPATH.

You guys sound no better than the people who say 9/11 was caused by gays.
posted by granted at 2:35 PM on June 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


"Usually it's just as simple as her finding a female friend to be her alibi while she secretly visits him instead of her friend. It would be interesting to see the statistics on this sort of thing, but I would say the odds are very much against a parent trying to stop a sixteen year old from dating."

Yeah, in the average case, I'd say you're right. In this case, given the remoteness of the family's home, and the willingness on the parent's part to yank the kid from school if they thought it was damaging to their child, I'd think they had a much better shot.

I don't disagree in general that trying to put too many restrictions on teens can often lead to rebellion. If I put myself in the parent's shoes in this situation, however, I don't think they did wrong. They had to have expected arguments at home --- but if I were a parent, believing as they did, I might well be willing to put up with months of arguments if I thought it'd keep my kid from getting pregnant or engaged at 16 (in her freshman year of high school, to boot). Maybe it wouldn't have worked, not matter what they did. Kids can be ingenious when it comes to breaking rules. But I can't help but think that just sitting back and allowing them to date wouldn't have been good either. (In hindsight, infinitely preferable. With what they knew when they knew it, an undesirable outcome they ought to make every effort to avoid.)

Sometimes such situations have no good answers. And I can't imagine any parent who could have predicted and therefore attempted to prevent what did transpire. That, to me, is the hard part, the part that we keep trying desperately to dodge, here. They didn't do anything to deserve this. Cause without fault, yet resulting in evil. The mind rebells against it.
posted by Diablevert at 2:40 PM on June 9, 2009


And where do kids in rural TX get 'samurai swords,' anyway?

China Grove.
But every day there's a new thing comin'
The ways of an oriental view
The sheriff and his buddies
With their samurai swords
You can even hear the music at night
posted by kirkaracha at 2:48 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


That, to me, is the hard part, the part that we keep trying desperately to dodge, here. They didn't do anything to deserve this. Cause without fault, yet resulting in evil. The mind rebels against it.

So, so true. We don't know the whole story here, but it certainly does seem that the Caffeys were good people and good parents who were doing their level best to raise their children well. No one wants to think they could wind up with a son or daughter who is a sociopath, and yet it happens to even the best of parents.
posted by orange swan at 3:01 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the link: Though Charlie and Waid had been drinking that night, neither was using drugs.

Sigh.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:08 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Richardson Family in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Eerily similar, though in this case, the sociopathic daughter was 12, and the boyfriend 23.
posted by fatbird at 3:08 PM on June 9, 2009


OMG. This is not the fault of Christianity, overprotectiveness, parental discipline, home-schooling, sex, run-of-the-mill teenage self-centeredness, samurais, swords, fire, black labradors, Texas, George W. Bush, global warming, Ayn Rand, Prop 8, Dustin Diamond, Sylar, anencephaly, or any random cause célèbre that happens to be tangentially related to the story.

Of course not. The murderous behavior was not caused by any of these things.

What it does illustrate, though, is that intensive parental involvement, with Christian home-schooling, can be easily thwarted by parroting the expected demeanor and speech. Just because you ostensibly have compliance doesn't mean you have succeeded. This does carry a lesson for, as an example, those who preach abstinence. I'm sure they are quite gratified to hear their charges reciting pledges to "save themselves" for marriage, but in the dark, these same kids are susceptible to the primal urges that drive us all.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:15 PM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Although intellectually I am convinced that the state should not be able to put people to death for crimes, I'm not sure I would have the same spiritual strength exhibited by Terry Caffey:
“My heart tells me there have been enough deaths,” Terry wrote in a letter to the Rains County district attorney, Robert Vititow, this past fall. “I want them, in this lifetime, to have a chance for remorse and to come to a place of repentance for what they have done. Killing them will not bring my family back.” He asked that Charlie Wilkinson and Charles Waid receive sentences of life in prison without parole.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:20 PM on June 9, 2009


Both father and daughter share some personality traits: both are self-absorbed and controlling people. I'm not saying Dad is a sociopath, but that he has a rigid view of the world and demands complete power over the part that is available to him. You don't have to be Christian (or religious) to be a patriarch, but it doesn't hurt. So is the daughter a sociopath? Maybe so -- I don't want to get tangled up in definitions and diagnoses here, but she certainly is deficient in some desirable human traits, like empathy and moral judgement.
posted by CCBC at 3:22 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Note to self:
- Schedule mental evals for the kiddos.
posted by awesomiste at 3:26 PM on June 9, 2009


What it does illustrate, though, is that intensive parental involvement, with Christian home-schooling, can be easily thwarted by parroting the expected demeanor and speech.

