Friday, April 23, 2010

The strange career of patriarchy and race in the "belly of the beast"

This horrific, Good Friday night news story - Authorities: Mother Kills Two Children, Then Self  (watch video at link) - just jacked me the hell up from under myself. Nothing I'm dealing with compares to this tragedy.

So unsettling on its face, I couldn't tune it out.  And once I heard the details (such as they were), I just could not add, yet another "swirling of thoughts" to the already too-numerous ones floating around in my head.  My only choice?  Spew forth, and hopefully the drip will lead to a trickle, and then maybe a deluge - clearing my head of all the shit I've been seeing, hearing and feeling that just doesn't make sense.

It's been three weeks since this happened and I've heard nothing else about it in the local media.  I'm thinking it's because, as the officer so nonchalantly said in the video, "I can tell you that on the surface, it looks like a murder-suicide." 

First, I went off on a disgusted, "Damn!  More collateral damage from the Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning Changeling's war."  And then, for reasons on which I can't quite put my finger, I got two very disturbing thoughts in succession which I said aloud:

1) "I sure hope there's going to be more investigation, because something in that milk ain't clean."
2) "I bet this is a Black family."

My eldest asked me, "What makes you think that, Mom?  The news didn't say that."  All I could say was, "Just seems so open-and-shut."   

And it did.  And it bothered me all night long. 

The next day, I got a call from this lively, Panamanian woman I'd met, at what passed for a dialogue on race relations (that's another "interesting" story I'll probably get around to telling) a month or so ago at a local community college.  Our conversation turned to the deaths and I repeated my hope that there'd be further investigation.  A divorced Army wife and long-time San Antonio resident, she looked at me and asked, "Was she Black?

Unnerved (because I'd been thinking the same thing), I said, "I'm not sure, but I'm going to try and find out."

Then she said, "You know they don't care nothin' about Black people killing each other down here."  (I thought to myself, "Or anywhere else for that matter.")

We talked for awhile about how the Changeling's war was producing collateral damage both abroad and at-home, with families torn asunder by stress due to falling-outs about money, or infidelity - and of course, the plethora of difficulties should they not come home in one piece either mentally or physically.

I told her I was going to see if there was anything more online and that I'd try to find out if the family was, in fact, Black.  I told her I'd let her know, and hung up. 

Then, I found this even more distressing and confusing, Holy Saturday story which accompanies the photo above - Threat preceded apparent double-murder suicide:
Richard Griffin sensed danger.

In the midst of a divorce, the U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen talked early Friday to his estranged wife, who was living in far West Bexar County with their two school-age sons.

In that conversation, Sheena Griffin threatened to kill herself and their children.

Richard Griffin, who filed for divorce March 1 and was scheduled to soon deploy to Afghanistan, quickly called local authorities and asked them to check on his family. He was worried, he told them.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found the two-story home in the 12000 block of Gable Oaks engulfed in heavy smoke.

Inside, in the children’s upstairs bedroom, firefighters made a grisly discovery: The two boys, ages 8 and 9, were dead from gunshot wounds and lying together on a twin bed, their 36-year-old mother on the floor, also dead.

“On the surface, it looks like a double-murder suicide,” Bexar County Deputy Chief Dale Bennett said, adding that a handgun was found at the scene.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Trevino said authorities were called to the home shortly before 7 a.m. It wasn’t their first time to that residence, he said, as deputies had gone to the home several times in the past because of marital disputes.

Authorities said the fire started downstairs and caused $75,000 in damages. They believe gasoline was used to start the fire. As investigators combed through the home and collected evidence, an Army chaplain escorted the distraught Richard Griffin to San Antonio.  (more at the link)

According to my source, the Griffin family was indeed, Black.

