Massachusetts authorities suspect that failed Internet business dealings and financial difficulty may have been a motive in the slayings of Rachel and Lillian Entwistle. Experts say that is not unusual when men kill their families, and Neil Entwistle has been chargee with the murders of his wife and infant daughter.
It is difficult, experts say, to categorize fathers who commit "familicide" because the cases tend to be very individualized. However, two factors can fuel the slayings of wives and children: financial difficulty and mounting pressure over the inability to support them, and marital problems, combined with the feeling of losing control over the family.
"There are two types: Type 1 is the father who is an abusive or a controlling figure who feels some loss of control of his household and his family and feels that killing his family would be the ultimate expression of his control over them," said Keith Durkin, associate professor of sociology at Ohio Northern University. "Type 2 is seen in a 'reversal of fortune' situation. He may have started a business and the business may have started going sour recently. … He is a person who sees himself as saving his family from further disgrace and humiliation by killing them."
Authorities announced today that they arrested Enwistle in England and charged him with murder in the slayings of Rachel, 27, and 9-month-old Lillian. Enwistle was identified as a person of interest when authorities found the two shot to death in their Hopkinton, Mass., home on Jan. 22. Authorities believe he shot them on Jan. 20 and flew to his parents' home in England the same day.
Financial hardship overwhelmed Christian Longo, the Oregon man convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 for killing his wife and three children. In transcripts of his interrogation, Longo never admitted killing his wife, MaryJane, 35, and their children, Zachery, 4, Sadie, 3, and Madison, 2. But he told investigators that they led a transient lifestyle, moving from motel to motel and living on Ramen noodles and bread in the weeks before the slayings.
Longo said his family had been used to spending $200 on groceries and not thinking twice about it — after all, he had once operated a construction cleaning business in Michigan. However, his business reportedly folded under $30,000 in lawsuits.
By the time the family moved to Oregon, Longo was wanted for forgery and passing bad checks. He told detectives that he was feeling the pressure of not being able to support his family.
"I was thinking that they were in that situation too long with me," Longo said in the interview. "That they deserved much better. I didn't know if I could give it to them."
Many fathers who kill their families also kill themselves. That was the case with Robert Bryant, who fatally shot himself after killing his wife and four children in their McMinnville, Ore., home in February 2002. Bryant filed for bankruptcy in his landscaping business in California before moving north with the hope of a new start. However, after finding initial success in his new roofing business, he seemed to crumble under the weight of financial woes and perceived failure as a family provider.
Familicide often takes loved ones and communities by surprise. Unfortunately, in many cases where fathers kill their families, the warning signs either never surfaced — or were overlooked, experts say.