Alan: To preserve our bedrock conviction that Life is good and (ultimately) fair, most humans choose to believe that "personal responsibility" undergirds all behavior, particularly behaviors that are manifestly "monstrous."
Inconvenient-truth-be-told, there are many "cracks" in reality and lots of us "slip through them" through no fault of our own.
Jesus was keenly aware that people are sometimes responsible for their misfortunes... and other times they are not.
In similar vein, Einstein, relying on Schopenhauer, had this to say about Free Will.
What recourse do "true believers" have but to believe that God is good and that evil can always be blamed on a human being rather than the Creator's design flaws?
Husband: Why my wife killed our baby and herself
Ken Ventanilla wears his wife Charlene’s engagement ring and wedding band on a chain around his neck.
Monday, he rubbed them between his thumb and finger and smiled at a memory.
Whenever Charlene took them off before a shower, Ken would nab the jewelry from the bathroom counter. After drying off, Charlene would embark on a futile search through the house, trying to remember where she’d left the rings until Ken came clean.
It was a silly joke with a romantic twinge, Ken said. He kept doing it just for the chance to slip the rings back onto his wife’s finger.
“The experience with her not only as a wife but as a mother to my two boys, I can’t even ask for any more. She was the best,” Ken said. “That’s why, until this day, I feel like I’m just going to wake up, like this is not real. She was the most unexpected person that something like this would ever happen to.”
Last month, Charlene stabbed the couple’s 8-week-old son to death. She then turned the knife on herself in what police quickly concluded was a murder-suicide.
On the morning of Sept. 13, Ken awoke just before dawn to find Charlene and baby Shane’s bodies. They were lying together on a toddler bed in the couple’s Long Beach home.
In that moment, Ken could not comprehend the bloody scene in front of him.
“And I stared at the bed thinking, ‘OK they’re asleep, but why is there all this juice spilled on the bed?’ It looked like it was cranberry juice or something on the bed,” Ken said. “It just wasn’t sinking in.”
RELIVING PAINFUL EXPERIENCE
Since that day, Ken wakes up at the same time every morning. At 6:15 a.m. each day, he relives the experience, still hoping he’ll snap back to reality from a terrible dream.
“I’ve been sleeping OK since day one, but waking up, my nightmare starts,” he said.
Last week, Ken contacted the Press-Telegram, saying he was ready to tell his wife’s story publicly.
He had two reasons. Ken wanted to warn other families about what Charlene experienced, and he hoped to dispel any suspicion that she killed Shane because she didn’t love her family.
In the days before she killed Shane, Charlene had become increasingly anxious and paranoid, Ken said.
She was obsessed with Shane and his older brother Vincent’s health. Over and over, she’d put her hand to their foreheads, trying to feel their temperatures even though Shane had just received a clean bill of health from his doctor.
“We almost thought she was joking,” Ken said.
“We almost thought she was joking,” Ken said.
Charlene’s paranoia would peak in the early morning hours, according to Ken. Her behavior worried him enough that he decided to move the boys out of their bedroom and have the entire family sleep together in the living room.
“I guess I was fearful,” he said.
But when Vincent woke him on the morning of Sept. 13, Shane and Charlene were nowhere to be seen.
“I immediately had an eerie feeling that moment,” Ken said. “And I call out her name. ‘Charlene. Charlene.’ She doesn’t respond.”
The house was still dark, but Ken saw light coming from the crack under the door leading to the boys’ bedroom.
POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS SUSPECTED
Ken believes his wife was suffering from postpartum psychosis, a mental health disorder that’s more extreme than the more common postpartum depression.
Postpartum psychosis is rare, according to experts.
About one in every 1,000 women who give birth will experience it, said Dr. Emily Dossett, an expert on the topic and a clinical assistant professor at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. The disorder, Dossett said, is characterized by a break from reality that can include paranoia, hallucinations and in, rare cases, violence.
Some mothers become so disconnected that they feel as if an outside power is controlling their movements or they genuinely believe killing a child is their best course of action.
Dossett pointed to the highly publicized case of Andrea Yates, who confessed to drowning her five children in a bathtub in 2001. Yates believed her children were at risk of being corrupted by a demonic influence, Dossett said, “And the best way to keep them pure was to kill them now and send them on to heaven.”
Experts don’t know what causes postpartum psychosis, but certain factors, such as a history of bipolar disorder, can indicate it’s more likely to appear in someone, according to Dossett.
‘NOT THE SAME PERSON’
Ken said his wife’s mental health took an abrupt turn when she started using a contraceptive after Shane was born. She began taking the pill one week before the murder-suicide, and the effect was obvious, according to Ken.
“She was just not the same person I knew all those years,” he said.
Dossett said there’s no credible research about whether hormonal contraceptives and postpartum psychosis are linked. Some women will experience depression when they start taking the pill, according to Dossett, but postpartum depression is wholly separate from postpartum psychosis and not an indication that the more serious condition could develop.
However, Dossett said, there is a dearth of education about postpartum depression and psychosis.
Women generally aren’t screened for or even told about possible mental health issues related to pregnancy, Joy Burkhard, founder of the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health, told the Press-Telegram last month.
Dossett and Burkhard are pushing for prenatal and postnatal care to include more education on the topic.
“It is something to be taken seriously,” Dossett said. “It’s not something to just get over. It’s not something to just swat away or ignore. It’s for real.”
DIFFICULT TO MOVE ON
Ken said he’s questioned whether it’s worth going on with life after his wife and son’s death.
At 36 years old, Ken has spent more of his life with Charlene than without her. The two met at 16 through a mutual friend and started dating.
“Puppy love” is how Ken described it.
It wasn’t until they broke up and then got back together in their 20s that they found “real love,” he said.
Both came from large Filipino families and always intended to have kids of their own.
“It was the dream,” Ken said. “We both sacrificed a lot careerwise because family was the dream.”
When it was time for the first baby, the couple, now in their 30s, moved to Long Beach from Los Angeles.
In 2014 Vincent was born. Less than two years later, Shane arrived.
The couple quickly started calling him “Little George” because of his resemblance to a certain boxer turned grill-salesman.
The family was happy, Ken said. Charlene loved sharing art, music, movies and other interests with her sons.
Last year she and Vincent dressed up as two of her favorite video game characters to attend a comics convention in Los Angeles.
“She was a nerd. And she was a dork sometimes. She was very cosmic. She read a lot,” Ken said. “We had so much fun with life.”
NEW HOUSE WAS PLANNED
The couple had plans for their family. They’d just started meeting with a home builder to have a custom house constructed in Murrieta. They were working together trying to get a new multimedia company off the ground.
“I don’t know why it all happened now,” Ken said. “We were good people. We only wanted good things. We had big dreams, and we knew we could make them happen.”
To his own surprise, Ken said he isn’t angry at Charlene.
“I couldn’t even imagine what she was going through to drive her to that point,” he said. “Whatever despair she was feeling, she must have thought she was going to feel like that forever.”
Ken said two things have kept him from descending into bitterness.
First is his Christian faith.
“No. 2,” he said, “99.999 percent of my memories with Charlene and Shane were amazing and they were completely positive and we were completely in love.”
In his eulogy for them, Ken said he was thankful for the time he had with them, despite the tragic ending.
“Tomorrow is never promised,” he said. “So you’ve got to love each other now because you might not have tomorrow to do that. And that’s the reason I’m not bitter about it because I loved her and I loved them every single day.”
That doesn’t change the fact that he’d do almost anything to have them back.
“The only thing I wouldn’t trade in is Vincent, but everything else I would trade in to have one more day with her and him, just one.”