By | February 13, 2012 108 Comments

Lessons from the Josh Powell inferno

Last week, the Josh Powell story exploded in the media. Powell, of Graham, Washington, was supposed to have a supervised visit with his two young sons. Instead, he slammed the door in the face of the social worker, hacked the boys with a hatchet, and then blew up his house. Powell and the two sons died.

I watched three news shows about the tragedy—Dateline on MSNBC, 20/20 on ABC, and Dr. Drew on HLN (Headline News). All of the programs reflected shock, horror and outrage. Dr. Drew Pinsky did actually call Josh Powell a psychopath. But what struck me about the coverage was that this tragedy was almost predictable. All the warning signs were there, if anyone had a complete picture of what was going on, and if appropriate people had known what they were looking at.

The lessons boil down to three: Knowing how to recognize a sociopath, knowing what sociopaths are capable of doing, and acting on intuition.

Josh Powell, the sociopath

Josh Powell clearly exhibited sociopathic behavior. He first came into public view with the disappearance of his wife, Susan, on December 7, 2009. Josh Powell’s ludicrous story was that he left the family home at midnight to take his two sons, aged 2 and 4 at the time, camping in the freezing desert, and when he returned, Susan was gone. He assumed that she went off with another man.

Before then, however, Susan had confided in several friends and family members that Josh was controlling. He was psychologically and emotionally abusive. Susan was asked why she didn’t take the boys and leave. She was afraid to—Josh had threatened that she would have the boys “over my dead body.”

So where did Josh’s sociopathy come from? It appears to be the classic volatile mix of heredity and upbringing.

Last September, Steve Powell, Josh’s father, was arrested and charged with child pornography and voyeurism. Josh and his sons were living with Steve Powell at the time, which prompted the court to take the boys away from Josh and put them in the custody of Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox.

But that was just the latest, most apparent display of Steven Powell’s personality disorder. Court documents from the 1992 divorce case of Steven and Terrica Powell indicate that Steven Powell had always been a sexual pervert, and taught his sons to disrespect women.

The documents also reveal that at 16, Josh Powell was already heading down the same path. He threatened his mother with a butcher knife. He killed his sister’s pet gerbil. He attempted suicide. And as Josh grew bigger and stronger, even Steven Powell admitted that he didn’t know how to handle his son.

Read: Divorce documents shed light on Josh Powell’s troubles, on

Here’s the point: Based on both documentary evidence of the past, and the abusive behavior Susan Powell disclosed to friends and relatives, Josh Powell was clearly a sociopath. It doesn’t matter how he became a sociopath. All that matters is that he was one.

Sociopaths and custody battles

So what does it mean when one party in a child custody battle is a sociopath? Here’s what courts and child protective agencies should know:

• Despite their proclamations to the contrary, sociopaths do not love their children. They view children as possessions, and they feel entitled to do what they want with their possessions.

• Sociopaths are accomplished actors. They are capable of keeping up a charade of appropriate, even loving, behavior, as long as it suits their purpose.

• In child custody disputes, sociopaths are not interested in the welfare of the children. They are only interested in winning.

• If sociopaths have been violent in the past, chances are good that they will be violent in the future.

• Sociopaths do not want to submit to authority. Some sociopaths would rather lash out violently than submit. Therefore, it seems to me that one of the most dangerous times in a child custody case is when a sociopath loses in court.

Losing a round

I don’t know everything that went on in the custody dispute between Josh Powell and Chuck and Judy Cox, the parents of his missing wife. But from the media reports, I see two glaring problems.

First of all, Josh Powell had just lost a round in the custody battle for his sons.

In a status hearing on February 1, 2012, the court was told that a psychologist who completed an evaluation of Josh believed he had made improvements in his life, because he no longer lived in his father’s home and had been cooperative with visitation requirements. Still, the psychologist had become aware of disturbing information about Josh, and had recommended a psychosexual evaluation. The judge ruled that Josh’s sons would remain with the Coxes, and he was ordered to undergo the evaluation, which would include a polygraph test.

Read Josh Powell to undergo psychosexual evaluation; 2 boys will remain with grandparents, on

Yet the court made no changes to the visitation arrangements. Initially, when the Coxes were first awarded custody, Josh had to see his children at a secure childcare facility. But apparently, because of the notoriety of the Powell case, his visits became disruptive to other families, so Josh was allowed to have supervised visits in his home.

And who was the supervisor? She appeared on 20/20. Although she may have been nice, dependable and competent, she was also a middle-aged, out-of shape woman who would have been no match for a young man if things got ugly.  Even Chuck Cox worried about her, and stated on TV that perhaps she should have had extra security with her.


The second glaring problem in this case: The court’s goal was to reunite the boys with their father.

The judge reaffirmed this goal in the last custody hearing. The case plan developed by Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) was geared towards reunification of Josh Powell and his sons.

The question is: Why?

Josh Powell was the only “person of interest” in the disappearance of Susan Powell.  Rumors were flying that he would soon be arrested for her murder. Josh was known to be abusive. Police in Utah had found disturbing information about him that caused them concern about the welfare of the children. The man was likely dangerous.

DSHS representatives were interviewed by Dori Monson of KIRO-FM radio in Seattle, Washington. They defended their actions and procedures. The bottom line? They were following court orders. Listen to the interview:

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The main problem, at least in this case, appears to be that judges don’t comprehend how dangerous sociopaths can be, and how court decisions can turn deadly.


Many warnings were available in this case, but were not recognized and acted upon. Perhaps the biggest warnings were the gut feelings, the sense of dread, the intuitive fear, experienced by many, many people.

