Why you should care
Because sometimes people do very, very bad things.
Before I get started, I should reveal that I’m biased. If anyone in their right mind decides to bring harm to any nephew or niece of mine, or any child, I am very much against that person whether or not we’re related. My brother is in prison because he tried to do just that: strangle his kids.
One of the doctors who treated my brother was astonished that he could function given how much antipsychotic medication he was on. This was the same doctor who failed to see how seriously mentally ill my brother was when he presented himself at the nearest psychiatric facility the first time he had thoughts of killing himself and his kids. This was also the same doctor who sent him off with a vague diagnosis — maybe bipolar, maybe schizophrenia, possible psychosis, likely depression — and a prescription that was clearly ineffective.
My brother had been having mental health problems since adolescence, but he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 30. I was born 18 months after him, and our younger sister was born about 15 months after me. At the time of the incident, I was living with my parents in the house we grew up in. My brother and sister were living in homes next door to my parent’s home, about a mile away as the crow flies. Their houses are built on land my family owns in Ireland.
He grabbed his second child, stopping the strangling only after his arms grew weak from the effort.
At 35, my brother had managed to become a qualified electrician, though he had preferred being a stay-at-home dad. His wife worked in childcare and was about 29 years old. She decided to have an affair and so she had one. She also decided that she wanted my brother to move back into the family home. I don’t know how this shook out, but after she decided all of this, she decided something else: She was going to move out, and he would stay with the kids.
She also told my brother that she didn’t want the children and never had. A short while after dropping this bombshell, she left the house to go on a date, telling my brother that she wanted to sleep with him in their bed when she came home so it would be “normal” for the kids. Before she left for her date, she asked him for a hug.
After she’d gone, the kids asked if he was OK and if their mom would return. He said he didn’t know.
Then he snapped.
His plan was to strangle the kids and then stab himself so many times and in so many places that there would be no way for him to survive. He started strangling one of his children and did so until he believed he had killed him. He grabbed his second child, stopping the strangling only after his arms grew weak from the effort.
He snapped out of it long enough to raise the alarm. My parents were babysitting for my sister when it happened, and that’s who he went to when he came to his senses. The child he thought was dead was resuscitated by our father who was taking instructions over the phone on how to revive him. His other child also survived.
My brother made no attempt to deny what he had done when he was arrested. He was relieved the kids were alive, but he still wanted to die. So he was put on suicide watch and got 12 years in prison with the last four suspended. He didn’t plead not guilty by way of insanity because he preferred knowing the exact length of his sentence.
My mother and sister visit him as often as they can. He’s allowed two visits per week and has a lot of people asking to see him, even people he was never close to. Our dad would be a regular visitor too, but he passed away this past January. I see my brother about once every two weeks, and we get on as well as ever, if not better than before. Finally getting his medication sorted out has meant that he is still alive.
I’d rather not say which prison he’s in because he’s on protection, and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize anything. But he is a lot easier to chat with since his medication has stabilized his mood and eased his paranoia and anxiety, even though we have very few common interests. When he was out on bail before the trial, he qualified as a gym instructor and personal trainer — and got a girlfriend — and that’s the kind of work he’s hoping to do when he’s released.
And his wife? She and my brother are legally separated. She got everything, and while she had decided before not to have any more children, she is currently pregnant.
*Mikael Jonas is the author’s pen name.