The Stockdale Tragedy


In case you haven’t heard about this (I hadn’t until a reader alerted me, so thanks to that person), here’s the short version.

The Stockdale family, mother, dad, four boys, moved to an old farm in Stark County, Ohio,  to “get away from the city.”  They raised chickens at first, but according to their website, transitioned to “grass-fed beef” (meaning “we want to charge you almost $2.50 for beef on the hoof that is really worth only about $1.00 so we’ll give it a fancy name and you’ll think you’re getting something special”) and “free-range pork” (don’t get me started).

The father and the boys also play bluegrass music.  They’re actually quite good. The guy playing the violin above, whose name is Jacob, won the Ohio state Grand Champion Fiddle award. That’s not nothing.

They are very religious, of course, of the fundy Christian flavor and home school.

And where they got a little claim to fame was that several years ago, they participated in a TV program called Wife Swap.

I am here to tell you that reality TV is not what it seems.  I’ve known two people who got suckered into doing it and both regret it.  There is not a lot of reality in reality TV. It’s edited a lot and the participants are painted as other than they really are, so I haven’t bothered to try to find a whole lot of footage from that episode.

But what does happen on a program like Wife Swap is that the mother gets to write out a “family manual” for the other wife who is coming to take her place. And Kathy Stockdale did just that.  So we have her description of her family in her own words.  The Stockdale family thought this was accurate enough to put it on the website.

Before you go any further, go read it, or at least skim through it and get the gist of it.  You’ll probably gag.  I did. [Note: I edited the link because the Stockdale website or at least that page is down. This is a link to the Google cache.]

But, it’s just lovely.

Or it was lovely, up until yesterday.

The two older boys seem to have left home by now.  One in college, I think, and another out and on his own.  Two boys were left at home, James, the bass player, age 21, and Jacob, the fiddle champion, age 25.

And yesterday, Jacob decided he’d had enough.  He’d apparently had enough of no TV and no internet, and no soft drinks, and no McDonald’s, and only grass-fed beef and kefir and cod-liver oil and a mother telling him when to get up and no girls ever.

He took a gun and appears to have shot and killed both his mother and his younger brother.  His father was apparently at work and thus escaped.

Jacob then shot himself, but didn’t die. He’s in critical condition, though.

Please notice how many times I used the word “apparently.”  We really don’t know why Jacob murdered his mother and his brother and then tried to kill himself.  He obviously is in no condition to talk about it.

But the internet, being the way it is, is very quick to pounce on “isolated home schoolers with religious overtones” and determine that was the problem.

It might well have been.  It’s certainly possible.

It also might not have been that at all.  It might have been paranoid schizophrenia that was untreated because cod-liver oil and free range pork doesn’t do a damn thing for it.

I think about (Alicia) Faith Pennington, the girl whose parents refused to let her have any identifying documentation and isolated her. They were very like the Stockdales.  Same religious ideology, same basic lifestyle.  And Faith had a terrible time breaking free.

So, what happened?  Did Jacob Stockdale try to leave and find they wouldn’t let him, or that they made it so difficult that it was well-nigh impossible?  If so, how did his two older brothers get away?

I have no idea.

Here’s a fascinating article about children who murder their parents.

Here are the basics:

The majority – the overwhelming majority-  are white males who are adolescents (Jacob is 25) and who have been subjected to severe physical, sexual, or emotional/verbal abuse. They typically feel trapped and don’t see any other way out. Like Jacob, they sometimes combine suicide (or a suicide attempt) with murder. They tend to be isolated. There are more instances of this happening than you probably think.

Religion, home schooling, “homesteading,” none of these things seems to be a factor. Drugs and alcohol often are components, but I suspect were absent at the Stockdale farm.

So the terrible tragedy that is the Stockdale family does not tell us that being religious, or living on a farm, or home schooling, or “homesteading” will result in your child being so unhappy he tries to kill you.

What it does tell us that doing all of those things that Kathy Stockdale did so ardently, restricting all those terrible outside influences, does not stop anything.

Kathy Stockdale thought she was being the perfect mother. She thought she had the perfect family.

I stay at home so that I can shape the way they grow up and how they are influenced.

She raised her boys to some exact specifications that she had in her head. She home schooled the boys so that “they are not affected by outside influences and are able to grow up in a safe and wholesome environment.”

Throughout her whole little “family manual,” there’s a theme running that the outside world is evil and bad and safety is only found in the family setting.

She worked her entire adult life at this. It was her single obsession, apparently.

