Who Whacked Cheeseburger Brown?
January 9, 2008 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Appropriate steps to take in light of a credible death threat?

Brief background: my wife and I live, European-style, with her aging parents stashed in the basement. My father-in-law is a medicated bipolar personality who suffered a serious brain injury twenty years ago; as a combined result he can be emotionally volatile and prone to delusions of persecution but has never been known to be physically violent. Last year, however, when he was convinced by paranoia that I had sabotaged the engine of his ATV (truthfully, I lack the skill to do this) he began talking about arranging to pay for my murder to people he thought wouldn't let it get back to me. It did. He's been peaceful for ten months or so, but lately he's begun talking to his buddies again about orchestrating harm to me. What are the appropriate steps to take to build a proper record should this situation escalate?
posted by CheeseburgerBrown to Law & Government (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
1) lawyer up. She can tell you when it's LEGALLY necessary to do things such as go to the police. She can also do things like advise you on mental health law, and take depositions from witnesses, etc.
2)I'll state your location in this post to maximise answer-fu: Canada.
3) That state, you might want get this anonymised by a mod
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:27 AM on January 9, 2008


Your father-in-law clearly needs more treatment than medication. You really don't want to build a record to prosecute him, because jail is the last place he should be. If while on medication he is still physically violent, you should start thinking about hospitalization.

Talk to his therapist/physician (the one who put him on the bi-polar meds) about this as well. Note that if the psychiatrist is convinced that your FIL may do you bodily harm, he may have an obligation to call police, so if you talk to him, be very clear about what factually happened and what you are worried about happening, and distinguish the two things clearly.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:31 AM on January 9, 2008


Call your local mental health hospital and ask them.
posted by Kololo at 8:31 AM on January 9, 2008


Response by poster: BtGoG: Out of curiosity, why would you recommend anonymizing? I mean, if my FIL ever happened on this page wouldn't it be better for him to know that his plot exposed and thereby somewhat foiled than have him assume his nefarious ideas can proceed with their secrecy intact?

Pastabagel: His therapist was spoken to in the past. When he suspected this from things the therapist said (or directions in which she attempted to steer the conversation), he confronted the therapist and he admitted he's spoken with my MIL. My FIL's response was to immediately change therapists, as he didn't see the point of talking to someone who "had been poisoned by lies" about him.

Thanks for the answers so far, all.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 8:35 AM on January 9, 2008


Just in case he or one of his buddies got it into their head to claim you were trying to persecute him, etc. in order to wriggle out of a committment order..I admit I may be being a bit over-paranoid perhaps, especially since you don't seem to have any malice towards him in your post, just responding prudently to a threat.
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:42 AM on January 9, 2008


How is the wife about all of this? Get her on board for everything. I don't believe his buddies would kill you. Be safe, but make sure that your wife's father gets treatment, not the chair.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:51 AM on January 9, 2008


How does this sit with your wife, that her father is threatening to have her husband murdered?

First course of action should be kicking the father in law out of your basement and into whatever appropriate facility you can find. You must absolutely discuss this with mental health professionals if not the Police.
posted by fire&wings at 8:53 AM on January 9, 2008


I really feel for you. The situation sounds potentially quite dangerous, for you, and possibly for your wife and/or MIL. Do you think your FIL truly has the wherewithal to convince/pay others to harm you? Does he own or have access to a gun? Is he sneaky/conniving or just kind of a blowhard - all talk and no game?

Does he have any insight into his illness or is he purely delusional? If the latter, I'd honestly consider moving or having him institutionalized (ie - put into a setting where he couldn't carry through on his threats, whether this be long-term care or whatever).

It must be awfully stressful to live with this at close quarters.

Meanwhile, it certainly couldn't hurt to keep a written record of everything he's done or said that backs up your claim that he's a threat.

And, yes, definitely talk to a lawyer &/or the police.

Best of luck.
posted by pammo at 8:53 AM on January 9, 2008


I would still try to talk to your FIL's old therapist(s) and inform them of the escalating situation. Perhaps they can best advise you as to who you need to approach (other than the police).

