New York Family Killed in Murder-Suicide Could Have Been Saved

crime scene tapeDivorce can be hell. Particularly when you're going through a bitter custody battle, which was the case with Samuel and Amy Friedlander from Westchester County, New York. And because divorce is a personal kind of hell filled with shame and accusations and jealousy and contempt, couples like the Friedlanders often go to great lengths to hide the severity of their situation from family and friends ... who, not knowing what else to do, are all too willing to turn a blind eye.

Unfortunately, the consequences of ignoring and/or covering up a family's disintegration can be tragic. Or even, as it happened with Samuel, Amy, and their children -- 10-year-old Molly and 8-year-old Gregory -- fatal.

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To outsiders, it must have seemed like Samuel Friedlander just snapped: Early Tuesday, the 50-year-old lawyer bludgeoned his 46-year-old wife to death (apparently with the leg of a chair or table), killed his two sleeping children with a 12-gauge shotgun, and then fatally shot himself with the same gun.

Clearly Friedlander did "snap." But from the few details we know of the family's life, I doubt it happened overnight. Which means had action been taken earlier, this tragedy could have been prevented.

Apparently, the Friedlanders' marriage was "rocky from the start." According to friends, Amy's family never liked Samuel and the couple began talking about getting a divorce two years ago. Since then, Samuel felt Amy was trying to turn his children against him and was afraid he'd lose custody entirely.

At the same time, it seemed most people in the community had no idea what was going on behind closed doors; one neighbor called the Friedlanders a "normal family."

"I just saw him outside with the kids two days ago," said the neighbor. "He looked happy."

Maybe he was happy, that day. But clearly there were many days over the span of years when nobody in that family was happy. Was Samuel or anyone else getting counseling? Did the people around the Friedlanders who actually were aware of their issues ever try to intervene or somehow mediate?

I'm not trying to place blame on friends or family or co-workers or anybody else, nor am I trying to excuse Friedlander's unspeakably horrific crime. Still, this opportunity to point out the importance of supporting families in crisis shouldn't be lost. Never doubt that human beings can easily find themselves in a place, mentally, where it truly seems they and their loved ones would be better off dead.

Divorce is an everyday occurrence, but that doesn't mean we should expect ourselves or others to be able to survive such a traumatic experience without help. Too many innocent lives are at stake. Like the lives of Molly and Gregory, stolen from them too early in the most horrific way imaginable.

Have you been through a bitter divorce or do you know anyone going through one?

 

Image via Tex Texin/Flickr

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