In the TV interviews, several friends and relatives of Susan Powell described being creeped out about Josh Powell. And both Judy and Chuck Cox, the grandparents, said that they had “bad feelings” before that last fateful visitation. Chuck wondered that perhaps the visit should be skipped. Judy felt the same way, but was worried that they’d “get in trouble” if they didn’t send the boys to their father.

Even the two boys didn’t want to see their father on February 5, 2012. But the grandparents did what they thought they should do. The boys went to see their father, and we all know what happened next.

I am not blaming the grandparents at all. They are heartbroken. But perhaps they should have risked “getting in trouble” and kept the boys home. I’m sure they wish they did.

Here’s what we all need to know: Our intuition is designed to protect us. Fear is our friend, and it is based on intuition. If we ever have a really bad feeling about anyone or anything, we should trust ourselves and take appropriate action to get away.

If the court really knew what sociopaths were capable of, and if many people had listened to their instincts, those boys might still be alive.

More about the case


A family’s story on Dateline NBC

Sins of the father on 20/20

Steve Downing, the lawyer for Chuck and Judy Cox, talked to local media about his impressions of Josh Powell. He is obviously describing a sociopath.

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Thank you, Donna, for this comprehensive overview of this tragedy.

You mentioned the GLARING PROBLEM in this case: “The court’s goal was to reunite the boys with their father”

This is indeed the #1 problem in custody cases. This is ALWAYS the goal of the court, ALWAYS. They will go to great lengths to accomplish this, even if the parent is not cooperating, they are given chance after chance. DCF is then ordered, by the court, to come up with a case plan, to make sure the parent has every opportunity to succeed. They have no choice but to follow court orders. Until the parent loses Permanent Custody of the child, the parents still have “parental rights” which include the right to “parenting time” or visitation with their child. They also have a right to view any medical or school record of the child and the right to support said child. A parent’s loss of Permanent Custody is viewed by the courts as equal to the death penalty in a capital murder case. Our State Supreme Court states this in every Permanent Custody case they hear and all of these cases can and usually do go the State Supreme Courts.

You ask WHY? That is the million dollar question. This has been the way it has been for years and years. My parents were foster parents over 50 years ago and it was like that then and it still hasn’t changed.

It is so ingrained into the mindsets of the judicial system, I am not sure if they would feel being diagnosed a psychopath would even qualify a person to be unfit to be a parent. They feel, after all, it is their child, they should have the right to parent said child.

Something you did state causes me concern to our readers. Understand, I know exactly where you are coming from and I agree with you 100%, but AGAIN the courts take this very seriously. You stated, “But, perhaps they should have risked “getting in trouble” and kept the boys home.” Yes, that may have prevented their death THAT DAY, but not following court ordered visitation can backfire in a big way. 1) You can be held in contempt of court. 2) Many custody orders/papers state refusal to cooperate with visitation orders automatically gives non-custodial parent custody 3) Will terminate your custody and child will go into state custody. All these things must be weighed VERY carefully before not allowing a visit.

Donna, our grandson refused to speak to his mother or the GAL during a scheduled phone visit and the GAL asked the court to remove the child from our home (the only one he had known for 9 years) and place him in a foster home where he would be encouraged to reunite with his mother who had not had any contact with him for over 5 years. This is why I caution against this.

When a tragedy, such as this one, comes to light, the majority of the public are shocked and horrified that the court, DCF, the police operate in this manner. We who have been through the “system” are all too aware that this is common practice.

I wish I had answers, it sure isn’t from a lack of concern and many years of banging my head against a solid brick wall.


Donna, this whole thing is so disturbing and horrifying that I can’t’ really process how this happened.

When people KNOW that someone is volatile and dangerous and hear concerns about the spath’s “possible” choices, nobody has a right to act surprised when the spath finally acts out their insanity. All of the lamentation and head-shaking in the world will not bring those poor, innocent kids or their mother back.

This whole thing could have been prevented if only our legal system would recognize that all men/women are NOT created equally – there are simply some very, very bad people out there and, regardless of their status as DNA donors, not every one of them “deserves” to be treated as if they have the capacity to be a “good” person.

I have made it crystal clear about my concerns about the soon-to-be-exspath and what he might be capable of, however unlikely. People kill other people over far less that what the soon-to-be-exspath is facing, and Josh Powell is a perfect example of a psychopath literally getting away with murder via depraved indifference.

Changes to “The System” are an imperative, and Judges and attorneys need to start using “sociopath” as a description when they are making these life altering (or, life-ending) decisions to reunite innocent children with individuals who are obviously dangerous. SHAME on the System for allowing this to have happened!!!


You are right Donna, that probably would have saved those boys. I just wonder though, how many other times the grandparents had bad feelings about sending these chiildren to their father.

At one point, we did violate a court order and took our grandson, without custody. Our attorney called the magistrate, told her what we had done and said she could either issue emergency custody to us or jail all of us (including attorney). That day we had found him, age 4, on the street screaming. He had just been in the middle of a terrible domestic violence incident. We really didn’t care what the court had to say at that point – he was coming home with us…. his life WAS in danger.

Again, thank you.


I do think that US courts start from a different mindset with regards to children versus parent rights than for example ours.

For example it’s illegal to anonymously dump a child to be adopted in Belgium and this goes back to the Code de Napoleon, where a child has a right to having a lineage and therefore parents. This was done as a reaction to the habbit of nobles and bourgeois who got girls impregnated and then left them to be disgraced. Whether a bastard child was a bastard didn’t matter from then on for the law, it had a right to its father’s name. So, this was an early industrial law from the point of view of the rights of children: the right to a name, and the impossibility to disinherit a child, unless adopted.

The UK legal system of course lauded everything French and revolutonary and had the opposite law: anonymous dumping and disinheritance is allowed. Having been part of the commonwealth before independence, much of the US law pov is similar to that of the UK.