I don't know the man, I don't know his wife and I certainly don't know their marital situation.  But, taking the stories together (all three of them), everything about this screams, "ASK MORE DAMN QUESTIONS!"
  1. First of all:  "in the midst of divorce," "U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen" and "...about to deploy to Afghanistan" are all issues with which most military families contend at one time or another, but particularly now.  That he'd just filed for divorce on March 1st while on pre-deployment duty and living in Killeen, coupled with that Coldwell Banker sign already on the lawn - seems strange.
  2. The husband spoke to his wife sometime before 7 a.m. .  They had a conversation - that only he heard and knew about -  during which she threatened to take, not only her life, but the kids' as well.  Strange.
  3. "Sensing danger," he hangs up and calls local cops to do a welfare check at his home and they high-tail it over there - arriving some time around 7 a.m. (according to the video).  Not so strange that they immediately went.  Welfare check requests are common when a spouse is deployed.  And if nothing else, Texas IS a place that takes their "patriots" seriously.  But, when the cops arrived, the house was engulfed  - in SMOKE.  They couldn't get in and had to wait for the firefighters (according to the video) who found the bodies - kids on a twin bed and the mother on the floor.  How long had this "fire" been burning??  They got there around 7 a.m. - when kids are getting up and out for school by 8 a.m., How come nobody saw the "fire" before then?  According to another television station's report in which the wife has already been blamed for starting the fire:  "The blaze was contained to the downstairs area of the home. Officials said the fire appeared to have been purposely set in numerous places on the first floor. More than $75,000 in damage were done to the home."  $75,000 in damage - downstairs!  Real estate values here are way more realistic than most places in the country.  And if that figure is even close - that's a whole lot of damage for this house - in such a short period of time (remember he spoke to her before 7 a.m. and the cops immediately responded somewhere around 7 a.m.).  Strange  
  4. According to the video, the next door neighbor heard "screaming/really loud yelling" coming from the house that woke her up just minutes before the cops arrived.  But she wasn't aware the house NEXT DOOR was on fire??  They all died from single, gunshot wounds and none had suffered any burns as a result of the fire according to my source.  Who was doing the yelling?  And if she heard it "just minutes" before the cops arrived, how come she heard - not one gunshot?  As close as the homes are to one another - not a single person reported that they'd heard any gunshots.  Strange.
Fort Hood's approximately a 2-3 hour drive away, so I'm not saying the husband was there to do this.  Besides, he's got an alibi for his whereabouts during the time the bodies were discovered (unless of course, he was there in the wee hours of the morning and left (What?  It could happen!).  All I'm saying is, I'm just not convinced - without more details and investigation - that the wife did this (and no, it's not because I think Black folk don't do that kind of shit.  I must admit though - "When We Were Colored?" - I did think that way).

It bothers me that the "double murder-suicide" ruling was just accepted by the media with no apparent, substantive questions asked.  It bothers me that there seems to be no one following up on this story.  The funerals have been held (hope an autopsy was done) and it's like it never happened.  It bothers me that we've heard nothing about any continuing investigation.  And yes, it bothers me - that they were Black - and no one seems to care.

They took this man's word for everything.  Who speaks for the wife?  In patriarchal institutions, like the military and the police particularly, there's an inherent value in the words of men over women's.  Not just in Texas, but all over!

Two cases immediately jumped into my head (yeah it's crowded up there) after mulling this over - mainly because I was living in Texas and then Florida during both.  The first, was that of Darlie Routier in Rowlett, TX back in 1996.  She sits on death row, accused and convicted of stabbing her 5 and 6 year-old sons to death.  Her husband and baby were asleep upstairs and she and the two older boys had fallen asleep watching TV downstairs.  In early 2008, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed a 2007 ruling denying DNA testing of hair and blood evidence collected in 1996 which her attorneys believe, will prove her story that an intruder stabbed her, and killed her sons (there were three fingerprints found not belonging to anyone in the family or any of the scene investigators). 

This case is especially interesting because it involves new Dallas D.A., Craig Watkins (about whom I've written, here and here), a young man I respect immensely for his dogged determination in freeing (as of 2008) 17 men who were wrongly accused - based on - DNA evidence.  He inherited Routier's case and, based on the afore-linked piece about the reversal, he seems to believe that they've got the right person even though Darlie supporters disagree (I hope he wasn't just regurgitating the "company line" because he was new on the scene).  The show American Justice covered the case and it is available on You Tube in five parts, entitled, "Mother on Death Row."

The other, was the 1997 murder of Sheila Bellush in Sarasota, FL at the hands of hit-man, Joey Del Toro - paid for by her millionaire husband, Allen Blackthorne of San Antonio.  After having stalked her since their 1987 divorce - and through her new marriage to Jamie Bellush  into which quadruplets were born - he had her killed.  Her body was found by one of the daughters she shared with Blackthorne - with her two year-old quadruplets toddling around in her blood.  Sound like a "Murder By The Book" story?  It was.  Author, Ann Rule chronicled the horrific story in her book, "Every Breath You Take" in 2001.  It took THREE YEARS before he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

 As for the Griffins - yes, there was a history of marital discord.  The cops admit they'd been there before - on many occasions.  That, in itself is disturbing.  Domestic violence cases, the majority of which are reported by women, are rarely taken very seriously by the police.  I met a woman in January, who'd been arrested for domestic violence (another around-to-it draft).  She was so distraught at finding out her husband had long been cheating that she was uncontrollable when the cops arrived and they took her in.  She had no family here and was worried out of her mind about what would happen to her two kids because she was in jail. 

