Ed Hicks pleaded guilty to bigamy in a Chesapeake, Virginia courtroom on March 2. He will sit in jail until his sentencing on May 8.
Ed Hicks was married seven times, and court records indicate that four of the unions were bigamous. As you might expect, the story is complicated—for details read the Ed Hicks case history on Lovefraud.com. Here’s the quick version:
Sandra Hicks, the seventh wife, filed bigamy charges against Ed Hicks last year. Worried that her “husband” would get away with a slap on the hand—bigamy is rarely prosecuted—Sandra went to the media. The Washington Post published a story about Hicks and his marrying ways on July 1, 2005, the date of his initial hearing on the bigamy charge.
Hicks was indicted for marrying Sandra while already married to Julie Flint, the sixth wife. But the case was not prosecuted due to a technicality of Virginia law. Julie then filed her own bigamy charge—Hicks had married her while still married to his fifth wife, Rose Marie Sewell. Hicks was indicted again.
In the meantime, Sandra and Julie told their story on the Dr. Phil Show. The program, called Conned by a Con Artist, profiled Hicks and another man who had defrauded women. Linda Hembree of North Carolina was watching the show, and realized that Hicks was dating her sister, Barbara Grant. In fact, he had recently proposed to Barbara. Ed Hicks, who at this point was a fugitive, was arrested that same day.
So what kind of man is Hicks? He is charming, charismatic, smooth-talking. While married to two women, he had six ads on the Internet searching for more companions and proposed to another woman. Hicks was totally irresponsible financially—Sandra had to refinance her home to cover $50,000 in his expenses, and Julie had to file for bankruptcy. He abandoned one of his three children. He lied profusely.
“In my opinion, Ed Hicks is a textbook sociopath,” Sandra says.
Don’t use that word
That’s exactly what Sandra told numerous reporters—both print and broadcast—who interviewed her. Usually, the comment never made it into the story, even though Sandra was careful to phrase it as her opinion. (Legally, opinions are “not actionable,” which means people can’t be sued for expressing an opinion.)
Sandra’s opinion that Hicks is a sociopath was in the original Washington Post article, but the newspaper’s lawyers cut it out before the story went to press.
A reporter for the Monterey Herald of California—Hicks was a former instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School located there—actually changed Sandra’s quote. Instead of writing that Sandra believes Hicks is a sociopath, the reporter quoted Sandra as saying, “This man is warped.”
Even the Dr. Phil Show wouldn’t use the term. When she was interviewed, Sandra said she believes Hicks is a sociopath. Then Dr. Phil said about the two men profiled on the show, “Whatever you call them—psychopath, sociopath, antisocial—they have no shame, no morality and no conscience.” Again, even though Dr. Phil is certainly qualified to give an expert opinion, the lawyers cut the statement.
Finally, on December 13—the day after the Dr. Phil Show aired—Sandra was interviewed by WTTG television in Washington, D.C. The station included her opinion that Hicks is a sociopath in its broadcast. Then the Richmond Times-Dispatch printed a story on December 14 which included Sandra’s quote, “I think he’s a psychopath.”
Explain the problem
When reporters asked Sandra why Ed Hicks did what he did, she explained, “He is a sociopath. This is what he does. He has no remorse. We’re nothing more to him than candy wrappers that he throws away.”
Sandra is angry and disgusted that the media would not describe Hicks as a sociopath. “They need to quit looking at the poor victims like they did something wrong and explain the problem,” she says. “I did get it in a few times, but it needs to be written every time.
“People don’t know what these creatures are,” she continues. “They don’t know what to look for.”
Take, for example, the story on March 3 in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about Hicks’ guilty plea. Here are the last two paragraphs:
Hicks, who is being held without bond, appeared in court yesterday in a blue jail jumpsuit, represented by a deputy public defender, Eric Cronin.
Asked after court if he knew what had motivated his client to keep marrying, Cronin replied, “I don’t know. Human nature?”
Cycle of ignorance
So here we are. People don’t realize what a sociopath is, so they get conned. Journalists don’t know what a sociopath is, so they don’t recognize the disorder even as they’re writing about it. And then, when someone does recognize a sociopath, the lawyers won’t let the word be used.
The cycle of ignorance continues. In the meantime, sociopaths are free to ply their trade of manipulation, deceit and fraud.