While they do try to keep a bond in existence between a child and parent after it has been taken away, and keep evaluating whether reunion is possible, we have special child court judges who are de factum the child’s protector. They decide in the best interest for a child, not the parent. Of course, mistakes are still made, but overall a parent has only obligations towards their children, not rights.

My now dead schizophrenic cousin and her son were an example of that. She never got to even take her baby son home, though they kept her and her boy two weeks in the hospital, teaching her how to take care of it. She had visitation rights, but only first at the not-yet-fostered children’s home, and afterwards only at the home of the foster family. After she died, he can now visit my aunt and uncle at their home once every two weeks. But my cousin was deemed untrustworthy to care for a child without supervision and outside of its safe environment. Of course he wasn’t even 1 yet back then. She died before he was one year.

Another difference and consequence from this different pov though is that parents aren’t as free to raise their children say for example in a religion. People can believe whatever they wish to believe, but certain practices can and will be used to argument child abuse for example in our child courts. It has happened with certain practices of religions regarded as sectarian in my country. While parents of course do choose a religion for their children to be raised in, it’s perceived as choosing instead of the child since hte child is not yet in legal capacity to choose for themselves. If it is seen as possibly harming the child though, then child protection often supercedes freedom of religion in such cases.

Freedom of religion is another legal pov in American law that is one of the main pillars. And it’s mostly this, insofar I can perceive socially and historically, that fueled the pov of parents’ rights superceding the rights of children in the USA.


Donna, do you think that this case will make a difference in changing the system? I’m curious if there have been any interviews with the judge who decided to reunite the boys with their father. I have not been following the case closely but can only hope the word “sociopath” has been thrown around in the aftermath.


Since judges don’t often recognize sociopaths, perhaps there should be “consultants” brought in on cases like this to assess the likelihood of the questionable parent being sociopathic. The party with custody (in this case the mother’s parents) should be able to request such a person. Either that or there should be some sort of special training in law school about sociopaths and how to spot them. As you said, the signs were all there if only the right people knew to look for them.

What does it take to have an awareness in this society that all men are NOT created equal? We’ve had so much publicity lately about child molestors and murderers, you’d think this would be a wake-up call. Unfortunately, we are in the dark ages as far as validation for trusting our intuition. In many ways, our society is still patriarchal and values logical linear approach to decision making.

Ox Drover

GREAT points Donna….and You know I have wondered if I would under the same circumstances do like the woman who took her kids and went to Holland for sanctuary at the risk of being convicted of kidnapping in the US…after her kids were adults and they came back to the US she was still under indictment, but finally was able to return to US. It is one of those “Catch 22 things” and very difficult to HIDE in these days when IDs are so important.

I realize there are 12 million illegal aliens in the US “hiding” but for a middle class woman and her children to hide without the support of an entire culture is another thing entirely. Especially when the FBI is trying to find her and them.

The “options” for a nurturing parent are few…kill the abusing parent and go to prison for murder, leaving your kids for who knows who to raise, flee and risk going to prison for kidnapping and letting him/her have the kids when you are caught or stay and fight for some kind of “normal” life. Sort of like MiLo is doing, and in the meantime using up all your resources financially and emotionally to try to protect the child.

The parents here at LF who have these horrible choices have my admiration for their stamina and their pluck! I am like you, I hope this makes some changes, but it has happened before and I doubt it will.

Good points and great article!


I have an idea of a place to start. It goes along with Star’s consultant idea. Actually, on most custody cases there is either a CASA worker, a GAL and/or a Court Investigator. Most of the courts/judges take the reports of these workers very seriously and usually follow their recommendations. They all must complete training courses. If only we could get Donna’s material and mental health professionals that “get it” like Dr. Leedom’s expert opinions into the training – call it just what this topic is called -Lessons from the Josh Powell inferno – how to recognize a psychopath and their masks ???????

This would be helpful in several ways. GAL’s are often in private family practice/custody law practices, so they become aware even in their private practices. These are also the people who go on to become JV and Family Court Magistrates and Judges.

Let’s somehow get to the people who do have the Judge’s ear. We could all do our part by uncovering cases in our own area’s that have had horrific outcomes and even our own stories. That could be put into the material to make it “close to home” examples.

Make sure these people understand not only the “red flags” but the importance of looking at credibility when it is a case of he said/she said.


Just saw this – Judge gave Jerry Sandusky right to visit his grandchildren. OMG, never mind it is hopeless…..

Ox Drover


Remember though the GAL you had who was herself we believe psychopathic at the worst or just GREEDY at best and she manipulated the whole thing in order to increase her FEES.

So that’s part of the problem…these people should not be compensated by how the process goes at the very least, they should be salaried.

Of course Judges are salaried as well but get off on the POWER they wield, so salaries wouldn’t fix the entire problem of having psychopaths in these positions but maybe it would help some at least.


I think we can always learn from each other’s system… I wouldn’t mind the 3 criminal offence rule here 😉

But I can see a whole uproar being started from our pov superceding the freedom of a parent to raise their child in any type of religion they choose to claim to be a religion, which is regarded as a parental right in the UA. I can see parents go to the supreme court of justice over it and win it for that reason alone. I think it’s one of the main reasons why courts focus more on parental rights than children’s rights. In any social debate I’ve had on another forum the past ten years regarding court cases involving custody, this was the most often cited reason, even if it wasn’t part of the custody case.

In our system, raising a child is an obligation, insofar a parent can raise their child to be a socioally adapted person who is able to make a life on their own in society once they’re 18. That sounds logical and pragmatical, but it opens the door of child courts protecting a child from being raised with morals and lifestyle very much different from society’s expectations. And that would provoke even a bigger debate than health care I’m sure in the US.

