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Psychologist, Mother, and Family Annihilator

“Murder most foul… strange and unnatural.” –Hamlet

Police say that on October 24, Michele Boudreau Deegan, age 55, of Whatcom County, Washington, murdered her 7-year-old twin girls as they slept, then killed herself. Deegan, a psychologist specializing in marriage and family counseling, was reportedly mired in a lengthy and contentious divorce. She sedated the girls, shot them as they slept, then turned the gun on herself.

In a perfect trifecta of irony, tragedy, and horror, Deegan found that her professional skills were insufficient to navigate her own fractured family through the trials of separation, divorce, and custody.

Events leading up to the crime remain sketchy, but some illuminating information has been reported. Neighbors said that the twin girls were rarely seen outside Deegan’s home. Another person familiar with the family said that Deegan was “very troubled,” and Deegan’s own Facebook profile is described as revealing “a woman in crisis.” At least one neighbor reported the family to Child Protective Services.

On the day of the crime, Deegan posted an article on her Facebook page entitled, “Narcissistic Parents Are Literally Incapable of Loving Their Children.” Given her acrimony toward the girls’ father and the timing of her article, it seems likely that this Facebook post was intended as her parting shot to blame the girls’ father and brand him a pariah. Whatever faults the father may have, and whatever blame he may deserve, at least he did not kill anyone. Any truths that Deegan may have written about him are eclipsed by her own bloody deeds.

Dr. Park Dietz coined the term “family annihilator” to refer to a head of household (usually male, but not always) who kills the entire family – even pets – and sometimes themselves. For a long time, there was little research on this type of killer as distinct from other mass murderers, but that is changing. There is still very little research focusing on female family annihilators, who remain a rarity, but childhood abuse, poverty, and addiction are risk factors.

When mothers commit filicide, it is usually for one of five reasons addressed in a previous article. There is insufficient information from news reports to identify which of these reasons motivated Deegan, but two can be eliminated (i.e., accident as the result of child abuse and filicide of unwanted children). That leaves three possibilities: psychosis, revenge, or altruism.

Deegan, described as “very troubled” and “a woman in crisis,” may have had an acute psychotic episode following the award of joint custody. She may have killed the children and herself to spite her husband (a morbid declaration of “you lose!”). Or she may have truly believed that killing herself and the girls was a better fate than sharing custody with a father Deegan deemed “narcissistic” and “unloving.” It even could have been a psychotic episode in combination with one of the other two motives.

Regardless of the family history and her motives, the ultimate tragedy is that Deegan could make a career of helping other couples with their marriages but could not see any resolution for her own family except for murders and suicide.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” –Leo Tolstoy

© Dale Hartley. Connect with me on social media.

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