Unless parents are reasonably familiar with psychopathic behavior, and emotionally capable of contemplating it in their own child, "parroting the expected demeanor and speech" works anywhere. It also works on non-parental authorities such as teachers, employers, the congregation, the electorate, and the stockholders.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:38 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you familiar with the concept of "brutalization"? Her mother slapped her in public; god knows how they beat her in private. Combined with a religious world view that depends heavily on isolation and shame, no wonder she snapped and stopped caring.

The best book I ever read on the subject:

Why They Kill
by Richard Rhodes

"What transforms an ordinary person into a violent criminal? Not genetic inheritance or low self-esteem or coming from a violent subculture, answers Pulitzer Prize Awinning author Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb, etc.), but rather a process of brutalization by parents or peers that usually occurs in childhood. In this provocative study, Rhodes focuses on the work of criminologist Lonnie Athens, who teaches at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Athens believes that violent crime results from "social retardation," a process whereby an individual who was abused in childhood guides his or her actions by recourse to a "phantom community" of the internalized voices of caregivers and others."
posted by aquafortis at 3:43 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unless parents are reasonably familiar with psychopathic behavior, and emotionally capable of contemplating it in their own child, "parroting the expected demeanor and speech" works anywhere.

Yes, absolutely. Just as this wasn't the first time Erin Caffey had asked someone to kill her parents, Brad Whitaker asked some college roommates to help him kill his family, too. Someone overheard and reported it to police, the police told the parents, and the parents accepted their son's explanation that it was a joke. Then, a couple of years later, he enlisted someone else's help and killed them and his younger brother. So yeah.
posted by palliser at 3:50 PM on June 9, 2009


Holy fucking shit. This is why I don't have kids.
posted by Maisie at 3:53 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Her mother slapped her in public; god knows how they beat her in private. Combined with a religious world view that depends heavily on isolation and shame, no wonder she snapped and stopped caring.

Ridiculous.

1) She has never claimed abuse. Had there been any, her lawyer would have gotten it out of her and played it at trial until it broke.

2) She had them kill her little brothers, because they "picked on her," and then hopped into the car saying, "Holy shit, that was awesome."

I know there's a lot of motivation to push this as far away as we can, by giving ourselves explanations as to why it happened that make it impossible that it could happen to us ("I would never beat my kids"), but in the end it's just blaming the victims.
posted by palliser at 4:01 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This girl doesn't belong in prison, she belongs in Arkham Asylum.

I appreciate this post. I collect stories of folie-a-deux love, like Parker and Hulme's, which usually but not always is limited to teenagers.

I can't pile on her poor, blinkered father. Whatever mistakes he and his wife made are paid for over and over and far too much.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:16 PM on June 9, 2009


Actually, count me as one who thinks the father's kind of a douche. He's so "christian" and "forgiving" that his daughter will be eligible for parole with at least some life to life (at age 59), but the two boys will have life without any chance of parole (which I think I've come to believe isn't valid- either kill them, or leave the possibility of parole- otherwise, there's no incentive to change or rehabilitate or even develop remorse or regret). If he were truly a Christian, they'd all get the same sentence. He just is doing what he can to try not to look his monster of a daughter in the eye, and maintain this utter fiction that it was that rotten boy who made his precious angel go bad.

The Charlie kid was messed up, but I don't think a true sociopath. Weid and the daughter certainly seemed that way, however, seeing as one shot the brothers without hesitation and the other sought the whole multiple murder out, apparently more than once. Charlie, as quoted, seemed like a dumb messed up kid who thought he'd found the love of his life, and instead found Bridget Gregory in "Last Seduction".


The person I feel the most sorry for is Bobbi Johnson. She didn't ask to be a part of it, was by all accounts threatened if she talked, and got 40 years? That seems... way too excessive, for basically being in the wrong car at the wrong time. Sure, she didn't tell the police immediately, but we don't know what was on her mind, or if she would have said something on her own in the next couple of days or so. There are plenty of cases where witnesses or otherwise innocent people take a few days to come forward to the police, especially when family or close friends are involved. Besides, if I go over and read the sexually molested model thread, I'll learn that a teenage girl should never be expected to have the fortitude to talk to authority figures, ever, about anything. :)

It just seems terribly unfair that she basically gets as long a sentence as the daughter, who is basically a bad seed that repeatedly planned this attack on her own family, when her only real crime seems to be "didn't immediately race to the police after the killings were done, which she probably couldn't have done anything to prevent and was allegedly in fear of her own life when she realized what was going on". WTF?!
posted by hincandenza at 4:23 PM on June 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


He just is doing what he can to try not to look his monster of a daughter in the eye, and maintain this utter fiction that it was that rotten boy who made his precious angel go bad.