Practically, I think the US could start with having separate child courts, and perhaps a systematic diagnozing of disorders (which our courts should do as well) with parents.


I do remember Oxy, I thought maybe this would show HER red flags as well, probably not.

I did have three really good GAL/CASA workers though. I had one terrible court investigator and two really good ones.

I think Judges often have “God” complexes and do things just to prove they can. ie. Judge that just ruled Sandusky could have visits with his grands. Ok, those parents (Jerry’s kids) should be charged with neglect/child endangering for taking them to see their grandfather. IMO

Ox Drover


I think part of it is the “innocent until proven guilty” mind set in our country (and that is a good thing, BUT….) Also, the “social status” set of rich people versus poor. If Sandusky wasn’t rich he would not have bail, that’s a fact….even if he WAS rich he might not have bail if he was not high social status, so it is the “OJ thing” I think, even though there isn’t much doubt truly that he is guilty, he gets all the status and perks of the innocent until convicted. Even then I am sure that sandusky can stay out of prison for years and years with his fancy lawyers and his money. He is old enough now he may avoid it entirely if he keeps up his delay tactics long enough. The public’s interest dies down and that is what he is counting on. Old Joe took the “easy way out” at his age I think. I don’t doubt that his death was hastened by the stress of it all and the loss of his “idol” status.

Unfortunately as we well know, spaths get into higher positions of control, power and influence in courts, as attorneys, military, political, etc. and when you get a BAD ONE you are stuck with the results.

Education of the rest of the folks though might be a help in weeding out some of these bad eggs.


Oh, but this hits very close to home and is hard to read…

I have decided on the approach of lying low, doing the Gray Rock and hoping to just wait it out. One of my kids is almost 18. The others have just a couple years to go.

The one daughter who has refused contact with her father… well, that has sparked his threatening us with court, accusations of parental alienation, threats of a custody hearing and “reunification therapy” and of course that would include several months of her living with him exclusively to help with the “reunification.”

He manages to sound sane and “hurt” and sad and all, and everyone buys it! The kids and I know differently, because we see ALL sides of him — not just the public mask.

And that is the problem! How on earth would a court “expert” no matter how well trained, ever be able to “spot” a psychopath? Some may be obvious… but others are very, very good at those masks and at making the safe, nurturing parent appear crazy or doing parental alienation. At the very least, their “hurt parent” act (yes, it is an act… it is about winning, as you said) creates DOUBT in the minds of the court/decision makers, and sets off a whole cascade of hoops for the safe parent to jump through, threats of taking the children away to a foster home if the kids refuse to see/speak with their spath parent, etc.

You see, I know for a fact if my daughter were forced by the court to live with her father for even ONE NIGHT (or be taken from me forcibly to go to a foster home) (for NO REASON, I might add, as she and I are indeed very close and she wants to live with me; I have always allowed her the choice to change her mind and go back to her dad… she just doesn’t want to. She is afraid of him) — I know for a FACT she would run away!

I think, for her safety and wellbeing, I need to just stay “out of trouble” with the courts and hope that time takes care of this…

Yes, you had better believe I lie low and try to just wait this out. I DO NOT TRUST THE SYSTEM. Not one bit!


I honestly think, if “training” of GALs, etc. ever happens… I truly hope that one of the things they are trained in is to look for the agitation and fear in the one parent, with the corresponding calm, smiling, suave demeanor of the other one. THAT should be a red flag. One parent appears nuts and unstable, and the other one appears unruffled and “hurt.”

And… I don’t think I ever appeared “nuts.” But I did speak earnestly and honestly and “with feeling” about the abuse we had endured from him. And I don’t think they believed me.

(my ex-husband also has this neat trick of countering every single truthful accusation I make about him, with an IDENTICAL, lying accusation about ME!). That creates doubt in the minds of the State decision makers.

“well, SHE hit me TOO!” (no, I never did)

I ended up feeling so stupid, like I was caught up in one of those “he said, she said” things except I was the only one telling the truth. Only he and i would know the truth. I knew I was telling it. What did he think? Maybe by the smirk on his face and the increasing distress on mine, someone should have figured it out.


20years ~ I hear what you are saying. First, I think you are very smart in “gray rock”, even if you have to be “fake” civil/nice to him. It sure beats the alternative. It’s like “Don’t stick a pin in it’s eye, it will become angry”

About the credibility, he said/she said – usually spaths have told so many lies, in all areas of their lives, that there is documented proof of some of these lies. If the court official is shown proof of previous lies, that should be looked at as a credibility issue. Don’t believe ANYTHING they say, because they are proven liars. You would think that court officials would view credibility as a “no brainer”, but they don’t.

I hope your “couple of years” speeds by with any further court intervention. I know how you just feel so “out of control” when this happens. Some stranger is deciding the future of “your kids”, it just isn’t right.

Ox Drover

20 years, you have some VERY VALID POINTS….how is the professional, however well trained, to know which one is the liar ans which one is the nurturing parent? Look at Bernie Madoff for example…and who on earth would have believed Sandusky was a pedophile?

It is scary and takes the wisdom of Solomon to decide who is the “real mother” and that is not an easy thing to come by (the wisdom)


It seems that is all boils down to if you’ve never yourself had a personal experience with a sociopath, how do you believe they exist? I just don’t know how to get the word out in a way that people will understand and believe, particularly with the spaths who have a really good mask. This goes for judges, social services, etc. Jerry Sandusky was granted the right to see his grandkids? Wow. This is pretty discouraging. It is human nature to just take someone on their word. You don’t automatically assume that there are people for whom every word is a lie. You put a sociopath on the stand – you are already giving them the benefit that they can/are likely to tell the truth. Or that if they were lying, it would be obvious (which it usually isn’t).


