Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bipolar Tragedy

I was just getting ready to sign off when I ran across this story and it sounded like DH in a lot of ways (although to the best of my knowledge he has never wanted to hurt anyone else). DH was also being treated by mental health professionals, had insurance and a supportive (I think, anyhow) family and it still took a LOT for someone to finally actually see him as bipolar. I have worried about my and DD's safety when he has been suicidal, because he promises me that he won't hurt himself, then he would say things like "I could never leave you". I hope those days are behind us now, with the proper diagnosis. My heart goes out to this family--there but for the grace of God go I...

Undiagnosed Bipolar Illness Leads to Murder

Family's 'Perfect Life' Shattered
Father With Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder Murders Children
June 4, 2008—

Every Saturday morning, Kim Crespi gets in her car for the 90-mile trip from her home outside Charlotte, N.C., to the maximum security prison where her 46-year-old husband, David, will spend the rest of his life.

Like thousands of other wives whose husbands are in prison, Kim cherishes the few hours she and her husband have together, sharing news about their children, their church and their friends. But what makes these visits unusual and the bond between Kim and David different is that David is serving a life sentence for murdering their twin daughters.

Watch the story Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET

Kim Crespi reminisced about happier times, saying, "It was a house of love, peace and fun. We had a perfect life."

Married for 12 years, the Crespis had five children. The youngest were identical twin girls, 5-year-old Tessara and Samantha.

"Tess and Sam were precious to us," recalled David. "They were incredible. They were a gift. I mean, we were just so thrilled to have them."

The Crespis lived in a large home in a fast-growing suburb outside Charlotte. David had a high-powered job as a vice president at Wachovia Bank while his wife stayed home to raise their large family.

"I had the American dream," said David.

But he also harbored a dark secret that destroyed it all.

Severe Depression
In his late 20s, David suffered his first episode of severe depression. During the course of more than 10 years, he says he sought help from psychiatrists who treated him with therapy and antidepressants. His depression sometimes became so acute that despite being a devout Catholic, David attempted suicide.

"I did certain things where I attempted to take my own life -- running a car in the garage. I hung off a bridge in California," he said.

The attempts stopped after his wife, Kim, made him promise not to kill himself. But David said his thoughts continued to focus on death. "I thought about killing other people. They were irrational, random, crazy thoughts that horrify me."

Terrified by dark thoughts that he believed were not real, David did not share them with his wife or doctors. That turned out to be a tragic mistake.

"He never told them what he wanted to do to his family," says Mecklenburg County homicide prosecutor Marsha Goodenow. "He alone could have stopped what he did to this family if he'd just told somebody what he was thinking or feeling."

Dark Thoughts, Dark Actions
On Jan. 20, 2006, Kim and David were home with Tessara and Samantha. The girls weren't feeling well and had stayed home from kindergarten that day. David was depressed and unable to go to work. He agreed to watch the girls while his wife went out to get her hair done.

According to David, it all seemed like a sign. "And it just came to me. There is no future. There is nothing. And that's the way it's all aligned for them to die."

The twins asked their father to play hide and seek. By the time Kim arrived home, her husband had stabbed her daughters to death, and he was in police custody. In his confession later that day, David admitted to the crimes and told police that the sprinklers had instructed him to dial 911. He was placed on suicide watch and prison psychologists later diagnosed him as having bipolar disorder.

Missed diagnosis
Despite the fact that he was being treated by mental health professionals, had mental health insurance to pay for the treatment and had a supportive family and employer, David's bipolar disorder went undiagnosed for years. Ironically, it wasn't until he was incarcerated that his illness was finally diagnosed. "The best psychiatric care I have got in my life has been in this prison," David said.

His experience is not unusual. According to a study conducted in 2001 by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a mental health advocacy group, it takes an average of 10 years and four different doctors for a patient to be correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

What is atypical is how David's illness manifested itself in violent deaths. "The occurrence of aggression and violence is not as common as one might fear. And, in fact, homicide is relatively unusual in bipolar disorder," said Dr. Maria Oquendo, a psychiatrist at Columbia University's School of Medicine who specializes in the disorder. She says bipolar patients are much more likely to harm themselves than others.

Oquendo cautions that there are times when a parent suffering from bipolar disorder, feels hopeless and suicidal, and their children could be at risk. "They feel that they don't want to abandon their children, so they will, quote, 'Take their children with them.'"

Today the Crespi family still lives in the house where the twins died. Their mother Kim finds comfort in the rooms where they lived and played. "We get to live with the angels," said Kim tearfully. "Sam and Tess, our saints, the angels are always there. I feel nothing but love here."

Kim perseveres through her faith and her undying love for her husband and still feels that she "married my soul mate. And Dave needs me so there's lots of reasons to get up in the morning and see what God has for us, you know?"

But for Kim's weekly visits David Crespi is virtually alone with the pictures of his slain twin daughters lining the walls of his 8-by-12 cell. "I loved them dearly. And I miss them. And my life and the lives of other people I love will never be the same."

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures


perphila said...

What can you say? I find what the lawyer said interesting. "If he had only told people what he was thinking." Isn't it the point that people with this mental illness can not make the rational choice most of the time to speak up? That is why this is so horrible. Your brain can't tell itself it's sick and needs help. I could not be that wife though. I just couldn't.