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Unidentified psychopaths on Dateline TV

”˜Til Death Do Us Part is a series that began running in January on Dateline, NBC’s true crime television show. It tells the stories of gruesome cases, recently in the news, in which husbands have murdered their wives, and at least one wife has murdered her husband.

In the show Lady in the Lake, which aired January 2, Mark Unger was convicted of murdering his wife, Florence. She fell, or was pushed, off of a boathouse and fell onto a concrete dock 12 feet below. Although unconscious, she was still alive, until Unger pushed her into the lake and she drowned.

In Body of Evidence, which aired January 9, Sean Goff, a former evangelical minister who claimed he found evidence in the Bible for “Christian polygamy,” married and had children with two women. When one of them, Joy Risker, no longer wanted to be in the dual marriage, Goff stabbed her to death, smashed in her face, removed her teeth, cut off her fingers, and dismembered her body and buried it in the Arizona desert.

In A Shot in the Dark, which aired January 17, Kathy Augustine, a 50-year-old Nevada politician, died suddenly of massive her organ failure. Augustine had married a male nurse, Chaz Higgs, three weeks after her previous husband had died of massive organ failure. Higgs is accused of administering a lethal dose of a drug to Augustine, and he may have done it to her previous husband as well. Higgs is awaiting trial.

In Murder on Hearthglow Lane, which aired January 24, Piper Rountree was convicted of killing her ex-husband. With damning circumstantial evidence, the jury was convinced that she had lain in wait before dawn for her husband to walk outside his home for the morning newspaper and shot him dead.

Not once, in all four of these programs, was a personality disorder mentioned. The terms psychopath, sociopath or antisocial personality disorder were never used.

Let’s take a closer look at the accused in each of these crimes.

Mark Unger

Mark Unger, in Lady in the Lake, had been addicted to prescription medication, alcohol and gambling. When a neighbor told Unger his wife was dead in the lake, he ran to her body, picked it up, then dropped it and left her in the water. While the police investigated, he appeared distraught, but when interrupted by calls on his cell phone, Unger was completely calm.

Unger and his wife were in the midst of a bitter divorce. Unger told Florence he would get custody of the children and the house, and she would get little alimony. Before she died, Florence told a friend that her husband was acting like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the trial, prosecutors said that when Florence had fallen and smashed her head on the concrete, Unger left her there for up to an hour and a half while he put their sons to bed. Then he pushed her into the water.

Sean Goff

Sean Goff was described as handsome, engaging, persuasive and deeply religious. He was also controlling of his two wives. Goff told a friend that his junior wife, Joy Risker, had become sloppy and lazy and that he was going to have to get rid of her. But he wouldn’t allow her to keep the kids.

Goff actually admitted that he killed Risker, but said it was Risker’s fault—after they just enjoyed a romantic dinner, she had come at him with a knife. Goff brutally stabbed her in self-defense. Then he said he had to get rid of the evidence because he didn’t want the children to lose both a mother and a father. So he chopped up her body, discarded the knife and took a shower.

During the trial, the jurors noted that Goff shed no tears. In a jailhouse interview after his conviction, Goff claimed he was the one who suffered.

Chaz Higgs

Chaz Higgs swept Kathy Augustine off her feet, and they married three weeks after Augustine’s previous husband died. Later, Augustine confided to a friend that she had made a mistake. When Augustine died after massive organ failure, with a possible injection mark on her left hip, police looked into Higgs’ background. He had spent much of his career in the Navy, had three previous marriages and divorces and a string of bankruptcies.

The day before Augustine was stricken, Higgs allegedly told a co-worker at the hospital that a good way to commit murder was to overdose someone with succinylcholine, which paralyzes the respiratory muscles but quickly dissipates from the bloodstream. Traces of the drug were later found in the victim’s urine. The body of Augustine’s previous husband was exhumed so it could be analyzed for the drug.

Piper Rountree

Piper Rountree had totally lost a nasty divorce battle with her ex-husband, Fred Jablin, a college professor. Even though Rountree accused him of being an abusive narcissist in an e-mail sent to Jablin’s colleagues, the kids’ scout leaders and the PTA, Jablin got the house and full custody of the children. The judge even ordered Rountree, who had left her career as a lawyer to be a stay-at-home mom, to pay child support.

Prosecutors said Rountree came up with an elaborate ruse in which she pretended to be her sister, Tina Rountree, to commit the crime. But she didn’t cover her tracks very well—taking shooting lessons a few days before the murder and making cell phone calls that placed her near the scene. During the trial, Rountree showed no emotion.

Can anyone say “psychopath?”

The transcripts for all of these stories are available on MSNBC.com. I saw the first three shows on TV and read the transcript of the fourth. In my opinion, all of the accused are psychopaths. The traits are there—grandiosity, insistence on control, lack of emotion, bald-faced lies, cold-blooded murder. But the television audience might never know it, because it was never said.

The possibility that Sean Goff was a psychopath was mentioned, however, in a blog article by Keith Morrison, the Dateline correspondent who reported Body of Evidence. Morrison wrote about his jailhouse interview with Goff, describing him as kindly, friendly and engaging. But the murderer was not going to confess to the crime. Here’s what Morrison wrote,

Sean Goff, some members of the jury had come to believe, is a psychopath, incapable of genuine feeling.

Only in fiction

I do hear the term psychopath on television from time to time, but only on fictional crime dramas, and only in relation to perpetrators accused of the most bizarre acts—such as ritual killings and writing on the walls in blood.

Most psychopaths do not commit murder. Still, it would be good to identify the few who do. At least it would be a start toward educating the public about the most dangerous personality disorder of the human race.