And it did nothing whatever to save her.





22 thoughts on “The Stockdale Tragedy”

  1. I just can’t imagine how her remaining children and her husband must be suffering right now.

    These aren’t people with whom I would wish to socialize, but I am so truly sorry for their tragic losses.

    Ugh. I read their web site.


  2. I choked on moving the car to listen to bluegrass music on the porch. I smothered just reading her daily life. Children need time to play & learn from play, she worked them like servants.
    I feel bad for the survivors of this tragedy, but hope they can find peace.


  3. How awful! Unless the boy shared his unhappiness, we’ll never know what drove him to apparently kill his mother and brother. I do think, however, that children raised by parents who want to micromanage and control every minute of their children’s time tend to lose the ability to think for their selves and have poor problem solving abilities. They don’t have to learn that skill. All the thinking is done for them. I’ve seen this in my own family and although their parents mean well there’s a certain selfishness that goes along with it. The parents are trying to get the kids to fill their needs instead of the kids learning how to provide for their own needs.


  4. “What it does tell us that doing all of those things that Kathy Stockdale did so ardently, restricting all those terrible outside influences, does not stop anything.”

    I wish all fundie parents could understand this. The danger to the Stockdales and even to the Duggars didn’t come from the outside world.

    You can’t control how your kids turn out by restricting their lives. Maybe when you’re on a religious high it seems possible, but it isn’t.

    “I smothered just reading her daily life.”

    Me too.

    I feel awful for this family.


  5. It appears the Stockdale Manual has been deleted. When I click the link or search for the content, this is what I get.

    404. That’s an error. The requested URL /stockdale-family-manual/ was not found on this server. That’s all we know.


  6. Got a 404 error message when I tried to read the mom’s manual. Maybe it’s been taken down.


  7. Throughout her whole little “family manual,” there’s a theme running that the outside world is evil and bad and safety is only found in the family setting.

    She worked her entire adult life at this. It was her single obsession, apparently.

    And it did nothing whatever to save her.

    I will venture to say that it may have led to her demise. I read her manual and there isn’t any room in it for anyone growing up and having opinions, dreams or goals of their own. No, it’s all about Kathy and Tim’s dreams.

    Now Jacob is going to be trapped in the legal system, as are his remaining family members. I feel badly for him and his brothers.


  8. A 12 year old Mormon girl stood before her congregation in Utah this past week and bravely came out. She stated that god loves her just the way he made her. They turned off the sound. The look of confusion on her face as she tapped the microphone thinking it was broken made my heart sink.

    Fuck all these sanctimonious dictatorial religious freaks who would control people’s very bodies and minds. There are no gods. Only human beings. Religion is the opiate of the masses, I will agree with Marx and Engels on that one thing. Organized religion is a tool of subjugation and has historically been, and continues to be, one of the most deadly memes (thanks Dawkins) ever perpetuated on mankind. You don’t need religion for anything. If you can’t tell what is morally correct or incorrect without the imaginary god wielded carrot and the stick then there is something wrong with you. When you die you are dead, so you’d better live right now because this is all you get.


  9. Got a 404 error message when I tried to read the mom’s manual. Maybe it’s been taken down.

    Yes, it appears to be gone. I’m not surprised. In fact, I anticipated that so I screen shot the whole thing. I won’t reproduce it all here, but I will go back later today and get some select quotes from it and post those. I understand why the family thought it might be a good idea to take their website down.

    One other explanation might be that news media folks all over are accessing that website and that might have crashed it. When Nathan died, that happened to us. Too many people trying to get on the website at once.

    I found the Google cache version. I updated the link but here it is again.


  10. hope they can find peace.

    They will never find peace. They have experienced something so horrific that it will affect them for the rest of their lives. There is no such thing as “finding peace” when it comes to something like this. It’s one thing to lose a loved one to an illness or an accident. Even that stays with you always. But this is so horrific, there is no way. I am just so sorry for the two older brothers. They are the innocents in all this and they will suffer horribly.


  11. I guess you are right about finding peace, perhaps that is my way of coping with their tragedy. I absolutely could not live like that. I was raised fundy and it was constant farm work for a child. My parents did give us 4 acres, we grew strawberries. That crop bought us a 20×40 in ground pool 8 feet deep. We worked hard & played hard.
    The Google cache version is there, I sure don’t want to read it again!


  12. A tip for anyone who wants/need to archive something before it goes away:

    Put the bookmarklet on your browser. That way, when you are browsing pages, you can instantly archive with one click.


