divorce, mental health, Reality TV, YouTube

Once again, a Dr. Phil episode leads me astray…

The featured photo is a screen grab from the first Dr. Phil episode Bart was featured on.

Last week, I wrote a post about an episode of Dr. Phil that I happened to catch on YouTube. I was kind of blown away by the family whose drama was presented, especially afterwards, when I went looking for more information about their story. It turned out that as crazy as that family’s story was, circa 2013, it has been even crazier since then. Probably against my better judgment, I connected the dots and wrote about them.

Well… today, I’m going to do the same thing, because I haven’t yet learned my lesson. I may regret it, but I figure if the people involved don’t want people to react to their story, they might try harder to fly under the radar. Because friends, it wasn’t hard to find more chapters to this particular hair raising Dr. Phil episode from 2014. It seems to me like this dude WANTS to be noticed. He has a very troubling pattern with the women in his life.

This guy has a talent for attracting personal drama. I wonder if some of it is deliberate.

A few days ago, I was randomly watching YouTube, and this episode of Dr. Phil came on. It was a shocking story about a man named Bart who was catfished THREE times by the same woman. The story goes that Bart had divorced his ex wife and had two small kids. He was lonely, so he tried online dating. He “met” a young woman named Megan who was a very pretty blonde and had a job as a nurse in California. Bart traded messages with the young woman for some time, and it seemed like she might be “the one” for him. But just as they were about to meet in person, the young woman suddenly got very sick with cancer and died. Supposedly, Megan’s brother knew that Bart was so in love with his sister that he sent some of her ashes to him.

Bart was “devastated”. He had a friend named Ali who helped him get over his loss. Ali told Bart that Megan would want him to find another love. Before long, he met another beautiful young woman; this time, she pursued him. The new woman was a brunette named Alison who supposedly worked undercover for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I would immediately be suspicious of Alison’s story. What kind of undercover agent tells someone online that they’re an undercover agent? That doesn’t make any sense. Did he really believe her story? I guess it could be plausible if one doesn’t know anything about cops. But then Bart says he noticed a discrepancy in the photos “Alison” had sent him after he reverse Googled them.

Sure enough, just as they were about to meet offline, Alison ended up in a very weird and improbable situation that prevented it. And sure enough, she also “died”… but then it turned out she had “faked” her death. Bart was “devastated” anew, and Ali comforted him. Then he supposedly realized that Ali’s name was actually Jeannie. And then he found out that Jeannie had ripped off Facebook photos of people she’d gone to high school with and completely fabricated stories about them. Jeannie apologized profusely when she was confronted by Dr. Phil. The women whose photos were used in her ruse were also on the show. They both said they felt violated by what happened. I could hardly blame them for that. I found out someone used one of my pictures on Facebook and turned it into a fake profile. I reported it four times, only to be told by Facebook there was nothing they could do about it. And yet, they can “punish” me for something I posted in 2017.

On the surface, Bart seems like a victim of a very cruel hoax perpetrated by a mixed up, lonely woman. I wondered what kind of person ends up in such a situation, so I went looking for more information about Bart. His story was completely outrageous to me. I wanted to see if he was doing better today. A lot of times, people who have been on Dr. Phil’s show are easy to Google.

Much to my shock, I found out more about Bart with ease. It turns out Bart is an entertainer, and his two kids are magicians who were on America’s Got Talent back in 2016. They made it to the semi-finals. They also appear in shows around the country. I found a negative review of a show the kids did in Destin, Florida, where the reviewer complained that Bart basically got up and recited his children’s show biz resumes. They are cute kids, and are no doubt talented. However, pairing this with Bart’s appearances on Dr. Phil’s talk show (he was on a second time, too– I haven’t see the later show, but I think it’s also about being catfished), I’m left with a puzzling picture.

But that’s not the craziest of it. Last year, the kids were featured in a Daily Mail article about how they sued a Missouri judge for false imprisonment. It seems that in 2019, they refused to go to their mother’s home for visitation. The kids, now teenagers, allege that they were jailed in cockroach infested jail cells and kept in solitary confinement for two days without due process. They allege the judge, Missouri Circuit Judge Eric Eighmy, was directly responsible for their confinement. According to the article:

[Eighmy] personally took them down to his courthouse cells and had a jailer lock them up with no shoes – or due process – for an hour after their first refusal to live with their mother in October 2019.

The complaint claims the judge also had no legal authority when he ordered local sheriffs to arrest the children in November 2020.

Bart and his ex wife divorced in 2009. After the split, both parents and the children moved to California, where the kids pursued showbiz/magician careers. When the ex wife began a relationship with another man, she decided to move to Arizona, but agreed that the kids should stay in California to develop their careers. But then in 2013, the mother decided that she wanted full custody. She filed in California, and then apparently filed again in Missouri in 2018.

The Missouri case was assigned to Judge Eric Eighmy, who had a previous involvement with Bart’s family. Before he was a judge, Eighmy had represented Bart’s mother in her divorce. According to the court papers, Bart was estranged from his mother, Linda Luttenbacher, and sided with his father in their divorce case. The Daily Mail reports:

Bart’s mother and Eighmy ‘had a falling out over his alleged negligence in defending her in a traffic ticket case,’ but ‘did not recuse himself [from the teens’ custody case] over the prior representation issues related to Mrs. Luttenbacher.’