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10 Comments on "Unidentified psychopaths on Dateline TV"

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I am curious about the legalities of the Rountree divorce. The story says that the wife had quit her job as a lawyer to become a full time mother, and had been the one to stay home and raise the children, but yet the father was given physical custody of the children. It also said he was very strict in keeping to the visitation schedule. I wonder if he realized she was a psychopath and was trying to protect the children from her.
In the story, it also said that the wife claimed the husband was the psychopath. You can see why the courts have trouble figuring these cases out. Who do you believe? I think what may happen is, the courts lean toward one parent (have the children live with the more stable one), but don’t totally cut the other parent out (just in case..)
It sounds like this woman couldn’t handle her ex moving on, and she probably used the kids to find out all the details of his life…maybe if she had not been allowed to see the kids then maybe it may not have reached the sad ending it did. But, then again, I am speculating about a lot here. We can never truly know what really goes on between two people in the privacy of their homes…this is why the courts have such a hard time with these cases.

Yes, it was good that the healthy parent received custody of the children, but maybe the court didn’t go far enough to protect the children and father. Maybe, the wife should not have had visitation at all.

This Rountree case struck a nerve with me: I fell in love with a man that everybody believed was a victim in his marriage. He too was awarded full custody of his 3 sons and his ex-wife had a couple of hours visitation every 2 weeks. She was protrayed as the bi-polar unstable mother who constantly attempted suicide. I too believed this story and I too was happy to see that justice was served and the “healthy” parent had won custody over the kids. Nothing was further from the truth though. Only after getting involved with this man and going through psychopath hell for four years I started to uncover the truth. From this I have learned that things don’t always are what they look like ….

Don’t know how I missed this old post, but I have been watching Dateline and 20/20 lately, and they are now using the terms sociopath and antisocial personality disorder, but of course it is always applied to someone who has killed one or more people, so it is still reinforcing the fact that Ps are killers.

There were several, can’t remember the names though, where the Ps were viewed by EVERYONE as “wonderful” right up until the end when there was OVERWHELMING evidence that they were the sneaky —two physicians were among those that killed their wives with whom they had “perfect” marriages (at least on the outside looking in) so it is showing that any “Mr. Nice guy” can be hiding this killer-possibility, but still I think doesn’t show that they don’t have to actually KILL to be EVIL or DANGEROUS.

Leentje’s point is also well taken about the psychopath many times making the victim look CRAZY and BAD…

Oxy:
Thanks for bringing this article back. I too missed it….
Just when you think you’ve expolored every corner of LF……up pops something else!

I am familiar with the Chaz Higgs case…..
and Yes…..he’s a psychopath in my opinion.
He was odd to watch in court. Kathy and he are from my ‘neck of the woods’ and I knew kathy on a business level.
She was a very intelligent person who made the mistake most of us did in falling for a Sociopath.
It cost her her life.
Chaz H. is a creep. Very much like the rest of the freaks we see televised in court cases.

I agree, the word is being used a bit more frequently, and unfortunatley in the media, it always is in regards to a murder case.
These are the cases that get in the media……the media isn’t interested in those of us who don’t die.
Sad state of our society.

It’s up to us to find a way to work within what we have to work with to educate and elighten others…..
I know it’s possible, because I sneek it in at EVERY opportunity. If you speak to me…..your gonna hear the word!

Dear ErinB,

Your backbone and guts should be a guiding start to us all, kiddo! I wanna be just like you when I grow up!!! LOL (((Hugs)))

Yea, I do watch Dateline, and 48 hrs mystery, and 20/20 and read the papers and watch for Ps and their crimes. We just had one picked up here in Arkansas after a rape of a teenager and then he did a home invasion sole a car and RAN and when the cops tried to stop the car, he ran into the woods.

This guy was a FORMER TEXAS STATE TROOPER–I don’t need no PCL-R to “diagnosis” this guy!!!! He has psychopath written all over his behavior! Fortunately the sheriff in the countyf where he tookk off got the Arkansas Department of Correction DOGS (blood hounds) out after this guy and after that, he did NOT HAVE A CHANCE, those dogs can find a needle in a hay stack, that is one reason Arkansas has such a low rate of escapes now. Our prisons are located in a delta area out in the middle of NO where and they have the dogs, and if a person wants to dig out or climb over, he better have someone waiting with a car cause if he’s on foot the dogs will GET HIM! They are nationally famous for tracking.

I think for psychopaths…their time has come to be nailed, named and caught.
I have to pause for a moment, to imagine what the dread and fear was like for those POISONED, STABBED or PUSHED TO THEIR DEATH by their supposed “loved ones” did they realise what was happening before they took their last breath? did they die in the shock and utter disbelief? what would that be like for a soul, a human being? just want to send love and light to those who died in that horrible dawning realisation this love is a lie, it must have been so lonely and terrible, to be at the mercy of a total lie….not fair. eternally . Want to BE THERE for them eternally.

Wow, this is an older article! But, even today, “sociopath” and “psychopath” is ONLY used in conjunction with a murderer, and infrequently, at that.

Spathy/ppathy/antisocial personality…….those terms do not truly pinpoint what these people are. “Anti-social?” PLEASE, some of these people appear to be social butterflies. Murderers? Another “please!”

What ever became of the redefinition of sociopathy, Donna? That was a spectacular bit of work that you and Liane did to alter the definition to include precisely what spathy/ppathy is.

BUTTONs WHERE ARE YOU?

That’s why I object to the term “anti-social personality disorder” it sounds like someone who his a HERMIT! Or doesn’t like parties.

If someone isn’t outgoing people will usually say “Oh, he’s just anti social” meaning not outgoing,, not that he’s a Ted Bundy!

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