Of course he is. I'm not sure denial makes him a douche though. The fact that the daughter he raised, and thinks of as a moral human being could do this is a hard thing for him to confront, and he sure as hell has paid in full already for his very minor human failings.

I believe that I'm a lot closer to recognizing the thin line between human and monster than most, and I think I'd probably have trouble thinking that someone I love could effect so monstrous a betrayal.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:34 PM on June 9, 2009


Wow, this is horrifying!

The most surprising thing about this is that the family seemed to spend so much time together, and yet nobody noticed that Erin was completely fuckin' nuts. That might well be one reason why the dad chose to forgive everyone involved. Somewhere in this story is a critical failure within that family, even if it was just the parents failure to notice something about Erin.
posted by snsranch at 4:38 PM on June 9, 2009


He just is doing what he can to try not to look his monster of a daughter in the eye, and maintain this utter fiction that it was that rotten boy who made his precious angel go bad.
BrotherCaine: Of course he is. I'm not sure denial makes him a douche though. The fact that the daughter he raised, and thinks of as a moral human being could do this is a hard thing for him to confront, and he sure as hell has paid in full already for his very minor human failings.

I believe that I'm a lot closer to recognizing the thin line between human and monster than most, and I think I'd probably have trouble thinking that someone I love could effect so monstrous a betrayal.
Well, I agree that "douche" is harsh, but let's not bend over backwards saying he's a saint and a model of christian charity. A real model of christianity would have sought redemption and forgiveness, not "life without parole"- or if he felt strongly that life without parole was necessary because they should live but with a chance to make peace with God... then his own daughter should similarly have been offered a plea of life without parole.

It just comes across as self-serving, which is totally understandable as you say- but not really praiseworthy or notable. Oh, you think your own kin committing a crime deserves a lesser punishment than ? Gee, how unusual of you... no, wait, that's how basically everyone with a criminal family member feels.
posted by hincandenza at 4:55 PM on June 9, 2009


which I think I've come to believe isn't valid- either kill them, or leave the possibility of parole- otherwise, there's no incentive to change or rehabilitate or even develop remorse or regret

This is an interesting point, but at the same time, what would you do on your first day in prison, knowing that you'll die there?

Me, I'd be thinking that my now severely circumscribed world still has a 'better' and 'worse', and that I can discover them both. Even in prison, I'm sure there's still some sense of agency that informs you every morning.
posted by fatbird at 5:08 PM on June 9, 2009


I neither know nor care if he's a Saint or model Christian. I just don't want scorn heaped on the guy for trying to salvage some kind of meaning out of the wreckage. Especially in a thread where people didn't read the article carefully, and yet are implying what he and his wife might have done to deserve this.

I fully understand and sometimes agree with the urge to attack Christians in general for hypocrisy and/or not living up to the ideals of their faith. I just think when referring more specifically to the victim of a crime, that there's nothing wrong with giving them a little slack for not exercising a level of introspection you'd expect from someone who isn't suffering from that level of emotional pain.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:13 PM on June 9, 2009


A real model of christianity would have sought redemption and forgiveness, not 'life without parole'

This is Texas--the executin'est state in the Union. The two killers were adults at the time and were charged with capital murder. They would almost certainly be on death row if he hadn't asked for life without parole.

his daughter will be eligible for parole with at least some life to life (at age 59), but the two boys will have life without any chance of parole

They actually killed people, she didn't. That may or may not make a difference morally, but it probably does legally.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:28 PM on June 9, 2009


I don't really mind that he's unable to view the situation objectively, I think that is probably the safest place for his mind to wander under the circumstances. I just think it's kind of odd that so many people here are cooing over his ability to forgive his daughter for having her family killed when the article makes it clear that this isn't what he's forgiving her for at all.
posted by padraigin at 5:29 PM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


There tens of millions of kids raised just like this girl in this country. 99.9% of these kids don't kill anybody. Let alone their families. There are millions of kids brutalized and mistreated in ways unfathomably worse than how this girl was treated. A small percent may be driven to crime or sociopathology. Even murder. Still 99.9% of THEM don't massacre their own god damned families.

She is a psychopath in the worst most malicious and rare form. No two ways about it.
posted by tkchrist at 5:34 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Rhonda from Big Love, anybody?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 5:47 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does telling a daughter who's sixteen to break up with her boyfriend because they were sexually active ever work?