Try the current therapist and let him/her know about the situation, but also inform him/her about what happened the last time a therapist tried to "steer" the conversation.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:58 AM on January 9, 2008


My FIL's response was to immediately change therapists, as he didn't see the point of talking to someone who "had been poisoned by lies" about him.

This is one reason he needs to be committed, because he's not really committed to his treatment and he's endangering you. It sounds like he grudgingly takes his pills but won't tolerate others being involved, which indicates a refusal on his part to acknowledge that his illness is also harming others.

Talk to a lawyer about involuntary commitment. In most states in the U.S., a call to 911 about a mentally ill violent family member can lead to a 72-hour commitment to a psych ward of a hospital or a proper state mental hospital. Canada likely has a similar kind of law.

Here is a link to a page that describes your situation and lists some places you can turn to for help, non-profits, hospitals, etc. In particular, try the Canadian Mental Health Association or call them at 416-484-7750.

Good luck.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:04 AM on January 9, 2008


Yeah, I wouldn't hesitate to have him hospitalized. He's mentally unstable and has threatened you, credibly, with death. Like Brooke Shields said, once you lose your life, you've lost a very important part of yourself.

Canada likely has a similar kind of law.

It's province-by-province, but any mental health professional can order 72 hours in most provinces, and a psychologist can make it permanent in many provinces, without a court order, if there is a credible threat to anyone's safety (including the patient's).
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:14 AM on January 9, 2008


If you're in Toronto, call the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. They have a long list of services and resources for family members of the mentally ill.
posted by winston at 9:19 AM on January 9, 2008


Response by poster: Update: the local police will be coming by tonight to chat with me.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 9:23 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seconding CAMH.

Also, arresting him won't necessarily send him into jail. Based on what you've said, they'd have him placed on a psych hold for evaluation. I've been in a similar situation to you, feel free to MeFiMail for details.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:23 AM on January 9, 2008


In any case, if you consider this a credible death threat then, one way or the other, you and he must not continue to live in the same building. Not only because of the risk of harm but also because others will not act as though your life is in danger if you are not doing so yourself.
posted by winston at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2008


BtGoG: Out of curiosity, why would you recommend anonymizing? I mean, if my FIL ever happened on this page wouldn't it be better for him to know that his plot exposed and thereby somewhat foiled than have him assume his nefarious ideas can proceed with their secrecy intact?

You are operating and making decisions as a sane, stable person would. You are assuming that if your FIL found this thread, he would act as a sane, stable person would. He doesn't sound like a sane or stable person to me. If he stumbled upon this thread, he very likely wouldn't see it the same way or react the same way you do–or even the way you speculate he would. And not only do you not want him to make the connection between you and this thread, but you certainly do not want people to see this WHO ARE OUT TO KILL YOU.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2008


Not only because of the risk of harm but also because others will not act as though your life is in danger if you are not doing so yourself.
posted by winston at 9:25 AM on January 9


Seconding this statement as well. I must add that the lack of anonymity and the light, almost comical writing style of your post (Title: Who wacked [username here]?) suggests that you are either A) using humor to deflect your fear and pain, or B) aren't taking your situation seriously. Sadly, many people will assume the latter. At the very least, it reduces the effectiveness of this type of AskMe question.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:31 AM on January 9, 2008


Pastabagel has the best advice here, so far as I can tell. The only thing I can add:

Talk to these buddies, as many of them as possible. If you're already talking to them, keep checking in. Let them know you're worried about him, and want to make sure he's okay. Ask them if he's seemed to be a bit paranoid or said anything paranoid to them. Let them know what steps you're taking.

It sounds as though you have some fear that one of them might well know people who can arrange having you hurt. You seem to understand how unlikely this is, but you're right to be at least a little concerned. So it may well be good to familiarize yourself with their attitudes and intentions, be they "yeah, poor old Gus, he's a little nuts," "yeah, poor old Gus, I hope that son-in-law of his takes care of him well now that he's not really all there anymore," or "yeah, poor old Gus, he's BEING HELD PRISONER IN A BASEMENT BY ALIEN WEIRDOS WHO MUST DIE."

