Friday, March 12, 2010

Mark Kerrigan: Troubled Man

by Diane Dimond

There’s one in every family – the black sheep, the bad seed, the troubled child who keeps the parents awake at night worrying and praying.

In the household headed by Daniel Kerrigan and his wife Brenda of Stoneham, Massachusetts, it was their son Mark (above left). While they reveled in the accomplishments of their two other children, TV producer, Michael, and figure skating Olympic medalist, Nancy (below right), it was Mark who had long caused the couple sleepless nights.

Who knew the heartbreaking secret the famous Nancy Kerrigan’s family endured all these years? While she was winning medals for her breathtaking ice skating and giving her parents three beautiful grandchildren, her older brother was causing the family nothing but sorrow. In 2008, the Kerrigans had to sue Mark to get him to repay $105,000 they loaned him from their retirement fund. The suit was dismissed on a technicality. Even after that, they lovingly took Mark back into their home.

When I caught sight of 40-year-old Nancy leaving her parents' house that week, I saw etched in her face the pain and weariness that comes to those who must deal with a mentally ill criminal in the family.

A 28-page court document shows her brother Mark’s police record stretches back to at least 2004, pockmarked with charges of marijuana possession, multiple drunk driving charges, episodes of vicious alcohol-fueled domestic abuse, and a two-and-a-half year stretch in prison on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon. Over the years, when police responded to 911 calls, Mark would become belligerent, and taunt them with foul language. Once Mark menaced officers with hunting knives, another he ordered his Rottweiler dog to attack. And, according to police reports, Mark literally begged officers to put him out of his misery. “Shoot me. I want to die. Kill me, please!”

In the early morning hours of Sunday, January 24, 2010, things went from bad to deadly. Mark had been out of prison just about two months and was living in the basement of his parents' tidy Cape Cod home in a quiet cul de sac in Stoneham. The unemployed plumber was getting psychiatric treatment, but he’d begun to drink again.

At one o’clock in the morning, Mark told police, he came upstairs to use the telephone. His father (left, with Nancy) objected. There was a struggle in the kitchen, pictures on the wall were knocked askew, and there was blood on the floor near where Daniel’s body fell. Responding officers found the 45-year-old son hiding in the basement, clutching a bottle of scotch. They had to pepper spray him to place him under arrest. Mark admitted he shoved his 70-year-old father and put his hands around Daniel’s neck. When the old man fell, Mark told police, he was “faking it.”

Mark’s legally blind mother called paramedics, but it was too late. Daniel Kerrigan died. According to the medical examiner, who ruled the death a homicide, the autopsy showed Kerrigan died of a heart-rhythm problem caused by neck compression that damaged his windpipe. Or maybe it was a broken heart.

Mark was charged with assault and battery, sent to a psychiatric facility for evaluation, and then released on $10,000 bond and permitted to return to the family home pending further charges. His next court hearing is scheduled for April 9. His lawyer said he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder stemming from his military duty in Egypt. Kerrigan spent part of his Army tour in that country.

There are countless other American families suffering through similar hardships with uncontrollable family members. They struggle mightily to figure out what to do when things turn ugly. Do they keep the offender close or practice tough love and turn them out until they straighten up? The remaining Kerrigans, including Nancy and her mother (right), insist Mark is not to blame and welcomed him back home. 

Do they call police knowing it could result in years behind bars for their relative? Many grasp to find a reason for the inexplicable behavior – childhood abuse, addiction or mental defect. There are no easy answers and I offer none, I only recognize the suffering of these families.

No matter what may be at the root of the criminal behavior, it certainly can’t be excused or mean the perpetrator shouldn’t be punished. We can feel for their mental struggle, but we can't let sympathy be the reason they remain free to harm others.


Anonymous said...

I am no shrink, but that really does sound like PTSD. And considering he is older than 40, 2004 doesnt really make a lengthy rap sheet at all. The marajuana possession charge is a joke, but the others all sound like things I have heard people that are breaking under PTSD do.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for the Kerrigans. I have a brother kind of like that, and we don't know what to do with him either.