It didn't work for my family, though he ended up breaking up with me anyway. That said, I didn't kill them.

Also: I've lived with a true-blooded sociopath and there's nothing that can explain "Why" they do anything, which is perhaps the most horrific thing of all about sociopathic behavior.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:16 PM on June 9, 2009


To those who said the parents were too controlling - serious question - do you have children? Their actions, while probably frustrating to any teenager, didn't seem unreasonable to me.

On the face of the article, I'd tend to agree. But I've been the subject of (sympathetic) news stories myself, and it's pretty appalling how wrong the descriptions and characterizations can be in any sort of news story. For example, the story had me thinking what a beautiful girl Erin must have been - but Googling for her picture shows that she's not too attractive at all; she's looks a little trashy in fact. But this story hinges on how this "perfect" girl from a "perfect" family turned into a DEMON. You can see how a writer would do his or her best to heighten the contrast between these extremes.

So we don't really have any idea about how this family operated, other than they were a bit fundamentalist in their brand of Christianity. The passage below hints at attitudes that - if representative of others - seem pretty "unreasonable" to me:

Then, that fall, an incident at the junior high had upset Terry and Penny: A girl who had been showing interest in Erin had kissed her in the hallway. The Caffeys abruptly pulled their children out of school a month into the academic year, and Penny began teaching them a Bible-based curriculum at home.

Another reason is given - that Erin lagged behind other students at school and might have benefited from closer instruction (fair enough) . . . but the above still sounds like an incredible over-reaction to me and perhaps symptomatic of much more.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:36 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Another reason is given - that Erin lagged behind other students at school and might have benefited from closer instruction (fair enough) . . . but the above still sounds like an incredible over-reaction to me and perhaps symptomatic of much more."

Posit, for the moment, that the parents were abusive. Controlling, screamed at her, hit her, etc. That she had good reason to hate them, that they'd warped her brain.

Her youngest brother was, I believe, 8. Eight. I'm sure he'd did some stuff to annoy the girl. But wounded-messed-up-teen-lashes-out-at-abusive-parents does not, to me, mesh at all with the cold-blooded execution of her brothers. There are monstrous parents out there, loathed by their children, deservedly. But that very circumstance often causes the children to band together, the older protecting the younger. Not universally, to be sure. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as the man said. But the psychology of it doesn't line up, to me. Even supposing the parents were terrible people behind closed doors --- I don't suppose that, myself --- the execution of the brothers still suggests to me a mind devoid of empathy, of normal human emotion. Something was deeply, deeply wrong with this girl.
posted by Diablevert at 7:04 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Short version: Any god who would let this happen sucks, and there's no way to twist that shit otherwise."

You think 'free will' is a gift? Or do you think it's a curse? Doesn't matter whether you're a bible-thumper or a hard-nosed rationalist, either case can be derived. It ain't just God that lets this happen, it's us.

Or, rather it a consequence of what makes us us. That same free will which allows us to dream, to strive, to achieve, to "seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no man has gone before" also makes it possible for us to be absolute cunts (in the UK, not US, sense of the word) to each other. We put up all sorts of little restrictions (we generally call them "laws" or "conventions") to limit the side-effects we don't like, but it seems we really can't have one without the other.

Blaming what you believe to be someone's imaginary sky-daddy for this is just a way of dragging your favourite straw man into the argument and belittling those who don't believe as you do. Don't do that - instead, blame a little bit inside you that you share with everybody else.

It may also help to think, as others in this thread have realised, "there, but for the grace of God, go I"... ;-)
posted by Pinback at 7:05 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And Charlie wept.
posted by storybored at 8:00 PM on June 9, 2009


The picture of Tyler's headstone with the superhero logo and the little wagon is the saddest picture of a headstone there has ever been.

It's possible that Erin is clinically sociopathic, but the armchair diagnoses here strike me as too assured. Non-sociopaths can do horrible, evil things, just as people without Asperger's can be introverted and withdrawn. Metafilter hates it when laypeople dole out the latter diagnosis, but is very quick to jump on the former.
posted by painquale at 8:34 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think some of the accomplices passivity is related to raising kids to disregard societies mores. If you teach kids that they are somehow apart from and different than the rest of society you can't really be surprised when they grow up with no sense of consequences. When you teach them to obey the authority of a charismatic figure or a strong patriarch/ matriarch without question then it is not surprising when they go along with crazy schemes when they are older. They have been raised to beleive that appeasing the nearest powerful figure will make the rest of the world fall into line.

