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As a community we need to find a better way to provide a way for people battling depression and mental illness to hook up with some kind of help. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com)

Thin line between murder and suicide demands some better answers


My father killed himself.

It was a long time ago and I don't think about finding his body much anymore, but the recent shooting in Brookfield brought some of that rushing back.

Radcliffe Haughton Jr., the accused killer, obviously needed help. So did my dad. Neither one got what they needed.

My dad went out to the garage, closed the door, turned on the car and lay down next to the exhaust. I found his body.

Haughton bought a gun, stormed into a spa and killed three people before killing himself.

I find myself wondering about the thin line between Haughton and my dad. Both men were sad. Both men were angry at slights, real or imagined or both.

Haughton asked for help. My dad, with two children who are mental health professionals, balked at any help.

Haughton got no answer to his plea for help. My dad just got no help.

This killing was not one of those things where you find piles of ammunition and neo-Nazi pamphlets in the killer's dingy apartment. This guy had a family, a house in a nice suburb. He was studying to be a nurse.

But something in him cracked. Not just the day of the shooting, but well before that. Read the story about how a year ago cops came to his house following a phone call and the guy pointed a gun out of the house and wouldn't come out when he was ordered to. About how the cops left because it seemed like there were no hostages in the house.

His college teacher could tell something was wrong and followed a protocol that was designed to get some help. But Haughton wouldn't cooperate and things went to hell in a hand basket.

My brother, sister and I talked about trying to have my dad involuntarily committed. The prospect was daunting, filled with barriers and objections. A lawyer friend told me that the law was designed to protect the civil rights of my dad.

Radcliffe Haughton had those same civil rights. But so did those three women who were killed. They had a civil right to go to a spa on a Sunday afternoon and get themselves gussied up.

I don't have an easy answer to this whole thing. There are no easy answers. But there are a couple of things that ought to be considered.

There are lots of people who get stressed out. Some more than others. For some it is a severe condition that can, not always, but sometimes, lead to incredibly bad behavior.

There are people who cry for help. Haughton called his dad in Florida. He wrote on his Facebook page: "Someone help me get out of Wisconsin."

He knew that there was a danger lurking inside of him and he was afraid he couldn't keep it there. He was worried that it was going to explode.

And it did. As a community we need to find a better way to provide a way for the Radcliffe Haughtons of this world to hook up with some kind of help. Somehow along the line, there was a failure. We need to look and find out where that was and what, if anything, we can do about it.

A better system of help might not have helped my dad. But if somebody could have done something for Radcliffe Haughton, those three women might be alive today.

Talkbacks

beefsupreme | Oct. 27, 2012 at 10:24 a.m. (report)

google military murder suicide, then come back here and tell me that training people to dehumanize and kill doesn't significantly contribute to this type of phenomenon.

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quickened | Oct. 26, 2012 at 11:27 a.m. (report)

I am not sure there is a real answer. We are seeing a rise in this murder.suicide combo. Often times the individual will not have a history of behavior as telling as the brook field shooter did.

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TosaJim | Oct. 25, 2012 at 3:34 p.m. (report)

I read that the Brown Deer Police Department had been at his house at least 20 times....if that is not a call for help I don't know what is. How can a man point a rifle at his wife and not be arrested? I would never want to be a cop and I admire those men and women who protect and serve us...but it sounds like the Brown Deer Police dropped the ball.

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