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Monday, April 6, 2009

Harrison Family murders and suicide

No one else has brought this up yet here 'In Your Neighborhood' and admittedly Orting and Graham are not my neighborhood either, but the pain that this story/crime has evoked cannot be contained merely on the 'Lights & Sirens' blog, the main page online, or the front page of the printed newspaper.

Listening to radio programs today, e.g. The Commentators on KOMO with Ken Schram and John Carlson, and to Dori Monson on KIRO 97.3 FM, and comments by callers to those programs gives an interesting spectrum of points of view. I would like to add my own thoughts.

First and foremost: Mass murder and suicide are not an individual's first foray into domestic violence. It does not begin and end in one summary act. That entire family -- now silenced -- had to have been living in a hell at home that no one on the outside was privy to. Neighbors may have known of fighting and loud yelling coming from the home, but no one could have known what was going on inside that home who did not live it every day.

A common thread I've been hearing is, "If he wanted to commit suicide, why didn't he just kill himself?" And then the immediate assumption that he killed the children to hurt his wife.

That's not it.

If you think about it, that he went back up to Auburn to kill her, too, it wouldn't hardly have given her much pain, no time to suffer just to be told that he had killed the children and now she was going to die.


He killed the children, because of his rigid beliefs. One of those beliefs was surely that he did not want his kids to have to endure the stigma of coming from a broken home. Yes, in his warped way of thinking, that was almost certainly the ultimate shame -- to come from a broken home. So he killed the children to spare them that shame. That's what people do in these situations. It was not about inflicting pain on the wife, it was about sparing the children the pain of growing up in a broken family with one parent or the other not in the home.

People who try to apply logic to this insanity will get it wrong (as they have been doing speculating about his motive). There is no sane logic to what he did. But he did what he did, because he loved the children and was 'sparing them'. Clearly, it was a deranged, controlling 'love.'

His pain over the loss of his wife, his child bride whom he had knocked-up at age 13 with the first of those five babies who were to be born into that hell, was pain over the loss of control that he had of her: statutory rape of a minor child that then led to the marriage and the births of each of the children thereafter. That's what his rage was about.

And for those who blame the mother (such as Dori Monson) for 'leaving those children with a psycho while she goes off on a two-day bender with her new boyfriend'... No one could foresee the criminal insanity that would unfold. Sure, it would have been better for her to try to make a clean break for herself and the kids before becoming involved with someone else. Of course, it would. At the same time, he had her wrapped so tightly that she probably had no idea of how to get out of the situation. And where do you go with five kids? Who will take you in? Who will ever want you again? That is all she has known since age 13.

Little girls are often raised with the belief that you are "only half a person" until you are married at which time you become "whole." This is the belief that drives the mindset that "I've gotta have a man in my life or I'm nothing; I'm only half a person; I need a man so I can be whole." Serial relationships follow. It'd be great if every relationship yielded that perfect union, but sadly it is more rare than it is the norm.

One last thing, there was also discussion/whining and complaining about why it is that the schools bring in grief counselors from the outside. "Why don't parents talk to their kids themselves? Why don't kids talk to their parents?" Sadly, there are many homes: many, many homes in all socioeconomic levels (not just the classic trailer park as in this instance), but all across the board, across every community there are homes where there is relentless physical, mental, and verbal violence.

An educator brought up the following scenario to Ken Schram, 'How can these kids talk to their parents about domestic violence when they are living it in their own home and are afraid of their parents? Afraid that their dad will kill them?' In a knee-jerk reaction, Ken put that caller down stating, that that just does not happen, that's not gonna happen.

But it does.

When you have seen a line in a movie or television show where a parent says to their child -- either in a sitcom or seriously in a drama -- "I brought you into this world and I can take you out." That is the reality for many children. That is the fear and the tyranny they live. And whether or not the abuse is directed physically at them or at their mother, the message is clear: "Cross me, and you're dead."


JosephMcG said...

Thanks for helping me understand this man... I assumed he wanted to kill his children to emotionally hurt his wife...
and I appreciated her leaving him, being finally fed up, and not focused on the children... after all she had never had a chance to make a mature decision, married when she was a little girl, and then supposed to function as an adult... I do not think so...

Thank you, Jaynie, for shedding light on a very, very sad situation

Anonymous said...

I would like to say that I think you bring up some interesting points. I knew James and Angie when they first started dating. I was Angie's age at the time. I didn't know how wrong it was or I would have called the cops my self. With that being said I have no doubt that James and Angie loved their children. I don't think the stigma of a broken home is what affected James though. He came from a broken home and has several half brothers and sisters to show for it.

The only logical explanation for this is mental illness. I feel bad for everyone involved most especially the children and Angie, but I think you need to feel a little for James too. No sain person would murder their children. It is a horrible tragedy that could have been prevented. Our nation puts to much emphasis on being "normal". How do you admit you need help when you are overwhelmed?

In no way I am excusing what he did there is never a reason to murder, but that is coming from the mind of a hopefully stable person...

Rich Stadler said...

To kill someone for their (the murdered one's) benefit is the height of insanity.

To kill someone to 'spare them shame' is to play the part of an insane and terrible God.

"I have to kill you because I love you" is the logic of a corrupted mind ruled by fear and envy.

The killer lived a purposeless existence and ended the very purposeful lives of those innocent children so that he could have the 'last say'.

Rich, in Ohio

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your perspective and it made me rethink my first reaction to this story.

I live a pretty blissful existence and try not to think about these living nightmares that end so badly. What your words confirm for me is the need to help out, maybe get involved, maybe stop judging, which is so hard.

What can you do when you know there is some serious mental illness and you need to get one of the parents away with their 5 kids? I hear from many in the court system that domestic violence cases rarely go the right way. It is hard to prove and keep children from one of their parents. What can be done?

Stephanie Frieze said...

This is a tragedy for all concerned, but especially for the mother who has to live with the consquences of her husband's actions and perhaps for her decisions.