I have no greater fear than the loss of my own children. I imagine that is the ultimate fear of all parents. What if I am unable to keep them safe from harm? What if they are taken from me by a malicious stranger? What if by an awful act of randomness and before I can get to them they run into oncoming traffic while chasing a ball, or fall down a flight of stairs? What if someone drives drunk and strikes them down or they choke on their food or someday another child brings a gun to school and starts shooting? What if they become ill; gravely ill so that nothing in this world of modern medicine can make them right and bind them to me with vitality? There are so many terrible possibilities with each one as awful as the next, yet I can guarantee you one thing. Never would it enter my mind that I could take their lives by my own hands and vicious rage. Nor would it enter my husband’s.
I have a hard time believing that it crossed the mind of Thomas Mortimer IV, but that is exactly what he allegedly did. I say allegedly because this Massachusetts man has not yet been convicted of this crime, but the evidence is insurmountable. He killed his wife, his mother in law, his four year old son, and his two year old daughter. They were bludgeoned and stabbed, and left in pools of their own blood. He left a note of confession and fled before his eventual capture and arrest.
His children were the same age as mine.
Police made a statement to the media that the best way to avoid this type of situation is to be educated on the warning signs and to report them to authorities. What were the warning signs for this family? Yes, Mortimer had been out of work but he had started a new job and seemed excited about it. His employer claimed that he was excelling in his new position and appeared happy and motivated. Family members stated to the press that everything seemed fine. Sure he and his wife had their share of arguments, but they were never violent and the topics did not appear to be severe. There had never been any reports of domestic violence nor were the police called to the home for any reason in the past. Beyond the inner circle of this family, there were no apparent warning signs.
How could this have been prevented?
I look at my babies and I say to myself, “Never.” Never beyond fear of my own life or the lives of my loved ones could I strike down another person, never mind my own child. I personally do not know a soul who would not claim the same. One simply cannot imagine an act so heinous could originate from his or her own being.
Then what does it take for a person to break? How does one suddenly become no longer humane? How do you lose yourself so completely that you simply are no longer there? I need to believe that one is no longer there to do such a thing.
A psychotic break? Is this the only way we can understand it? The possibility that our minds are so fragile it could happen to anyone is what I find the most frightening. If you asked Mortimer a year ago, could he have thought himself capable of such an act? Six months ago? Weeks, maybe days before the crime? Minutes?
“O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven. Keep me in temper; I would not be mad.” – King Lear