This post is potentially triggering, as it involves discussion of child abuse and death. Proceed with caution.
Over the past few days, and much to my chagrin, I have fallen down the Dr. Phil rabbit hole. I am not proud of myself for this habit. When we last lived in the States, I would watch Dr. Phil on TV, feeling a little dirty as the entertainer with expired and surrendered counseling credentials brought on one trainwreck after another. And I’d sit there and watch, as the people told their stories, and Dr. Phil would lob witticisms at them and, at times, bully, berate, and humiliate them with his overbearing Texas style. A lot of people genuinely like Dr. Phil McGraw. I really don’t like him, but I will admit sometimes he brings interesting stories to his show… interesting in terms of personal drama. And it’s easier to watch that show than try to read a book, as my eyesight gets less acute.
Someone on YouTube uploaded a bunch of episodes from 2014, and I started binge watching them earlier this week. Some of the shows have been downright ridiculous. A few have been sad. One or two were funny, but in a tragic way… like the woman who was married to a very dramatic and controlling man with anxiety issues. I made Bill watch an episode that featured a guy who treated his wife like a child, right down to shaming and scolding her as if one would lecture a six year old. But we saw an episode yesterday that actually made Bill cry… (not that it’s hard to do that… he’s a very kind and sympathetic person, and this episode was sad on multiple levels)
This show, which I think might have been taped in late 2013, was the story about Matt, his ex wife Mindy, and to a lesser extent, his second wife, Heidi. They’re all members of the LDS church, which of course drew in my attention even more, since Bill is an ex Mormon. You might think that Mormonism isn’t relevant in this situation, and maybe it isn’t in the grand scheme of things. However, at the beginning of the program, Mindy talks about texting her bishop as Matt held her and their four young children hostage. Then they showed a couple of typically Mormon-esque picture perfect family photos that were classic “families can be forever together” propaganda. I’ve gotten to the point at which I suspect a family is LDS simply by how they look in photos. Most of the time, I turn out to be right. Some of my ex Mormon friends refer to this special knack as “Modar”.
This episode was dramatic and, frankly, very sad. Matt was a member of the Utah National Guard and had deployed to Iraq. He was also, at one time, a sniper in the Marines. It’s very possible he suffers from PTSD and possibly, a traumatic brain injury, and that was brought up on the show. Maybe that could explain the sheer craziness of his life that, unfortunately, was visited on his four children with Mindy, and at least one child with Heidi. Here’s a quick and dirty list of the things their family faced in 12 years of marriage, before Mindy divorced Matt while he was incarcerated:
- On January 31, 2008, Matt held Mindy and their children hostage inside their Eagle Mountain, Utah home at gunpoint. A SWAT team was dispatched to end the crisis. He had two pistols, two rifles, and a shotgun, as well as plenty of ammunition. Matt would spend 490 days in jail for this stunt.
- The hostage situation arose that morning in 2008 because Mindy had “refused” intimacy.
- Matt made his daughter lick the floor around the toilet to prove that she had cleaned it properly.
- Their five year old son had gone through many surgeries due to kidney stones. One time, the boy was in so much pain, he told Matt he wanted to die. Matt handed the boy a knife and told him that if he wanted to die, he should just stab himself in the chest. Matt claimed he was trying to find out if the boy was “serious”, and assess “where he was mentally.” Then Matt told Dr. Phil that he would have stopped his son from harming himself if the boy– five years old, mind you– had tried to harm himself.
- Matt whipped his children with a belt.
- Matt duct taped his son to a bench when he was two. At the time of the Dr. Phil taping, that boy was 15 years old and in foster care. Mindy says she put him in foster care because he assaulted her. Matt said he wanted to take the boy home after his treatment.
- Matt took the family dog, and his young son, out to the desert, where he shot the dog 15 times, because he deemed her a “danger” to the family. The young son was forced to bury her.
- One of the couple’s daughters died of osteosarcoma just three weeks before this episode was taped.
- Matt remarried, and his second wife “hates” Mindy, because she thinks Mindy is a controlling and manipulative liar who “pushes Matt’s buttons”.
I guess they had to stop at just these incidents, since each episode only runs for about an hour. Obviously, the most dramatic incident, of quite a few dramatic situations that occurred within this family, was the one involving the SWAT team. On the morning of January 31, 2008, they had an argument, and somehow, Matt decided he needed to hold Mindy and their children hostage. According to Dr. Phil, there were fifty police officers involved in that situation, thirty of whom were SWAT team members. Fortunately, Mindy was able to text their bishop, who called the police. Otherwise, there might have been some fatalities that day.
