Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Killers' Families Struggle with Shame, Silence and Fear

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Killers' Families Struggle with Shame, Silence and Fear

Article excerpt

PUEBLO, Colo. -- On a summer night not long ago, Maureen White sat alone in her living room staring at a DVD she had avoided watching for years.

On the screen was her older brother, Richard Paul White, the person who taught her how to ride a bike and who tried to protect her from their mother's abusive boyfriend when they were children. He was confessing to murdering six people.

Toward the end of the videotaped police interrogation, Maureen White reached for a razor blade and began to slice her left leg.

"I felt such rage and anger and so many emotions I did not know what to do," said Ms. White, 34. When she was done, she said, she needed dozens of stitches and staples.

Richard Paul White, 39, will spend the rest of his life in prison for three of the murders, to which he pleaded guilty in 2004. Maureen White, whose life has always been fragile, is still struggling.

Like relatives of other violent criminals, she has found herself ill prepared to deal with the complex set of emotions and circumstances that further unhinged her life after her brother's crimes. Under treatment for anxiety and depression, among other conditions, she has nightmares about serial killers and snipers. And for more than a year after viewing the video, she continued to cut herself -- something she had never done before.

"By cutting myself," she said, "I wanted people to see on the outside how ugly and bad I feel on the inside."

In a society where headlines of violence are almost commonplace, the families of the perpetrators are often unknown and largely unheard from. But now some relatives have decided to share their stories. In interviews with members of numerous families of varying social and economic status, siblings, parents, partners, cousins and children of convicted killers recounted the hardships they have experienced in the years since their relatives' crimes. …

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