Most true crime books follow a similar path, with a focus on the evidence, the search for a perpetrator, and often a trial. Not so with Couple Found Slain: After a Family Murder by Mikita Brottman, which is due to be released in early July of this year. As the title suggests, the bulk of this novel is devoted not to the crimes Brian Bechtold committed, but instead to his life after killing both his parents in an apparent psychotic break.
The early chapters of the book detail the perpetrator’s life history, his parents’ abusive cruelties, and his descent into mental illness. And like most true crime novels, it contains a description of the crime itself. But the meat of this book is so much more interesting than run of the mill true crime. It chronicles Brian’s life in a mental facility that houses and treats those found not criminally responsible for their crimes—the updated phrase used in place of not guilty by reason of insanity.
I’m under no delusions that life in a mental institution is some kind of lesser punishment than prison. But this book still shocked me. It has a clear agenda, and you will come out of it understanding the shortcomings of our system, and the difficulties inherent in treating people with severe mental illness. It takes a skilled writer to make a reader feel sympathy for a person that committed double parricide. I challenge you to read this and think otherwise.
Although this isn’t a classic true crime novel, it is worth a read for anyone interested in that genre, or interested in the intersection of criminal justice and mental health. This would be a great book club read, there is much to discuss and think about here. If you read it, let me know what you think!