I don’t know what the answer is, but I hope one can be figured out.

(I just did the dreaded thing of typing a response then must have hit a wrong key and it disappeared… so if it reappears and this is a repeat, I am sorry!)

I have come to feel bitterness and mistrust towards the State because of what happened to me and what has happened to others.

Part of the problem comes in, when people believe themselves to be experts and capable of discerning the truth. I think, honestly, very few people are capable of spotting psychopaths/sociopaths.

Maybe the answer is to hire ONLY people who have been victimized by sociopaths, to be a part of the court system including CPS caseworkers. 😉

Or I imagine someone like Peter Falk in Columbo, because he was really, really good at getting the criminal to unmask themselves. Course that’s just my fantasy.

I also wish that people *would* take sides more, or be willing to say that evil does exist, and it isn’t just a matter of different perspectives, or equal parenting rights no matter what.

And here’s another thing: we divorced 12 years ago, and for the first 10 years after the divorce, I did my utmost to FACILITATE a relationship between the kids and their father. They often refused to go see him, or cried in leaving me, and I was doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. (I still feel guilty for my part in this). I made excuses for him. I would say, “I’m sure he didn’t mean it. Your father loves you.” I said crap like that — yes, I did! I meant well. I thought that it would be healthier for them to grow up, not knowing how their dad had treated me, and that maybe they would never find out. If I never told them.

But when the one daughter slit her wrists and had a crisis and suddenly refused to go to his house or speak to him or anything, that is when I woke up. And I stopped supporting his parental rights. I decided I would not “interfere” in their relationship with their dad, but I also decided I would not encourage or facilitate it, either. So I allow her to refuse. If push comes to shove and we ever have to go to court over this, I’ll fight hard for her right to refuse. But time is on our side, now, thank goodness.

I regret how I handled it earlier. I didn’t know then what I now know about sociopaths.

and so, if it took me that long to figure it out… how long can it take people who only see the mask?


You know there are so many movies out there about real bad guys – Batman, No Country For Old Men, Natural Born Killers…..fill in your favorite…’d think this would osmose into the minds of the public that there really are bad people. We are bombarded with the good vs. evil theme in the media all the time.


You are right, Stargazer. Though I don’t see too many movies… aren’t the villains mostly pretty obvious?

What are some good examples of movie villains who are not serial killers, just plain “upstanding citizens” for all appearances, who take their masks off only at home?

Ox Drover

You know the best movie I think about psychopaths is “there will be blood” well, that and Gaslight, but the ones who are sort of sneaky about it rather than wearing “black hats”–when I was a kid that was the way you told the bad guys was they wore black hats and the good guys wore white hats (really!) in the cowboy movies. LOL Not that simple though in real life, the bad guys cover up their evil with a mask of kindness many times.

Too many people though don’t realize that there is EVIL in this world, they don’t want to realize it I thik because it would scare them to realize they are surrounded by EVIL people and it can happen to them.


OH YES, Oxy, you are right — There Will Be Blood is a GREAT movie.

You know one thing I noticed about that movie which was very interesting to me, was that there were no female actors except as background to the males. Ordinarily, females express a lot of the emotions, but in this particular movie, only the males expressed emotion. I remember the one scene where the lead comes into the house to talk to one of the men, and the women literally fade into the background . I mean, the lighting suddenly puts them in shadows and they cease to do anything interesting, except there only as background. This is true for the entire film. Not a single female expresses any emotion whatsoever.

But that is aside from the spath part of the story. A very well done, interesting portrayal. Thanks for reminding me!

And yeah, but Gaslight was so long ago! It endures because it is brilliant. But can’t we have some new movies about this type of thing? I’d love some…

Ox Drover

I am sure there must be some newer movies,, but I don’t watch a lot of the films that are “current” I prefer a lot of the older films, and the ones I can get the DVD for $2 at the flea market. LOL

My son D recommended “There will be Blood” to me and when Ii got done watching it I went WTF!~!!!!!???? That guy was a psychopath, and the last part where the preacher and the businessman were both “losers” it was really really eye opening.

The War of the Roses, too, was a “comedy” but at the end I saw that they were both psychopaths and I almost cried. I laughed my arse off throughout the movie but at the end….it was no longer funny and I realized it never had been.

Comedy is someone else’s tragedy…from slipping on a banana peel and falling to the War of the Roses type stuff….what a shame that we laugh only at other people’s pain.


Great article, Donna. It fuels my fire about my own continued “intuition” regarding my husband’s ex-wife and her current husband (2 sociopaths) raising children and in the process destroying them. Yet, the “system” gives them both a “pat on the back” for a job well done in a recent custody trial and allowed them to continue to be the custodial parents of my stepson.

Our case involves so much tragedy and enormous warning signs of danger and the judge threw it all out as “hearsay”, the “Free” lawyer used by my husband’s ex-wife distorted the truth, lied and fabricated facts in her sociopathic client’s favor and the children remain in their custody.

If anyone here has never heard of “Parental Alienation Syndrome”, research it. It explains it all in cases like this. The Josh Powel scenario is a case of a sociopathic father, but there are countless sociopathic, vile, evil, controlling, manipulating and dangerous custodial mothers out there who use their control “as the custodial parent” with more time with the child to manipulate (as is the result in the majority of divorces) to destroy the childs’ relationship with the father and in the process destroy the child, and, right now the system is not accountable for allowing this to continue

The Josh Powell story is incredibly disturbing and upsets me terribly. The system has to change in how their failure to recognize sociopaths who are raisin children.


