Mother of a Monster

My mentally ill son was sentenced to life without parole for murder, and I couldn’t shed a tear. So as I watch the Loughner horror unfold, I’m pretty sure I know what his family is going through.

Andrew Vaughan, The Canadian Press / AP Photo

Andrew Vaughan, The Canadian Press / AP Photo

Glen Race

Glen Race, 29, is serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of Darcy Manor on May 10, 2007, in Mooers, New York. Three years after he was convicted, he is being charged again for murdering Michael Knott and Trevor Brewster, two men from Race's hometown in Nova Scotia, around the same time he murdered Manor. Race's mother told the Canadian Press on Wednesday that her son was a happy university student until 2001, when he began behaving oddly during his second year. He lost weight, spent a week in the woods on his own, and withdrew from his family and friends. He was diagnosed almost immediately with schizophrenia, but would occasionally fail to take his medicine, and the bizarre behavior would return. Race's mother warned police and doctors about a particularly erratic behavioral episode in the week before he went on his murdering spree, but neither responded to her distress signals. His mother said: "He had become so psychotic that his monster overpowered him. He wasn't able to fight anymore. I believe more should have been done to contain him. The biggest fear I ever had was losing my son. And I did lose him, through his mental illness and through the crimes."

Andy Kropa / AP Photo

David Tarloff

Two years ago, 39-year-old David Tarloff was arrested for stabbing psychologist Kathryn Faughey to death with a meat cleaver on New York City's Upper East Side and seriously wounding another psychiatrist who had diagnosed Tarloff with "acute paranoid schizophrenia" 17 years earlier and was his principal target. It was during this earlier period that Tarloff, then 22 and a student at Syracuse University, began showing signs of mental illness. He was put on a number of drugs used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and even underwent electric shock therapy. Over the years, he was treated at various hospitals near his hometown of Queens, New York, and then released, against his family's wishes, when he had been taking his medications long enough to become stabilized. Once home and feeling better, he would stop taking drugs and the patterns of psychotic, dangerous behavior would repeat themselves. Said his father: "We've done everything we could have thought of. My son's life was over 20 years ago when this first struck."

AP Photo; Family Handout

Andrea Yates

In 2002, a jury found Andrea Yates of Houston, Texas, guilty of the murders of her five children, all of whom she drowned in the family's bathtub a year before. At 37 years old, she was sentenced to 40 years in prison, in spite of her family's pleas that she suffered from depression and psychosis and that her case should thus have been handled differently. At the time of the murders, Yates claimed she was possessed by Satan and was hearing voices. Four years later, her family got their wish, when Yates went to trial again and was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to a state mental hospital. In 2007, the former nurse went to a lower security mental institution in central Texas, where she remains today. Yates' husband called her a "loving mother who just fell to this disease" and said her 2006 verdict was a "tremendous victory."

Lawrence James

Last summer, Lawrence James of Toledo, Ohio was charged with the murder of Casey Bucher, a University of Toledo student. James confessed to police that he stabbed Bucher to death and was locked up at the Lucas County jail. Worried that her son might face the death penalty, James' mother blamed his actions on mental illness, saying he suffered from depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Said his mother: "He spends most of his time in rescue crisis St. Vincent psych ward, Flower psych ward. He's been to those places several times. Only God knows whether he done it or he didn't but I do know just like the psychiatrist said if he was on his medication he wouldn't have been hearing voices."

AP Photo

David Crespi

David Crespi stabbed his twin 3-year-old daughters to death, but his wife, Kim Crespi, said it was not her husband who killed their daughters. Rather, it was a man who suffered from severe mental illness—bipolar disorder, to be exact—and he was not diagnosed in time. "He would never have hurt his family if he had been in his right mind," said Kim Crespi in 2008. In prison, Crespi's psychiatrist diagnosed him with having bipolar disorder, which can lead to violent psychosis, but his lawyers could not plead insanity because Crespi had admitted he knew what he did was wrong. "If David had been diagnosed properly, this never would have happened," said prison psychologist Andrea Sinclair.

AP Photos (2)

Mark Becker

A 24-year-old convicted of killing a beloved Iowa football coach could not expect a light sentence—although his mother tried to plead for her son. Mark Becker was convicted in March 2010 of shooting and killing Ed Thomas in June of the previous year, with Becker telling police later that Thomas had been tormenting him. Becker's mother, Joan Becker, said her son struggled with schizophrenia, and the last few years in their family had been "extremely difficult to bear." "The system failed miserably," said Joan Becker, saying her family had sought help for her son's illness for years. Although Becker's trial focused heavily on his mental illness, the jury found that it did not impair his ability to tell right from wrong, and Becker was sentenced to life in prison.

Carson Mueller

The tiny Connecticut town of Griswold was shocked in 2009 when Carson Mueller, then 34, burned down his home after strangling his mother, Denise. After Mueller confessed to the murder, his father, Ned Mueller, told authorities that his son needed "some help." "You don't kill your mother unless there's some sort of problem," Ned Mueller told the Norwich Bulletin. Three months later, Carson Mueller was sentenced to up to 60 years in a state mental health facility.

AP Photo

Ralph Tortorici

In December 1994, Ralph Tortorici, a 26-year-old psychology student at the State University of New York at Albany, took a classroom full of students hostage wielding a hunting knife and a high-powered rifle. He said he was part of a government medical experiment and demanded to speak with the president, the governor, and the Supreme Court. Students eventually rushed him, and the rifle went off, injuring one person. Although Tortorici had shown signs of paranoid schizophrenia for almost 10 years, including complaining to the SUNY-Albany health center in 1992 about a microchip implanted in his penis, he was found guilty and sent to prison, where he hanged himself. Said Robert Tortorici, his father: "To have lost a child is a tremendous tragedy, OK? No matter how you lose them. I lost Ralph under what I deemed to be suspicious circumstances. I don't feel that he belonged in the facility they had him, under the conditions that they had him. I believe he was a mentally ill person that needed to be taken out of society, that needed to be treated, that his crime had to be put in perspective of somebody that was ill."