By | July 16, 2006 23 Comments

Bigamists, sociopaths, and the call for a marriage database

In the United States of America, it is impossible to find out if someone is married.

Donna Layne Roberts, whose ex-husband, William Barber, was married at least 12 times, has drafted an online petition to Congress asking for a national database of marriages and divorces. Sandra Phipps, the seventh wife of bigamist Ed Hicks, supports the marriage database petition, and was interviewed in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper last week about her views.

There are people, however, who think a marriage database is a dumb idea. One of them is Kerry Dougherty, a columnist for the Virginian-Pilot. In an article called A good match can come from real talking, she wrote, “There’s a simple way to avoid marrying a bigamist. Get to know your betrothed before sprinting to the altar.”

Some people who posted comments about the database were even more vicious. “Come on, people! Caveat emptor! Take responsibility for the bad decision, and move on,” wrote Brett C. of Portsmouth. “These people who are conned by the bigamists have no one to blame but themselves,” wrote Debbie O. of Virginia Beach.

Bigamists are sociopaths

None of those commentators appear to understand the problem.

In my opinion, most bigamists are sociopaths. I believe that except for mistakes— a few people who think their divorce is finalized when it’s not—in this culture, only a sociopath marries more than one person at once.

Sociopaths have no conscience and feel no emotional connections to other people. This is what enables them to profess their love and devotion to multiple people at the same time. In reality, they have no love or devotion at all. They just mouth the words in order to convince their targets to give them what they want—usually money, sex and a free place to live.

Professional manipulators

So how do they do it? First of all, sociopaths are experts at sizing up a person’s vulnerabilities. Secondly, they are professional manipulators.

Sociopaths are fluent liars. They sidestep questions and always have a plausible answer when discrepancies are noticed. They create authentic-looking documentation. They imply that other people vouch for them, and actually convince other people to cover for them. They keep people apart so it’s impossible to compare notes.

As a result, it is extremely difficult to spot the deception of a sociopath.

Both Donna Layne Roberts and Sandra Phipps knew their betrotheds for more than two years before marrying them. Donna did a background check. That’s hardly “sprinting to the altar.”

More than bigamy

Bigamy is usually just one aspect of a sociopath’s wrongdoing. These people are predators who engage in a wide range of destructive behavior. If you find a bigamist, you’ll probably also find someone who commits fraud, embezzles money, reneges on child support, doesn’t pay taxes, steals from employers, deals drugs or abuses women—any number of nasty things.

Yet as long as the sociopaths don’t commit murder (although there are plenty who do), this country’s legal and financial systems are woefully inadequate in dealing with them. Most fraud offenses are not prosecuted. And for other offenses, sociopaths frequently talk their way out of trouble.

What is the problem? Our legal and financial systems are based on people following the rules. Sociopaths don’t follow the rules.

A marriage database would at least give people who have been targeted by sociopaths a chance to discover the bigamy. Knowing the true character of the predator, they could avoid the trauma that always follows.

Free and clear

So what’s the problem with a marriage database? It’s difficult to think of this as a privacy issue. In many states a marriage license is already public record. So is a divorce. And since a marriage is a legal contract and a divorce is a legal settlement, in the states where these are not public record, they should be.

The point of a marriage database is to make the public records searchable.

You can’t buy a piece of property without getting a title search to make sure you own the property free and clear. It seems to me that getting married is at least as important as buying property. Why can’t we be sure that our spouse is coming to us free and clear?

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Sandra P.

Another fantastic article, Donna. Your analogy of the title search to a the National Marriage Database is perfect. I angered when I read Doughtery’s editorial and some of the comments. Journalists don’t get it, therefore they certainly do little or nothing to educate the public about the problem of sociopaths in this country.



Another home run Donna. The flippant and dismissive way people like Kerry Dougherty and the other commentors you mention is just leading us all down the path to perdition. I don’t understand how people can be so AGAINST something that is plain old common sense.

Kudos Donna!!!


I am not against a national marriage database but I don’t see how such a database would help much with detecting sociopaths, since not all of them are bigamists.

Does anyone know of any study estimating the percentage of sociopaths who are actually bigamists?

I would be interested in knowing.


