Sometimes It’s Really Tough to write True — to be entertaining and thoughtful when your mind is preoccupied by something so pressing, it’s all you can think about. This weekend was one of those times.
Thursday afternoon, I got a message from a friend in Minneapolis, a former member of the mastermind group I run for online entrepreneurs. “Randy, did you see this?” — and a link to a newspaper article.
It was a horrendous article about an entire family wiped out in a murder-suicide near him. Why would he think I would want a sad article like this for This is True?! I thought to myself. Then my eyes landed on the name of the dead family’s father: Brian Short.
It felt like I had just been kicked in the chest by a horse: Brian was a good friend of ours — and a current member of my mastermind group. He has a wife and three kids. Police weren’t saying who did it. It exploded into national news, and even overseas, a cautionary tale that even “rich people” face tragedy (a lot was made of their “$2 million lakefront home”).
My immediate suspicion was that maybe the teen boy had gone berserk and killed his parents and his sisters. A friend told me that FBI Crime Statistics show that in family murders, the murderer is the wife five times as often as the husband.
I had never met Karen (or his kids), so I didn’t know; is it OK to hope the murderer is your friend’s wife, rather than him? It seemed even more distasteful to hope it was his 17-year-old son. But I knew Brian wasn’t capable of doing such a thing, adding confusion to the shock and sadness.
Brian was a critical care nurse dedicated to improving and saving lives. When he was in nursing school in the 1990s, he got on this new “Internet” thing to learn more about his profession — and found virtually nothing. So he started a web site for nurses that really took off, since there was a need.
AllNurses.com has grown and grown under his leadership, so much so that he left his nursing job so he could help his profession to give better care to people. According to a local article about him, the site has hundreds of thousands of members in active forums, thousands of articles, and was recently grossing about a million dollars a year from medical advertisers, which allowed him to hire staff to provide even more to his members.
I had spent a lot of time with Brian: in my group we take time to actually connect, in person, even though we’re online entrepreneurs. We understand the value of presence — actual human connection — and get technology out of the way and talk in a room together. Brian came to most of the conferences, learned a lot about how to make his business grow, and generously gave back year after year. He was a big teddy-bear kind of guy; the women in the group described him as “sweet” — and he was. A gentle and caring man who always had a smile, was truly modest about his business achievements, and still had the helping attitude of his first profession.
Earlier this year, Brian told the group he had been sued. The suit at least sounded frivolous: a training company complained that a forum member had given them a bad review. Federal law says that sites aren’t responsible for what members post, so Brian wasn’t concerned — but as months dragged by, the legal bills started piling up, and I later learned Brian had been put on antidepressants.
He dropped off the radar: I hadn’t had any emails from him in a few weeks. And then came the news that he was dead — Brian, 45, his wife Karen, 48, and their three high school aged kids, Cole, 17, Madison, 15, and Brooklyn, 14, were killed in their sleep. What the hell could have happened?!
By Friday police had confirmed Brian did it. Yet I knew that was impossible. Even if he was despondent enough to commit suicide, there’s no way he would harm his family. My theory (yet to be confirmed) is that he had some sort of bad reaction to the antidepressants; some are well known to cause suicidal thoughts, especially in the early stages of treatment. Doctors are supposed to monitor patients closely early on. This was a tragic enough case: it would be even more tragic if the medical profession he belonged to failed him, giving him drugs that altered his mind so much that he truly was a different person.
Some of the comments on the news articles I saw said it’s obvious Brian was “evil” — or a “privileged rich millionaire” who “couldn’t handle not having lots of money.” If I was to rank everyone I know from most likely to kill their family to least, Brian would have been way in the back. In all the time we spent together, I never even saw him angry, or raise his voice. “Privileged” rich guy? Hardly. “We were very poor growing up,” he once told me. “I lived in the ghetto on the north side of Milwaukee. This humble beginning was a great source of passion to want more and do something better with my life. My first job was picking up my neighbor’s dog poop for 25 cents a day when I was 8. I was so proud.” The American Dream in action: working hard, and getting ahead, one turd at a time. If he didn’t take any days off, he made $1.75 a week! After dog poop, “I mowed lawns, cut grass, helped neighbors do anything,” he said. His best friend’s mom was a nurse, and that’s what led him to the profession.