It’s been years since I saw War of the Roses, but I have often thought of that movie to describe an old relationship with a guy I lived with. Had we stayed together, we probably would have killed each other. I will have to see it again to see if I think they were both sociopaths. I certainly think being around certain people can BRING out sociopathic tendencies that we didn’t know we had.

Oh, and when I mentioned the Batman movies, I was referring to the evil villians Batman (Superman, Spiderman, etc.) were fighting – not Batman himself, who is the hero not afraid to fight evil. I’m sure the fact that he had to cloak himself to be in his full power has some sort of connotations, too.


In my humble opinion, I believe the courts’ view of parents rights to their children stems from the time when women and children were considered property of their husbands and fathers. “Rights to one’s children” is about rights to one’s chattel.

What about the children’s rights to their safety and well-being? Or the US Constitution talking about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

As for the courts understanding about sociopathy, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. We recently tried to get restraining orders against my mother, sister, and niece for stalking, but the police and courts thought that we were out of our minds for getting upset over such nice sentiments, despite the manipulation screaming off the pages. The police told us three times that there isn’t any law against sending a card. I finally stood up for us and responded, “There is if it isn’t wanted and these people have been told to leave us alone.” Then the cop tried to throw us off by seeminglin wondering aloud, “I wonder if there are even any stalking laws in this state.” I snapped, “There are stalking laws in all 50 states.” Pointless. Stupid on my part. They weren’t interested in hearing anything; I was an annoyance and a troublemaker.

If I am deciphering things correctly, the courts and police are only capable of identifying the bad guys when they look obviously nasty and after committing horrendous crimes. Until then, they haven’t done anything wrong and they have their rights, too.


G1S ~ Stay around long enough to talk to me. I left you a long message last time you posted. That was followed by a discussion about how LF differs.

I believe that you could get so much information/help here.

Thinking of you and Sarahh all the time.


G1S ~ I read everything you went through in court and I am so sorry.

Have you researched the telecommunication harassment laws in your state? I wonder if they cover the internet?

Another thought, with all you wrote about your “mother’s” card to your son, I get the feeling she thinks you have him tied-up in the basement and refuse to allow him to have a relationship with her. Your whole family seems to be going on the impression that if they could just “get to him” without your influence, he would “come around”. Does this sound crazy?

I know NC is usually best, but it certainly isn’t working too well for your situation. Again, maybe I’m way off base here, but do you think a ‘LOOK OLD LADY STAY OUT OF MY LIFE” nasty letter from your son, disowning her as a Grandma, would do any good? Probably not a good idea to feed her, huh?

I just wish you could both live with some peace.


Ox Drover


Yes, it is frustrating when people think “welll, it’ls your moooother.” Believe me I can relate. I’m sorry you are going through this because they obviously think if they keep on with this “sweetness and light” that you and/or your child will come around and see them for the “nice people” they are.

I echo MiLo and say “stay around at LoveFraud” because your experience has much to offer to other parents dealing with the same thing of toxic families. God bless.


Star~ what you said about being around sociopath’s bring out spath tendencies in US that we didn’t know we had really hit home with me. There have been times when I’ve wondered if I’m a sociopath because looking back I can see how I would sometimes share the same traits as IT. Maybe I was imitating the ex spath’s behavior for self-preservation or IT just rubbed off on me. Anyway, I do have empathy and remorse and a conscience. That said, this was the first time in my life I remember lying (to make IT think I wasn’t on to the lies and manipulation), the first time I had lied to my family (telling them IT was good and hadn’t done the things he was accused of), and I became paranoid. I also got angry much too much and thought I was losing it, that I was truly bi-polar (IT’s diagnosis of me). I can see how far into delusion and mental/emotional instability a sociopath can take us. We can’t believe their lies, especially the ones that force us to question whether WE are the ones with the disorder.

On the Josh Powell case, it is just my humble and inexperienced opinion that NOTHING and NO ONE was going to prevent this tragedy. Even if the proper steps were in place to protect the children, even if the social worker had security with her during visitation, even if visitation had been denied completely, this sick psychopath would have found a way to carry out this gruesome act of evil. I truly believe one way or another Josh Powell would kill his entire family and nothing was going to stop him. With the mother gone, there was nothing stopping him. Spath’s operate that way, demented, entitled, and with no respect for society be it family or authority.
I’m not saying the system shouldn’t change, but our system is already too imperfect to have saved these children from certain death.

I like Darwinsmom’s suggestions. Her country has it right in that children should be protected at all costs even if it infringes on a parents “rights”. Making more people aware of sociopath’s, making changes in our legal system that protects victims of sociopaths above their “all men are created equal and innocent until proven guilty” decrees will help to avoid some of these tragedies in the future. Knowledge equals power.


We recently tried to get restraining orders against my mother, sister, and niece for stalking, but the police and courts thought that we were out of our minds for getting upset over such nice sentiments, despite the manipulation screaming off the pages.

Have you considered just rossing this stuff in the trash without even reading it, the way we all have to do with any kind of unwanted JUNK mail? Who cares if there’s “manipulation screaming off the pages”? LET IT SCREAM! That’s no different from junk mail either, always trying to manipulate, seduce, scare or pressure us into buying something.

Don’t even waste your time reading the stuff. Once you see who it’s from, just toss it. Have a bonfire and dance round it if you want. That’s a darn sight quicker, cheaper and less time wasting than chasing around after a load of courts and lawyers who don’t do what you want anyway.

It also has two side benefits. One of these is not getting the government involved in our lives any more than absolutely necessary, which in the long run only encourages government to become overgrown, bloated and an imposition on us all.