This particular true crime incident is well documented in the press, and it’s pretty easy to find news articles about it, even though fourteen years have passed. According to Deseret News in 2008, Matt “was arrested after refusing to come out and talk with police officers for nearly four hours. He has since been charged with aggravated kidnapping, domestic violence in the presence of a child and making a terroristic threat.“
But the worst part of the story for both Bill and me, was the part about how he took the family dog to the desert and shot her in the head fifteen times, in front of his son, who was then forced to help bury the pieces of her that he could recover. I can’t abide animal cruelty, especially when it’s coupled with child abuse. According to Matt, the dog had escaped the yard and knocked over a child, then ran to a neighbor’s house where she attacked another dog. The story is kind of vague. I got the sense that Matt was just overcome with rage and wanted to kill something. So he took the defenseless dog and his son, claiming that his young son wanted to be a part of executing the family pet in an egregiously cruel and violent way. Personally, I think he should have gone to jail for doing that, but I prefer pets to most people.
Shockingly, in spite of the well-publicized violent crime perpetrated by Matt, he managed to remarry. His second wife, a woman named Heidi, also said that Matt had been violent in their home. However, at the time the show was aired, he hadn’t yet held her at gunpoint. She said he had destroyed pottery by throwing it at the fireplace.
Close to the end of the episode, the family shares part of the story about the daughter who died of cancer. Matt complained that Mindy would not allow him to see their daughter, who was hospitalized with cancer and immunocompromised. Matt complains that Mindy withheld visitation, and kept him from seeing their children. Personally, I can’t blame her for withholding visitation, given Matt’s violent nature, BUT… she also had four children with this man, and stayed with him for twelve years. And I get the sense that she enjoys being a victim and the drama that goes along with that. I can plainly see that that while Matt is obviously the worse parent in this scenario, Mindy is definitely no great shakes herself.
I got so invested in this story that I went looking for more information on the people who appeared on it. Sure enough, it didn’t take me long to find Matt’s ex wife. Much to my surprise, I discovered that Mindy was apparently later involved with yet another dangerous and violent man. I found a news article about how her ex boyfriend had burned down their home in 2019. At first, I wondered if maybe it wasn’t someone else who had the same name as hers, but the physical resemblance was right. And then I found Matt’s second wife on Facebook, and saw that she “liked” a Facebook page that was dedicated to Matt’s and Mindy’s daughter, who died of cancer in 2013. I did some digging on that page and discovered a couple of posts about the house fire. The GoFundMe that was set up to help Mindy and her family recover did not mention arson. I was thinking to myself… what in the hell? Was it not enough for her to be married to a violent man? She also got involved with another violent man who resorted to arson? Those poor kids!
I paged through the Facebook page for Mindy’s and Matt’s late daughter. I was a bit shocked to see that several times, Mindy had posted one particularly traumatic photo of her daughter being held down for a painful cancer treatment. The girl is in obvious distress, mouth open, eyes wide in fear, and there are several pairs of gloved hands holding her down. One person commented that she thought it was wrong to post that photo of the girl being traumatized like that. She wrote, “What on earth??? Who would think to take a picture…. not me that’s for sure.” Others wrote that Mindy was just trying to show everyone how terrible childhood cancer is. People shamed the woman who expressed shock at the photo and said it reminded her of taking pictures of child abuse.
I noticed that Mindy posted that horrifying photo of her daughter in distress several times, not just once, which makes me think that maybe the drama and the attention Mindy still gets by proxy is attractive to her. The more I looked at the page dedicated to the girl, the more I was reminded of Bill’s ex wife, who posts the same kinds of stuff. If you don’t know Ex, you might think she’s the mother of the year who is all about her kids. She’s constantly posting platitudes about what a caring person she is. In fact, Ex recently publicly posted the below photos on social media. But behind the scenes, the truth lies. In Ex’s case, it’s been affirmed by at least two of her adult children. She puts this stuff out there for strangers to see, obviously hoping to impress them and bask in the dramatic glory, while she alternately ignores and exploits her children, and other supposed loved ones in her life.
On the Dr. Phil episode, Dr. Phil says that Mindy’s and Matt’s eldest daughter wrote him a letter. In that letter, she wrote about the way her father treated her, and why she didn’t want to have anything to do with him. Below are a few screenshots from the letter the girl wrote:
At the end of Dr. Phil’s recitation of the excerpts of the daughter’s letter, Matt almost sounds like he’s going to cry, as he says he’s repeatedly apologized, but his daughter won’t accept his apologies. And there’s nothing more he can do; his therapist said that it was “all on his daughter”. I would agree with that.