As the seventh wife of a classic sociopath, I support a national marriage database wholeheartedly. There is absolutely no way I would have continued a relationship with this man had I known. Unfortunately, I found out several weeks after marrying him. He decided to leave his “family” right after the wedding, and I started asking questions. Most of my hunches were answered by one of his ex wives, someone who was hurt by him years ago. She was, and is, supportive of me and my child. I only wish I would have picked up the phone earlier to find out about his other relationships and marriages.


Thank you for your article. Until someone actually becomes the victim of bigamy, it is hard to understand the full force of this crime.

My friend is an American guy and found out that his Japanese wife is already married to another guy – She never got divorced from her first husband!!!!

My friend met her and married her in Japan and had registered with the local government office as required in Japan. However, the Japanese wife as it turned out had been married to another man in the US. This US marriage was a legally recognized marriage in Japan, consequently, according to Japanese law, she was guilty of a crime, bigamy.

Eventually the American guy had to enagage legal help, which took an incredible amount of time and money that he had to pay to get the mess sorted out. He had to engage both US and Japanese legal counsel and ended up in Japanese family court.

My friend was uncharacteristically naive and was taken advantage by this girl looking to meet a well off foriegn guy. The word is that this Japanese woman is back out looking for the next guy, so please BE CAREFUL!

Ox Drover

In my genetic “chain of the psychopaths” my paternal grandmother’s father was a bigamist. In doing genealogical research on him I found out that he was a Methodist circuit riding minister, born in 1860 in Alabama. He had been married at least once to a first wife, but was at that time married to his at least 2nd wife (my ancestor) in 1890. They were living with his children from this assumed first marriage.
In 1900, he was living with a third woman, and my ggrand mother was living alone supporting herself. In 1910, he was living with another woman, and my ancestor and some of her/their kids were living alone. In 1920, he was married to a 4th woman with one more child. Family oral history shows that he was married to my ancestoress and the forth wife at the same time. There was never any divorce according to oral family history which I believe is reliable.

His daughter, my grandmother, had all the traits of a “toxic” narcissist at the very least, and was universally hated for her hateful treatment of others by everyone who knew her. The stories of her abuse of others, of her “social climbing,” and outrageous behaviior are now literally belly rolling funny, but at the time I am sure were NOT funny at all. She actually graduated from medical school in Oklahoma in 1936–I think my grandfather was glad to send her to medical school and get her OUT OF THE HOUSE. She practiced after her internship until 1941 when she died of uterine cancer.

My grandmother’s only son, my father, was a rabidly violent and viscious psychopath. So here we have a Bigamist born in 1860, and his daughter from probably the second marriage a very smart but narcissistic and viscious person, then her only son born in 1922 became “oppositionally definat” by age 10 and was completely living on his on by age 12. He fit all the “check list” criteria except being arrested and imprisoned for life. His crimes though were not slight, he was just able to “get away” with them. Murder, fraud, rape, theft, physical abuse of children and wives, serial infidelity, bribery and other violent crimes.

My psychopathic son who started his “life of crime” at age 17 in full bloom, and is now is incarcerated “for life” for the crime of premediated murder is one in a line that extends back more than 100 years before his birth. My mother’s family is also genetically predisposed to a high number of psychopaths so my son got it from both sides of my family.

His father’s family was also filled with psychopaths (my son’s grandfather I believe to be a full fledged psychopath and abusive controlling husband and father.) What little I know about that family further back gives hints that there were generations of such men behind him.

With the large number of psychopaths in my own genetic make up, I have started to wonder–why am I NOT a psychopath? Why was only one of my two biological sons a psychopath?

Bigamy is only one of the crimes that psychpaths commit, and I agree with Donna that most likely intentional bigamy means that a person IS A PSYCHOPATH as well. Just as serial murder also means that a person is a psychopath. Serial rape and serial any violent crime in my opinion.

I am highly in favor of not only a marriage data base, but a crime data base so that all felony crimes committed by a person and that person being convicted of that crime should be PUBLICLY AVAILABLE INFORMATION.

Criminals in the past have been “branded” with hot irons to indicate that they are criminals, and while I am not one to say that NO convicted felon has ever reformed, people with loooong rap sheets have obviously indicated that they are not going to reform. I believe such information should be avialable to potential victims.

