Being that I have always loved the true crime genre, when I saw this available on NetGalley, I requested the audio. I discovered that this really isn’t a true crime book at all because the crime was over and done with quite early on. COUPLE FOUND SLAIN is more of a look at mental illness and how it is treated, or not treated, as the case may be. Being that mental illness is a problem with my own family, I have a lot to say.
Brian Bechtold admitted that he killed his parents. He was of the age and displayed the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, with some other diagnoses on the side. He is found to be ill and is sent to a psychiatric hospital called Clifton T. Perkins, rather than to prison. There, he gets better. There he remains. Is that the right decision, though?
Over the years there, it is Brian’s contention that he is no longer ill. Some of the doctors at Perkins concur, but only somewhat. During his incarceration, Brian outlives almost the entire staff and many of the other patients. (By outlives, I mean he stays on while the doctors, nurses, and security staff come and go.) His diagnosis keeps changing, even though he feels fine, and is otherwise a perfect patient, at least for a while. One doctor’s notes get passed on to the next doctor and the next and the next, all of them pretty much parroting the one before. If that first doctor in the chain makes erroneous assumptions or diagnoses, those are taken up by the next doctor and on and on. No matter Brian’s actual behavior, the view of the doctor’s is already preconceived based on the patient history the doctor is given.
With each of these doctors, (many of whom seemed to think they knew everything), came a string of medicines to treat whatever was the diagnosis of the day. I am personally familiar with almost of the meds discussed because I have mental illness issues within my own family. So many problems come along with these drugs and I don’t think anyone really knows all of the side effects. What I do know is that they can work very differently from person to person, they can take up to 3 months to start working and then when it’s decided they are no longer working or needed, they can take months for a patient to wean off of them. During this time, the meds can make a patient feel dead inside, or they can go to the other extreme and make the patient super sensitive. They can cause weight gains and losses, and they can cause severe fatigue. It seems to me that Brian and my family both have dealt with doctors that are basically just guessing. To be fair, treating mental illnesses are not as easy as treating something quantifiable like a broken arm or leg.
In the end, what it comes down to is that sometimes, being found incompetent to stand trial and being sentenced to a psychiatric hospital instead, can be worse than going to prison. In Brian’s case, that was definitely so. I know that he killed his parents, yes-that fact never escaped my mind, but if the system isn’t dedicated to rehabilitating the patients so that one day they can return to regular life, what is it exactly that they are doing?
I think the author presented Brian’s case in a simple way, starting with the family and Brian’s history with them, then quickly moved on to the murders and past it. Every event after that has been carefully researched and documented by by the author as well. She lays everything out and leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions. I did feel compassion and empathy for Brian, mostly because what happened is not exactly just or fair. How do you reconcile all of that with the crime he committed? It’s very difficult.
The narrator took a bit of getting used to, but I did get used to her. In the beginning, the narrative is a bit dry, but after the crime, in detailing all of the different events at the hospital and in the court system, she was clear and concise in her voicing.
Because of the author’s extensive research and because Brian’s case is a sad one, she was able to create a sense of empathy towards him and I think that can be rather difficult when a double murderer is involved. Kudos to her for that! But the fact remains that my heart goes out to the guy and I wonder if the author’s heart did too?
Don’t expect the same old-same old true crime book here folks. This is an in-depth look at only a few of the problems regarding how we care for mental illnesses in this country. No matter what you think about Brian’s case, this book WILL have you thinking.
Thanks to MacMillan Audio and NetGalley for the audio download of COUPLE FOUND SLAIN in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!