Monday, October 06, 2008

Killing Me Gently

I just read the horrible story about a man who killed his wife, his mother-in-law and his three sons before killing himself. The story gets so much publicity, because of its fit with the current financial markets mess. The murderer was someone who had been employed in the financial industry, who couldn't find another job and who was in deep financial trouble despite having a house in a gated community and so on.

It's a dreadful story about multiple murders. Or about multiple murders and a suicide. But the manner in which it is reported is extremely odd:

A man distraught because he could not find work shot and killed his mother-in-law, his wife and three sons and then killed himself inside a home in an upscale San Fernando Valley neighborhood, police said.

Authorities said the man had an MBA in finance but appeared to have been unemployed for several months and had worked for major accounting firms, such as Price Waterhouse, police said.

The two-story rented home is in a gated community in Porter Ranch, about 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles.


Inside the house, police also found three letters, one to law enforcement acknowledging responsibility for the killings, a second to friends and relatives and a third that appears to be the suspect's will, Moore said.

"He attests to some financial difficulties, and he takes responsibility for the taking of the lives of his family members and himself as a result of those financial difficulties," Moore said.

There ya go. A multiple-murder story which begins with explaining why the murderer committed the murders and how he "takes responsibility" for the crimes. Except that he didn't take responsibility, because he offed himself.

Here's more about his motives and responsibility:

Moore said it was clear to police that the family members were close and "had an affection for each other." He said the parents had given up their master bedroom to their eldest -- who was spending the weekend home from college -- "out of respect."

"This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit."

There's lots of empathy in that quote, empathy towards the man who was so tormented that he killed five people, but zero empathy towards those five people. Did he ask them if they wanted to die with him? Did he think of them as separate individuals, entitled to make those choices themselves? Perhaps he did, but the story as told here doesn't convince me of some kind of a shared suicide pact. It looks a lot like a murder of five people who didn't want to get killed.

That should not be forgotten just because the story fits in with the financial market turmoil.