Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Oregon family murder

Father murders whole family. Mother murders children. Children murder parents. Brother murders brother. The stories aren't new. They go back to the beginning of mankind recording stories. The fact that they are not new makes them not one bit less horrifying when we open a paper to see they have happened again.

Every time I see another headline, I try to get my head around the act. How can one person decide to murder another? I have less trouble with stranger to stranger murder, horrifying though they also are to me. That's why I keep a loaded gun in my house and know right where it is. Yet, most murders are by someone we knew, someone we trusted, too often someone we loved.

This week when I saw the headlines, I knew the farm where the murders had taken place. It's not that far from where I live. I didn't know the couple who were murdered, but I knew their land, have passed their sign many times as I drove to a nearby town. It stood out because of what they called it-- Abundant Life Farm.

Although I never met these people, I had known the family who farmed that land before them. The murdered couple were like them and us, people who had forged for themselves a farming lifestyle. It was unto the land where they put their dreams, their hopes for their family.

Ranching and farming lifestyles involve family in a way that city lifestyles don't so much unless the family runs a business. Most families go off to work or school, and the various aspects of their lives are separated into boxes. They aren't forced to share so much. Working the land isn't like that. It's integral to your being. You don't arbitrarily choose seasons for things. Land and animals choose those dates if you want to make it work. Farm families live close to the rhythms of the seasons and to each other.

If you really cannot stand reading crime stories, you will want to skip the following link, but it explains more or less what happened, what they know about what happened, and I think the fact that the story went so rapidly beyond our local newspapers to a national source like the Daily Beast (the bodies were discovered August 31) is because we can all so relate to it and at the same time shake our head in horror. [Oregon Family Murder].

Murders in my part of the country are rare. I can only think of three incidents before this in the over 30 years we have lived here. Two of those three though were within families. The greatest risk to human beings of being murdered is by someone we either know or worse, someone near and dear, someone we should be able to trust, someone we might love the most who turns on us and we don't recognize the danger in time.

For me, this particular family's murder has been personal on several levels. One is the shock that murder ever happens. How does one person decide to take another person's life? That boggles my mind. In self-defense, in war, yes, I understand that, but not cold-blooded murder. I can't get my head around how it happens, how you would make such a horrendous, you cannot go back from it, choice.

Then there is another part, beyond knowing these people's land, relating personally to their lifestyle, there is wondering how it is possible that you can do it all right as best you know. You can try to do it with love and sometimes it's not enough to avoid the worst-- and to me, to have your child murder you would be the worst of the worse.

When we  hear of things like this, and they are in newspapers, fiction and poetry, many are like me, wanting to understand the why even though understanding might not help. I guess we think if we understood it, we could prevent it. Maybe we could not.

The murdered couple were among those rare ones who stepped out on their dream. They took the risk to change their lives for a lifestyle they had dreamed about. From all the evidence, they worked hard, they had been loyal parents at least as far as others could know. They thought farm life would be good for the boys, that hard work would build  stronger characters, that their boys would share their dream.  Maybe they waited too long to make the change or didn't wait long enough until their boys were grown and they could live the life themselves... maybe nothing would have helped.

Before I read the articles about the murder, I knew these people had to be devout Christians by the signs on their farm. I didn't know, but was not surprised to learn, they had home schooled their sons. A lot of devout Christians make that choice. Although I understand why parents choose home schooling, know those who have, Farm Boss and I felt our children would do better, imperfect school system though we have, if our children were in public schools, that the socialization, which is without a doubt sometimes negative, was important for their growth as humans.

There is no way to say that home schooling was a factor in what happened. Even though the other family, in this area who were murdered  by their sons,  also home schooled, the boy near Eugene, who killed not only his parents but some in his high school, he had not been home schooled.  He also though had parents that looked like they had done everything they could to help him grow up to be a responsible adult, not one who would murder when things didn't go his way.

It is possible that in the recent murder, the boy (he was 20 when he committed this heinous crime) might have benefited from being less sheltered in growing up. Maybe some emotional problems would have shown up and he could have gotten counseling although many fundamentalist homes, being distrustful of the secular world, would reject that as a solution anyway. I don't know that the parents had not tried to get him help for his seeming inability to find socially acceptable relationships (and the other kind are often regarded as socially unacceptable because of having seen the results). Maybe by the time they saw the problem, the die was cast.

What went wrong with him wasn't just the hard work of farming. It was also a sexual relationship that was so detrimental that any parent would be horrified at his choice and want him to end it. This happens sometimes as kids grow into adulthood. Society, even churches, can't give parents much help for it either. Most such children do not then decide to murder their parents over it nor does it automatically forge a desire to steal what the parents have.