Women have a hard row to hoe when dealing with the rampant sexism and misogyny in patriarchal institutions.  And women of color have it even worse.


HT said...

Glad to see you back, even though it's a very disturbing post.
Unfortunately, the situation involves a woman and children - neither of which are valued in today's society, so I doubt there will be any indepth investigation, expecially as the father was a soldier on his way to Afpak. And yes, women of color do seem to have it much worse. We have a situation up here in the Northland, where so many first nations women have disappeared along the "highway of tears", that it's finally getting attention - after 20 some odd years. Another one in another province where over 500 women have disappeared in a span of over 20 years, which is also finally getting some (and I mean some) attention, but only after the Picton pig farm atrocity. Women, the throw aways of society. Sorry for the cynicism, but if history is a measure, then the response will be tepid window dressing at most.

ea said...

Pues, otra historia lamentable.

In a bizarre way, declining incomes may result in a positive if people turned away from commercial media. I truly believe it is the single most destructive force to female empowerment in industrialized societies. Too many girls buy into the victim role, and too many boys buy into the posessor role. This is on top of social constructs that emerged from emperialism (as I see it) that separate people into classes of privilege.

Deb said...

Thanx HT! Yeah, it's disturbing - on so many levels.

And you're right about his "valued status" as a soldier GOING TO FIGHT in this stupid war. The only time that status will change is if he comes back and needs some kind of psychiatric/medical help - then he'll get shuffled to the bottom of the deck, as has been the case with many of the returning wounded.

Man! I looked up the Pickton Pig Farm murders and all the First Nations women (I like that term - a lot! It acknowledges and pays respect to those least acknowledged or respected) who're missing or have been murdered along the "Highway of Tears" and it just overwhelms (thanks for the info though, cuz I have to say, I knew nothing about it).

The exact same thing is, and has been occurring in Juarez, Mexico - a border town near El Paso, TX. My friend ea, who often comments here, is deeply involved in helping the women there. She calls it "Femicidio." Here's a translated link about it -

"The throw aways of society" is not cynicism, HT - it's truth. I just wish ALL women would band together and say "We're mad as hell and we're not takin' this shit anymore!!"

But we'd have to get up from under the patriarchal thinking of needing men to "take care of us" first. Don't see that happening any time soon unfortunately.

Thanx for stopping in and - commenting! And again - thanx for checking on me.

Deb said...

ea...Hey Woman!!! I just "thought you up" as my Grandmama used to say!! I was JUST talking about you to HT!!!

Sí, es absolutamente otra historia lamentable. Uno de tan muchos ("One of many" - is that right?).

"...if people turned away from commercial media. I truly believe it is the single most destructive force to female empowerment in industrialized societies."

I totally agree with you. But it is so damned imbedded, such a large part of the fabric of this society that I don't see that happening any time soon either.

"This is on top of social constructs that emerged from emperialism (as I see it) that separate people into classes of privilege."

I see it the same way ea, though the imperialists will never own that shit. And I think that speaks to THEIR OWN insecurities - got to make somebody else feel less than, so they can feel better than. And it, like the addiction of commercialism, is so deeply imbedded that I doubt I'll live to see the constructs destroyed, even on a small scale.

That "privilege" thing is the brass ring for many - and plenty people are scratching and stepping on others to reach it.

It's like my eldest said to me one day, "You know Mom, there's no there, there. Seems like everytime people reach a certain place, they always want more - whether they need it or not. Me, I'd be satisfied sittin' on the 50-yard line."

I agree with him.

HT said...