Unwilling Raconteur

Some states keep marriage and divorce records open and accessible, but you have to know where a person is married in order to perform a search. A national database would be *very* beneficial! According to my family law prof, some couples don’t even realize that they’re not divorced and enter into putative marriages. They think that when they’re served with the original petition, that’s it, there ya go! They honestly don’t know that there’s a lot more to the process.


Its so frustrating the way the data is not easily available, the way privacy and the threat of identity theft make it impossible to find out what is true before and after the fact and the way resources which might appear useful cost money and deliver nothing much over and over again.

http://WWW.archives .com is pretty useful- but not consistent.Intlellius is ok for addresses but that’s about all. The resources listed here on lovefraud look good but when I paid $150 for an asset search from one of them, my money went and nothing ever came back. So I don’t know what that is about-yet.

Once all the research is done, then, filing for and serving the bigamist takes forever and costs attorney fees but since its not a big case and there won’t be much revenue to the attorneys or courts, these things get sidelined. The attorney is busy making his living and says to me we are lucky if it gets done in six months, but there is nothing in the law to say it takes that long. Its just how ling it takes them to get around to it and a small case just waits in line for bigger revenues.

But, the system isn’t set up for private individuals to practice law so its less to wait for them than to go get my own JD. Although it has been a tempting thought. Over and over.

God forbid there are jails involved. They make it more difficult! One has to obtain permission to serve anything to a Federal Prisoner. I don’t know why after having done so it takes three weeks to serve the SPATH IN JAIL but the days are passing and nobody cares. Nobody is responsible and nobody knows what to do about it. There is nobaody anybody can call so I should just sit and wait??? Hoo old on there little buddy! Something isn’t right in this picture. And I don’t know what it is, but I’m not buying what I am being told.

The whole thing is incredible to me!

Bigamy is a crime, but unless the person offended covers the entire cost of prosecuting it, there will be no case. There is no money at the state level to prosecute these guys and so if I can’t pay for his attorney and mine, nothing will happen. I live in the same great state where those comments were made too. Can’t wait to see their outrage over it all when its their turn to be outraged!

It turns me inside out to hear and live under the judgement that marrying a bigamist/ psychopath was completely MY fault because I am stupid. He seems blameless – thats a discount you get for not being able to pay. And its everywhere.

Well, private investigators were hired and paid. They didn’t turn up anything but after the fact I found out that online look ups at the Bureau of Prisons is FREE. What service was rendered except that the PI’s bills were paid and nothing overturned the P’s plausible stories.

The legal system operates on money and if you don’t have enough to make it turn, it won’t. Period. The databases there are are incomplete and they operate on money. You can’t spend enough to get answers because they aren’t there.

Unless you are a very saavy researcher you can’t find the stuff about these guys. Even then the amount of time and money and patience it takes is unbelieveable.

So the commentors in the Virginia -Pilot not only don’t get it but add insult to the injury which is already heaped onto someone whe has been lied to and taken advantage of.

Its disgusting. I wish on them the first hand expereince which would beget a true understanding and humble retraction.

I wish a medal of honor for the wives who went all the way and sent theirs to jail.

I wish it was over for me and I could go on with my life instead of waiting in a state of anxiety and anguish for this process to go forward and the relationship with the psychopath to be ended for me.

I have constitutional rights too and I don’t believe for a minute that the system is serving mine by bilking me for time and money without result.

The whole thing is just plain gross.I think that women’s rights in this country have a long, long way to go because the folks that don’t get it feel like its ok to ignore the rights of the victims and the system wants our money just as badly as the SPATH did and nearly for the same reasons.

Guess my outlook is so completely jaded I don’t think there are any good guys out there anymore. Whole industries are based on my distress. They are all out there ready to take what I have – does it matter if I give to to a psycho, a private investigator, an attorney, a therapist or psychologist? At the end of the day, I am still judged as stupid for getting involved with the guy and they get their money.

The next woman in line has no more chance than a bat in hell and the system seems to be ok with that. I hope Kerry Dogherty and Debbie O are good with that because we here know there is nothing a SPATH loves better than a challenge from people who think they are smarter than he is.

Unleash the dogs of hell! There are openings in the Fourth Ring of the inferno for these opinionated just near us who are tormented by the seducers.


