Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Couple Found Slain - Mikita Brottman


Mikita Brottman’s Couple Found Slain: After a Family Murder is a true crime volume with a twist. Most true crime accounts focus almost entirely on the crime, and on the identification and incarceration of the party responsible for committing it. This, however, is only the beginning of what Brottman has to say about Brian Bechtold’s 1992 murder of his parents in Silver Spring, Maryland. The author focuses instead on what happens to the 22-year-old after he turns himself in to authorities in Port St. Joe, Florida - and what his life has been like for the almost three decades following the murder. 


That Brian Bechtold would shotgun his parents to death should have come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to what life in the Bechtold home was like, least of all to Brian’s parents. The Bechtold family is one that has been plagued with mental illness for generations, and neither of Brian’s parents were entirely free of the problem themselves. Perhaps that is why neither of them seemed to feel physically threatened by Brian’s behavioral problems right up to the moment he turned his shotgun on both of them on the morning of February 21, 1992. 


But that is only the beginning of Brian Bechtold’s story. 


Brian was so obviously mentally disturbed (eventually being diagnosed as schizophrenic) that he was held “not criminally responsible” by a jury and confined to Maryland’s Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center for an indefinite period of time during which doctors would supposedly work to cure him of his mental illness so that he could eventually be released back into the public.  And that’s right where he would still be when Mikita Brottman encountered him in that same facility more than two decades later — no closer to being released back into society or even, according to his doctors, “cured” of his illness.


Couple Found Slain is Brottman’s reaction to what she learned about Brian and the situation in which he now seemed to be trapped forever. Her well researched recounting of daily life inside Perkins explains how difficult it became for Brian to cope with what seemed to him to be an endless stream of reliving the same day over and over again. What Brottman describes as life inside Perkins, especially in the maximum security unit where Brian spent so much of his time, makes clear how difficult it must have been for Brian or anyone else to retain their sanity, much less try to regain it under those conditions.


Bottom Line: Couple Found Slain is an eye-opener for those of us who do not pay attention to what happens to people confined to psychiatric facilities by the courts. That longterm residents of the facilities often come to see being transferred into the prison system — and act out, accordingly — as their only way out of the grind of living in a psychiatric hospital tells you everything you need to know about the mental torture of living life under such an indefinite sentence. 


The audiobook version of Couple Found Slain, with the exception of brief remarks by the author herself, is read by Christina Delaine whose voice and pacing are such that her words are  always easily understood. Delaine’s delivery, however, does tend at times to swing into a  monotoned, almost robotic, style reminiscent of computer-generated narration, and that can be distracting.  


Mikita Brottman

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

10 comments:

  1. Two decades in a psychiatric hospital in maximum security? Prison almost does sound better. This book sounds very interesting...and eye-opening. Another one to add to my TBR list. :)

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    1. Almost three decades, Lark. The monotony and lack of freedom is worse in these institutions than inside a prison...scary thought.

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  2. That's a fascinating - and terrible - story and an indictment of both the justice system and the mental health system in this country. It would seem that both are failing those in their care, at least based on this person's experience. Surely we can do better.

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    1. In Brian's case, even one of his doctors was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and sent to a different facility. But the really scary thing is the general indifference of the doctors, their overall quality, and the little-supervised guards. We really do have to do better.

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  3. I never cease to be amazed at the things I never think about that someone brings to my attention either in a book I'm reading or, as in this case, via someone's book review. I had just never considered how many people are stuck in these institutions with no way out and I'm pretty sure it's no different here to how it is in the US. Terrible.

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    1. I never much wondered what happens to them either, Cath, always just figuring that they were lucky not to end up on Death Row or in a prison for the rest of their lives. Little did I ever imagine that many of them would end up preferring that option to the one they were saddled with.

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  4. True crime is often hard for me to stomach, so I don't know that I could actually read this book, but it does sound like an interesting read.

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    1. I would never say that this one is a pleasure to read, but it is one heck of an eye-opener. Sadly enough, it doesn't have a particularly "happy" ending, either.

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  5. I do like an occasional dose of true crime but, I'm remember to avoid the audio if I decided to try this one. Narration quality is everything to make an audio work and this sounds like a tough story to have to listen to anyways without struggling with the narration.

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    1. I've noticed exactly this kind of thing before, Diane, where a narrator drifts into and out of a robotic voice and tone. And every single time, it reminds me of the automated voices that come from the kindle books that are "read" out loud by the software instead of a real human. It did distract me every time she did it.

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