Deb I've been lurking here for a long time and have always been caught by ea has to say. She's another voice that is working to make things better against insurmountable odds. It's as if we, as women are the modern incarnation of Sisyphus - who had to roll the huge rock up the hill, and then when he had almost reached the summit, the rock rolled back down and he had to start all over again for all eternity. It was his punishment, because he tattled on the Zeus about one of his indiscretions with (gasp) a woman. See the obvious. Women have always been and if this keeps up will always be the rationale for men behaving badly. That tale is older that the bible.
Insofar as "colored women" (I hate that term, Because it brings to mind George Wallace, and worse, the "Strange Fruit" that you posted about) there are some really terrible things going on today to which nobody pays attention, because they involve women and children. 50 yard line - great objective, but we are in the foul zone, and will remain there until all women take a stand. Of course, that is just my opinion, BTW, if you think the Picton farm and the Highway of Tears is disturbing:
Because of the Picton farm situation, the parents, friends and advocacy groups put pressure n the police forces to start an investigation, otherwise it would never have happened. In your country, thousands of ladies and children go missing every year, and no one gives a damn unless they are white girls from affluent families - and only if they weren't brutalized by white boys from affluent families who have their whole life ahead of them and could be negatively affected by being charged.
Can you tell I'm cynical?
On the other hand there are some law enforcement officers who really try to change things. I pin my hopes on them.
I am an older woman, so I only have another 10 or so years, and frankly, I'm glad about that. I was happy to escape from the 50's, was hopeful in the 60's, was very happy during the 70's looking forward to a truly equal future, and then I got busy with my kids during the late 80's/90's. When I got beyond work, and the needs of the gruesome twosome, I tuned back in, and was absolutely gobsmacked (british term) at what had happened during my absence. Today, I feel like I'm back in the 50's vis a vis women and children.
My apologies for the diatribe. I'm a lurker, but sometimes, something pushes a button and I get too vocal.
BTW, I hated June Cleaverville, I do not want that for my daughter and son, who have friends who span cultures, LGBT you name it - across the spectrum all of whom have slept in my spare room - I've supported a few of them too, during parental disputes.
Maybe I am senile - how did we let this happen?

Deb said...

HT...No apologies necessary and there's no such thing as "too vocal" in my book - though that has been my undoing on more than one occasion. But I could care less. One thing this continuing "journey of me" has taught me, is that truth - no matter the consequences - sits best with me.

Yep, ea is someone I still hope I can "grow up" to be if I should have 10 or so years left. Not only is she culturally committed to women and her people (and humanity by extension), she is actively and continuously engaged in doing something about it. Most I've been able to offer, was my very, vocal self, when I wrote a weekly column for a little S. Florida newspaper (a huge benchmark on this journey!). Because I was there, I was able to see and write about how the police mistreated minorities (and how the city ignored it) - which in turn, led to being a part of a grassroots movement which ultimately conceived, and brought about a CITIZEN's Review Board of the cops to the city (when the fox is guarding the henhouse, ie. Police Internal Affairs Dept.), who's watching the damn fox??!!). I did two volunteer stints in New Orleans in '06 after watching Spike Lee's, "How the Levees Broke." I just had to do something. And here, of course. But that's it! My efforts seem sporadic compared to ea's commitment. I so respect and admire her for that.

Your Sisyphus analogy is dead-on! But you left out the part about him pushing that damn rock up each time from - HELL - to which he was condemned for his loose lips!!" Makes the analogy all that more accurate. :-)

"Insofar as "colored women" (I hate that term..."

I can see why you'd hate it. But it's a part of who I am, who I've come to be as a result of knowing her. I can't just discard her - not and say I'm on an "honest journey of me." She's an integral part of the whys and wherefores. Know what I mean?

"50 yard line - great objective, but we are in the foul zone, and will remain there until all women take a stand. "

Ditto, but a girl can dream right?

I tried the link, but it says the article's no longer available. Went to You Tube though, and found this great piece:

Now THIS, is what I'm talking about! Being "vocal" about the whole truth of this shit - like Gouldin's honest assessment as to when, "...society cares."

We'll have to part ways on the "some law enforcement officers" thing. I have my reasons.

"Maybe I am senile - how did we let this happen?"

Don't think you're senile, HT. But you're right, WE ALL let this happen - but in different ways, and for different reasons, none which I think most of us are willing to own, IMHO.

chelle2nines said...

Hello, I can be reached at I agree with what you wrote about the woman who supposedly killed herself and children. I am very unsettled about this. Especially after hearing the 911 call from the father. He was too calm for me. I live down the street from them and I don't for a minute believe she did this. I think it was a murder for hire thing. I hope I'm wrong but this case bothers me to the core. Please email me back, wish I knew more about this case but its very suspect to me.

Deb said... caught me up doing "hag" watch! :-) Email sent.

Anonymous said...

DNA results 7.17.15 Darlie Routier wants sealed prove her guilt again. No intruder at all.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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