This is not a bash on Christians exclusively, I think the same thing is true of people like Paris Hilton or anyone who is raised under the impression that the rules don't apply to them.

It's not a reason for what they did, especially the daughter but I think it might explain why it seems to be so easy for these kinds of sociopaths to find sidekicks.
posted by fshgrl at 11:44 PM on June 9, 2009


Gimme a "P"! Gimme a "W"! Gimme a "T"!
posted by telstar at 1:04 AM on June 10, 2009


for the record, I really did not intend to link to a picture of Sam the Eagle and John Calhoun. Link fixed now, thanks to cortex.
posted by dubold at 7:04 AM on June 10, 2009


Alternatively, your omnipotent (that's all-powerful, for those of you playing along at home) god could have just have just utterly destroyed (or even not destroyed it, just rendered it completely incapable of acting, ever) the force of evil, then we could exercise our free will without being "easily influenced" by evil. Then three people wouldn't have had to die and another four people wouldn't have had to have their lives ruined forever by having committed horrible murders and going to jail for the rest of their lives, just so that one man could learn "forgiveness and love."

If God destroyed or rendered evil incapable of acting, there would be, by definition, no free will. We'd all essentially be robots without choice. Your logic chases its own tail. For those playing along at home, your chronology is wrong too - God didn't allow this "just so that one man could learn forgiveness and love." He salvaged a man out of the mess already created by men and women.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 8:36 AM on June 10, 2009


If God destroyed or rendered evil incapable of acting, there would be, by definition, no free will. We'd all essentially be robots without choice. Your logic chases its own tail.

But God isn't bound by human logic, correct? If God can do anything, he can create a system in which there is both free will and no suffering.
posted by orange swan at 9:38 AM on June 10, 2009


The most surprising thing about this is that the family seemed to spend so much time together, and yet nobody noticed that Erin was completely fuckin' nuts. That might well be one reason why the dad chose to forgive everyone involved. Somewhere in this story is a critical failure within that family, even if it was just the parents failure to notice something about Erin.

Did you miss this part of the article?
“I have worked with some good liars, but Erin was one of the best,” said Lewis, who has nineteen years’ experience counseling juvenile offenders. “She seemed totally sincere and genuine, and I would have put my license on the line to say that she was telling me the truth. She spoke with tears in her eyes—‘God will save me. He knows I’m innocent.’ I cried every time I left her jail cell.”
Why are so many people in this thread acting like Erin was a typical teen whose heinous behavior must surely be the product of her environment? There is something severely wrong with her and it isn't her parents' fault.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:11 AM on June 10, 2009


If God destroyed or rendered evil incapable of acting, there would be, by definition, no free will.

One would not be able to decide between two non-evil options if evil were eliminated? How's that work, then?

How can it be an omnipotent god if it can't do X?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:16 AM on June 10, 2009


How can it be an omnipotent god if it can't do X?

Look, I'm as against theodicy as anyone, but this question bothers me whenever it gets asked (see also 'Can God make a rock so big he can't lift it,' and 'Can God make a round square?'). It's like asking How can the set of all even numbers be infinite if it doesn't include 3? Infinite doesn't mean there aren't limitations; omnipotence doesn't mean God's character has no definition.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:21 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to completely derail, but omnipotent does not necessarily mean free from the constraints of formal systems like logic. At least it is arguable that God cannot make 2+2=5 (for example) because--within the constraints of the formal system--this is a logical impossibility. Another example might that God cannot make something that smells octagonal. Because by definition octagonal is not just neutral w/r/t odor but disassociated completely from the concept of scent.

Many will argue that for the concept of God to be meaningful, God must be constrained by formal logic systems. So, yes, God is likely bound by "human logic" insofar as "human logic" means "formal logic systems"

Now whether "free will" and "no suffering" are mutually exclusive concepts is something worthy of discussion.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:24 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


He salvaged a man out of the mess already created by men and women.

However, you come down on the the question of free will, you can't have it that some people have free will and others don't, or that sometimes you have free will and other times not, in order to make god look good regardless of the outcome. That's just incoherent thinking (yeah, I know it's an oxymoron).
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I didn't find Terry's forgiveness to be particularly impressive. Not that it would be easy to forgive anyone, but I think we can all understand at least a little bit how someone would forgive their daughter for almost anything.

As for his "forgiveness" of Charlie, he said, "Charlie Wilkinson, I want to say to you today, I forgive you. Not so much for your sake, but for my own." This isn't forgiveness unless forgiveness is a check-box, or a stamp. Real forgiveness isn't done for selfish reasons. There's no altruism here.
posted by pollex at 10:45 AM on June 10, 2009


There is something severely wrong with her and it isn't her parents' fault.

