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.