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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Kaylene Bowen-Wright Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Case: Putting A Child Through Hell

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

     In 1977, a pediatrician from England published the results of an investigation he had conducted into the cases of 81 infants whose deaths had been classified as either Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or natural death. The study, by Dr. Roy Meadow of St. James University Hospital in Leeds, covered a period of 18 years. His article, "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: The Hinterlands of Child Abuse," which appeared in the journal Lancet, was shocking in its implications. Dr. Meadow claimed that these 81 babies had, in fact, been murdered, and that the forensic pathologists who had performed the autopsies had ignored obvious signs of physical abuse in the form of broken bones, scars, objects lodged in air passages, and toxic substances in their blood and urine. He came close to accusing some of these pathologists of helping parents, mostly mothers, of getting away with murder.

     The Munchausen Syndrome, a psychological disorder identified in 1951 by Richard Asher, described patients who injured themselves, or made themselves sick, to attract sympathy and attention. Asher named the syndrome after Baron von Munchausen, a man known for telling tall tales. Dr. Meadow added "by proxy" because the people gaining sympathy were not hurting themselves. They were getting sympathy and attention by injuring and sickening their infants and children.

     In his landmark article in Lancet, Dr. Meadow profiled some of the pediatric cases that had puzzled him in the early 1970s. For example, he was treating a young boy who had extremely high salt levels in his blood that adversely affected his kidneys. Because there was no way the boy could have eaten this much salt, Dr. Meadow came to suspect that the mother, a nurse, was force-feeding salt into the child through a nasal tube. When Dr. Meadow voiced his hypothesis to his colleagues at the hospital, they ridiculed him. In this case, however, the boy's mother confessed to exactly what Dr. Meadow had suspected. Her intent had not been to kill her child, but to use him as a way to make herself a center of attraction at the hospital, an environment she found exciting and romantic.

     After the publication of Mr. Meadow's shocking article, physicians all over the west sent him accounts of cases similar to the ones he had described in his Lancet piece. Even Dr. Meadow was shocked by some of the stories--cases that involved punctured eardrums, and induced blindness, as well as inflicted respiratory problems, stomach ailments, and allergy attacks. Years later, Dr. Meadow would design a controversial experiment involving hidden cameras in hospital rooms where suspected Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy victims were being treated. Of the 39 children under surveillance, the cameras caught 33 parents creating breathing problems by putting their hands, bodies or pillows over the victim's faces. Staff members monitoring nearby television screens quickly entered the hospital rooms, causing the abusers to discontinue their assaults.

     In the years that followed Dr. Meadow's initial research into these child abuse and infant death cases, he came to believe that the mast majority of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy perpetrators were women, and that one-third of them were either nurses or women who worked in some other capacity in the health care industry. His research also suggested that many of these mothers were married to men who were cold and indifferent, and that at least part of the motive behind making their children ill was an attempt to emotionally energize their spouses. According to Dr. Meadow, many Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy women also enjoyed the attention and sympathy they received from physicians and nurses.

 Kaylene Bowen-Wright

     In 2008, Ryan Crawford and Kaylene Bowen-Wright decided to have a baby together even though they were not in a romantic relationship or even lived under the same roof. Kaylene, a resident of Dallas, Texas, had two children from another man.

     Shortly after Christopher Bowen's birth, Kaylene claimed the infant, because he had been premature, couldn't digest milk. This was untrue, and marked the start of an eight-year litany of false illnesses attributed to the boy by a sociopathic, attention-seeking Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy mother who, to feed her own personality disorder, tortured her son and put his life at risk.

     Kaylene Bowen-Wright, over the years somehow managed to convince hospital staffs and doctors that Christopher suffered from muscular dystrophy, cancer, heart problems, and seizures that resulted in unnecessary medical procedures, radiation treatments, and medicine. All of this unnecessary medical attention and exposure to hospitals led to serious infections in the young patient. There were also horrible side effects from the medication that included blood clots. (I find it hard to believe that this mother did not induce symptoms in her son by intentionally making him sick.)

     Early on in Christopher Bowen's ongoing nightmare, his father, Ryan Crawford, although he didn't know why, suspected that the boy's mother was fabricating the boy's medical problems. He tried to intercede on his son's behalf, but the boy's mother did everything she could to keep him out of their lives. In 2011, when the boy was three, his father went to court to gain custody of Christopher. The judge not only denied him custody, he prohibited the father from visiting his son.

     Kaylene Bowen-Wright received the attention and sympathy she craved through her Facebook postings that claimed her son was dying of cancer and would not live to see the age of five. She also started several GoFundMe campaigns, and took advantage of the Make-A-Wish foundation. At this point in the child's ordeal, he was being fed through a tube and was confined to a wheelchair.

     In 2014, Ryan Crawford came across an article about Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and suddenly understood what Kaylene Bowen-Wright was doing to their son. He began reaching out to the authorities in an effort to save his son before she killed him.

     Between 2009 and 2015, Kaylene Bowen-Wright took Christopher to 323 medical facilities in Dallas and Houston. The boy underwent thirteen major surgeries for his nonexistent illnesses. It was a miracle he survived all of this medical treatment at the hands of clueless physicians and surgeons.

     Finally, in 2015, the staff at a Dallas hospital suspected that Christopher Bowen was the victim of child abuse. Someone from the hospital notified a child services agency. The investigation that followed led to Kaylene Bowen-Wright's arrest in November 2017 for the prolonged abuse of her son. The authorities took custody of Christopher Bowen and Kaylene's two other children.

     In August 2019, Kaylene Bowen-Wright pleaded guilty to causing serious bodily injury to her son by subjecting him to unnecessary medical treatment, medication and surgery. She faced a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.

