Economy's Toll? Death in Gated Community

family murder-suicide

As Americans struggle to pull themselves out of the recession, community stories of family violence -- even death -- tied to financial troubles continue to surface, even if the real motive behind some murders and suicides may never be known.

Such is the case in an exclusive Orlando, Fla., community, where the bodies of four people were found Monday inside a home after what police say appears to be a murder-suicide that took the lives of an entire family.

Police say a cleaning woman who arrived for work Monday called the police after spotting the body of John Dillon Wood, 41, shot in the head. Detectives believe Wood shot his wife, Cynthia Wood, 40, and their two children Aubrey, 12 and Dillon, 10, before turning the gun on himself. The bodies were found in rooms all over the home, police say.

"It's a huge tragedy, there's no other way to describe it, and you try to provide some rationale behind it but you can't," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger told ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando.

Detectives have yet to determine a motive, but The Orlando Sentinel reports the family from Heathrow, Fla., just outside Orlando, had a recent history of financial woes. John and Cynthia Wood declared bankruptcy in 2004, and tried to pay back more than $100,000 in credit card bills while keeping up with two mortgages totaling $228,000 and payments on a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The paper also reports Cynthia recently lost her job.

"The stress of the situation like that just grinds away at people. It's just an unrelenting psychological stress for people for all classes," said Sam Cochran, author of "Men and Depression: Clinical and Empirical Perspective," and a clinical professor of counseling psychology at the University of Iowa.

Cochran, who specializes in men's depression, said while such cases are extraordinarily rare for both sexes, men commit around 95 percent of murder-suicides.

"I think some of us attribute this to an intersection of male roles that can be internalized as unhealthy in some men -- and then our culture's fascination with violence," he said. "There's an element of male socialization that says you solve problems by taking action and, if necessary, force and action."

As the flagging economy continues to take a toll on Americans' well-being, more murders and suicides are linked to financial woes.

Earlier this fall and winter, three other men who had recently lost their jobs were arrested for killing multiple family members.

Rare Case of Murder-Suicide

In October, Karthik Rajaram of Los Angeles shot his wife, three sons and mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself, police said.

This photo, released Oct. 7, 2008, by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, shows Karthik Rajaram. The unemployed financial manager, despondent over extreme money problems, police say, was found dead Monday with a gun in his hand, law enforcement officials said.

Rajaram, 45, once held prominent positions with the accounting firm used by Sony, but he had been unemployed for several months and was facing serious financial trouble, police said.

Bruce Jeffrey Pardo killed nine people during a 2008 Christmas Eve party at the home of his former in-laws in Covina, Calif.

Police said Pardo targeted his ex-wife's family after a bitter divorce, but that his marriage wasn't the only thing that had fallen apart in his life.

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