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The Financial Crisis Is Driving Hordes of Americans to Suicide

Pushed past their breaking points, people are robbing banks to pay the rent, setting homes on fire -- even taking their own lives.

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Last October, a man in Los Angeles, beset by financial troubles, shot his wife, mother-in-law, and three sons before turning the gun on himself. An eerily similar scene replayed itself this week, when another Los Angeles resident apparently killed his wife and five children -- an 8-year-old girl, twin 5-year-old girls, and twin 2-year-old boys -- before faxing a letter to a local television station and then killing himself. "This was a financial and job-related issue that led to the slayings," Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/01/4-children-moth.htmlsaid. "In these tough economic times, there are other options. In my 32 years, I've never seen anything like this."

As the World Burns

On December 15th, a 41-year-old Dubuque, Iowa man "used liquid pre-shave to set his apartment on fire because he thought he was going to be evicted."

On December 21st, a 31-year-old woman who had been evicted from her Orange Park, Florida, apartment, "started a weekend fire that caused an estimated $500,000 in damage" to the complex that was her former home. That same day, a woman in St. Augustine, Florida, "was charged with arson… after vacating a house she was evicted from that was later found burning."

On January 5, 2009, Bobby Crigler, the property manager for Holly Street Apartments in Fayetteville, Arkansas, said, "I went over and had a confrontation with [tenants about an eviction notice], and they got belligerent." After that, he sent the property's maintenance man, his son, 49-year-old Kent Crigler, to change the locks at another tenant's apartment. When friends of the tenant facing eviction spotted Kent, they assumed, according to Bobby, that he was there to evict their buddy. They set upon Kent, punching and kicking the father of four to death, according to a report in the Northwest Arkansas Times .

Generally, however, if you weren't a multimillionaire intent on suicide, what you did to your house, your husband, your wife, your child, your bank, your neighbors, your landlord, or yourself remained a distinctly local story, a passing moment in the neighborhood gazette or a regional paper. And for the range of such acts, unlike sports statistics, there are no centralized databases toting up and keeping score. Every now and then, though, a spectacular act of extreme desperation makes it out of the neighborhood and into the national news.

One of these occurred this January, although the media generally played it as a sensational screwball story rather than another extreme act stemming from the economic crisis. In December, Marcus Schrenker, a money manager and sometime stunt pilot, penned a letter that read, in part: "It needs to be known that I am financially insolvent… I am intending on filing bankruptcy in 2009 should my financial conditions continue to deteriorate." They did.

As the Indiana investment adviser grew more desperate to escape mounting financial difficulties and legal issues stemming from accusations of investor fraud, he reportedly hatched a plan that was splashed all over national television as it unfolded. According to news reports, he staged a Hollywood-style getaway from his rapidly deteriorating life, complete with a fake mid-air mayday call, a parachute jump over Alabama, and a faked death from a plane he put on autopilot that crashed in a swamp near a residential area in the Florida Panhandle. Schrenker then raced away on a carefully pre-stashed motorcycle, before being discovered by federal marshals just after he had slashed his wrists at a Florida campsite. He recently pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges that he willfully destroyed an aircraft and made a fake distress call.

 
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