     On October 1, 2019, Dallas County Judge Ernest White, after hearing testimony from Christopher Bowen's father, medical personnel, and a Munchasusen Syndrome by Proxy expert, sentenced 36-year-old Kaylene Bowen-Wright to six years in prison.

     Six years in prison for what this woman did to her son during his young life is beyond outrageous. Twenty years behind bars would have been a lenient sentence. No thanks to this child's mother, he could have died from her insatiable need for attention. As it turned out, the boy has recovered from his ordeal and is healthy. However, the psychological effects from his mother's prolonged abuse might haunt him for the rest of his life.

The Law Is Not Blind

I say the law should be blind to race, gender, and sexual orientation, just as it claims to be blind to wealth and power. There should be no protected groups of any kind, except for children, the severely disabled, and the elderly whose physical frailty demands society's care.

Camille Paglia, Author, Social Critic 

Florence King On Solitary Confinement

If you ever meet someone who cannot understand why solitary confinement is considered punishment, you have met a misanthrope.

Florence King (1936-2016) Novelist, Essayist 

Knives Versus Guns

I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) Columnist 

Writing Is More Than Thinking

Many novice writers, students in particular, think that writing is little more than copying down their self-talk, the palaver of the voices they hear in their heads. Of course, self-talking is thinking, and writing begins with thinking.

Richard Rhodes, Author

Are Some Novelists Nuts?

Early in his career, John Cheever put on his business suit, then went from his apartment to a room in the basement where he hung his suit on a hanger and wrote in his underwear. Victor Hugo's servant took away his clothes for the duration of the author's writing day. James Whitcomb Riley had a friend lock him in a hotel room without clothes so that he couldn't go out for a drink until he had finished writing. [How do you lock someone in a hotel room?] Jessamyn West wrote in bed without getting dressed for what she thought were two compelling reasons: "One, you have on your nightgown or pajamas and can't go running to the door at the knock of strangers. Also, once you're up and dressed, you see ten thousand things that need doing."

Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write, 1995

Your Favorite Author

There are writers you admire, for the skill or the art, for the inventiveness or for the professionalism of a career well spent. And there are writers--sometimes the same ones, sometimes not--to whom you are powerfully attracted, for reasons that may or may not have to do with literary values. They speak to you, or speak for you, sometimes with a voice that could almost be your own. Often there is one writer in particular who awakens you, who is the teacher they say you will meet when you are ready for the lesson.

James D. Houston in The Writer's Life (1997) edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Heath Bumpous: The Bungling Love Bandit

      Heath Bumpous had a problem. The 30-year-old resident of Crockett, Texas, a town 120 miles north of Houston, was getting married, but didn't have enough money to pay for the wedding venue or a ring for his fiancee.

     On Friday, October 4, 2019, the day before the wedding, Heath Bumpous decided to raise some money by robbing a bank. Why not? John Dillinger had done it, Willie Sutton had done it, and now Heath Bumpous would do it. How hard was it to rob a bank? (Someone should have told Mr. Bumpous that robbing the bank was the easy part, not getting caught was another matter.)

     Heath Bumpous decided to rob the Citizens State Bank in nearby Groveton, Texas. When John Dillinger and Willie Sutton robbed a bank, they approached the place in a stolen car with a get-away driver behind the wheel. Mr. Bumpous didn't have an accomplice, and he drove to the bank in his own car. Moreover, he didn't bother to conceal his identify with a ski-mask or even a fake mustache. Heath Bumpous was keeping it simple.

     At the service counter, Mr. Bumpous didn't make a dramatic statement like "This is a stickup!" He simply told the teller he had a gun and wanted the money in cash. (Did he think they'd give him a check?)

     Before casually walking out of the bank with the undisclosed amount of money, the bank surveillance camera captured a good likeness of the robber.

     Because the sheriff's office was just 500 feet from the Citizens State Bank, it didn't take police officers very long to respond to the scene where they looked at the banks's surveillance camera footage.

     Shortly after the holdup, a picture of the robber showed up on Facebook. The future Mrs. Bumpous just happened to be checking her Facebook page when she saw the bank surveillance photograph of her fiancee. It's hard to imagine what went through her mind when she saw the man she was about to marry robbing a bank.

     Heath Bumpous' fiancee contacted him by cellphone, and what followed must have been one of the strangest pre-wedding bride/groom conversations in history. Two hours after his fiancee solved the bank robbery case, Heath Bumpous surrendered to the authorities. (She was not, obviously, Bonnie to his Clyde.)

     Instead of a festive wedding and a nice ring, the would-be bride ended up with a fiancee behind bars, a guy who will go down in crime history as the Bungling Love Bandit. In place of an album full of wedding pictures, she got a bank surveillance photograph and a mugshot.

     Sometimes things don't go as planned.
     

Graphology: Junk Science

     Graphologists claim to be able to identify criminal traits through handwriting analysis. For example, graphologists tell us that people who write cursive with a backward-looking stroke--called the "Felon's Claw"--harbor feelings of guilt for things they have done. These handwriting analysts claim that 75 percent of the felons incarcerated in our prisons write this way.

     Another handwriting tell--the so-called "Upside-Down Oval" (when letters such as "o" are drawn clockwise rather than counter-clockwise)--reveals that the writer is a thief. According to graphologists, studies show that a vast majority of convicted embezzlers write this way.

     Graphology is not a forensic science recognized by the courts. Graphologists, therefore, cannot testify as expert witnesses. That is a good thing.

The Relationship Between Mental Illness And Violent Behavior

It is possible to argue that some people are violent and mentally ill, but it is no longer defensible to argue that people are violent because they are mentally ill.

Richard Rhodes, Why They Kill