The Stress of Deception may Fuel Murder
By Dr. Katherine Ramsland
First and last, it's a story that is becoming a little too familiar. It began with another woman gone missing. A distraught husband said she hadn't come home. Then that husband started acting suspiciously. Ultimately, the case of Lori and Mark Hacking involved a bizarre series of lies that started long before Lori "went jogging." If Salt Lake City prosecutors are right, her story ended in violence at his hand. They filed charges of first-degree murder and obstruction of justice against Mark Hacking on Monday.
This Utah case is not the first one in which a collapsing house of cards allegedly spurred a man to attack his loved ones. Perhaps we can gain some answers _ and awareness _ from the stories of other men who have followed such a pattern.
Hacking, 28, reported Lori missing on July 19. The next night, Hacking ran naked into the streets and was admitted to a psychiatric ward.
Then the lies poked through. He was caught on video purchasing a mattress the morning of the 19th, and blood was found in several places. So much for the jogging story. Perhaps his "breakdown" was also a sham. But there was more: He falsely stated that he'd graduated from college and was going to medical school. As a psychiatric technician at a University of Utah facility, he posed as "Franz" and allegedly ran unauthorized group therapy sessions.
Co-workers last saw Lori Hacking on July 16, when something upset her visibly and she went home. Had Lori, five weeks pregnant, discovered the lies and confronted her husband? Hacking's brothers reported that he'd confessed to them on July 24 that he shot Lori after a fight and dumped her body in a trash bin.
Let us suppose the worst is true. Are Hacking and men like him (for this is primarily a male behavior) just losers who can measure up only with lies, or might there be a genuine disorder provoking the need to hide in an imaginary world, a disorder with explosive potential? Let's look at two other cases:
Jean-Claude Romand began with a small lie. He failed to write his final medical exams but said he had passed. He got away with it, and through a succession of frauds, devised the persona of a humanitarian doctor and researcher for the World Health Organization. He commuted from the Gex region of France to Geneva and the WHO offices. He offered "investment opportunities" to his family and friends, and with their money, he supported a nice lifestyle for his wife and two daughters.
Finally pressured by questions he couldn't answer, he pretended to have cancer, but then on Jan. 9, 1993, Romand murdered his wife, children, parents, and dog _ allegedly to "spare" them the grief of realizing his deceptions. Initially he blamed a "man in black" but then confessed. Psychiatrists noticed his drive to make a favorable impression and decided that his lies had staved off despair. They diagnosed him as suffering from narcissism, mythomania, and an immature character, and even doubted his quest for truth at the trial.
In 1971, another man, John List from Westfield, N.J., lived a lie. Although unemployed, each day he dressed to go to "work" and then sat for hours at the train station. All the while, he felt enormous pressure that inspired a plan. Justifying his acts as a way to save their souls and send them to heaven, he shot and killed his wife, three children, and mother. Then he fled west to start a new life.
None of these men chose suicide as an option; instead, they harmed family. Forensic psychologist J. Reid Meloy, author of *Violent Attachments, says that such crimes occur as the result of "catathymia," a build-up of anger and frustration that threatens to undermine the person's fragile sense of self. Because they fear a loss of control, they may construct layers of stabilizing deceptions. But when reality intrudes, the pressure threatens to overwhelm them. Then a deadline arrives, a bill must be paid, or a wife wants an answer. Sudden desperation and rage crash through their meager defenses, and they act out in violence. Once it's done, they often feel better.
So the lies may be defensive strategies in a world that feels too difficult. That's no excuse for murder, but recognizing signs of trouble in those we love might help them develop ways to manage the stress. Evasive behavior and persistent pretense _ these often are red flags, and it's important to learn what they mean.
Dr. Katherine Ramsland (email@example.com) teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University and has published 22 books, including "The Criminal Mind."
Press Release: The Stress of Deception May Fuel Murder by Dr. Katherine Ramsland | Posted on: 8/18/2004
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