Next, Dr. Phil talks to Heidi, who says she has a lot of animosity toward Mindy and she “hates” her. As I listen to Heidi, I can kind of empathize with her, on one level. She sounds a lot like I do, when I talk about Ex. However, the big difference is, my husband is NOT abusive or dangerous at all. He doesn’t even raise his voice, let alone resort to violence. I actually can’t blame Mindy for keeping their children from her ex husband. He is clearly a very violent and abusive man. On the other hand, I can also see why Heidi dislikes Mindy, because she does seem to be very egocentric, attention-seeking, and manipulative.
I don’t know if Heidi is still with Matt today, but I was really taken aback at around 29:00 into the video, during which she describes one of Matt’s violent outbursts toward her. She says he’s called her filthy names and threatened to beat the shit out of her if she called the police. He said he was not going to jail again unless he “deserved it”. At the time of that threat, she was holding their infant daughter. He took the baby from her, not because he was concerned for the baby’s welfare, but because he didn’t want her to take the baby from him. Heidi says she loves Matt, though, in spite of his obviously dangerous and violent nature.
Below are screenshots of Matt confronting Mindy about “stealing” his time with the children. You can see he’s on the verge of exploding. But Mindy looks dispassionate as she responds, “You stole my son’s childhood.” I would say that they both stole their children’s childhoods. She made a choice to stay with this man and have four children with him. Did this violent nature arise only at the end of their marriage? Maybe if he became violent only after going to Iraq, I could see it. I still definitely would have left after he killed the dog.
This story was quite the colossal trainwreck. I almost felt bad for watching it, because it was just so horrifying on so many levels. Yes, I know Dr. Phil brings people on his show that are trainwrecks, and he makes a living out of presenting cases of people who are in fucked up situations to be judged by the masses. It’s pretty terrible that this family’s drama was turned into entertainment… and I am slightly ashamed that I watched this episode, even though the drama was very compelling and, frankly, fascinating. But then, these folks agreed to go on the show, which they didn’t have to do. And the fact that they went on the show, apparently thinking that Dr. Phil would take a side, just shows that they’re all pretty delusional. I also found a recent Facebook post by Heidi that indicates she’s an anti-vaxxer who enjoys watching Tucker Carlson and Fox News.
There wasn’t any talk about Mormonism on this program, except for when Mindy says she contacted the bishop, who thankfully called the police when Matt was holding her and the kids hostage in their home. I do wonder, though, if people in the church noticed how completely crazy that couple was together. I doubt Mormonism helped them much, as bishops aren’t always qualified to counsel people in their wards, not that counseling would have helped this couple. I also notice that Mindy still uses her ex husband’s last name. I don’t know if they were endowed members of the church, but according to LDS beliefs, if they were “sealed” in the temple, she will be with him after they’re all dead. Comforting thought… NOT.
Dr. Phil ends this episode by telling the adults that the children did not “buy a ticket for this trainwreck” and they need to “declare peace.” I’m sure Dr. Phil knows that declaring peace is much easier said than done. It sounds to me like Matt does have a medical problem. It probably was brought on by neurological issues, perhaps due to his time in Iraq. But I also think his ex wife has some serious problems, and those problems existed even before the tragic death of their daughter. And while I can sympathize with Heidi, having been a second wife to a man with a dramatic, attention-seeking ex wife, I think our situations are very different. My husband is not violent at all, and thank God for that.
Maybe it’s wrong for me to write about this. I was a bit triggered, though, and I write when I’m triggered. I think people who go on reality TV or talk shows are kind of fair game, particularly when they augment their stuff by being in the news and posting public social media posts that are designed to get attention from the masses. Unfortunately, as we have learned from watching families like the Duggars go down in flames, going viral, seeking widespread attention, and being famous is a mixed bag. You can’t always control public perception. I think Mindy, like Ex, wants to portray herself in a certain way, but it’s pretty obvious to me that she’s playing a role. And while I might be able to excuse her for marrying one very violent and abusive man, the fact that she got involved with another violent person– one who apparently tried to burn down her house– and then she went on the news to complain about it– tells me that she enjoys being portrayed as a victim/saintly mother type. I would be a lot more impressed with her if she took some responsibility for herself and her children and focused on making sure they are safe, even though I’m sure her surviving kids are adults by now.
I guess today, it might be good if I went back to watching dog grooming videos.