Likewise, the kids apparently were, and perhaps still are, at odds with their mother for interfering in their careers “by ‘causing the cancellation of a South American tour, and refusing to let the kids leave her custody for auditions, even as the children wanted to continue their careers'”. But, the two parents supposedly reached an agreement in October 2019, which granted the mother physical and legal custody of the kids, but allowed them to go to California for the first ten days of each month during the school year, the first fifteen days of summer months, and all month for TV pilot season (January through April). As a side note, this agreement doesn’t really seem much like much of a change in custody to me. Sounds like Dad has the kids about half the time.

After the Missouri court proceeding, the kids refused to go home with their mom, so Judge Eighmy proceeded to “lecture” them about the “evils of Hollywood”. The kids then evidently argued with the judge and even told him that his actions were illegal. Maybe this happened, but it sure sounds like the kids are pretty audacious. I can’t imagine talking back to a judge and I haven’t been a kid in a long time!

So according to their federal lawsuit, filed on their behalf by their dad, Bart, they spent an hour, barefoot, in separate holding cells. Then, rightfully terrified after that experience, the kids went to a hotel room with their mother, who apparently was by then living in Utah and had come to Missouri for the court proceeding.

In August 2020, the kids had another run in with the judge. The kids were living at a family farm with their dad in Louisiana, sheltering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Apparently, the kids were mourning the death of their grandmother. According to the Daily Mail:

Judge Eighmy issued a ‘writ of bodily attachment’, allowing police to seize the children from their father after ruling that they had not been spending their court-ordered time with [their mom].

Cops showed up at the farm and the kids were arrested. A viral video of Bart’s children shows that the kids were handcuffed. Both children were taken in police SUVs to the parish sheriff’s department, where their mother awaited them. Once again, the kids refused to go with their mother, so they were taken to a juvenile detention center in Louisiana an hour from the sheriff’s office. At the juvenile detention center, they were strip searched, then awakened from sleep without being fed, and subjected to mental evaluations. They were then held in solitary confinement for two days. When they were eventually released to their father’s custody, Bart wrote on Facebook:

“My “babies” are FREE and SAFE!!!! I am not allowed to post any court details at this time because of a gag order but I can tell you they are free and safe!!! (and very very very happy and hungry right now!!!! ),” Bart said in his caption l with a photo snapped at the detention center. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the prayers and support!!!! We can never say thanks enough. I have tears in my eyes trying to type this. It appears this lengthy nightmare may just be over.”

Judge Eighmy was taken off the case, and all of his orders were vacated. However, the damage was done. The kids now have nightmares and don’t trust the police. Both children suffered injuries to their wrists after having been handcuffed. Bart’s comments to the Daily Mail were:

‘It’s absolutely unbelievable. As a father it’s very difficult to stand by and watch your kids that you love go through something so traumatic,’

‘As you can imagine it has greatly impacted their lives. It would impact any adult, let alone children.

I can only imagine how horrifying it is. For a minor that would have to be 10-fold. They’ve never been in trouble with the law. They’re honor students. [Son] is on track to graduate a year early. They’re hard-working.

‘It’s been my intention for it to be peaceful. That’s always been my goal. This whole thing has gotten extremely out of hand.’

Now… this story about the magician kids is shocking enough on its own. But remember, I found out about their story because I had seen Bart on Dr. Phil, on an episode about how he was catfished three times by the same woman. In that video, he was depicted as a victim. Now, in the wake of this custody drama, he and his kids are being depicted as victims of the court system and the mother of the children. I don’t know a thing about the mom, but I do know something about parental alienation. Something about this case kind of stinks of it. Consider too, that Bart was estranged from his own mom, just as his children evidently are from their mom. The kids evidently told the Louisiana cops that they are “afraid” of their mother. Sounds a lot like Bill’s kids years ago. They were “afraid” of Bill, who is one of the kindest and gentlest people I have ever met. Now, his younger daughter is talking to him again and telling him the truth about the years when they were estranged. She’s not afraid of Bill anymore, but I don’t think her relationship with her mom is so good anymore.

As I was digesting all of this stuff a couple of days ago, I wondered where the truth lies. How is it that one man can end up with so much drama in his life and so much negativity involving women who got close to him. He apparently had a nasty split with his ex wife that led to a very public custody battle. He is estranged from his mother. He got catfished three times by a lonely and sick woman who manipulated his emotions. I also saw evidence that Bart advertises his appearances on Dr. Phil, as if it’s something to be proud of. He has a very public Facebook page, and thousands of followers. If you look him up on Google, you will see public posts by him on Facebook and Twitter about how he was on Dr. Phil’s show, as if it’s something to put on a resume. I have also seen the video of his kids being arrested in Louisiana, which was no doubt taken by Bart. I can’t imagine wanting to put such a thing on the Internet, but it seems that it’s all a part of the show.