Silver you said: …. long way to go because the folks that don’t get it feel like its ok to ignore the rights of the victims and the system wants our money just as badly as the SPATH did and nearly for the same reasons.

Guess my outlook is so completely jaded I don’t think there are any good guys out there anymore. Whole industries are based on my distress….

not jaded. experienced. and righfully angry, and hurt.

to be judged by stupid by stupid people is not to be cursed, but freed. sorry, that sounded a little glib, because it doesn’t speak to the real disadvantage of dealing with a corrupt system in denial, but it struck me that your cry from the dark needed to be answered…there is no shame in being duped. that is what evil does: dupes and swindles.

we will learn how to deal with the worst of situations the best we can. as you say, we are right here for you.

Ox Drover

Dear Silvermoon,

I hear your frustration! Yes, it is a CRIME but only a few “crimes” now days actually merit, it seems, serious jail time. Our county just sent a woman to prison for 18 months for getting behind the wheel high and drunk, and running her car down a boat ramp into a lake and killing her 3 kids—she pled to “3 counts of endangering a child” DUH! So you want your husband prosecuted for bigamy? Ah, come on, it only wrecked your life, he didn’t really commit a “bad crime” now did he?—I’m suprised they didn’t try to make the dead kids pay for their own prosecution of the mother who killed them. UGH!!!!!! (that’s the sound of me grinding my teeth!)



Thanks one.


de nada ingraine.


You got that!
Them kids should have known better, huh?

It is amazing how society just writes off the responsibility of being there for anyone else.

The most insidious stuff really does happen at the county level.

By popular opinion, he didn’t do anything because it was my fault for going to the alter with him.

Why should the county get involved- that costs money. And good people should not have to pay for what I did that was stupid.

My fault, my burden,. If I ruined my life, its not anybody else’s problem.

Them kids should ha’knowed better than to get in that car by the same logic.

Its enough to make people really angry and anger turns into energy which when applied, can make people go away from their jobs and more. I’m hitting the really hot part of the curve these days…

Schultz was right. Charlie Brown is everyman and everywoman. Lucy, when she takes away the football, is everyone else.

Lucy’s got the ball…..AGAIN…..

One-step, What does that mean, “de nada ingraine?”
Has this anything to do with the Mort DArthur legends?
Graine was a n Irish Queen, but it is spelled Grainne, and pronounced Gronya.
Some Irish spelling is strange, for example, Neeve is spelled Niamh, and Aisling is pronpunced Ashling.
Shinaird is spelled Shiniadh .

Mama gem.XX


I know this is a very old article, but I find it relevant. My ex-husband, the P, was already married when he married me. I always figured this fact had to do with his mormon upbringing, but now that I read this, I’m wondering if it’s a typical sociopathic trait. Were any of your spouse’s bigamists?

By the way, I had NO idea he was already married when he wed me. I found out later that he ducked into the bathroom to call his wife to tell her that he loved her right before we exchanged vows.


And do you think that the fact that I have met so many mormons with sociopathic traits has to do with the many ancestors (often not from a very distant past as my grandfather was a polygamist) who practiced polygamy. Do you think that the men attracted to the mormon church when it started were really just attracted to the idea of many wives and were perhaps socipathic in nature? Do you think that if that many bigamists who used that many women, perhaps their sons could be more likely to be sociopathic? At the very least, do you think my being raised in this culture and the acceptance my family has of polygamy has anything to do with how and why I ended up with a bigamist with ASPD?

Thank you for your thoughts.




I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The attorney who prosecuted many of the Catholic abuse cases, also prosecuted many mormon abusers. He says he wants to do a lot more mormon cases and I have been referred to him for my brother who was 10 years my senior raping me for years (starting at age 7) and my mormon bishop trying to cover it up. He believes that it is more prevalent in the mormon faith, but that since it is such a small church, it is not to the same magnitude, but the rate and acceptance of sexual abuse is much worse.