I would say being trained from the cradle to respond with the "right" answer every time and be convincing would be pretty good training to be a psychopath. But that's just me.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:45 AM on June 10, 2009


I would say being trained from the cradle to respond with the "right" answer every time and be convincing would be pretty good training to be a psychopath. But that's just me.

1) You really have no reason to assume that this is the kind of childhood she had, regardless of her parents' religiousness and/or conservativeness

2) If that is, in fact, good training to be a psychopath, then there are millions of well-trained psychopaths in America who have inexplicably not had their parents and siblings murdered.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:55 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This isn't forgiveness unless forgiveness is a check-box, or a stamp. Real forgiveness isn't done for selfish reasons. There's no altruism here.

By the strict definition of altruism, true, it can't be done for selfish reasons, but in practical terms virtually all altruistic acts have a selfish component, the canonical example being feeling good about giving to charity. Also forgiveness doesn't have to be selfless anyway, to be a virtuous act. Besides, forgiving this boy must have been some kind of huge emotional sacrifice for the man, even if he was "selfishly" doing it for the sake of his own soul, by the tenets of his belief system.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2009


Another example might that God cannot make something that smells octagonal. Because by definition octagonal is not just neutral w/r/t odor but disassociated completely from the concept of scent.

Couldn't he just give everyone synesthesia?

Now whether "free will" and "no suffering" are mutually exclusive concepts is something worthy of discussion.

Well, given omnipotent powers there's at least ways to minimize suffering to levels lower than those that would naturally occur without any intervention. You could make an argument that free will necessitates things like murder, but it would be hard to make a case for why something like colon cancer needs to exist without coming up with a completely different explanation.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:05 AM on June 10, 2009


I think the people blaming the guy for his continued religious piety after experiencing a terrible blow to his life have never really experienced a real crisis of faith that comes from having to face an extreme amount of suffering at one time. I have, and while it's thankfully not even mildly as bad as this guy's case, I understand why he did what he did.

The man has nothing left except his God. He's forced to reconcile with it. When small things happen, it eats away your faith, because you start to experience doubt. When you look at large things happening to people, you question God, out of a sense of outrage to a fellow human being.

But when that large thing happens to you, as a believer, you're not left with anything else *except your God*. God suddenly becomes the only thing that matters. You will cling on even if you hate God because even if the answer only pops up at the end of your life, you will wait for that answer.

It's not about logic, it's not about mechanical and objective and philosophical or theological arguments for the problem of evil. It's about surviving a tragedy. People have mechanisms to cope. It's about finding the most important part of you to that you can cling to when everything has turned to dust. For some people, it's the God that they've always believed in, and they'll take Him as He is, good or bad, cruel or merciful, loving or absent.
posted by Karcy at 11:46 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Couldn't he just give everyone synesthesia?

I don't believe this is a valid counter. Bestowing synesthesia changes the definitions of the formal system where 'octagonal' is disassociated from 'odor', it doesn't demonstrate that God can step outside a given formal system. Perhaps this wasn't the best example, however, given the existence of synesthesia.

The distinction I'm trying to draw here without bogging down in epistemological jargon is that you can construct valid propositions by saying things that comply with the rules of grammar but that the rules of grammar don't necessarily guarantee that the thing you say will be a meaningful construct. We can make statements about God using the rules of English grammar but that doesn't mean these statements are meaningful. We can attribute properties or abilities to 'omnipotence' using these rules, but that is no guarantee that we have created a meaningful proposition.

Now, admittedly, I'm jumping ahead a bit but I'm at work and the branching integration build is nearly finished...

We can say anything about God and chalk it up to omnipotence. But if we understand omnipotence as existing outside the bounds of formally defined systems, then we are not engaged in meaningful discussion. Thus, in order for statements about an omnipotent God to be a meaningful concept, they must conform to certain formal systems, e.g. logic and mathematics. Thus, in order for an omnipotent God to be a meaningful concept for human conversation, the omnipotent God must also be bound by formal systems. Another way we can think of the summation of applicable formal systems is to use the idea of logical possibility.

This is how those how elect to dodge questions like "Can an omnipotent God create a rock so heavy it cannot be lifted?" generally run their arguments. A paradox is one kind of logical impossibility. Thus the proposition "Can an omnipotent God create a rock so heavy it cannot be lifted" is no more meaningful than the proposition "Can a triangular marklar jiggle a metafilter so paranoid it cannot be frogmarched?"

