Last week was very difficult. In Phoenix, Arizona, Jason Hudgens decided that because his wife,
Marla, wanted to end the marriage, he decided to end their three children’s lives, her life, and
lastly, his. The babes, three-year-old Christopher and twin six-month-old girls Gwen and Faye,
were everything to Marla Hudgen, according to family friends. The wife’s inner circle claimed
that there were “No red flags” “No indication that the spouse would be violent.” I beg to differ.
People don’t end a marriage with three small children for no apparent reason. To end a
marriage with small children involved would have a very compelling reason. The red flags were
there. People are just uneducated as to what they are, or they pooh-pooh and minimize them,
or they just don’t want to see them or become involved. In both the case of Gabby Petito and
Marla Hudgen had people been educated on the red flags and made appropriate interventions,
those women and the babies would still be with us.
One of the questions asked over and over by shocked family and friends was, “Why would he
kill the babies?” I’ll tell you why; those babies were her world. She went through IVF to
conceive. They were everything to her. When her spouse realized she was filing for divorce and
leaving him, he made sure to destroy the people she loved the most, her children. This pattern
of murder-suicide involving small children happens more often than most people want to
believe, and in every single damn case, it was a pattern of abuse that continued to escalate into
Healthy parents do not kill six-month-old twins. Healthy parents do not kill their own three-
year-old. A healthy person does not kill their spouse. When healthy people divorce, and yes, it
does happen, they put the welfare of the children ahead of their own egos and their own hurt. I
tell clients this all the time when they want to get sucked into the blame game with a
disordered spouse. “You have to love your children more than you hate your ex.” Clearly, Jason
Hudgen was incapable of that.
You may say, “Oh, he was mentally ill!” The legal definition of criminally insane is that they
cannot distinguish right from wrong. He knew EXACTLY what he was doing, and he knew it was
wrong. He wanted to make sure everyone was dead, and before shooting himself, turned on
propane tanks and disconnected gas appliances so the home would fill with gas. That takes
premeditation. This heinous act did not just “happen.” This was not a crime of “passion.” This
was not an impulsive act. This was planned, obsessed about, and thought carefully out with a
clear disregard for obviously his family, himself, and the neighborhood had the house exploded,
which, thankfully, it did not.
Abusers who kill their own children and spouses are generally dark triads meaning they are
psychopaths, narcissistic and control freaks, otherwise known as Machiavellian. People have no
more meaning to them than objects. Rules do not apply to them. When they feel they are
losing control of their target of abuse, is when they can become incredibly dangerous, but there
are red flags long before the homicidal actions occur.
Some of the red flags are: controlling their spouse, constantly checking up on them, accusing
them of cheating, constantly checking their phone, isolating them from true friends and family,
and only wanting them to be around their friends and family. Raging. Keeping them up at night.
Sabotaging their career. Belittling them. Using sex as a weapon. Using words as weapons.
Demanding. Word salad when confronted with their bad behavior. Flipping the script, what was
their problem is suddenly because their spouse “made” them. Rewriting history i.e. gaslighting.
Lying. Cheating. Stealing. Disrespect. Treating spouse and children as an extension of
themselves rather than their own people. Too often, family and friends minimize the telltale
signs of abuse either through ignorance or apathy. Too often, therapists miss the signs due to
lack of training in personality disorders and intimate partner violence.
So, what can you, as a family member or friend, do? Familiarize yourself with the red flags. The
above was by no means a full list of abusive behavior. Ask questions without the suspected
abuser around. Realize that if they are still in the abuse F. O. G. Fear, Obligation and Guilt, they
will themselves minimize and deny the abuse. All you can do is let them know you love them
and are there for them if they ever want to talk. Encourage the target to come up with a safety
plan. Encourage them to keep a go bag at work. Encourage them to seek trauma counseling.
Demand that schools cranking out therapists train their students properly.