Better still, it has the side benefit of possibly being more effective in the long run. Your problem is that you’re trying too hard to CONTROL the behavior of your mother, sister and niece, to make THEM “change.” Yet none of us can ever really “control” another’s behavior. However, we can often hope to influence another’s behavior, within certain limits. Behavioral psychology teaches us that as far as it’s possible to stop another person from doing something, the best way is not to “reinforce” their behavior in any way at all. Ignore it and don’t respond in any way whatsoever. To some people who are trying to get your goat, even a negative or outraged response from you is better than nothing, and will only encourage them to continue. If on the other hand you ignore what they’re doing entirely, then as far as they can see, whatever it is they’re doing is having no effect at all. Eventually they’re likely to give up.

I’m sure there’s a great similarity between this approach and the “Gray Rock” technique Skylar was discussing in another article.

Used Brauer

Is is me or does anyone else think that law enforcement has a misguided concept of the definition of a sociopath? With almost every crime story I read about it seems like they “just didn’t see it coming”. Aren’t they educated in crime? I lived with one sociopath and the signs are so obvious to me now and so predictable. Law enforcement must see them every day! Why do they let their guard down like this especially where little children are involved? I’m amazed when more precautions aren’t taken with these cases. I would never have allowed Josh Powell to have “supervised” visits with those children on his own turf.

Your article states, “Our intuition is designed to protect us. Fear is our friend, and it is based on intuition. If we ever have a really bad feeling about anyone or anything, we should trust ourselves and take appropriate action to get away.”

I agree, but society, with it’s misguided definition of “tolerance” frowns upon us if we judge someone or don’t give them a chance to change. Add upon that the legal system and our hands are tied. We aren’t even allowed to warn others of known sociopaths. I was forced to remove my blog posts because they identified a sociopath (my ex). I’d be interested to know how you are able to publish information about your ex-husband. How can we fight the legal system when they side with a sociopath?

I feel so sorry for those poor grandparents, who undoubtably felt as if they had no choice….


the lawyer is amazing. i could listen to him for hours.


Woundlicker, I can’t speak for everyone, but I have examined myself inwardly to the point where I have seen sides of myself that are narcissistic and sociopathic. The sociopathic sides have served me at times when I’ve needed to do something to survive, such as leave a bad relationship. I can cut someone off very coldly and completely if I have to. And I’ve also seen narcissistic greed and envy in myself, too, almost in the same way I observed it in my mother. I was very ashamed when I saw this side of myself. I had to accept it and the pain from my life that caused me to be like this. None of it was pretty to look at, and yet I am trying to love myself and accept myself, ugly parts and all. I am also the person who will go out of my way to help a friend in need and the same person who bonded so deeply with my cat, that I will probably never get over her death. I believe that as humans, we have the capacity/potential for all kinds of extremes.


Star~ you might not speak for everyone, but you do speak for me. I, too, have a narcissistic side. I have seen common traits I shared with the ex spath. I am just starting to process all of this and be completely open with myself.
I have explained and even joked away why I have these dysfunctional faults. Even telling people I’m part Greek, part Turkish so sometimes I hate myself. No one ever gets the lame joke that Greeks & Turks hate each other.
I would grasp at ANYTHING to explain my selfishness, mainly that my Chinese zodiac of the dog says I’m prone to selfishness. My point being, I was trying to find any excuses for the negative things I’ve done instead of taking responsibility with the truth.
What I’m finding out is that yes, I have undesirable traits and characteristics, but these “weaknesses” are in part what has gotten me into a relationship and friendships with sociopaths. Mix that with my undying need to feel needed and to nurture and love and its no wonder why I’m here at LF now.
The thing is, although I’m open to attracting spaths because of commonality with them, I’m also the one hurt each time because my conscience and empathy are much bigger then my personality disorders.
Star, the fact that we’re here finding truth, guidance and healing says so much for our desire to change. Spaths have no desire, they believe they’re perfect.
As low and empty as I have felt, as desperately depressed and sick as I got after the ex spath, I would still never trade places with IT for even a minute. They desire what WE have. Not the other way around.
I think loving ourselves is probably going to take longer than recovering from the pain of being involved with a sociopath. If it truly is genetic and somewhere in your mothers history you see narcissism, I think that explains why we attract them, not just because we have common traits but because they can see we’re vulnerable to their deception. I see what I need to change about myself so that I can love who I am and my goal is to do just that. I am still ashamed of things ive done and I’m ashamed of having these spath like tendencies, but forgiving myself and taking it one day at a time instead of living in the past will heal me and allow me to like and love myself.
Good luck, Star, and God bless you. Your posts have been so helpful in my healing. I get so much from your wisdom and advice.

Ox Drover
Ox Drover

I remember when I was that stupid. *sigh*


You dont need a degree in physcology to be in law enforcement.


You got that right, hens.
However you may need a degree in law enforcement to be in psychology with psychopaths….

The Josh Powell story has hit so close to home, with me, that I can’t even bare to follow it or read the story above.

I think I said, once before, here, that I had a 2-1/2 year old Grandson who was viciously murdered in 1992. An acquaintance of my daughters, she grew up with him, they went all through school together…he went in the Marines and was gone a couple of years, came home and started love bombing her…in the end, he stabbed my grandson through the heart 18 times, then took his body and threw it in an empty field, behind a sign that was overgrown. We all really do believe that after he dumped my grandson, he did intend to go back and murder my daughter as well. However, by the time he got back, she had already discovered the bloody bedroom and the fact that ‘her friend’ was gone…she took her cellphone, couldn’t find her keys, went and locked herself in her car and called the police. By the way, at the time of his arrest, her keys were in his pocket.

The police came and he finally confessed to doing it and took the sheriff and showed them where his body was. It isn’t easy being a grandmother, one who actually climbed in the cemetery hole and laid that little coffin to rest on the dirt.

