Megan McAllister’s strident defense of accused “Craigslist Killer” Philip Markoff lingers in sharp contrast with reports that police found a murdered masseuse’s underwear tucked with a gun in a hollowed-out medical book in Markoff’s apartment.
Wrongfully accused or guilty as charged, Philip Markoff at least has the comfort of knowing the truth.
His fiancée may not.
Megan McAllister’s immediate and strident defense of Markoff, whom she called “a beautiful man inside and out,” now lingers in sharp contrast with reports that police found a slain masseuse’s underwear tucked with a gun in a hollowed-out medical book in Markoff’s Quincy apartment.
Public and media captivation with the crime – Google hits for the couple are at 29,600 and growing – has centered, too, on McAllister. Blinded to the truth by love? Or admirably loyal to a man she says “wouldn’t hurt a fly”?
Either way, a question that has been asked in serial crimes past has been conjured again. How can a partner remain in the dark while a loved one leads a dark second life?
“Over and over again, I hear ‘I had no idea,’” said Carol Ball, director of New England Forensic Associates. “It goes to how good these guys are at covering their tracks. It’s often not about spouses with blinders on.”
Ball, a psychologist who primarily counsels people convicted of sex crimes or their victims, said true sociopaths can be masterful at covering their tracks.
“Lots of lies and good cover stories, but also trying to reassure the person, trying to be the perfect husband,” Ball said.
The deception can be almost unbelievably powerful.
When the churchgoing Boy Scout leader Dennis Rader was unmasked as the notorious B.T.K. serial killer in 2005, his wife of 34 years was granted an immediate divorce. The judge waived a 60-day waiting period, agreeing the woman’s mental health was in danger.
Rader – he called himself B.T.K. for bind, torture, kill – murdered 10 people in the Wichita, Kan., area from 1974 to 1991.
In Indianapolis, Juliana and Herbert Baumeister had lived on a million-dollar estate with their three children. Authorities in 1996 unearthed seven skeletons of young men who vanished after frequenting gay bars. Baumeister committed suicide nine days later.
Locally, British citizen Neil Entwistle was convicted in 2008 of murdering his wife, Rachel, a Kingston native, and their 9-month-old baby in 2006, shattering the idyllic image of a young happy family with a new home in the suburbs.
In 2000, Carolyn DeMita testified that her husband was a devoted father who had organized two soccer teams so his oldest daughters could play. Edward J. DeMita Jr., of Weymouth, was quickly found guilty of fondling nine boys on the soccer teams and sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Academics have not studied in-depth relationships that become severed by one partner’s criminal secrets, said John Sheff, a 25-year psychologist in Hingham.
Those with sociopathic behavior counterbalance immoral impulses by genuine good nature toward a handful of loved-ones, he said.
“I bet Whitey Bulger’s girlfriend probably thinks Whitey is a good guy,” he said.
The spouse is later left to ponder whether they missed signs, said Gail Saltz, author of “Anatomy of a Secret Life: Are the People in Your Life Hiding Something You Should Know?”
“They blame themselves in some ways, which is not healthy or, in some cases, even fair,” Saltz said.
In the Markoff case, Saltz said she hopes McAllister will move on if her fiancé is found guilty.
“To some degree, she’s spared,” Saltz said. “She wasn’t married. She can walk away.”
John P. Kelly may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.