So… Bart says this whole thing has gotten “out of hand”, but I see a lot of evidence from Bart that he is the one who is publicizing it and blowing it up in the media. I had never heard of him or his kids a couple of days ago. I used to watch America’s Got Talent when I lived stateside, but I haven’t seen it since 2014, so I didn’t see his children’s performances on the show. And I don’t make a habit of reading tabloids like the Daily Mail or the NY Post, both of which have lengthy stories about Bart’s kids and their legal drama. Hell, I had quit watching Dr. Phil for years, and only recently started watching old episodes because of boredom brought on by winter in Germany and the pandemic. Now, I’ve fallen down this rabbit hole.

I truly wish the best for Bart’s children. It sounds to me like they’ve had a very dramatic and challenging upbringing. They are definitely attractive and charismatic, and I’m sure they are talented and skilled as magicians. But it also looks like their dad is a bit of an attention seeker and uses them in his pursuit of fame. And if there’s any truth to that notion, I feel sad for them. Hopefully, their mother really isn’t as bad as she’s been made out to be. That’s got to be hard on her, too.

Anyway… I probably should go back to watching dog grooming videos. Noyzi likes those better, anyway.

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Biden, disasters, healthcare, lessons learned, politicians, politics, poor judgment

Incognito immunization idiocy equals misery in Missouri and elsewhere…

This morning, I woke up to a private message from my Facebook friend, Marguerite. She sent me a link to an article that appeared in The Atlantic. It was about people in Missouri who are choosing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but wish to do it incognito. Why? Because they’re afraid if their family and friends find out they’ve gotten immunized, they’ll be disowned or unfriended or whatever.

There are so many people coming to Ozarks Healthcare who don’t want to be recognized for getting the shot(s) that they’ve actually had to make a private setting. People are showing up in disguises and begging healthcare workers not to tell anyone they’ve gotten vaccinated. Healthcare workers aren’t supposed to be telling people about people’s private healthcare business, anyway. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, though.

I guess I’ve been away from my family and American friends for a really long time now… Maybe watching Bill being “disowned” by his children has also made me realize that being cast out of the family isn’t necessarily a death sentence. One can survive being ostracized by friends and family. But contracting the Delta variant of COVID-19 certainly could be a death sentence for a lot of people. I just can’t wrap my head around the sheer lunacy of people who are still denying that this is a REAL illness that is KILLING people.

Shared by the ex wife of one of my Trump loving relatives… It’s sheer stupidity on an epic level.

Missouri, in particular, is dealing with surging COVID-19 infections. Yesterday, I saw a video about Daryl Barker, a 31 year old married man and father who was vehemently against getting vaccinated against COVID-19. He contracted COVID-19, and it got bad enough that he had to go to the hospital. The video below, which was made last month, shows Barker in his bed wearing oxygen and hooked up to wires while his wife, Billie, and son, Brody, “camp outside” at Barker’s hospital room window. Unbelievably, Daryl Barker’s wife says she’s still against the vaccine, but concedes that she’d rather deal with side effects from the immunization than get the illness. Billie knows of what she speaks, because the virus has run through Barker’s extended family, and she has had it herself. Once Daryl gets well– if it actually happens– they plan to get the shot(s).

So why are people denying the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines? Daryl Barker says he was against getting the shot(s) because “we’re a strong conservative family.” What exactly does Barker mean by “strong”? Is he saying he “strongly believes” in conservative values, and that somehow means not getting vaccinated? Or does he mean being he’s “strong” in that being conservative somehow makes him impervious to the virus? Clearly, he was wrong on that count. When he arrived at the hospital, which was almost completely full, Barker was critically ill. He was given just a 20 percent chance of survival!

When did Republicans become so anti-vaccine in the first place? I always thought anti-vaxxer types were “crunchy” people who believed in avoiding putting “unnatural” things in their bodies? How did avoiding vaccines become affiliated with being Republican? Hell, even Donald Trump got the vaccine after he and Melania got sick last year. If he hadn’t been POTUS and gotten amazing medical care, he might have died from COVID-19. Yet somehow, Trump supporters are not getting the vaccines themselves. It makes no sense to me. COVID-19 has NOTHING to do with U.S. politics. It’s a global public health crisis that is affecting and killing people worldwide.

My friend Marguerite lives in California and we “met” through the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. I have never met her offline, but we seem to have some things in common, like our mutual love for musical theater and other music. We also shake our heads at the sheer lunacy of what’s going on in the United States right now. I wonder if I will recognize the United States when I go back there. It seems like a very different place to me now.

I didn’t used to think of Republicans as any less intelligent than Democrats or any other political group. In fact, when I was growing up, it seemed like Democrats were less likely to be “smart” about things. Maybe it’s because of the environment I lived in; southeastern Virginia is chock full of conservative types. It wasn’t until I joined the Peace Corps that I started meeting a lot of “liberals”, and it took some time after that experience that my political leanings started shifting. I think I’ve always been somewhat socially liberal. I used to be much more fiscally conservative than I am now.