I know you all have your own tragedies in life, so I’m not asking for sympathy. But True is about thinking, and here’s something to think about: why do the online commenters on such news articles lash out so viciously? They assume “evil” or “privileged” when the reality is, he was a kind and humble man. I think the commenters are angry. My wife noticed that several of our friends mentioned that they were “angry” over the killings too. Why? she asked me. “Why angry?”
Because when you either don’t understand the back story, or understand it so well that you know Brian wasn’t evil or a money-hungry privileged bastard, you have to admit something to yourself: if a guy that sweet, humble, generous, and kind could murder his entire family, then anyone can. That idea scares people, and they don’t like the fear so they lash out in blind anger. Antidepressants are given out like candy in this country, yet they can have terrible side-effects. We all ask ourselves, could this happen to me? And if you knew Brian, you have to admit it: yes. Yes it could. Especially since few of us are as sweet and gentle as Brian was.
My deputy coroner wife says it takes 6-8 weeks to get a full blood toxicology report back, which might give some answers. Long before then, the haters will have moved on to some other imagined outrage, and will have forgotten this one.
The (since updated) article our mutual friend sent me: Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Brian’s site for nurses: AllNurses.com
Then the Other Shoe Dropped.
When we woke up Saturday, we got more bad news. Another member of the group, who has been on a world tour with his wife, decided to “go offline” for two weeks and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. He didn’t make it back: he was killed in a climbing accident. Kilimanjaro is big (19,341′, or 5,895m), but accidents there are rare. Apparently, Scott was killed by a rockslide.
Scott Dinsmore was only in the group for a year, and I had only met him once. But what an impact he had! He was wowed by his first mastermind meeting, and couldn’t scribble fast enough in his notebook as he absorbed new ideas. He was all about helping people find the right job — doing something they actually cared about — and living life to the fullest. And boy, did he model that well.
His business, “Live Your Legend”, is a “global community dedicated to helping people find and do work they love and make a difference in the world — and surround themselves with the people who make it possible,” he told us when he joined. “Surroundings and environment are the foundation of how we help people and what sets us apart from sites with a similar ‘do work you love’ focus — I believe the fastest way to do the things you don’t think can be done is to hang around people already doing them (which I’m guessing is probably a good part of the reason why this group has been so successful for everyone).”
Two years before he had joined us, Scott gave a talk at TEDx in San Francisco. Even though it was “only” a TEDx (as opposed to the main TED conference) talk, and even though he was only 30 years old at the time, it really resonated with people: it has millions of views.
Scott truly “Lived his Legend” — he was one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. It’s a little bit of comfort knowing he died while truly living his life to the fullest. He was 33, and he and Chelsea had just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary the week before.
Scott’s Site: Live Your Legend
So yeah, it was a tough weekend, and a reminder that we are fragile, and our minds or bodies can break. There’s no guarantee any of us will see tomorrow, so give your spouse, partner, kids, or others you care about, an extra hug. Today.
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61 Comments on “Two Good Friends”
First, the trolls. They seem governed by some perverse form of schadenfreude which is, to say the least, a gleeful glorification of another’s tragedy. Evil does exist and these folks are the purveyors.
The miracles of modern chemistry have mixed effects. They can be the causal factors of non culpable action. While tragic, there are no fingers to be pointed in this sad episode.
As a believer in an afterlife, these people are together in their innocence.
I like your conclusion regarding “evil”! Thanks, Art. -rc
I think people get angry in comments because they’re not really sure why they’re commenting — they have been upset by the article (or more generally, previous comments), and have to do *something*, and probably internally resent the whole situation because it has upset their equilibrium.
I know someone who suffered from a sudden-onset degenerative brain condition (I think it was Pick’s Disease), who ended up doing utterly offensive things (leading to arrest and criminal charges; however he was deemed unfit to stand trial, and died soon after). I’ve just found a comment thread where he was mentioned in relation to the main article, where one of the commenters eventually observed that “… all of your posts are charged with emotion, mostly anger.”
I’d be angry that the world allowed such terrible things to happen, because as you rightly say, it could perhaps happen to me. That makes me frightened, and anger is very close to that emotion.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” –Yoda
So much to think about here. Thank you for sharing your inner workings, as always. I wonder — pretty much every day — what kind of world this would be if people were able to rise above the seemingly irresistible urge to judge everyone else, and run that judgement through a negative filter. For starters, you might not have had to write this piece about Brian. 🙁
This is the first thing I’ve read this past week that allowed me to feel sorrow and peace in one breath. Thank you for the words — you’ve gifted Brian a well deserved honor that can now overshadow the lashing, angry voices. Thank you for this.