And, I have one thing to say:

How dare this psychopath in my life think he can take more.
Who does this ‘entity’ think it is?

It was difficult holding my family together. But we made it.
I have never seen my family more devastated. Who was this evil person that created so much devastation and sorrow in my families lives?

I will tell you who: A FOR REAL COLD BLOODED, PSYCHOPATHIC, KILLER. Just like you see in the movies, folks. Only thing is, he was examined by several psychologists and they found that he is not insane but very manipulative and knows exactly what he is doing. In other words, he was and is in touch with his psychopathic side and tendencies and uses them to his full advantage, no matter what that takes.

I can’t bare to think nor read of the sorrow the grandparents of these children and their mother must be going through. It never really goes away. And, “I” have a psychopathic stalker ?? Some how that ppath seems so inconsequential when I think of this experience in my life.

My grandson’s murderer is in prison for the rest of his life without the possibility of parole; ever. He was an abandoned child who was taken in by adoptive parents and they raised him as their own. Gave him everything. They were older people. It came out at trial, he beat his adoptive father with a tire iron one time because his ‘father’ wouldn’t give him what he wanted, whatever it was…I can’t remember now.

I have traveled many roads and seen many things.
My faith has not wavered in whatever higher authority there might be…my faith has wavered in humankind.

Love to you hens…


20years: you said: “I also wish that people *would* take sides more, or be willing to say that evil does exist”…

You are absolutely right.
I could completely relate to your post up there.
Absolutely. I think from what I have read, you are an amazing mother and you should never feel guilty for making all the right decisions. I can tell you love your children very much and your post moved me. Reminded me so much of myself in younger years.

Thanks for your post.
My prayers and wishes are with you.

You will be just fine…I hear it!

Love ~ Dupey



Woundlicker, it was in the aftermath of my spath that I discovered my own narcissism. I remember blogging about it on here and the shame I felt. Yet it was also a relief to own this part of myself and bring it into the light and accept it. Something shifted for me when I did that. I loved myself just a little bit more.

When you talk about your Chinese zodiac sign being selfish, would you happen to have been born in the year of the rat? I was, and selfishness is one of the negative traits of that sign. I have made peace with that side of myself. It’s part of my shadow (this term that was coined by Carl Jung). My shadow is to be clingy, possessive, jealous, and envious. I am have a deeply compassionate and caring side, too. My personality is really prone toward extremes. But being a Libra, I usually strive to balance those things out. This is why, even when I was working as a stripper, I never sunk too far into depravity that I couldn’t bounce back and live a healthy life, which would be the biggest danger of a job like that – what it does to your psyche. I am one who probably would never let myself become a drug addict or sex addict, though I am aware of a part of myself that would be intrigued to go in that direction sometimes. If you are at all into astrology, I have 3 or 4 planets in Scorpio. This makes for someone who is capable of extreme heights of spiritual awareness and also the depths of depravity. I’ve probably dabbled a little in both directions, but always come back to a more moderate life.

Everyone has a shadow side. It may not be the same as yours or mine, but everyone has flaws and character weaknesses. I feel that we are not supposed to be perfect and without flaws to sit above everyone else and judge them. I think it’s just more kind to ourselves to accept our flaws and take responsibility for them, particularly when they would cause us to act out. I believe we are totally lovable even with those flaws. If we can love ourselves, we’re one step closer to allowing others to love us. Also, I feel that even though some of our weaknesses may have drawn spaths to us, we can equally draw kind people to us who accept us even with these same flaws. Just being aware and admitting our weaknesses means we are becoming whole and learning to love ourselves. And of course if you are AWARE of something you are doing, you then have the choice to change it anyway.


I had no idea about your grandson. How horrible, and I’m so terribly sorry. 🙁


Woundlicker, I also wanted to add that I think being a little sociopathic can come in handy when breaking up with a spath. For instance, instead of trying to figure out their motives, what they want, what they are like, etc., etc., we could actually be selfish and say “who cares?” Who cares what they’re up to, what they want, what they’re doing, who they’re doing. Fact is they weren’t good enough for us. End of story. Moving right along……..What do *I* want? You can actually become indifferent toward them in your mind. It’s the same as a sociopathic discard, only you do it mentally. You just disconnect and put your energy in another direction. The best direction is the direction of our own healing and our own lives.

After a few months of obsessing over the spath, I employed this technique very proactively to get on with my life. But first I had to ensure no contact with him ever again. The only way to do that was to turn him in to the army for his crimes. Once that happened, he completely disappeared out of my life. During that time, the army told me he was suicidal and asked me if I wanted to recant my statement that eventually caused the army to find him guilty of fraud. “Hell no!” I said. My attitude toward him was very sociopathic. I think a lot of people here could use some of that attitude at a certain point in their recovery.


Judges are ELECTED in the US and there are some very odd attitudes to the total rights of parents. For example the Texas Republicans put in their party platform 2011 a plan to create a new charge so that parents who accidentally discipline their child to death aren’t charged with murder….

So sorry for your loss Duped. Your family are lucky to have someone so understanding and loving- I’m sure it was you who held them together.

But the majority of people, even if they ‘know’ just can’t their heads round sociopath/psychopathy…and we have medicalised the concept of ‘evil’ to try to explain it in recent years. Well some things just ARE evil, there is no explanation, and there is no treatment for it or for personality disorders. The medical and legal systems- because they attract arrogant, personality disordered workers maybe?- cannot accept this!

Whatever you do is likely to turn out bad in some way after meeting one of these dangerous people who have no conscience or compassion. For those of us who’ve been there the best outcome is usually they move on and victimise someone else….

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