You're right, the last one's not likely. But good to be on-the-level with all involved, right?
posted by koeselitz at 9:50 AM on January 9, 2008


My FIL's response was to immediately change therapists, as he didn't see the point of talking to someone who "had been poisoned by lies" about him.

I don't necessarily see that as crazy behavior. My Mom has done that twice after my father or my sibling or I tried to contact her psychiatrist- Dad once sent a genuine, heart-felt letter about how he felt that Psychiatrist #1 was ruining his marriage by backing up every crazy thing my Mom did, for example. I think a pretty reasonable response to someone who is slightly paranoid and feeling controlled by life is to ditch that therapist and look for another one.

If he *didn't* go out and find another therapist, I'd be concerned.

It sounds like you're in a difficult position. Could you sit down with your wife and MIL and have a serious discussion about this matter? As you said, "Last year . . . he began talking about arranging to pay for my murder to people he thought wouldn't let it get back to me. It did."

This is now appearing to be a pattern, which escalates the danger, in my mind. Moreover, credible or not, he's generating ideas as to how to do you harm. How long until he starts trying to carry this out at home? I

think the most loving thing to do in this position is to find him a facility where he can get integrated care- and even when he dumps one therapist, his next therapist will already have a file on him, and his metal care provider can work closely with his physican and/or psychiatrist.

Perhaps one that is close to the house so that your wife and MIL can visit him every day? Please don't feel guilty about this. You would be making a choice that would allow him to live more safely and stably than at your home, where his paranoia is clearly exciting anxiety on his part.
posted by arnicae at 10:53 AM on January 9, 2008


If you think it's a credible death threat, as in you have reason to believe that he actually would hire someone to kill you that would carry this out, you need to go into hiding.

You sound pretty calm, so I'm hoping that's not the case, but you did say it was credible. If "should this situation escalate" implies any possibility that it might escalate to you being dead, you won't be able to do much with any evidence that he planned this. Even if you don't think he would carry this out, it's a good general rule not to live with people who say they want to kill you. It's probably time for him to move to some sort of care facility.
posted by yohko at 11:02 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I lived with an unmedicated mentally ill sibling who used to threaten my life on a regular basis - there were a couple of times where I don't doubt if he'd had the opportunity he would have followed through. Pastabagel provides the best advice. Sectioning someone (as it's called in the UK) is upsetting for all involved, but so is getting stabbed and the mentally ill benefit more from hospital than jail. In my experience, the police aren't really useful in these scenarios, so locate your local mental health services and make good use of them. That's why they're there.
posted by poissonrouge at 11:09 AM on January 9, 2008


No one is going to kill you but your FIL. Murder for hire pretty much never happens.

You shouldn't talk to his therapist behind his back--unless he's in danger of harming himself or others. I think this situation qualifies. Make sure to tell her you live in the same house.

His therapist should set a meeting with him, tell him HONESTLY that she fears he will harm others because of x reason, and then asses the risk that he's dangerous to you, and then arrange for him to be hospitalized if he is dangerous.

She also ought to call you back and tell you whether or not he is a danger to you. I'm not sure if that's 100% kosher but I think it would be nice for you to know.

I'd also move him and mom out of the basement ASAP. People with bipolar can become psychotic and you're really lucky that he hasn't decided to take matters into his own hands. I think it would be healthier for him as well--he's probably feeling really sucky that he has to live in your home, especially if he doesn't like you.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:16 AM on January 9, 2008


I agree that your FIL's friends are unlikely to harm you, but it might be prudent for them to realize that he is delusional and hostile. How concerned is the rest of your family?

Good luck. Sounds rough.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2008


A delusional schizophrenic punched my cousin in the face and separately stabbed someone else (non-fatally). Just a data point.

One piece of advice they received somewhere along the way was to minimize contact with the delusional guy. His delusions were somewhat free-floating, and so the paranoia would attach to whomever was around. Your FIL's delusions may or may not be like that.
posted by salvia at 2:58 PM on January 9, 2008


Well, there's a recent article about a brass band conductor who was murdered by his son. His son apparently had "mental health issues," and the stabbing may have been prompted by a reminder for the son to take his medication. Horrendous tragedy. You don't want that to become real for you.
posted by oldtimey at 3:31 PM on January 9, 2008


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