The Friday Rant: There’s evil, and then there’s crazy

Here in Missouri, a horrible crime was committed two years ago. (Have you ever noticed how much really weird crap happens here in Missouri? I cringe every time we show up on the news.) A 15-year-old girl named Alyssa Bustamante murdered her 9-year-old neighbor, Elizabeth Olten.

She was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder, even though in the days prior she had dug two graves, having her little sister try one on for size, and had stashed a knife in her backpack. She had her little sister ask Elizabeth to come out and play, then lured Elizabeth into the woods near their houses for a “surprise.” She slashed the little girl’s throat, strangled her, and stabbed her many times, then buried her in the waiting grave.

So this wasn’t second-degree. This was premeditated.

She wrote in her journal that the murder was “ahmazing” and then went off to a church function. Her defense asked for leniency, saying she was from a broken home, had been abandoned by her mother to her grandparents, and had “early signs” of bipolar disorder.

So is she evil or crazy?

My second daughter, Sheri, exploded when she heard this, because Sheri is bipolar. “They’re basically saying I’m a murderer!” To her, this is the worst kind of insult, that someone would try to hijack the mental illness that has caused her so much anquish just so they could get away with murder.

As if it’s not bad enough that you have this terrible disorder that you struggle with on a daily basis and will FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, now you have to have people looking at you suspiciously, wondering when you’re going to go psycho and kill someone, wondering what horrible things you’ve already done.

Bipolar people are not murderers. They get crazy manic, they get majorly depressed, they attempt suicide. As a rule, they don’t kill other people. Especially if they only have “early signs.” What does that even mean?

Back in 2008, a guy named Edward Renehan stole letters written by Theodore Roosevelt and sold them. He used his bipolar disorder as a defense. Both Debra Lafave and Mary Kay LeTourneau used bipolar disorder as a defense for sexually abusing teenaged boys.

Why doesn’t it work? Because bipolar disorder doesn’t make you unable to tell the difference between right and wrong. Nope, these crimes didn’t happen because of bipolar disorder. It was just bad behavior and excuses.

According to an article by BBC News (, a study led by Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry (published in the Archives of General Psychiatry) shows that people with bipolar disorder who don’t abuse drugs and alcohol are no more prone to violent behavior than a “normal” person who doesn’t abuse drugs and alcohol. The only fly in the ointment is that people with bipolar disorder are ten times more likely to use drugs and alcohol.

But it’s the drugs and alcohol that cause the behavior. If you’ve got two drunk guys vandalizing property, why would you think the bipolar disorder of one of them is to blame instead of the alcohol in both of them? And there are a lot more non-bipolars than bipolars in this world; something like 2.5% of Americans are bipolar. So statistically, who performs more violent acts, drunk bipolars or drunk non-bipolars?

In a similar vein, the sister of Josh Powell, the guy who killed his two boys this week by exploding the house around them, blamed a reporter, saying, “You guys caused this!”

So all across America, fathers who lose custody of their children are trying to hack their children’s heads off and then setting them ablaze, because that’s just what happens when you lose custody. I had noticed that child-killing trend; thank you, Alina Powell, for letting me know it’s the media’s fault and not the father’s.

What do you think? Evil or crazy?

The website has an entry called “List Eight: 10 Wackiest Criminal Defenses,” in which he lists ten crazy defenses, including gay panic, too much junk food, PMS, and sleepwalking. Media-induced homicide fits right in.

This kind of bad behavior is not caused by bipolar disorder or media attention or broken homes or a full moon or demonic possession. It’s just bad people doing bad things and trying to talk their way out of the consequences.

I’m not actually sure about the demonic possession thing. In the cases of Powell and Bustamate, you gotta wonder.

About alisaacarter

I am a writer of young adult novels, wife, mom of three, lover of animals, former magazine editor, reader of anything paranormal, and coffee fanatic.
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