Charles’s father was a successful businessman in Lake Worth, FL. He provided well for his family, but he beat Charles for minor infractions. Charles said
Charles’s father was a successful businessman in Lake Worth, FL. He provided well for his family, but he beat Charles for minor infractions. Charles said he observed his father beating his mother at least once a month. Charles learned how to handle guns at an early age, with one photo of him as a toddler holding a rifle in each hand. There were guns displayed in almost every room in his house when growing up. He liked hunting and was a very good shot. He scored well on standardized achievement tests and an I.Q. test, and earned good grades until later in high school. He was well liked by students and his teachers. He became an Eagle Scout at age 12, the youngest Boy Scout ever to earn this rank, but he did this partly because his father pushed him to do it (Levergne, 1997). He always wanted to make money. From his large paper route, he earned enough to buy a motorcycle, but then wrecked it in a motorcycle accident. In high school, his grades began to fall until his GPA was only 2.3 at the end of his senior year. After coming home drunk once, his father beat him and threw him into the family pool. Charles joined the U.S. Marines, at least partly to get away from his father whom he did not tell that he was enlisting. In 1960, while stationed at Guantanamo Bay, he was struck by lightning, which might have long-term cognitive effects and lead to depression. He did well in the Marines, earning a good conduct medal and a sharpshooter’s badge. He got a scholarship from the Marines and Navy and went to the University of Texas-Austin in 1962 to study mechanical engineering. In college, he and a friend poached a deer; they butchered it in their dormitory and got in trouble with the police for this. Charles was involved in a car accident with his friend Jim. Charles told their friends, untruthfully, that Jim was killed in the accident. The friends broke the news to Jim’s girlfriend. When Jim entered the room where his friends were mourning, Charles laughed at their horrified surprise. He thought it was funny, not appreciating the grief he had caused them. Charles married another student, Kathy Leissner, in 1962. Although he said they loved each other, he also said that he hit his wife on two occasions. In 1962, when at the university bookstore, he remarked to a friend that a person could stand off an army from the top of the University of Texas Tower. The Marine Corps took away his scholarship because his grades were not good enough. They would not count his time in college towards his five years of required military service. He went back to active duty with his regiment. He resented the Marines for taking away his scholarship. Although Charles was in some ways a good marine, he got into trouble for gambling, threatening another marine who owed him money, and having his own personal firearm. He was court-marshaled, demoted, and sentenced to hard labor. He wrote depressing comments in his journal and thought the Marine Corps was hindering him. He said he might “go berserk” and that he was “going to explode” as he waited for his enlistment to expire. After his father used his influence to Charles get out of the Marine Corps, Charles was honorably discharged a year earlier than the Marine Corps had said he needed to serve. He went back to the University of Texas to study architectural engineering. His grades improved, but he never felt that he was achieving enough. He also worked a series of jobs and believed he was not earning enough money. He wanted to be more financially successful than his father, but he did not want to be abusive like his father. After graduating, Kathy Whitman obtained a teaching job at a local high school. She earned much more than Charles was able to earn. Charles sometimes fought with his wife and ranted at her. She was afraid of his angry outbursts and impulsive behavior. She urged him to seek . In 1966, Charles suffered from bad headaches, perhaps due to the large amount of the stimulant Dexedrine he was taking. He stayed up without sleep for days when studying for finals. He took the anti-anxiety drug Librium to get to sleep. He did not seem bothered that he was taking illicit drugs (Lavergne, 1997). Charles believed he had a physical condition and that something was wrong with his head. Finally, Charles sought . First, he went to a physician who prescribed Valium, an anti-anxiety drug, and referred him to a psychiatrist, Dr. Maurice Dean Heatly, whom he saw in March 1966. The psychiatrist reported that Whitman said he did not understand the intrusive, violent thoughts he was having, including the thought of “going up on the Tower with a deer rifle and shooting people,” but the psychiatrist thought his problem was just a reaction to the great marital strife of his parents. He prescribed Librium and had Charles schedule another appointment, but Whitman never returned. Despite the fact that Heatly described him as “oozing with hostility,” the psychiatrist did not exercise his option to commit Whitman on the grounds that he was a danger to himself or others (Heatly, 2017). Whitman’s mother asked to divorce his father in May of 1966 because of his father’s persistent physical abuse. Charles drove all the way from Florida to Texas to his mother move to Austin. After she moved, his father often called and tried to have Charles convince his mother to return to Florida. This probably produced additional stress since Charles had left Florida to escape his father’s abuse, according to Lavergne (1997). Charles took pills “like popcorn” according to one of his friends, but Whitman did not think he had a drug problem, according to Lavergne (1997). After his death, the Texas Pharmacy Board concluded that Charles did have a drug problem. Austin was quite hot at the end of July, 1966, with the temperature hovering around 100 degrees—and the Whitman’s apartment was not air-conditioned. Charles wanted to graduate as soon as possible, so he enrolled in a heavy load of difficult courses in the summer of 1966. The themes in his journal suggested Charles was in a hopeless and pathetic state, according to Lavergne (1997), but on July 28-29 he seemed to be in good spirits. His mother’s brothers later said that on July 30, 1966, his father had cut off all financial support to his wife. Charles also wrote that his father would no longer support his mother. On July 31, 1966, Charles and Kathy visited friends who thought he was very quiet and acting strangely. Late on July 31st, Charles went to his mother’s apartment. He strangled her with a 5-foot rubber hose and then stabbed her to death. After killing her, he wrote a note blaming his father for the ill treatment of his mother throughout the years and said “[it was] . . . the only way I could see to relieve her sufferings” (Lavergne, 1997, p. 104). After leaving her apartment, he went back to his house and stabbed his wife while she slept. Whitman wrote a letter before he murdered his mother and wife, saying that he loved them and that he had tried to kill them quickly and mercifully. He was killing them to them escape the troubles of their lives and the shame that his actions would bring to them if they lived. He also asked that after he died an autopsy be performed to see if he had some physical problem. In addition to the guns already at his house, Whitman purchased more guns and brought these and 700 rounds of ammunition to the Tower in a footlocker. Also in the footlocker, he packed a flashlight, jug of gasoline, rope, compass, hatchet, machete, alarm clock, canteen, pipe wrench, bread, sweet rolls, and various other supplies. He brought Dexedrine with him as well. He loaded up his car with the footlocker and arrived at the University of Texas Tower at 11:25 A.M. on August 1 . After killing the receptionist on the 27th floor, he went to the observation deck and, at about 11:30, began shooting people walking below. He shot and killed another 13 people and wounded 31 others, including high school students, college students, graduate students, Peace Corps volunteers, professors—anyone he saw move. Finally, Austin police officers Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez killed Charles Whitman. An autopsy of Whitman’s body studied by a commission of psychiatrists and medical experts found that he had a malignant brain tumor that was pushing on his amygdala, an area of the brain known to be involved in emotional learning and responses to stress and fear. A medical report to the governor on Whitman concluded that the tumor could have had an effect on his ability to control his emotion (Whitman Archives, 1966). Include at least 3 types of thinking errors
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