Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Erased--Missing Women, Murdered Wives

OK. I've finished this book, and had a bit of time to process it.

Short version: I like it. Buy it. Read it.

For anyone who read Ablow's book about Scott Peterson and thought, "No, that's not quite right...," Marilee Strong has the answer. I was telling a friend about the book, and she said, "It's like a perfect storm of psychiatric conditions." That about sums it up.

Marilee Strong talks about many cases of men killing their wives, girlfriends and significant others, beginning with Chester Gillette, who murdered his pregnant girlfriend in 1906. She cites cases throughout the twentieth century, and on into this one. Ewing Scott. Richard Crafts. Rae Carruth. Perry March. Michael Peterson. Jeffrey MacDonald. The list goes on and on.

She says that the perfect storm consists of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. She refers to these traits as "the dark triad." Psychopaths, we know about. Daumer. Bundy. Duncan. These "cold killing machines" who have no empathy. The thing about Peterson that didn't fit this label was the fact that he had never been in trouble before. Psychopaths tend to get in trouble with the law early in life, and stay that way. Not all of them, of course, but most. The narcissist, on the other hand, is not usually a killer. He likes to reinvent himself, and he needs a constant supply of adoration and positive reinforcement, but his usual pattern is to just disappear when the supply dries up. However, when Machiavellianism is added to the mix. The Machiavellian is a master manipulator. To quote from the book:

"One can connect all three of these characteristics in someone like Scott Peterson," said Paulhus. "If indeed he is a major narcissist he feels like he is special, like laws don't apply to him. He's entitled to do things that other people are not supposed to do. That leads into Machiavellianism. That sense of superiority means he can manipulate others because they are not as clever as he is. Then you work your way down into psychopathy: remorselessness, impulsiveness."

She also explains the discrepancy between two different studies of deaths of pregnant women. A study in Maryland found that murder was the leading cause of death for pregnant women. A national study found murder to be the second highest cause of death, right behind car accidents. Pregnancy is not always found during autopsies, unless far enough along to be noticeable. As well, in cases where a body is never found, the statistics cannot be included, because there is no death certificate or autopsy report. Never mind the fact that we don't know, and will never know haw many of these narcissistic, Machiavellian psychopaths succeed in convincing police that their spouse died in an accident, when it was actually murder.

Ms Strong also points out the ways that these killers manipulate the legal system to their advantage.

All in all, this book is very readable, even for me, who has no experience with psychology or profiling. If you are interested in and worried about this phenomenon, this book is a must.

Trust me, Scott Peterson and Mark hacking are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here's a link to the book at Amazon.com.


  1. i just started blogging and found this blog under arts. I like your post will become a regular. Interesting and will buy the book.

  2. I spent over an hour writing this post, and you are right there! Thanks so much!

    The book was a real eye-opener for me.

    I read your blog. I am one of those who hangs it all out there. I started to have something to do with my hands while I quit smoking. That was two and a half years ago, and my life has completely turned upside down since then. I am still trying to find my feet in this new world, and writing helps.

  3. Thanks for the info on the book. I'll have to read it.

  4. I read a great book that every parent should give their daughters to read: The GIft of Fear by Gavin De Becker.

    It's an instruction manual of sorts on how to trust your instincts and recognize the signals that killers, rapists and stalkers use to trap their victims. It sounds creepy but it was actually very empowering. How many times have any of us written off a gut feeling about someone or something as simply "being paranoid" or "over-reacting"? This book talks about how these really are protective instincts that we need to listen to.

    Anyway, just thought I'd share!

  5. Thank you very much. I haven't read that one, and I will do so ASAP.

  6. I ordered "The Gift of Fear" from Amazon. Thanks, SB, for the heads up!

  7. I think I have that natural fear in spades. Even thinking of putting my trust or emotions into another relationship, fills me with dread...very sad, actually.

    You must worry for your daughters too, Ronni. I know I do.

  8. Thanks for the comments--I'm the author. After covering the Scott Peterson case daily, I, too felt distressed that no one seemed to be digging into what was so obvious--that we were hearing wave after wave of these crimes, yet no one even had a name for it. It was similar to the situation before the concept of "serial killer" gained acceptance and each case looked as though it was something that had never happened before.

    Ablow's book on the Peterson case was, too me, a thundering disappointment. Of course, he is a DEFENSE "forensic psychologist" so his original plan seemed to have been to work to get Scott off on an insanity defense, which requires inability to distinguish between right and wrong which was never going to work...not in California.

    What I uncovered, I believe, in writing the book was something even darker than what I'd imagined because of the fact that many of these men don't exhibit the behaviors often associated with violent risk for women. But at least we can know something about them, and, I hope, learn more. Again, thanks for all the comments.

  9. Thanks for dropping in, Marilee. Great job on the book, and several of my friends have bought it. We have occasional discussions.

    Thank you very much for writing this book.