It’s shocking to me to read comments from so-called conservatives about vaccines on social media. Some people are incredibly misinformed. I totally get being worried about vaccine injury and side effects. There are potential risks to anything a person does, and some people have legitimately suffered ill effects and even died from the vaccines. But I can’t imagine how a person, looking rationally at the risks of being vaccinated versus getting the virus, would assume catching COVID-19 would be safer. Many people have gotten immunized and they’re really fine afterwards. The vaccinated people who get COVID aren’t getting nearly as sick, either.

In all seriousness, though… if this incognito immunization idiocy keeps up, we won’t have to worry too much about Trumpers. A lot of them will either be debilitated by COVID long hauler syndrome or they’ll be fucking dead! I read another sad story yesterday in The Washington Post about how COVID is devastating families, not just because of the loss of loved ones, but also because of the financial consequences of being so sick.

33 year old Lisa Grim, an Ozark, Missouri based mother of two, lost her 37 year old husband, Alan, to COVID-19 last October. When her husband died, Lisa lost her ability to pay mortgage on their home. She and her sons, 10 year old Ralphie, and 4 year old Walker, were forced to move into a crappy apartment. It took over a month for her to find the apartment, which is 35 miles from her house. She rented it sight unseen, because the landlord was the first one in twenty she called who actually responded.

Lisa Grim is drowning in medical debt– outstanding bills from her husband’s illness, as well as an emergency room bill of her own, when the stress of her crumbling life got to be so bad that she had a full on panic attack and a severe case of gastroenteritis. She has legal bills, and both she and her older son are in therapy. Her husband died without a will, and left her just $42,000 in life insurance. She has credit card bills, too.

I have a lot of empathy for Lisa Grim. I remember how it was for Bill and me as he recovered from his disastrous first marriage and subsequent divorce. But in our case, we could work together and there weren’t children of our own to consider. Lisa Grim is dating now, but she still has two young children, and somehow she’s got to support them as she climbs out of the huge financial hole COVID-19 has wrought in her life.

I get that people don’t want to cooperate with Joe Biden, because some people wrongly believe that he “stole” the election from Donald Trump. Somehow, these folks can’t understand how a normal person wouldn’t want Trump to be president anymore. I really don’t get why that is… I mean, I can understand wanting to vote for the candidate who represents one’s political preferences. But Donald Trump is a just a walking humanitarian nightmare. He’s literally a criminal. Why not insist on someone basically ethical, yet still conservative? And Trump got the vaccine. I see a lot of conservatives holding Trump and his ilk up as people to emulate. Why don’t they emulate one of Trump’s better decisions and get vaccinated?

We have people clamoring to go back to school and work, but they don’t want to have to get vaccinated. And they don’t want masks to be required. I completely understand not liking the masks. I hate them, too, and I hope someone comes up with something that works better in controlling the spread of the virus. I still mostly stay at home because I don’t like wearing masks. I do wear the masks when they’re required, though, because this isn’t a political hill for me to literally die upon. COVID-19 is not the way I want to go out of this life. There is no doubt whatsoever that COVID-19 is real, and it’s killing people in heartbreaking ways. Those who are left behind are bereaved and broke… it’s senseless, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

I truly don’t understand why some people are afraid to tell their friends and families that they’re being vaccinated. I don’t see why the “freedom loving” crowd is concerned about the personal decisions their friends, family members, and associates make. I get not liking to be lectured or condescended to, and I don’t like the insulting and all knowing attitudes people on both sides have regarding COVID and vaccinations. But really… watch the videos and read about some of the people who have perished because of this virus.

Even conservatives who have fallen ill are changing their tunes… A lot of them want to be vaccinated when it’s too late. Some have admitted that they made the wrong decision. A few, who have ended up dying, have said that if they recovered, they would get the shot(s) and be a voice of reason for the holdouts. Dick Farrel, a now deceased radio host and coronavirus vaccine skeptic, was one of those people who claimed he would have made amends, given the chance. But sadly, the vocal Trump supporter is now pushing up daisies. I’m sure Mr. Farrel would advocate for being an example to his conservative friends who still think this is a hoax or a joke of some sort.

It’s long past time for people to wake up and do the right thing. If a person’s family and friends have a problem with his or her choice to get vaccinated, they quite simply need to get over it. Time is running out.

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: Dr. Debora Green… the face of evil

I posted this piece on my original blog on February 22, 2014. It contains a review I wrote for Epinions.com on September 29, 2003. It appears here as/is.

Maybe fourteen years ago or so, I read a book by Ann Rule called Bitter Harvest.  The book was about Dr. Debora Green, a woman who, as a young woman, seemed to have everything going for her.  She was extremely intelligent and had sailed through high school, college, and medical school.  She was pretty and talented and had a thriving career.  She had started out as an emergency room doctor, but then decided she’d rather be an oncologist.  She married her second husband, Dr. Michael Farrar, a cardiologist in the Kansas City area, and bore him three healthy children, a boy and two girls.