Every time there are such killings, most of us ask the same question. Could it have been prevented? Were there clues? Is it possible to find potential murderers, especially when it's in your own family, before the worst happens? Did it start as children and was ignored? Can parents learn clues and proactively protect the family, or is there really no protection from a loved one who turns violent?

With this boy, it probably would have had to happen before he hooked up with a woman with even greater problems than he had. What need did she meet in his life that explains the power she wielded over him? Or did she just bring out something that was always there? I certainly don't have the answers. The tragedy here is not just what he did to his parents but what he did to himself.

In the newspaper articles, they mentioned a [YouTube of the philosophy by which this couple ran their farm].  If you watch it, you will see nice, conscientious people. I know people like them. In a lot of ways we are like them. We came to the farm with the same kind of dreams. We believed farm life would be good for our kids growing up. We were religious back then. These people were doing it all right probably as best they knew it. I feel such empathy for them over it, so sorrowful.

Some say everything happens for a reason. They say good can come from anything. That is a comforting way to live, to see positive meaning in every event good or bad, but it doesn't work for me. I can look at something logically and see things maybe that maybe... if... possibly... perhaps... could... might have changed a string of events, that we could learn from as a people. That's logically. Spiritually, I don't see one single good thing that could possibly come from something like this. I don't blame a god or credit one.

I hope though that there is something or someone on the other side for them, that their faith was justified in that religion of theirs.  I know some who read here would tell me that there is and will be. I would like to believe that. I don't. I just plain feel sad and so sorry for them and wish there was some way we could stop such things from happening before they end like this. What a terrible waste.

Photo of the couple and their son on their farm from earlier, and then police mug shots of the same son with the woman who is charged with helping him plan the crime-- from Daily Beast.


Paul said...

Whether one believes in God, or not, this is a tragedy and it leaves me with more questions than answers I admit.

Rain said...

I really liked a quote this morning from Mark Vernon ruminating on the philosophy of Emily Dickinson's poetry. It was on Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"What she realizes is that the truth which is beyond us, which is discerned only indirectly, is the only truth that is truly worth seeking. That which we can readily grasp and manipulate is too easy for us. It’s humdrum. It leaves life too small for us, the creature with an eye for the transcendent. But look further, and what you are offered is what she calls truth’s ‘superb surprise’. That’s why success lies in circuit. Our humanity is spoken to, from a direction – a source – that we had not expected. And our humanity expands as a result."

So it is when we try to understand something, when we come back to it again and again, that we have the chance we will make a breakthrough to one of the greater truths.

One of the problems of our society today may be we do too little of that. We settle for the easy and simple truths and don't do the work to finally discern the harder ones. When we give up, it is definite we never will understand them or anything of depth. We will have to settle for trusting someone else to have done it for us...

Darlene said...

I think a profiler could spot serious emotional problems in this young man. The fact that he moved in with an older, and physically very unattractive, woman obviously alerted his parents that something was very wrong. The sad part is, they didn't know how wrong and didn't know how to get the help that he obviously needed.

Rain said...

I wish there was some kind of indicator like that but when Kip Kinkel killed his two parents and then two students at his high school in Springfield, Oregon, he had had psychological counseling and parents who were trying to use all the tools society gave them. It simply seems until some of these people actually do something violent, we can't pick them out ahead of time. Part of it is that we can't hold people on suspicion for very long.

In the case of the most recent incident, the boy and his girlfriend had been showing a lot of bad signs to those who lived near them; but police cannot do much about it even if it was reported. We do not have the tools as a society to deal with things before they happen and it's mostly due to our desire to give the benefit of the doubt and our belief in freedom.

Kay Dennison said...

What a tragedy!!! I, like you, thought of home schooling but felt that learning to get along with others was just as important as the three Rs. Is it me or is there more evil people in the world? It seems that the idea of people getting along has gone the way of all flesh.

Parapluie said...

There could be more violence in the world. Could come from seeing the violence of wars on the news. Could be the instant gratification of video games. Could be so many changes taking place so fast.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

This is really, really sad and literally too close to home. Living in the country, I imagine this kind of thing is very rare. Not so much in a big city, but I simply can't imagine murdering anyone. It's simply off my radar screen.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

This certainly is a horrifying story...And after reading the article one wonders where it all did go wrong. The problem is, anything anyone comes up with is all speculation, unless the son kept a true diary of how he felt about everything in his whole life, and even then, how would you really know.
The Bottom Line? It is a Horrific and terrifying thing to have happened, and that it was so close to you & yours, Rain, makes it that much more horrifying.

Annotated Margins said...

There is no way to understand this kind of thing. If did understand it, things like this wouldn't happen.