I am thinking about doing the case or at least speaking to the attorney, but I just don’t know for sure. I’m trying to make some kind of sense of it all in my own mind. The timing isn’t necessarily good as I am finally doing well and standing tall from what I went through with the P. I’m thinking I might just want to enjoy life now and have some peace. However, I’m not quite whole yet and have a lot to work through because of my childhood. I want to be whole and empowered, so maybe my therapist is right and this would help me really get closure and REALLY move on, while protecting future innocent children. I just don’t know . . . I am just now really starting to address this in my life, as I’m realizing what happened to me as a child might have a lot to do with my decision to choose to marry an abusive Sociopath, at perhaps a subconscious level. At least, that is my therapist’s opinion and it is starting to make some sense to me. Does it make sense to you? It’s so hard to see the forest through the trees, you know what I mean? So, I’m dealing with the childhood abuse now to get at the heart of the matter.

While attending BYU, there was an incest survivor’s group and it was SHOCKING the level of sexual abuse that goes on within the mormon church. I was crushed to learn how rampant it is, as I truly believed in this religion with all of my heart at the time. I was disgusted to learn of the level of cover-ups and the fact that all of the victims in the group (it was large group of around 30 girls because they refused to pay for a second group or another therapist) had been disowned by their families for telling about the abuse. The abusers all had very comfortable and respectful positions in the families and mormon church.

How many of you had positive experiences when you prosecuted abusers or abusive organizations? Was it worth it? Did you feel empowered or defeated? Was it too triggering if you had PTSD and followed through with lawsuits.

My only experience I have to go from is that it was worth it to go to court with my ex, but mostly for my son’s sake. It was an absolutely horrible, but necessary experience. I believe I am safe and have moved on more successfully because of it. I just don’t know if I have it in me to do it all again this soon after my last ordeal, but I also want people to be accountable and the more the public learns about these things, more new laws will go into place protecting victims and more victims will come forward and get the help they need. I also believe that the accountablity will cause religious leaders to think twice before covering up abuse cases and maybe future abused children will get some kind of help or intervention. I can’t help but think that my life would have turned out very differently if I had been referred to Social Services and taken from my abusive home when I told my mormon bishop of the abuse as a child. I certainly would not have been raped for 5 years in my own home.

I’m also now realizing for the first time that I recognize many P traits in my abusive brother. I find it sick and scary and don’t know what it says about myself that I’m also now recognizing how much my ex-husband looks and even sounds like my abusive brother. Why would I marry someone who reminded me of my child rapist (that is what he is because I was so little and he was 10 years my senior)? That’s sick. I had no idea at the time though. I did not recognize it.


Thanks, one_step_at_a_time.


jillsmith – you’re welcome. but i think i may have spoken out of turn. 🙁

she is the loveliest person and i hope i haven’t crossed a boundary.

Ox Drover

Dear JillSmith,

YOu ask a lot of questions that I have heard others ask. I wish I had an answer for you, but only you with the help and nurturing and guidance of your therapist can decide, and the ultimate answer is for you to decide.

Sometimes fighting back is empowering and sometimes just walking away upright is the wisest decision.

I know that recently when I had to get the legal documents and letters together to give to the attorney to fight my P-son’s parole, it was devestating to me. Frankly if it hadn’t been a self preservation situation I think I would have just dropped it.

Many psychopaths have several sources of “supply” at the same time, interacting with two or more wo/men at the same time. The “revelations” of “prophets” of any religion that espouse multiple wives like the Rev. Tony Alamo, a polygomist come lately, who was also a pedophile, and is now in prison, give me great pause.

Any group that covers up incest or abuse (ANY GROUP of ANY KIND) is WRONG and abusive itself. Whether it is the catholic church or the mormon church or the “first church of Whatever” or the Democrats or Republicans, or some company, it is something that MUST BE STOPPED. I am actually suprised that the Vatican has actually admitted as much as they have, even under the microscope of the media.

People turning a blind eye to abuse is part of the problem. I’m sorry that your bishop and even your parents turned their eyes away from your pain. There is a wonderful book called “Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Idenity” by Marie-France Hirigoyen that might be of value to you. I read it recently and it was very helpful and insightful to me about the abuse of those that simply WATCH WITHOUT HELPING. (((hugs)))) and my prayers for you JillSmith


I know this is an old post but my ex husband knew we were not divorced when he remarried. The lies and the head games my ex plays are insane. God it is so hard to get over and move on.
I can’t wait to his new wife/wives go through what I did. My divorce lawyer would do nothing.

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