As the years passed, Debora Green’s career hit the skids.  She drank too much, was subject to rages, and gained a lot of weight.  She failed her medical boards and eventually lost her license to practice medicine.  And finally, she determined she wanted her husband dead.  As she poisoned the children against their father by filling their heads with lies, she served him food that she had prepared.  The food contained castor beans, which is where ricin comes from.  Ricin is a deadly poison and the contaminated food made Dr. Farrar very sick. 

But Dr. Farrar didn’t die.  He just went through hell.  Finally, Debora Green decided to off him and her children, once and for all.  In October 1995, she set fire to the $400,000 home they had recently purchased, despite the fact Farrar and Green were separated.  She told her thirteen year old son, Tim, not to try to escape the blaze because the fire department was on the way.  Her six year old daughter, Kelly, asphyxiated, along with their dog, Boomer.  And ten year old Kate jumped off the roof to save herself, with no help from her mother.

Dr. Debora Green was eventually tried and convicted for murder and attempted murder.  She sits in prison in Kansas and will soon be celebrating her 63rd birthday.  I thought about this case recently and looked up Debora Green to see if anything new had happened.  I came across this photo.

This woman’s eyes look like pure evil to me.

I’m sure prison life is hard and that has something to do with the way this woman looks.  But to me, she looks like a brute.  It’s hard to believe she was once considered beautiful and brilliant.  I would not want to meet her in a dark alley, let alone go to her for treatment of cancer.

The first time I read that book, I had never run into someone like Debora Green.  Now that I’ve learned about narcissists and sociopaths, this story is easier to believe.

I liked Ann Rule’s book on this subject. Below is my review from 2003.

Is the mother of the year award in the cards for Dr. Debora Green?

Not likely. As a matter of fact, she’s rotting in prison as I write this. Why? Because she murdered two of her three children by burning down her house and tried to poison her husband by spiking his food with ricin. How did all of this come about? The whole sordid tale is spun for us in Rule’s 1997 true crime book, Bitter Harvest, a truly amazing story of a brilliant woman whose personality seemed to change dangerously by the minute.

Debora Jones (aka Deb) started life simply enough. Born to Bob and Joan (pronounced Joanne) Jones, she and her sister Pam grew up in rural western Illinois. Both girls were exceptionally bright. Deb never earned less than an “A” in school– her IQ was tested at 165. She was athletic, witty, musically talented, pretty, and popular, and she had a special gift for chemistry. After high school, Deb went to the University of Illinois to study chemical engineering; however, she was told that there was a glut of engineers. She ended up majoring in chemistry: pre med by default. It was in college that she earned her first “B”, a devastating blow to her ego. Nevertheless, she was able to graduate in three years and go on to medical school at the University of Kansas. During that time, she was married to Duane J. Green, an engineering PhD student at the University of Illinois.

After medical school, Deb became an emergency room physician. She divorced Green and met Michael Farrar, a medical student four years her junior. Farrar fell in love with the attractive, vivacious senior resident who drove a sportscar. They married in May 1979, but Deb kept Green’s name for “professional reasons”. In the early years of her marriage to Farrar, Deb supported Mike with her ER physician’s income as he completed his training as a cardiologist. However, she soon grew tired of the mundane cases she saw in the emergency room and decided to change her specialty to oncology (cancer).

Mike recalled that he knew he was making a mistake as he walked down the aisle on his wedding day. His parents didn’t like Deb and her parents didn’t like him. Nevertheless, he went through with the wedding. On the first night of their honeymoon, he had a hard time getting Deb to consummate their marriage; she preferred to read a novel instead. When they did have sex, it was uninspired. The couple managed to have three children anyway, a boy, Tim in January 1982, a girl, Kate (called Lissa in this book) in December 1984, and another girl, Kelly in December 1988.

Mike enjoyed great success in his career as a cardiologist and was regarded as a rising star in the medical community of the Kansas City area. Deb, however, experienced problems. While she was technically quite proficient, her patients found her cold and uncaring. Her colleagues found her hard to work with, especially when they disagreed with her. Deb rarely kept up with new advances in her field and was unable to pass her boards, while Mike managed to pass with flying colors. While their marriage had never been good, it soon became worse. At one point, Mike caught her stealing painkillers from her patients. Deb eventually ended up leaving medicine altogether.

More disturbing were Deb’s temper tantrums, which she would sometimes indulge in public. Mike would usually see her go off in airports when flights were delayed. She’d cuss out ticket agents, using the “F” word and various other epithets liberally in front of her children and throwing her professional title and Mike’s around in order to get her way.

Despite the horror of their marriage, Deb would not grant Mike a divorce, so Mike moved out of their upscale Kansas City, Missouri house and into an apartment. Four months after his move, Deb implored him to move back home, promising him that things would be better. Mike decided that if he complied, they would need a larger house. They found one in Prarie Village, Kansas, and at a bargain. But at the last minute, Mike changed his mind. Not long afterward, the Kansas City house caught on fire, forcing Deb and the kids to move into Mike’s apartment for awhile. The reconciliation was enough to convince Mike to cave in and buy the house in Kansas, for considerably more than he had originally agreed to pay for it. The fire in Kansas City was ruled an accident, so insurance paid for the damage. Mike and Deb ended up making $20,000 on its sale.