  13. Horrific. We live a very well to do neighborhood. Four houses up the street from us lived a lovely family from China, a husband who worked in the Silicon Valley & his wife, a pediatrician in her birth country who was getting her license to practice here in the US. They had two little girls, a 8 year old and a 10 year old. They had been here in The Us for about 10 years, gave great parties, would have us over for BBQs and we would have them over too. All our neighbors loved them. They were considered a wonderful family that had lots of friends and extended family. The girls did great at school and had many friends and sleep overs and swimming pool parties at home. A very open friendly family that didn’t have any religion and would give you the shirt off their back.
    One Tuesday morning as my husband and I were getting ready to go to work we heard a shot. I thought it was back fire from a passing car going up the hill. My husband said it sounded like a gun. As we were getting into our cars for work the older daughter of our neighbor came running down the hill screaming. When she reached us she was hysterical screaming mommy neck knife over & over. My husband went up there to find what was wrong. He found the younger daughter hiding in garage in a car and the mom in the kitchen dead. Our other neighbors called the police. The house is over 6000 sq feet and it took time to search it. They found the dad dead next to a closet with a self inflected gun shot wound to the head. The girls stated that their dad was angry about the traffic going to work. That he was mad about it. And that while they were at the table eating breakfast daddy walked behind mom and took a knife and stabbed her mom in the neck.

    No one will ever know the full story of what happened. Why did he snapped. From the outside to all who knew him didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

    The house stood empty for about seven years. It now has a new family living happily in it. We don’t know what happened to those little girls, or who they went to live with.

    Life is strange. Mental illness is perplexing and scary and can happen in any family with no warning and often times with no rhyme or reason. My brother who lives in San Diego called us one night to tell us that his son had killed himself. We had spoken to him a few nights before, he seemed normal. He was 24 years old. It was and still is heartbreaking even after all these years. No one, except his older sister knew he was struggling with addiction to pain pills. He didn’t leave a note. We can only surmise the pain he was in. His family wasn’t religious. Religion didn’t play into it at all.
    A very religious family near us son shot himself and his dog. He too was 24. He left a note saying that he couldn’t live up to his family’s expectations to take over their business and wanted to please everyone.

    My own son who is 38 suffers from PTSD. Hey speaks 7 languages and was in the Army. He has lived all over the world and has witness horrible things &Thad horrible things done to him and had to make gut wrenching decisions on a moments notice. He had to give up flying helicopters (his love) and his job as a linguist for the government. He feels guilt and anxiety all the time.He doesn’t understand why he lived and so many of his friends have died in the wars and many many more have committed suicide. We his parents feel guilty for not trying harder to stop him from joining the Army. My husband was in Vietnam. When our son joined in 98 after a few years at college we tried to get him to join the navy if he was so set on going into the military. He was bright, graduated HS at 16, speaks, writes languages, picks up new languages within a short time by just being around people. He learned Farsi when he was four years old by playing with our next door neighbor son who were from Iran. He leaned Russian and German both at the same time. He was sought out for employment by everyone. He owned his own home & was set to be married and had to give it all up and move in with us. He is not the same person. We don’t think he’ll ever be the same person which is a good thing in a way for what he has been through. For if he had come out unscathed from this it would be like he was a robot so they tell us. He is getting as much help as HE will allow. We take it day by day. You can’t force people to do anything. Just recently we had his therapist in our home with all our kids and had a session on how PTSD can effect every aspect of your life. It was sobering. Now whenever I see a homeless person I think they must of had something awful happened to them. Without a doubt my son would be one of the homeless even with all his education. Our son is lucky in that he has a large family who loves him and maybe just as important we have the money to take care of him, when he won’t accept monetary help from the government even though he is fully entitled to and is 98% disabled. I worry everyday that he will commit suicide (I hate writing that). He remembers what all of went through when his cousin did and doesn’t want us to suffer that, plus my son is quasi religious and believes in God and after life of some sort as we are all energy and energy can’t be destroyed, only change waves or something. So I hang onto the hope that he will not kill himself.

    Life is hard. Be kind to everyone, even those that don’t deserve it. I have learned that kindness is a RIGHT that everyone is entitled to. It cost nothing.

    What happened to the Stockards could happen to any family. Unfortunately Mrs Stockard was a little smug in her “values” and “ways”. She placed herself as the know it all for all family life on all things. She knew better than anyone else about her sons in her mind. It makes me wonder what happened in her own life that she felt that she needed these self imposed controls on every aspect of her world and those around her.

