Spousal homicides, as well, are proprietary crimes. Namely, the husband relates to his wife as if she is his property. In so doing, he feels entitled to make the decision to take her life. We may be an enlightened society that is horrified by the notion of other cultures who throw acid on their wives for "honor," but male relatedness to their wives as property persists in different forms. If the financial issues arise after a divorce, the spousal homicide has less to do with the father's sense of failure at his role and more to do with the husband's reacting to his sense of powerlessness. A confident and desirable woman, especially in a setting of suspected infidelity, only adds to a sense of a husband's powerlessness to resolve a conflict without physical harm.
Proprietary thinking is particularly important to understanding why husbands don't just get a divorce. In current times, husbands have every reason to feel that divorce and custody disputes will wipe them out financially or estrange them from their children. For this reason, the morbidly jealous husband with a sense of dominance about relationships with women in general, and a fragile sense of self-esteem otherwise, will continue to feel powerless even after divorce. The killer's rationale, in my professional experience, is "if I can't have you, nobody can."
Spousal homicide, in the absence of a husband's deep depression or psychosis, invariably reflects the highly entitled selfishness of the killer -- whether the record reflects conflict between them or not. The double-life killer and financially driven killer will demonstrate relief in the aftermath; the morbidly jealous killer may unravel.
Do you think that the publicity of cases like Scott and Laci Peterson contribute to spousal homicide? How?
Absolutely. Husbands who see themselves in the "everyman" quality of Scott Peterson see in someone else an option that they might otherwise push out of their heads as unthinkable. In my professional opinion, killers do draw inspiration from cases in which others have made choices they fantasize about. Scott Peterson felt he could get away with a crime bearing only circumstantial evidence. Tara Grant disappeared and was killed. Her husband has not admitted responsibility and was only now arrested. My professional experience has reminded me that some husbands attract suspicion of spousal homicide, but insufficient evidence emerges to prosecute them. Police work is not so easy as paint-by-numbers.
Do you see any parallels to the Scott Peterson killing of his wife, Laci?
Conflicts about Tara Grant's business trips are quite the opposite of Scott Peterson's double life with Amber Frey and possibly others. Homicide in the Peterson case occurred in the setting of Laci Peterson's pregnancy and her inevitable discovery of his infidelity.
The circumstances here are somewhat different. Mr. Grant may have been unfaithful, or may have been making clumsy overtures as an adaptation to his own suspiciousness of his wife. But there is no indication that he was moving on to another life or had established one.
The morbidly jealous husband who kills maintains an emotional entanglement and intensity well after death. His righteous outrage is easy to tap into. Scott Peterson showed himself to be remarkably detached from Laci Peterson after the crime.