Synopsis from Macmillan Publishers:
Critically acclaimed author and psychoanalyst Mikita Brottman offers literary true crime writing at its best, taking us into the life of a murderer after his conviction—when most stories end but the defendant’s life goes on.
On February 21, 1992, 22-year-old Brian Bechtold walked into a police station in Port St. Joe, Florida and confessed that he’d shot and killed his parents in their family home in Silver Spring, Maryland. He said he’d been possessed by the devil. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and ruled “not criminally responsible” for the murders on grounds of insanity.
But after the trial, where do the “criminally insane” go? Brottman reveals Brian’s inner life leading up to the murder, as well as his complicated afterlife in a maximum security psychiatric hospital, where he is neither imprisoned nor free. During his 27 years at the hospital, Brian has tried to escape and been shot by police, and has witnessed three patient-on-patient murders. He’s experienced the drugging of patients beyond recognition, a sadistic system of rewards and punishments, and the short-lived reign of a crazed psychiatrist-turned-stalker.
In the tradition of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Couple Found Slain is an insider’s account of life in the underworld of forensic psych wards in America and the forgotten lives of those held there, often indefinitely.
About: Couple Found Slain is a true crime written by Mikita Brottman. It was published on 7/6/21 by Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, paperback, 256 pages. The genres are true crime, nonfiction, and mystery thriller. According to the publisher’s website, “Holt and Company, founded more than 150 years ago, has not only endured since its days of publishing Robert Louis Stevenson novels and Robert Frost poetry, but it has distinguished itself with a dynamic list of award-winning and bestselling fiction (Hilary Mantel’s magnificent Wolf Hall trilogy and Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise, winner of the 2019 National Book Award), history (Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson’s Revolution Trilogy), politics (Stacey Abrams and Elizabeth Warren), mysteries and thrillers, biography, science (Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-winning The Sixth Extinction), popular culture, and psychology.” Please see below for more information about the author and publisher.
My Experience: I started reading Couple Found Slain on 11/17/2021 and finished it on 12/9/2021. I used to read a lot of articles on CBS 48 Hours Mysteries, and reading this book reminded me of how much I missed reading true crimes. The start of this book was excellent! I loved the details about the parents’ marriage and their family life. It definitely gave me the conclusion that due to their dysfunctional home life, the whole family suffered unhappiness. And since they were all unhappy, they treat each other very badly. This book gave me a close view on what happened to people who committed a crime but were found not guilty due to mental illness. The hospital in this story is Clifton T. Perkins aka Perkins located in Maryland. I’m surprised to know there are so many people suffered from mental illness and especially that many people are highly intelligent. It’s interesting to know that when a person is diagnosed with schizophrenia, it becomes a permanent record. Patients are so vulnerable when they have no say in their medications intake. It’s awful because patients alone knew how medications affect them but if they show signs of refusal, doctors will think they’re acting out. The descriptions of how medications caused a person to be half person half corpse pains me. Why would doctors purposely prescribed so much drugs to a person that all they could do was sleep and slumped. That’s not helping at all but sounded harmful even. To read how patients prefer prison over mental hospital was a sad one. Mental health patients sounded so sad how their life are dictated by others at every turn. Life is definitely meaningless in their situation.
This book started with an introduction about what true crime is and the age a person most likely to commit a murder. Then the story began, February 1992, when a young man came into the office in Port St. Joe, Florida to announce something bad had happened. Meanwhile in Hillandale, Maryland, a homicide detective named Drewry went to check on a house as a response from a dispatch call. He knocked but no one answered so he went to the back of the house and saw through the window two bodies he knew for sure were dead. He then called for backup. Later readers found out that the young man in Florida was Brian, 22, confessing to killing his parents George 65 and Dorothy 62 in Maryland. The family’s mental health illness went back to the dad, George’s family. The story then told about the parents, how they first met, got married, and had 5 children where Brian was the youngest and an accidental pregnancy. The family became dysfunctional as the couple had more kids. One daughter ran away, another committed multiple suicides, and the older son constantly had fistfights with his dad and caused troubles with the law. Growing up in this household, no one can blame for what Brian did next.
Couple Found Slain was well written and researched. Interesting that patients from Perkins go to the University of Maryland Medical Center for treatment instead of a regular hospital. Would the doctors be students in training I wonder. I liked reading about different patients at Perkins. Some patients’ eating habits made me gagged and others I was in awed at them for standing up to defend themselves, even acting as a lawyer in court to represent themselves. In this story, readers followed the life and crimes of Brian. I can’t help but felt frustrated for him. He committed the worse crime only once but doctors kept telling him that he’s dangerous while there were others that were more dangerous than he was and committed far more crimes than he did. The stories on staffs at the mental hospital was a fascinating read. It’s definitely a dangerous place to work at because many patients raped and killed and not just with people from outside before they are admitted but with people within the hospital. I read this book so slowly to comprehend what I was reading about. Many parts of this story were a fast paced read. It’s my first time to read about a mental hospital that I want to absorb all information presented. A great book and I highly recommend everyone to read it.
I rate it 5 stars!
About the Author:
Mikita Brottman, PhD, is an Oxford-educated scholar and psychoanalyst and the author of several previous books, including An Unexplained Death, The Great Grisby, and The Maximum Security Book Club. She is a professor of humanities at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. (Photo and info obtained from Macmillan’s website).
More Information about Henry Holt
***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Henry Holt for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.