Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder By the Book: Candy and Betty

Psychiatrist's Spin

In the months before the trial, defense attorney Crowder had arranged for Candy to be examined a total of six times by three different psychiatrists, including Dr. Fred Fason, who maintained a high-fee private practice in the exclusive River Oaks section of Houston. Fason had a profitable sideline as a defense expert-for-hire in criminal cases, often arguing in favor of insanity declarations for accused murderers.

Fason examined Candy under hypnosis, and said she revealed a traumatic event early in her life that may have triggered the ferocity visited on Betty Gore. He took the witness stand to explain.

When she was about 6 years old, in the mid-1950s, Candy cut herself on broken glass. Her mother took her to a doctor's office for stitches. A combination of blood, fear and dread overwhelmed the child, Fason said, and she could not stop crying and screaming. Her mother, embarrassed by the stares of others in the office, finally tried to quiet her daughter with a stern "Shhhhhh!"

Fason testified that when Betty Gore shushed Candy 25 years later, it brought back a flood of repressed memory that touched off a violent "dissociative reaction." The Houston psychiatrist described that phenomenon as a form of neurosis that can prompt "out of body" experiences. Sufferers sometimes do things without knowing it during bouts of amnesia, sleepwalking or dream states.

It seemed like the sort of pseudo-medical mumbo-jumbo that might fly with a jury in Manhattan or Los Angeles. But in McKinney, Texas? Reporters in the room nudged one another. A few in the gallery guffawed. The prosecutor smiled. Judge Ryan flipped his pencil. But more than a few jurors apparently nodded their heads.

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