Thank you for sharing their stories (the real stories that always lie, untold, behind the news reports). Both stories serve as examples. One of how emotional crisis and poorly tracked medication can lead an otherwise kind person to unspeakable tragedy, and the other that random bad thing happen to the best of us. Both show us how fragile life can be.
I like to think that Scott’s example is to live your life fully now, since you never know about what random bad thing might whack you. -rc
I experienced the shift in personality that anti-depressants brought to a family member, the years of hoping that the therapist that put her on would take her off….it took a new therapist with a new vision to do it. But the scars remain in all of us, of that strange person inside someone I love. Your memory of both your friends keeps them alive as they truly were. Thanks for sharing ~ two worthy honorary unsubscribers.
It saddens me greatly that, if they were indeed the antidepressants that took the toll on Brian, that pills are prescribed that can alter the whole problem — in a very opposite way. I know it can’t be easy to find a drug that works well on every brain, but I keep thinking there must be a better way. It has to be found. Especially if things end up like this….
Indeed. It just goes to show how little we understand of the human brain. -rc
This is mind numbing, not one, but two tragic episodes so close in your circle. My thoughts and prayers are with you and all affected.
What gut-wrenching tragedies; and to be touched by both is unfathomable. Your kind words will likely comfort many in both families.
Liking a posting such as this always feels insensitive to the subject matter, but this really is a thoughtful commentary on two extraordinary men who touched countless lives. Well written, sir. I am sorry for your losses.
Thanks Randy, as always your carefully chosen words bring light into the darkest news. Thanks again for sharing such close and deeply emotional loss, bringing us closer to the real people they were, putting this in proper perspective, and dimming the aggressive spotlight usual media put on such tragedies.
This is so wonderful. I’d love to share this with every ill speaking person I see who talk about my cousin, Brian. Beautifully written!
I’m a very close friend to a member of Brian Short’s family. I have heard so many of the comments you made about him already. This devastating tragedy has left so much pain, heartache and questions. I see the pain in my friend’s face as she tells me how kind and wonderful Brian was. She was very close growing up… And even still today. When she first heard she couldn’t believe it was Brian who had done it. I sat with her as she cried and I could feel her pain and it tore me up. Brian was always known as a very happy man, a wonderful father and a great friend. I hope that people will be able to open their eyes and see that what you said is sadly true… It could happen to Anyone.
The internet seems to allow people to write the most negative, nasty things without repercussion. I know we are entitled to free speech, but it seems that maybe it is taken too far. Maybe if people had to actually attach their real names to some of these diatribes, they might think twice before posting. Free speech does not protect anyone from the consequences of that speech, that seems to be the part that many people misunderstand.
The story of Brian resonates with me since a friend had a psychotic episode and tried to kill herself and her two year old son. It was postpartum depression turned into psychosis, and the online hatred that was unleashed on her was shocking. People that had no knowledge of the loving, intelligent and caring mother she was declared that “hanging was too good” for her. My theory as to why people do this, and it’s only a theory, is that in the post-modern world we look on the failures of others for some kind of reassurance about ourselves. By demonizing them we elevate ourselves.
Besides, my career in litigation support has taught me that the facts are almost never what they appear at first sight, especially as reported by the press.
Sounds to me they both need an Honorary Unsubscribe, just because.
I’m inclined to agree with you about the first part. It really doesn’t sound at all like a guy who was that happy with life would have done what he did without an “outside influence”. Here’s hoping the toxicology proves the theory right.
I suffered from post partum depession after having my son. I was put on a antidepressant and had a horrible reaction. I felt so off mentally. When I called the crisis line asking if this medication could cause me to feel delusional and mentally unstable they insisted there was no way possible since the ssri had not been in my system long. I quit taking it and I felt better. I am not against medications or SSRI but I do think they need to determine based on one’s brain chemistry what medicine is needed. Depression is awful enough to deal with side effects of a medication.
Prayers to Brian and his family.
This is a very good article by two criminologists on the subject of murder-suicide, specifically this case.