    There are a few studies going on about how trauma can be passed down generational wise. They have found links in slave families. I believe that there is something to this. In my own family my dad was POW in Japan. He died young. He I am sure also suffered PTSD not only from his own plight, but from his parents plight (long story). I have always suffered anxiety, and a few of my siblings have too.

    My heart goes out to all who have suffered traumatic loss.

    I agree with you Sally, there really is no peace or recovery from this, for the brothers and most certainly for the father, who must be in a world of guilt, shame and dispare. Shame needs to be taken out of the mental health equation in my opinion.

    Just putting one foot in front of the other everyday for the rest of your life and work for change. I havent a clue on what that change could be. Except maybe working on getting rid of the shame that is engulfed with mental illness & addictions.


  14. While reading I see so many common idea that seem to be unique to fundies.
    The wholesome food thing. (right out of the Alexander playbook).
    This woman was so OCD. any change in her routine seemed to semd her off the edge, the obsession with cod liver oil, who does that ?
    Her killing is no big suprise to me, your total life is micomanaged from the time you go to bed to the time you get up. Your life is not your own, mommy was constantly looking over there shoulders.
    This really is no different then the Nogs, her children are her property. Can you imagine her being on wife swap,


  15. Where they are from is just a stones throw from where I live, and it just shook our tiny village. The boy that was killed was in one of my daughters college classes- she said he was nice enough but seemed scared to make friends or talk to people. I feel so awful for them and their family.. even the shooter who obviously didn’t get the help he needed.


  16. I feel bad for anyone who commits suicide, it breaks my heart. The mental health treatment in this country sucks.
    I feel bad the mother was killed, after reading her manuscript all I could think of was, “no fast food, even as a treat?” I agree there are no free rides in this life, but good grief. Let the kids have more than a token for a radio song.


  17. James Stockdale, 21, was shot and killed along with his mother, Kathy Stockdale, by his brother, Jacob, who then turned the gun on himself in southern Stark County Thursday night, according to the Stark County Sheriff’s Office. James was a sophomore business major at Kent State University, the university confirmed prior to a press conference Friday.

    I didn’t know James was the college student, I thought it was Jacob. I wonder if Jacob wanted to go to college?

    Such a waste.


  18. Well, they’re now asking for money. GFM, of course.

    Hardy self-sufficiency goes right out the window when faced with two funerals and medical expenses.

    “The tragedy of June 15th that befell the Stockdale family has affected all of us. Between the funeral and memorial costs, along with the medical and related expenses for Jacob, the financial burden will be great. In the spirit of bearing one another’s burdens [Galations 6:2], if you feel led to participate, a gift of any amount would be appreciated. This site does take a small portion in fees, so if you prefer that 100% of your gift go to the family, you may send contributions to Zion Reformed Church [PO Box 33, Winesburg OH 44690] with your donation designated for the Stockdale Memorial Fund. Thank you.”

    Created June 17, 2017
    Stockdale Family

    Stockdale Family
    Campaign Organizer

    I have a question, doesn’t money sent to Zion Reformed Church for the Stockdale Memorial Fund mean it’s money that is going to be used for the ongoing benefit of the church? The check is being made out to Zion Reformed Church, after all.


  19. The check is being made out to Zion Reformed Church, after all.

    That is a common ploy done by fundigelicals to make personal gifts tax-deductible. It’s shitty.


  20. agree with you Sally, there really is no peace or recovery from this, for the brothers and most certainly for the father, who must be in a world of guilt, shame and dispare. Shame needs to be taken out of the mental health equation in my opinion

    I would hope that the father is asking himself some very difficult questions, as he mourns the loss of his wife and one of his sons, plus the impending criminal case against another of his sons. But I’ve seen this (or similar) too often and usually there is absolutely no feeling that the parent did anything wrong. If anything, I bet the father doubles down and says they didn’t pray hard enough, or didn’t “train” the son enough, or that “evil came into his heart” just out of the blue and the parents actions had nothing to do with it.

    As I read the mother’s daily “to do” list, I felt so bad for all of the children in that family. What a miserable existence! Sounds like both parents were complete control freaks. The meals she described sounded fairly gross for the most part. It’s very distressing that parents can treat their children like this, and it’s completely legal.


  21. Plus, of course, the money donated to the Stockdale family isn’t considered income so they don’t pay taxes on it (directly or through GFM).

    At least that is what someone has written somewhere. I don’t remember if it is here, over at Homeschoolers Anonymous or somewhere else entirely.


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