From there, things really started to go south, until the night of October 24th, 1995, when Tim and Kelly Farrar were killed by fire in their parents’ beautiful home. On several occasions during August and September 1995, Mike was in the hospital, suffering from a mysterious illness that brought him to the brink of death over and over again. His symptoms baffled doctors, until Mike found castor beans in Deb’s purse. Castor beans are very poisonous. They contain ricin, which is the third deadliest toxin on earth, next to botulism and plutonium.

I realize that I’ve given quite a bit of information here, but really I’ve only scratched the surface of this very convoluted story. Ann Rule has done a great job of presenting a horrifying case in great detail. There’s a lot of information to digest, but it’s interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading, even though the book is 482 pages long. Rule includes pictures which I found astounding– they show how Deb Jones changed from her high school picture to her middle aged adult picture. As a teen and young adult, Deb had been quite attractive. By the time she was in her forties, she no longer resembled the same person. She had gained a lot of weight, cut off all of her hair, and even her face looked different. In short, the woman was unrecognizable.

If you’ve ever read one of Ann Rule’s books before, you know that she provides several components to her books– the background story, the legal story, and the police story are a few that spring to mind right now. Readers get to examine Deb’s cold detachment as police interviewed her after the fire. Readers also get to read the accounts of other family members and witnesses who noted Deb’s strange reaction to the loss of two of her children.

I’ll admit that it took me awhile to get into this book the first time I read it, but once I started to really read it, I got hooked. This is definitely a fascinating read, and I for one am very glad that this is one mother who won’t be celebrating Mother’s Day in the comfort of her own home. 

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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athletes, celebrities, mental health, psychology, tragedies, YouTube

Partial repost: Christy Henrich and Karen Carpenter, and discovering Dr. Todd Grande…

Recently, I watched a video done about Karen Carpenter by YouTube shrink, Dr. Todd Grande. Dr. Grande does videos about mental health topics in a trademark “flat” kind of way. When I first encountered him on YouTube, I didn’t like his videos that much because his delivery was so dry. But I kept coming back, because he chose interesting topics. After awhile, I realized that I enjoy his videos and even his “flat” style… especially when he throws shade in kind of a bland way. In the video he made about Karen Carpenter, Dr. Grande remarked that in terms of her musical talent, Karen was “like a Ferrari stuck on a go cart track”. He implied that she was much more talented than her brother, Richard, is. I got a kick out of that observation.

Karen Carpenter… Dr. Grande implies that her wings were clipped by her brother… Frankly, I think her mother was more of a wing clipper.

Personally, I disagree with Dr. Grande that Karen’s talent was that much more impressive than Richard’s is. They had strengths in different areas. Richard is a fantastic pianist, and he’s a great arranger. He knew what songs went best with Karen’s vocals. Karen was a magnificent singer and drummer. Together, they worked well. Both of them worked apart with somewhat less success. I do think that Karen and Richard had a very controlling mother, and personally, I think if anyone should be blamed for what happened to Karen Carpenter, it could be her mom that deserves the most shade. Agnes Carpenter was overbearing and overreaching… and she didn’t want her children to be independent adults. Moreover, she obviously favored Richard, which probably took a toll on Karen’s self esteem. Maybe that had to do with her development of anorexia nervosa. I don’t know.

Anyway… I enjoyed watching Dr. Grande’s video about Karen Carpenter and realized he’d done a bunch of similar videos about other celebrities. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on Christy Henrich, a brilliant 80s era gymnast who famously perished from anorexia nervosa in 1994. So I left him a comment. Maybe he’ll read and heed it. I really think it would be interesting to hear Dr. Todd Grande’s deadpan views about Christy’s public struggle with anorexia. She had a tremendous work ethic, which extended to her illness. At one point, Christy’s weight fell to 47 pounds. It’s not that I admire her for being that emaciated. It’s more of a comment on her sheer will power and relentless pursuit of her goals, self-destructive as they were. I’m sure a mental health expert would have a lot to say about her.

A video a YouTuber made about Christy Henrich.

In the meantime, below is a repost of an article I wrote in February 2014 about Christy Henrich for my original blog. It was inspired because Bill and I went on a “hop” to Spain and Portugal in January of that year. On the way back to Texas, we landed in Missouri and drove through Christy’s hometown of Independence, Missouri. I thought of her as I realized how much Missouri reminds me of Virginia. As usual, the repost appears “as/is”.

Remembering Christy Henrich

Back in the late 1980s, I had a brief but intense obsession with watching gymnastics.  I would catch meets on ESPN or Home Team Sports.  In those days, ESPN only had one channel and I believe HTS is now defunct.  I remember seeing very old footage of Shannon Miller when she was just 12 years old.  I remember watching Brandy Johnson and Phoebe Mills.  I could never so much as turn a cartwheel myself, but I really enjoyed watching the tiny girls compete.  I admired them for being so tough and strong.  I was into horses myself, though.