Sorry for your loss.
Those anti-depressants are deadly. Every one of those mass murderers who make the headlines for shootings were on one or more psychotropic drugs or coming off them. Robin Williams was on one when he hung himself. Brian was and is a tragic loss to those who knew and loved him; I am sorry for your loss. I hope that no one else has to suffer the effects of those deadly drugs. Blessings.
Sometimes the personal stories you include in This Is True are more thought provoking than the news stories, at least on a personal level. The story about Brian made me see things in a new light. Partly because of the story, partly because of the timing. Before you shared Brian’s story, I was of the mindset “why didn’t he kill himself first?” But today, for the first time, I thought that an odd thought considering my own experiences. Thirty years ago I was close to the brink. Even in peace time, submarine duty can be stressful. Even the “right” decision can get someone killed “right now” because the training makes you realize that either you or the other ship will be destroyed. But even then, I never thought about taking anyone out with me. The solution for me was not medication, but a change of scenery. Today when situations are stressful I remember that whatever I decide, it will not result in anyone dying “right now” and I can move on.
Recently I watched someone close go through a pharmacological crisis. Their medications had worked well for several years. Then, almost suddenly, the medications stopped working. The human body adapts and changes. The fear, anxiety, and depression built and became debilitating. Fortunately they realized it was a medication issue and went to the ER. That lead to inpatient services and monitoring to quickly and safely dial in a new medication regimen. And that’s when I saw your story about Brian. It wasn’t until reading that story with this experience fresh in my mind that I really put together issues with antidepressants and murder-suicides. I will not look at another story like Brian’s the same way again.
I am sorry for your loss. I also thank you for sharing the back story with us.
I do feel like I need to speak out about people bashing antidepressants. You have to already have mental health issues before you are prescribed them. They don’t put people who are doing fine on them and suddenly the meds cause mental illness where it didn’t exist before. Do antidepressants work for everyone? Absolutely NOT, probably only about 30% of people get a significant benefit. They do save some people’s lives. Do they make some people worse? Yep! Do they over-prescribe them? Yep! So many of the expectant mom’s I work with are on them, not without significant side effects to the newborn babies. The meds work for some, not for others and make some people worse. The meds should be prescribed much more carefully than they are now and the patient should be monitored closely AND get counseling in addition to the meds. Were antidepressants the cause of this tragedy? We will probably never know. I don’t think the toxicology tests are going to provide the answer.
One would think you’re correct about having to have some sort of mental illness before getting such a prescription, but you’re not. For example, fully 25 percent of American women between 40 and 60 are on antidepressants. Do you really think all of those women are clinically depressed — so much so that they need to be medicated? Or does it look like more of a fad? Do they help most people who actually need them? I would think so, and if you read what I wrote, you’ll see that I didn’t say they didn’t. And we agree that they should be prescribed more carefully — that was part of my point. -rc
Oh goodness Randy,
I’m so very sorry for the loss that this is to you, Kit, but also to your group, their families, and their extended communities. Your article is a beautiful gift to everyone who will have to deal with these kinds of tragedies. I’m grateful that you and Kit understand the world of internet trolls and will be better able to let that ugliness pass over you without stopping.
If there is anything that we in your True community can do, please post.
Blessings to you and Kit.
I’m a retired family physician. I have seen near-miraculous improvements with modern anti-depressant drugs (and when I started practicing we had only the old tricyclic drugs and MAO-inhibiters). Yet these are potent drugs and can have bad effects. I don’t know if that’s what took your friend or not.
To those who ask that we test for the right drugs first, I will remind you of the blood-brain barrier: there is no way to tell what drug is going to work with minimal side effects except trial and error. No one is willing to have a brain biopsy, and even that would probably not work.
Re trolls: just as I don’t want to jump to conclusions about someone in a murder-suicide story, I don’t want to jump to conclusions about trolls. There’s something about the anonymity of the internet that seems to remove normal filters and brakes. People will write all kinds of terrible things that they would never say to another human being.
I do want to make it very clear that I don’t think antidepressants are terrible. What I said was, “some are well known to cause suicidal thoughts, especially in the early stages of treatment. Doctors are supposed to monitor patients closely early on.” Note I didn’t say that no one should have them prescribed, because certainly, they help many people. -rc
I joined allnurses back in 2002, I think. I thought you might like to see what they’ve posted.