Or something... The point being 'omnipotence' cannot imply 'logically impossible' without effecting a breakdown in meaningful dialog....or some people will argue. And I should mention that most of the "divine mysteries of God" types are completely fine with God existing outside formal systems. My contention being that there is no meaningful conversation to be had at that point. Thus, the original point, 'omnipotence' cannot imply 'free of the constraints of formal systems' if we intend to have any sort of meaningful conversation about it.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:20 PM on June 10, 2009


I don't believe this is a valid counter. Bestowing synesthesia changes the definitions of the formal system where 'octagonal' is disassociated from 'odor', it doesn't demonstrate that God can step outside a given formal system.

That was mostly a joke, I fail to see why conforming to the rules of logic would do much to limit an omnipotent being on a practical level. Other than the old "rock heavier than God can lift" paradox you haven't really mentioned any real-world limitations that would result from such a requirement. Basically to me it seems more like a limitation on descriptions of hypothetical world states rather than a limitation on what sorts of actions could be carried out by an omnipotent being.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:51 PM on June 10, 2009


it doesn't demonstrate that God can step outside a given formal system.

And who created that formal system?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:55 PM on June 10, 2009


I think it's pretty ballsy for people to invalidate the guy's method of coping with immense grief. For the sake of all small gods, his entire family was murdered and his child is the one who did it. Anything that this guy can do that helps him make it through the day without hurting people is a helluva good thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:58 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you were referring to me, I wasn't invalidating his method of coping (not sure how I could do that anyway!) or even saying it was a "bad thing." I was just thinking that maybe his forgiveness of the killer wasn't exactly the most jesus thing I've ever seen, givien his stated reason for forgiveness.
posted by pollex at 1:23 PM on June 10, 2009


Why are so many people in this thread acting like Erin was a typical teen whose heinous behavior must surely be the product of her environment? There is something severely wrong with her and it isn't her parents' fault.

Saying that her behavior might have been a product of her environment doesn't imply that her parents are blameworthy in any way.

You can roll a set of snake eyes ten times in a row with a fair set of dice. That does not mean that the dice were loaded or broken. Interactions between the dice and their environment just unfortunately conspired against you. You can get atypical behavior out of a typical behaver.
posted by painquale at 1:36 PM on June 10, 2009


You can roll a set of snake eyes ten times in a row with a fair set of dice. That does not mean that the dice were loaded or broken. Interactions between the dice and their environment just unfortunately conspired against you. You can get atypical behavior out of a typical behaver.

Well, okay, in which case I phrased my question improperly, because I was attempting to address the idea that has been expressed multiple times here, namely something along the lines of 'What do you expect from a strict religious upbringing? Her parents are clueless dolts who created a monster.'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:25 PM on June 10, 2009


I agree that armchair diagnoses are by and large unhelpful. I am personally acquainted with any number of people suffering from any number of things that are probably cataloged in the DSM-IV, and some things that may be entirely new to psychologists on this planet. I, however, am not a psychologist and don't try to diagnose them with anything other than "Bats in the proverbial belfry."

(I'm talking really, truly, crazy things and not just "Ha ha, that's a little odd." or "He's got funny habits." G-d calling people on the phone, that sort of thing.)

However.

My own (step) brother is a dyed-in-the-wool sociopath. He's a pathological liar who lies simply because he feels like it. He's been violent since childhood - at age four, he knocked me unconscious with a rock. (I'm six years older.) At age 10, he broke his best friend's hand with a lead pipe. He's been kicked out of any number of schools for violent behavior. He managed to get straight A's once in his life when his mother promised him a dog if he could do it. He did. He got the dog. He proceeded to totally neglect the dog and go back to getting straight F's. Getting in trouble never, EVER bothered him beyond being mildly inconvenient. He would immediately go back to doing whatever he wanted and saying whatever he needed to get out of it.

He started abusing drugs (prescriptions) at age 9, huffing air freshener at 10, and drinking at 12. He was forced into rehab at 17 after he assaulted his mother's partner. He got his GED and managed, somehow, to get into college. In college, he dealt drugs and eventually dropped out and ended up homeless. He spent a year traveling around the country by exchanging sexual favors to truck drivers for rides. Eventually, he ended up in on the opposite coast and finally got arrested as an adult (it was seriously only a matter of time) for stabbing someone who was trying to prevent him from stealing their car stereo. (Non-fatal. Totally non-serious, but still. Stabbed.) He spent his 21st birthday in prison.

I honestly believe that it's only a matter of time before he ends up in jail again.