I also remember Christy Henrich, who was less than a month younger than me.  When I first saw her, she reminded me a bit of a soccer player.  Short and muscular without an ounce of fat on her, she didn’t have the long, graceful limbs of the Russian or Romanian gymnasts.  But she was very strong and had an amazing work ethic.  Her coach, Al Fong, even called her E.T. for extra tough. Sometimes, that extra tough work ethic worked against her, as you can see in the video below.

This may have even been the first meet I ever saw Christy in… This performance was not very good. The commentators say she “looks tired” and “doesn’t look right”. They also mention that she was warming up way before everyone else was.

Not being privy to anything going on in gymnastics that wasn’t aired on TV, I didn’t know about Christy Henrich’s eventual slide into anorexia nervosa and bulimia.  Back in those days, I had a bit of an obsession about eating disorders, too.  I knew a lot about them and even flirted with them.  If I had known about Christy, I might have even admired her for her anorexia.  That’s how dumb I was at 16.

Christy Henrich at 17

I remember watching the very intense 1988 Summer Olympics gymnastics trials.  I was kind of rooting for Kristie Phillips, an adorable strawberry blonde who had seemed poised for gymnastics stardom.  A growth spurt and weight gain had sidelined her in 1987 and she was back to try to win a spot on the team.  She placed 8th and was named a second alternate.  She would not be going to Seoul unless someone got hurt.  Christy Henrich missed the team altogether by .0118 of a point.  There was no hope for her at all, unless she set her sights on 1992 in Barcelona.

About Kristie Phillips, who also suffered from an eating disorder.
Kristie Phillips was on Oprah, along with Christy’s mom and boyfriend. Here, she talks about her suicidal ideation after she missed the Olympic team.

In 1990, a judge supposedly told Christy Henrich after a meet in Budapest, Hungary that in order to be a serious contender for the Olympics, she would need to lose weight.  At 4’11” and 93 pounds, Christy didn’t have much weight to lose.  But she took the judge’s words to heart and went on a serious diet, quickly shedding five pounds.  She was praised for the weight loss at first, but then she slid headlong into a battle that would eventually cost her her life.

Christy Henrich in 1990

By January 1991, she had lost so much weight that her coach, Al Fong, kicked her out of the gym.  A week after he kicked her out, she came in to tell him she was quitting the sport.  Though she had a loving family and a boyfriend who wanted to marry her, the eating disorders had taken hold of her.  On July 26, 1994, she died of multiple organ failure.  She had just turned 22 years old and she weighed less than 60 pounds.  At one point, her weight was just 47 pounds.

A clip from a 1995 episode of Oprah in which Christy’s mother and boyfriend talk about her struggles with eating disorders.  

I remember reading Joan Ryan’s book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  In fact, I read an excerpt of it in the Washington Post just days before I left the country for Armenia to serve in the Peace Corps.  When I got home in 1997, I bought the book and read it.  It was about female gymnasts and figure skaters.  In 2000, Ryan updated the book, including discussion about Dominique Moceanu’s desire to be emancipated from her parents because her father was spending her money. 

I don’t know what made me think of Christy today.  It’s not her birthday or the anniversary of her death, though in July of this year, she will have been dead for 20 years.  That amazes me.  It seems like yesterday, we were 22 years old.  The older you get, the faster time flies.

Last month, as Bill and I worked our way back to Texas from our trip abroad, we drove through Christy’s hometown of Independence, Missouri.  We stayed a night in Kansas City, which is where Christy died.  For some reason, I even thought about Christy’s mother as we passed through.  It was frigid during our brief time there and, looking around, it didn’t look like the kind of place that would excite me.  On the other hand, I did notice how nice and folksy everyone seemed to be.  It seems like the kind of place you could get to know your neighbors.

Christy Henrich in 1987.

I’m sure that the last twenty years have been tough for all who knew and loved Christy Henrich.  What happened to her was just gruesome.  I still like watching gymnastics today, but remember Christy’s story reminds me that the sport has a bit of a dark side.  To read more about Christy Henrich, I recommend the book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  

An eye opening read.

Edited to add: in 2014, I still had no idea how dark gymnastics can be… that was before we knew about John Geddert and Larry Nassar.

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psychology, teen help

Circle of Hope Ranch: Another Missouri Christian “teen help” snake pit closes…

Good morning, everybody. I am writing today’s post on my new laptop. It’s the first laptop I have bought since July 2014, just before we moved back to Germany from Texas. I bought my first laptop because my computer had been shipped and I predicted wanting to have a computer for the times when I traveled. It seems crazy to buy a new computer for travel now… especially since my old machine still works. But since I’m not having much fun right now, I decided it was time to upgrade. I have Bill’s blessing, too!

This morning, I became aware of yet another Christian boarding school in Missouri that was just closed. The fact that this school was in Missouri is noteworthy, since Missouri is notorious for having little oversight over private boarding schools, such as the now defunct Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy. Consequently, there are a lot of “teen help” type schools in that state, especially those affiliated with independent Baptist churches. These schools are often located in tiny, rural towns and are set up on vast, remote plots of land, free from the prying eyes of neighbors and authorities, and hard for the children to escape.

