Saturday, July 17, 2010

It Takes Two to Kill

The phrase is French, "folie a deux", which is literally translated as "the folly of two" but is much better and widely known as "the madness of two".  In the field of psychology is it defined as "a rare psychiatric syndrome in which a symptom of psychosis (particularly a paranoid or delusional belief) is transmitted from one individual to another".  ...However, more often than not, this definition isn't quite what is meant when the term is used in criminal profiling.  With killers the term is used for two individuals who kill together when, if on their own, they likely never would have.  The reasons these pairings have for killing differ, but the result is always the same...murder.

The Pursuit of Perfection

Nathan Freudenthal Leopold Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb were two bright, wealthy, young men from Chicago, Illinois.  They met at the University of Chicago while still in their teens - Leopold 14, Loeb 13 - and seemed to form an almost instant bond on the principles of shared age, intelligence, and a strong belief that they were superior to all those around them.  It was Loeb who preferred to commit crimes, Leopold simply agreed to it in exchange for a sexual relationship with his new friend.  That being said it seemed Leopold was the one who found the pairs "right" to do their misdeeds.  In his misunderstanding of the definition of Friedrich Nietzsche's Neitzchean superman...He believed, in his still childish and superficial understanding, that a Neitzchean superman had the moral freedom to violate the rules and laws that applied to ordinary people (and, of course, he considered himself and Loeb just these sorts of supermen).  To start the boys stuck with petty crimes vaguely common to troubled youths - petty theft, cheating at cards, and random acts of vandalism.  But, after four years and with Leopold about to move onto Harvard Law, the two decided to do something more dramatic to permanently solidify their commit the "perfect crime" in the form of the kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old boy from their neighborhood named Bobby Franks.  A "perfect crime" to prove just how superior they were to those around them - one without mercy, without clues, and without either of them ever getting caught.

Mother Issues

Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme of Christchurch, New Zealand, were best friends...BFFs as one would say these days.  They met how many teens meet, being classmates in high school, and bonded quickly over shared experiences of illness in their childhood (Parker had bone disorder known as osteomyelitis and Hulme had pneumonia), a love for writing, and their creativity in general.  Interestingly, like Leopold and Loeb, the girls also bonded over what appeared to be an above average intelligence and the shared belief that they better than everyone else around them.  The girls were inseparable and soon began to create their very own shared world, "Fourth World", which they spent more and more time working on and, seemingly, living in.  At first neither girls' parents had much of an issue with this, in fact Pauline's mother was thrilled since her daughter frequently had trouble making and keeping friends due to a sometimes explosive temper.  After two or three months though the girls' relationship with one another went from very close to super intense causing their parents to grow worried...and when Pauline's mother grew worried enough about their closeness to consider separating them, the two teens made a plan to ensure that would never happen.  They would kill Pauline Parker's mother.

The Wife Problem

Stephen Marsh had a little problem...he had a wife.  A wife was not exactly conducive to the things he wanted to do, like drink and sleep with other women.  Not that his wife seemed to stop him from flirting or, well, indulging in liquor anyway and, soon enough, it didn't stop him from having an affair with a married woman, Rebecca Harris, either.  Stephen and Rebecca's affair started where many others did, at the office.  It began with shared drinks and stories about their lives, their current marriages, and soon developed into a sexual relationship.  There was, however, something different than most in this aspect of their relationship...while it started out loving and sensitive under Stephen's direction and guidance it quickly turned darker and, eventually, into full on sadomasochism.  While Rebecca didn't ever seem to realize it this was the start of Stephen's testing her, seeing how far he could get her to go for him.  How many of his dark and violent desires would she fulfill to keep his love?  She'd let him abuse her, call her names, even cut her with knives and film it all to keep him satisfied.  Would she kill for him too?  Apparently, yes, she would.  With the promise that, if she killed his wife for him, Stephen eventually got the desperate-for-his-love Rebecca to agree to murder.

Different, Yet the Same...

Despite the differences in motive and seeming differences in relationship each of these cases have a fair number of similarities...similarities that make them each, in their own way, cases of folie a deux.  The first similarity is obvious - each of these pairs did, in fact, commit murder together.  Leopold and Loeb kidnapped and then stabbed young Bobby Franks to death.  Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme got together to beat Pauline's mother, Honora Parker, to death with a brick stuffed inside a stocking.  And Stephen Marsh set up his wife, Jaspal Marsh, to be brutally murdered by his lover, Rebecca Harris, with the same knife he'd used in the S&M sex games with Harris.  In each case there was one partner who had a slightly greater tendency towards violence - Loeb was the one who wanted the pair to commit crimes together, Pauline who had outbursts of anger, and Stephen had to press his lover into the acts of sexual violence he enjoyed so much.  Also true for all these killers is, without their partner in crime, they never would've killed in the first place.  Perhaps some already had violent tendencies but the ability to truly carry them out to their full potential was found in the partnering with their, well, other half.  Each of these individuals were, for lack of a better word, incomplete on their own - disoriented in their lives and, mostly, unable to function.  When they got together these people were completed but, sadly, this completion made them very dangerous to made them murderers.

Thankfully though there is one other thing these cases all have in common.  They were all solved and the murderers brought to some kind of justice.  Leopold served 33 years (of a life + 99 years sentence) in prison before being paroled; he later died of a heart-attack at age 66.  Loeb died at 30 as the result of a knife attack by another inmate while serving the same sentence that his partner received.  Both Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme were sentenced to five years each (due to their age) and told, after the trial, to never contact one another again which they obeyed after release.  Each girl got a new name and new life after their release and neither have been in trouble with the law since.  Stephen Marsh was sentenced to 18 years for, essentially, masterminding his wife's murder and Rebecca Harris got 12 years for the actual deed...they are both currently serving their sentences.

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