The day after Christmas, I got a lesson in respecting the elements. It was about 35°F, not really that cold, but there was quite a wind chill. The kids and I went to the beach to run the dog on the sand at about 3:30 in the afternoon. We got back to the van at about 5 to discover that good old Mom had lost her keys. (Actually, a prior foster dog had chewed a hole in my jacket pocket and the keys fell out.) I ended up calling a taxi, but we waited in the elements for at least an hour total.
We were all properly dressed with boots, hats, gloves and heavy jackets. In spite of being prepared, we were chilled to the bone when we finally got home. I said to my daughter, “I can see how easy it is to freeze to death in the cold, and why people die when they get stuck in the snow.”
I’m sure most people who live in places where it gets dangerously cold have their own stories to tell. That is why it is so tragic and unbelievable that an Idaho father “allowed” his 11 year old daughter and 12 year old son to attempt to walk 10 miles in the snow Christmas day after their vehicle got stuck.
Temperatures ranged from -5 to 27°F when the two set out from the disabled vehicle. According to the Associated Press, the children were living with their father Robert Aragon and were being driven to visit their mother JoLeta Jenks. “After the sedan got caught in the snow, authorities allege Aragon let the children out to walk to their mother’s house while he and his cousin Kenneth Quintana, 29, stayed behind to free the car. (They freed the car and went home rather than driving to make sure the kids made it.) Jenks said she eventually called Aragon because she was concerned after no one arrived at her home on Thursday.
Aragon had driven back to his hometown of Jerome after letting the kids out to walk to her house, Jenks said.
“I could not believe it,” she said.”
The 12 year old boy was found 4 ½ miles away, delusional from hypothermia. His sister was not so lucky, she was found dead 2 ½ miles away. Fleming (the local Sheriff) said she was wearing only a brown down coat, black shirt, pink pajama pants and tan snowboots.
He reportedly commented, “I’ve never seen anything like this, it was a 10-mile walk, the way they were dressed, it’s just all mind-boggling.”
Incidents like this one are the answer to the “So what?” question. What’s the “So what?” question? It is the response judges and attorneys have to the finding that a parent is a sociopath or has psychopathic personality traits. So What?
|DSM IV Sociopathy (Antisocial Personality Disorder)|
|5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others. 6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.|
|10. Poor behavioral controls
13. Lack of realistic, long-term goals
16. Failure to accept responsibility for actions
17. Many short term marital relationships
The table above shows that irresponsibility and recklessness are part of sociopathy as defined by the psychiatry’s DSM and psychopathy as defined by the PCL-R.
Why are sociopaths so consistently reckless and irresponsible? These traits get us to the core of the disorder. At the core of the disorder is poor impulse control. What that means is that if there is a situation where the sociopath has to balance pleasure and risk, the sociopath will always choose pleasure over managing risk. Sociopaths are unable to feel fear or concern for consequences during the time they are focused on immediate pleasure or comfort.
In situations like the father and the kids in the snow, the pull to get the car out and go home is stronger than any concern for the kids. While in pursuit of a goal involving pleasure, thoughts of risk or danger simply are not there. So why would a sociopath drive to go find the kids when he can go home and be warm?
Also sociopaths are unable to love so they lack working empathy. Thoughts and feelings of another’s physical suffering simply do not register on the radar. Out of sight, out of mind defines sociopaths and their relationships. The minute the kids set out, they are gone.
Sociopaths also lack moral reasoning ability. That means they are unable to detect and interpret situations that have moral implications. The moral implications of parental responsibility do not register at the time life and death decisions have to be made.
There is not much information regarding Aragon’s psychopathic personality traits. But he does have two drug convictions and often drug abuse/addiction causes these personality traits. I am sure we will learn more about this tragic story over the next few months.
Sadly, most people do not understand sociopathy and how it is disabling for a parent. To expect a sociopath to execute sound judgment or be a protective parent when forced to choose between his pleasure and his child’s pain is like expecting a mentally retarded person to do calculus.
One of our Lovefraud readers, Rune sent me these comments to this story as posted on AOL.
05:41 AMJan 02 2009
If this man is such a criminal…why did he have custody of the children? Yes, he made a decision which will haunt him for life…..what’s to be gained by putting him in jail for life? Over zealous authorities and a useless justice system…..this case really depresses me.
04:39 AMJan 02 2009
so we are now putting fathers in jail for stuff like this. seriously whether they went walking or not they would have still needed to be in the snow. the father was only doing what he thought was best. if he was such a bad father than why does he have custody of them over the mother. yes it was a bad judgement on his part but dont you think he has been punished enough by losing his daughter. we will punish people for [heinous] crimes but we still cannot find osama bin laden or even catch murderers here or sex offenders. wheter what he did or not is irrelvent he lost his daughter let him go find peace in his heart. if god can forgive him why cant we. stupid to let this man go to prison.
11:55 PMJan 02 2009
This is a very unfortunate accident. The fact that the man had custody of the children tells me that he was a good father. In situations such as these, decision making is sometimes not the best. This man will be haunted by this for the rest of his life. They should drop all charges. Isn’t he paying enough for his bad judgment?
06:08 PMJan 01 2009
Obviously the man did NOT mean to harm his children. His son and daughter lived with him. He took care of their basic, daily needs. Why would he intentionally bring harm to either child when he has taken care of them so well for their entire lives? There’s no doubt in my mind he made an extremely poor decision. Then again, these two kids were more than likely used to snow, rain and other extreme weather, being that they grew up in that climate. The way he is portrayed by the media is simply unacceptable! Especially with the eye-catching headline..”MAN ALLOWS HIS CHILDREN TO WALK 10 MLES IN DEEP SNOW. 11 YEAR DAUGHTER DEAD FROM HYPOTHERMIA.” For the most part, even if this man wanted a fair trial….how’s he ever going to get one if slanderous & severely misconstrued statements were already pumped out to the masses? That man is in bitter anguish. It’s a “life sentence” if you ask me for this individual to have to spend the remainder of his life knowing his poor decision resulted in the…
The comments also indicate that people don’t know that sociopaths frequently get custody of children. One cannot assume that the parent who has custody is “providing for them.”
It is time for family courts to learn to assess sociopathy and its meaning for parenting. The very least they could do in the case of two sociopathic parents is to educate them about their defects. At least we should tell them, “Look, you are missing all of your decision making social brain, so don’t put yourself in a situation where you will have to choose between your child’s welfare and your own comfort!”
FYI AOL has a poll, I participated and got the following results:
Do you think a murder charge is warranted in this case?
No 47% 101,555
Yes 31% 66,279
I’m not sure 22% 46,384