The Oklahoma labor commissioner fatally stabbed by his 26-year-old son refused to give up on him. Instead, he struggled to find longer-term mental health treatment for the young man’s schizophrenia, sources told The Daily Beast.
Mark Costello, 59, died Sunday evening after his son, Christian, attacked him with a steak knife inside an Oklahoma City restaurant, where the two reportedly met to reconcile, authorities say.
The reunion turned tragic around 6:30 p.m., when an argument allegedly set Christian off and he stabbed his dad, according to police. When a wounded Costello stumbled out of the restaurant, apparently to get help, Christian continued slashing him from behind, witnesses said. One bystander even hit Christian with an SUV to stop the carnage, while others restrained him with belts until police arrived, KOCO in Oklahoma City reported.
The horrific scene unfolded in front of Costello’s wife, Cathy, who was in the parking lot and tried to stop Christian, cops said. Costello, who was stabbed in the head and neck, was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Christian was arrested on the charge of first-degree murder a short time later.
“Mark was trying to do the right thing to help his son, Christian, because of his mental health issues. Nobody in their right mind would do what [Christian] did yesterday,” a source close to the family told The Daily Beast.
“Christian suffered some paranoid delusions regarding his parents, that they were plotting against him, that sort of thing,” the insider added.
The acquaintance told The Daily Beast that Christian was diagnosed with schizophrenia more than six years ago and had been involuntarily committed two or three times in the last year. The psychiatric stays were never long-term, however, as physicians apparently deemed he wasn’t a threat.
“They just get you stabilized and kick you out in the streets,” the source fumed. “That’s exactly what happened to [Christian]. He’d be committed for two or three weeks, get stable, and they’d cut him loose and keep their fingers crossed nothing would happen.”
Still, before the attack, Christian was allegedly in treatment and taking medication, the source said, adding that Costello had even “commented on how well Christian had been doing” this time around.
The inability to obtain longer psychiatric stays for Christian created a strain within the family, said the source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the episode.
Meanwhile, Costello’s chief of staff, Jim Marshall, told the Tulsa World that the commissioner planned to meet his son to check on him, to encourage him to take his meds and get a job, and to give him money.
“Mark expressed to me on several occasions about Christian and the potential of bad behavior,” Costello told the paper. “Christian has been plagued with mental health issues for maybe the last four to five years. Mark never gave up on Christian.”
Costello forced Christian—one of the Costellos’ five children—to leave the family home for a motel after he behaved abusively toward a sibling, Marshall told the World. He said Christian had permanent housing near the site of the murder.
While two of his sisters won Oklahoma beauty contests, and his brothers excelled in Catholic boarding school, Christian started grappling with schizophrenia and racking up a criminal record, according to interviews with friends of the Costello family.
Court records show that in 2012, Christian was charged with assault and battery upon a police officer; driving while under the influence of a drug; and resisting arrest. Two years later, he faced charges of outraging public decency. (Christian pleaded guilty in the first instance, with sentencing deferred pending the completion of community service. In the latter, he pleaded not guilty and the case is ongoing.)
Lawyers representing Costello in those cases declined to comment.
According to local news reports at the time, cops arrested Christian for exposing himself to people at a school in The Village, Oklahoma. One woman told police he was walking around the school around 4 p.m. and had his pants down in front of a window.
When officers found Costello, he was chewing on bird feathers, dandelions, and other weeds, News 9 reported.
Friends say Christian may have weighed on Mark Costello’s mind over the weekend as he visited Columbus, Ohio, for the annual summit of the Koch brothers’ right-wing Americans for Prosperity group.
His longtime friend, Stuart Jolly, told The Daily Beast they talked about politics, fatherhood, and family while dining out at the summit.
“I had just spent the previous three days with him in Ohio. I’m completely stunned,” Jolly said of Costello, a millionaire businessman elected as a Republican in 2010. “He’s a great confidant and friend and I’m going to miss him bad.”
Jolly said he and Costello had heart-to-hearts during the Ohio trip, talking about “what we’ve done right with our families and our regrets.”
In one conversation, a new father at the summit asked the friends for advice. “I said, ‘Mark, give him some advice,’” Jolly recalled. “He just said, ‘Yeah, I probably shouldn’t be giving advice.’ We laughed at the time.”
“He would talk about Christian, but in vague terms,” Jolly added. “They spent a lot of time and money trying to fix the issues he had. It was kind of a disappointment to him. His other kids are fine, great, loving. Christian’s the one you don’t hear much about.”
Jolly, who is executive political director at the Education Freedom Alliance, said Costello was one of the sweetest people he’d ever known.
“It’s just the saddest situation possible,” Jolly said. “Dying and being killed, being murdered, that’s all bad. But having your family being a part of that, in front of the wife, I can’t imagine. It’s so sad.”