The previous edition of What the Killer Sees examined at the case of Maddie Haskel, a young mother moved to kill in the protection of her child. In a twisted sense this week’s instalment reflects that of Maddie since it looks at another troubled mother, albeit one in a very different state of mind and from a very different perspective. And according to the legal system, the case should not be focussed upon her at all..
Killer: Dolores Garry (Colleen Winton)
Episode: “Covenant” (21 March 1997)
Writer: Robert Moresco
Director: Roderick J. Pridy
Quote: “Mrs. Garry was a faithful wife. She was a woman who needed to talk openly about an emotional problem that was tearing at the very fabric of her soul.” –Dr. Alice Steele
Profile: Given the focus of this episode is largely upon the case of Dolores Garry’s widower, a former Sheriff who has been convicted of her murder as well as that of their three children, we are left with little more than occasional clues as to her own state of mind. Nevertheless, via hints and allusions, we are able to surmise a fair bit about her psychology.
Whilst it is clearly a shocking crime, it is worth noting at the outset that the murder of children by their own mother is not so rare as one might think. On average in the USA a mother kills one or more of her children every other day. The sense of disbelief and horror that most people have in response to these crimes — a sense that perhaps made the deception at the heart of the Garrys’ case easier to swallow — comes from the sadly misguided social norm that the nurturing qualities of motherhood are a pure and innate quality common to all women. Clearly, for such crimes to be so relatively commonplace, this is not the case.
We learn from Dolores Garry’s psychiatrist that she was a troubled woman, as per the quote from the episode cited above. Dr Steele goes on to reveal to Frank Black that William Garry had been unfaithful to Dolores and that this betrayal wears heavily upon her. She had also recently learned that she was pregnant, and the implication is that this discovery was a further stressor that led her to plan and then commit the murders. One of the episode’s deleted scenes adds further evidence of the extreme stress Garry was suffering.
Such levels of stress in and of themselves do not, of course, a killer make. Perhaps Dolores Garry was suffering some kind of depression, maybe this was compounded by her pregnancy, but the one insight to her psychology that we do gain — thanks to Frank’s instincts — is that she sees her children as angels, and in killing them seeks to keep them that way forever. In a twisted variation on Maddie Haskell’s motives, perhaps Dolores Garry thinks that by killing her children she is protecting them from the emotional pain to which they would otherwise be exposed, preserving their innocence. The fact that she covers the bodies indicates that she seeks to give them some dignity in spite of the violent deaths to which she has subjected them. And the final act in her “covenant with death” — as referenced by the verse of Isaiah that she references in blood on the kitchen window — is then to commit suicide in front of her husband. It is as though she wants him to bear witness to her pain in her final moments, compounding the shame he clearly already feels to the extent that he would be willing to accept responsibility for all the killings in a court of law and be put to death as a release from his own pain. This cycle of shame and bloody murder is almost Shakespearean in its tragedy, and would have ended even moreso thus but for the intervention of Frank Black.
Investigation: Frank Black’s introduction to this investigation is somewhat unorthodox in terms of Millennium’s approach to storytelling, and that in itself makes for a fascinating and quietly tragic tale. The prosecutors in the case of William Garry consult with Frank in order to have him deliver a profile that will ensure the man faces the death penalty for the murder of his family — a crime to which he has already confessed — and thus to allow the community to move on. As Frank delves into the background to the case and begins to doubt its findings before then wholly opposing them, he quickly falls out with those who brought him to Utah in the first instance.
The aspects of the investigation that lead Frank to identify the true culprit for the killings as William Garry’s wife are interesting in themselves, representing a somewhat converse approach to the one to which we usually bear witness. William Garry’s confession is just too perfect, too full of clarity, free from the inconsistencies that such an account would normally contain. A study of the crime scene looks too clinical in its details also, with a complete absence of blood in the kitchen save for that depicting the numbers on the window betraying the staging that took place. Finally, a review of the hand wounds on Dolores Garry’s exhumed body help piece together what really happened, all the clues combining to allow Frank Black to convince Deputy Reilly to come forward and explain how he helped his Sheriff to cover up what had really happened, ruining his own career but in the process saving a man from the death he sought for himself in turn.