You can’t live in this building without knowing at least one person who has done time. Several close friends of mine did time for murder. With all the screaming about the Myspace Mother and all the accusations that are flying around, I want to share the story of one of my friends. He’s an old man in his late sixties, suffering from a genetic disease that is causing his cerebellum to shrink. As a result of this, he has to use two canes to walk and has progressively lessening control over his muscles.

He’s a kind old man and one of the gentlest people I know. And he did twenty years in prison for murder.

He killed a child.

Back in the sixties they did not have all the methods for intervention in psychological crises that they do now. He was a young man, carrying too much weight on his shoulders. F had begun seeing a psychiatrist in an effort to head off the growing breakdown. No matter how much of his pay he sent home (he was in the army at the time), his wife insisted she did not have enough money. He became more and more distraught, doing everything he could and still he got the letters saying it was not enough.

F tried to get leave to go home and try to fix whatever was wrong with his wife. They had three children, a three-year-old girl, a two-year old girl, and an infant son. He loved his children. So F went AWOL and went back home to Massachusetts, desperate to straighten things out. He was just 21 years old at the time.

When he got home, he discovered why the money was not stretching. His wife had moved all her relatives into their home. He was feeding all of them.

As he became more and more distraught, F kept calling the psychiatrist, but not getting a call back. F could feel his mind collapsing. One morning, he was left alone with the three children. His son kept crying no matter what he did. F says that he felt as if his mind was not in his body as he went into the nursery and quietly suffocated the boy. Then he called the police on himself, and he went and waited on the steps of his home to be arrested.

Although the psychiatrist testified at the trial in his favor, F still did twenty years in prison.

I had known F for two years before he told me why people in the community hate him. The haunted look in his eyes as he told me his story will be forever etched in my mind. He had never forgiven himself.

Overburdened and unable to cope, he had a psychotic break that forever destroyed his life.

Nowadays, if a shrink had gotten those phone calls, intervention would have been immediate and the child would not have died. F would have gotten the help he needed.

Instead, he’s a kind, gentle, and very broken man.