On Thursday, there was a 911 phone call made by Michelle Duggar. She sounds strangely unconcerned as she reports that her daughter, Jessa, has just given birth and there was “quite a bit of blood.” Given that Duggar has nineteen kids, it’s safe to assume that she can tell the difference between “quite a bit of blood” and a normal amount of bleeding. Her phone voice is gentle and calming as she explains that her daughter “needs to be checked out.”
Duggar’s odd behavior is like something from the 2011 movie “Bernie”. Bernie Tiede, played by Jack Black, is an actual person who murdered an elderly woman in 1996. In the movie, Black portrays Tiede as a sweet, churchgoing man (supposedly what Tiede is actually like). He is well liked by the people of his town, and he has plenty of friends. One of his friends is Marjorie Nugent. She’s portrayed as a cruel, possessive woman, and her only friend in town is Tiede. After years of working for Nugent, as well as being her friend, Tiede snaps. He becomes uncontrollably angry about her abusive behavior and fires four bullets into her back. This man, who didn’t seem to have a violent bone in his body, who was always so even tempered, completely lost it with an 81 year old woman.
What’s even stranger about Tiede’s story is how he behaved after the murder. Publicly, he didn’t seem to register what he had done. He was still engaging in an active social life, using Nugent’s money to make donations left and right, and his popularity in town soared. After her death, he was on top of the world for nine months. But then his secret was uncovered. Nugent’s body was found in a freezer in her garage, and Tiede confessed to murdering her impulsively. There didn’t seem to be any explanation for how Tiede could impulsively murder an elderly woman and then behave so normally after the crime. He was convicted of first degree murder (premeditated) and received a life sentence.
“Bernie” came out in 2011. Amazingly, in 2014, Tiede was released from prison. After the release of the movie, a lawyer became interested in the case. She had him evaluated by a forensic psychiatrist, and it was revealed that he was sexually abused as a child. Tiede was embarrassed by the past sexual abuse he suffered and hadn’t reported it to his original defense team. After this discovery, the district attorney’s forensic psychiatrist reversed the opinion he held of Tiede during the trial. Tiede’s claim that he impulsively lashed out and shot Nugent suddenly made sense to him. She was a vindictive, abusive woman, and Tiede’s earlier abuse could have caused him to suddenly dissociate under the stress and kill her impulsively. It also explained his abnormally calm public persona after the murder. The doctor that helped put Tiede away for life wrote: “Mr. Tiede learned to compartmentalize his emotions, allowing him to act normally for the months after the murder.” Convinced that the murder was not premeditated, Tiede’s sentence was reduced by a judge and he was released from prison earlier than expected.
Sometimes, there is more to a story than we know. Michelle Duggar is strange, because she seems to dissociate much like Tiede does in the movie. That’s not to say that she actually dissociates, it’s just that this is what she appears to do. She doesn’t have normal reactions to horrific life events. When she found out her son Josh Duggar was molesting his sisters, she never got him professional help. Her first response was to install locks on the doors and separate the girls from Josh as much as possible, even prohibiting anyone from playing hide and seek. Years later, when her daughter Jessa needed an ambulance, she phoned 911 and behaved like she was phoning in an order for pizza. Perhaps, like Tiede, there’s more to Michelle Duggar’s behavior than we know.