The sickest part is: he never cared. He never cared about being in rehab. He never cared about being in prison. It never occurred to him that he had failed in some way. Every time he's ended up in a situation where he's been caught in his own assery, he's painted it as though he is the victim and this is all a misunderstanding. Even when he stabs someone, it's because of a conspiracy that is out to get *him.* To say that he's self-centered is putting it mildly. He is his own universe. Period. Nothing else exists.

And I honestly believe that the same darkness that inhabits my brother's soul afflicts this girl as well. If you have ever *known* or lived with a true sociopath, you know that it's a horrifying thing to witness. There are no reasons. Logic doesn't apply. Empathy is useless. A good friend who had been "close" to a sociopath in college describes it as the light of humanity simply having gone out. And it's true. You don't necessarily realize that everybody has that goodness until you see someone who *doesn't.*

I don't mean to say that sociopaths are inherently evil, actually, the opposite. What I'm saying is that there is such a thing as human goodness and very few people are simply born without it. I know that it's true for my brother, and I imagine it's also the case for Erin Caffey. What she did is out of the bounds of normal for *anyone* under *any* circumstances.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:42 PM on June 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm a little concerned that seven months after his wife and two sons were murdered he married a woman with two sons who "bear a passing resemblance to Bubba and Tyler" and whose names start with the same letters.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:28 PM on June 10, 2009


Whoa, gfm, that is chilling. I am sincerely glad, for your sake, that you are six years older than him, and not younger.
posted by palliser at 4:35 PM on June 10, 2009


I am sincerely glad, for your sake, that you are six years older than him, and not younger.

Yeah, me too. I was out of the house by the time he started high school and for that I thank G-d every day of my life. One of the more surreal moments of my life was when he called me when I was living abroad and proceeded to go through one of the 12 steps (whichever one is "unburdening yourself needlessly to siblings living across an ocean") wherein he told me about all of the shit he had done as a kid, including the air freshener huffing (to which I replied "But your room was an indoor equivalent of the bog of eternal stench!" Apparently he went out into the woods behind the house so no one would notice. It worked.) and how he would steal the lighters I had in my room for lighting candles for his joints.

Yeah, stealing my emo candle lighters for drugs. And *I* was the older one.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:45 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to say that sociopaths are inherently evil, actually, the opposite. What I'm saying is that there is such a thing as human goodness and very few people are simply born without it. I know that it's true for my brother, and I imagine it's also the case for Erin Caffey.

My theory is that sociopathy, along with a number of other mental illnesses, may simply be due to chemical imbalances in the brain. I so hope we come up with a way of testing brain chemistry for imbalances. We're flying blind without one.
posted by orange swan at 6:59 PM on June 10, 2009


I think we will be able to determine ahead of time predispositions to commit crime. There's kind of a moral quandary involved in treating people like criminals before they actually commit crimes though. Better than testing would be curing.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:38 AM on June 11, 2009


IMHO Terry Caffey exhibits behaviour that is consistent with a DSM-IV Cluster B diagnosis. In other words, he sounds like a narcissist. His daughter is more on the anti-social personality disorder spectrum. It does not surprise me that a narcissist parent would have such a child, as their parenting would probably be lacking in some important emotional area. Indeed, it is likely that the mother was also on the spectrum, as narcissists have been known to get entwined with borderline personality disorder sufferers. /armchair diagnosis

It is possible for a person on the spectrum to have a positive impact on their community, but they would still be unlikely to be able to engage emotionally with those 'close' to them.
posted by asok at 2:55 AM on June 11, 2009


What behavior appears Narcissistic? I got the quote where he talked about if Charlie didn't respect him, how could he possibly treat Erin, but what else did you see?
posted by pollex at 6:51 AM on June 11, 2009


Holy crap. I just don't see the narcissism, controlling or sociopathic behaviour in this man that all of you seem to see. It's coming across to me more of an effort to explain Erin Caffey's behaviour as a natural consequence of her upbringing by any means possible, even if it means you're grasping at straws.
posted by orange swan at 8:13 AM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree with Orange Swan, but then again, I've only read the one article.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:53 AM on June 11, 2009


But one article is all you need to make a DSM-IV diagnosis, donchaknow?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2009


I understand the impulse to try and find a "reason" for her mental state. It's comforting to think that there were signs and causes for this horrible action, because no one wants to face the reality that it happened for no reason. Sociopaths are great pretenders. Her parents may never have known that she was unhinged, and simply blamed the few times the mask slipped on teenage histrionics. Her parents didn't bring this on themselves and were obviously the last ones to suspect her desires.
posted by domo at 3:16 PM on June 11, 2009


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