Jennifer Sheehan Was 'Relieved' When Mom Killed Dad


"You feel totally helpless. This is so untrue, and this is what you're putting out into the world?" she said. "You just want to say, 'No, you're wrong. That's not the story.' But you can't really do anything."

"There's a level of passive humiliation there. Kids can't do anything. They can come up and testify as character witnesses, but they listen to all of these terrible things," Dr. Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, told "They are overwhelmed by their inability to take any action."

"This stuff comes at them really hard," Hilfer added.

For Jennifer Sheehan, the experience led to great difficulty trusting people.

"My instinct is to not trust people," she said. "It's hard to accept that people don't tell the truth in court. It makes you not want to go out, not want to have friends, to stay in and not talk to anybody. It's hard to start doing that again. It's little by little."

Sheehan is married and said she would like to have children someday, but admits that she has worried about the possibility of her father's behavior being genetic and has thought about how much she would not want a child to grow up like she did.

"This is riddled with mixed and heavy emotions that could just have a huge toll on sleeping, handling pressure, blood pressure and staying sane," Kazdin said.

Jennifer Sheehan said she went to therapy before the trial, and though she does not go right now, she thinks she might like to go back in the future. For now, she relies on yoga, meditation and breathing exercises to keep her calm.

Both doctors stressed that trial experiences vary greatly and depend on factors like age and prior relationship to parents.

Hilfer pointed to the example of John Edwards' daughter Cate Edwards, 30, who devoutly attended court nearly every day, even when testimonies sent her crying from the courtroom.

"Fascinatingly enough, there's always one kid in the family who becomes the father's lawyer, who sticks with the dad no matter how egregious his actions were," Hilfer said. "No matter how bad a parent acts, it's still a parent."

Kazdin said that Cate Edwards was likely able to handle the strain of the trial and remain at her father's side because of her age and the fact that she was already leading her own life, separate from her parents.

Conversely, Hilfer referenced shamed Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff's sons, Matt and Andrew Madoff, who notified police of what their father had confessed to doing the day before he was arrested.

The sons reportedly cut off all contact with their parents after the arrest and on the two-year anniversary of the arrest, Matt Madoff, 46, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment. He had hung himself while his 2-year-old son slept in the next room.

"We all felt that this kid felt so guilty about, number one, turning his dad in, and number two, being accused of being involved himself," Hilfer said. "It just destabilized him and the guilt overwhelmed him and he unfortunately couldn't handle that aspect of it and committed suicide."

The doctors also emphasized the uniqueness of these cases because of their notoriety and media attention.

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