The name of the school I’m writing of today is Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch and Boarding School. This place, located in Humansville, a hamlet in southwestern Missouri, was run by Christian couple Boyd and Stephanie Householder, aged 71 and 55 respectively. Boyd Householder faces 79 felony counts and one misdemeanor, which include “charges for child molestation, sodomy, sexual contact with a student and neglect of a child.” His wife, Stephanie, is charged with 22 felony counts of “abuse or neglect of a child, and endangering the welfare of a child.”

News item about Circle of Hope Ranch.

The alleged abuses took place between 2017 and 2020, although Boyd Householder opened the school in 2006. He claimed that his methods could “reform rebellious teenage girls.” His allegedly abusive brand of straightening out hundreds of girls went unabated until his own daughter, Amanda, spoke out on Tik Tok. Amanda has not spoken to her parents since 2016. The school’s official Web site is now defunct, but you can access an archived version of it here.

Having done my fair share of studying these types of boarding schools, it comes as no surprise to me that the Householders are accused of using cruel methods to control their charges. The Christian couple is accused of withholding food, restraining girls, and forcing them to do manual labor. Girls were allegedly restrained with handcuffs and zip ties, and gagged with dirty socks. It occurs to me that the Householders may have stumbled across an effective way to satisfy their needs… free labor that parents actually PAID them to force their daughters to do, and sexual kink. The fact that Householder used dirty sock gags and hard restraints on teenaged girls suggests to me that he’s likely a sexual deviant.

Besides obviously being perverted, Householder also supposedly told one of his charges how to commit suicide. He also allegedly pushed a girl down stairs. Past residents have also alleged that Householder slammed girls’ heads against walls, kept them in strict isolation, poured hot sauce in their mouths, and used duct tape and socks to prevent a girl from using her hands. Boyd Householder’s wife, Stephanie, was less of a participant in the abuse, but aided and abetted her husband in committing them.

As I write this post this morning, I’m watching the latest season of 60 Days In, a reality show that has civilians voluntarily entering jails undercover in an effort to help wardens improve security and get information about what goes on inside their facilities. As horrific, dangerous, and violent jails are, at least in the vast majority of them, inmates have basic human rights and some knowledge of when they might be released. Teenagers that are sent to the “therapeutic” or “religious” boarding schools often have no idea when they might be allowed to leave. And they have little to no contact with anyone who can or will advocate for them.

Where was the oversight? Didn’t parents or child welfare workers take note? Well, according to NBC News, legal authorities did receive numerous complaints about Circle of Hope– at least 19 reports were logged since the school was opened in 2006. But thanks to Missouri’s lax laws regarding private school oversight, no actions were ever taken. Consequently, there have been many cases of abuse and even a few deaths at religious and/or military reform schools like Circle of Hope. I mentioned Mountain Park, in Patterson, Missouri, earlier in this post. That school closed in 2004, but eight years prior to its closure, a student was murdered there by another student. There was also a death at the now defunct Thayer Learning Center, a Mormon/military based program based in Kidder, Missouri, when a student collapsed there.

I’ve been following these types of reform programs for about twenty years. Progress has been made, since a lot of the worst programs have been shut down. However, as the news about Circle of Hope suggests, there are still programs out there that operate without any oversight and employ extremely abusive methods to control teens. And a lot of the people running the schools are deviants who are looking after children who need help from trained professionals. But even some of the so called professionals are ill equipped and unsuitable for the job.

I wrote about a program that was located near where I grew up. Hopesville Christian Academy had a history of taking in troubled teens from all over the state of Virginia. Many times, the care was paid for by taxpayers. But then it turned out that the man running the school, who had inherited the job from his father-in-law who had founded it, was sexually abusing his charges.

Also, back in 2008, I became aware of a deviant social worker from Middlesex County, Virginia, the county adjacent to my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia. The social worker, Arthur Bracke, had worked with abused children for many years. But he was also abusing them himself. After he retired from his job, he was outed for being a deviant and wound up in prison, where he later died. As someone who has a MSW myself, it is shocking to me that this man got away with molesting and abusing so many children and managed to retire from his job before he was finally discovered. Before his arrest, Bracke tried to murder one of the three sons he had adopted from the foster care system by intentionally setting his rented house on fire while the 19 year old boy was sleeping in it.

Although there are some good people who work with teens, there are also a lot of bad people. And they take advantage of stressed out, desperate, frustrated parents who just want to pain to end. The kids go off to “rehab” and their parents are kept unaware of what’s going on with their child. Many times, the youngsters come out of these schools scarred by the abuse and traumatized forever. Or, in worse cases, the children end up dying from abuse, neglect, or murder.

I’m glad to read that another school has been shut down. I just wish it had never been allowed to open and operate without any oversight whatsoever. My heart breaks for the children who were forced to endure the abuses at Circle of Hope and other schools like it. Life is hard enough without having your parents send you away to a place where your life is controlled by criminals. I hope justice is served in the Householders’ case. I am all for them getting a fair trial, but I have learned that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It will be interesting to read what becomes of them as they move through the legal system… and I hope Missouri lawmakers are paying attention and take some action to stop these abusive programs. I also hope parents open their eyes and get wise to these places.

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