Official Statement Regarding Passing of Brian Short, Founder of allnurses.com, September 12, 2015:
That statement is here. -rc
It is easier to blame the medications used to treat depression than to accept the fact that Depression can be so all-encompassing as to lead to such actions as Brian’s. As a long-term sufferer of depression who has taken meds for years I can assure you that a person with MAJOR depression can fool everybody into thinking that all is well in their world. I’ve often thought that I deserve an award for Best Actress much more than the current Academy’s choice! Even when I’ve admitted to taking meds for depression I can tell that friends assume that “it can’t be a bad case of depression, because she’s always so happy and funny”. It is not usually a “big” problem that brings a worsening of depression for me (and, I suspect, many others), but an accumulation of many “small” problems. It’s just not possible for one person to understand what might push a depressed person to act on the feeling that there is no hope for any improvement in the dark, hopeless, helpless circumstances of their life. I think people who have never known such depression respond angrily because they don’t understand and people who have battled (or are battling) depression are angry that the black cloud has claimed other victims.
Thanks for your in-the-know perspective, Diana. -rc
I too knew the Brian you have described, I am struggling badly with missing him and the horror which has over taken his legacy. Anybody who knew Brian knew him to be a kind, generous, funny man. I never saw him lose his temper, he was always calm on an even keel. I will miss him for the rest of my life, and I won’t allow myself to dwell on the terrible information surrounding his death and the death of his beloved family.
I doubt we will ever have answers, ever.
Thank you very much for sharing “the rest of the story.” I am acquainted with a family member from Iowa and followed this story. I know there is always a story behind a story. Thank you and am sorry for your losses.
First my deepest condolences for your loss.
As for the “negative attackers” I think that those same 80% that Scott refers to in the video you attached, are people that are predisposed to looking at things from the negative side. Seriously too many people do that.
In a college class we did an experiment. 6 people were isolated and 1 person was told they were to listen to a short description and repeat it exactly to just 1 of the isolated people. Then that 1st isolated person would do the same to the 2nd isolated person and so on thorough out the isolated people . None of the isolated people heard anything that was said to the other isolated people. The story was brief: I saw a car accident, there was a police car at the scene and an ambulance was just arriving as I went by. That was the story.
By the time that the last isolated person repeated the story it was radically different for the worse. It went like this: There was a terrible car accident. The car causing the accident was then a red sports car with a man driving it at a high rate of speed. It was a 4 car collision. There were several fatalities with bodies laying on the ground. One car was on fire and there were firefighters on scene and they had to use the jaws of life on one car. There were 4 ambulances.
As you can see all the added commentary was negative. Why? I think Scott hit the nail directly on the head. This 80% that is not happy with their job and their life are of the type that is categorized as misery loves company. Always looking for something worse in every situation. They assume everyone else has the same feeling and that generates the large negative viewpoint.
I am not a psychologist and that is enough psychology. Bottom line is that what happened is tragic. In Brian’s case it was double tragic because as someone who was concerned about propagating better health care he was done in by health care. In a way he was done in by negative society with the original lawsuit.
Either case it does make you aware just how fragile life is.
Thank you for the post and I am so sorry for the loss of two of your obviously great community members. Such a tragic loss. I appreciate your spin on this very difficult subject to grasp.
Thanks for sharing this, Randy. It is important to hear all sides of a story. As someone who is greatly helped by an SSRI drug, I completely AGREE with your statement that they are over-used. Patients are often not followed closely enough by their doctors, or not well informed of potential side effects to watch for. Sorry for the loss of your two friends.
Unfortunately mental illness is not treated with the respect that it deserves in America.
Regarding the suicidal thoughts, my doctor explained (when he put me on anti-depressants) that when you are depressed, you generally do not feel like doing anything. Once the anti-depressants start kicking in, but before they have really reached therapeutic levels, you then just have enough energy to start acting on your impulses, even if they are bad impulses.
This is of course over and above just generally the medication not agreeing with you. There many kinds of depression, and many chemicals (and other ways) to treat it with.
This was such an interesting article. Thank you for explaining about his recent use of anti-depressants. And, although we may never know the exact reason why this horrible tragedy happened, it shows how an otherwise completely healthy and happy person can be affected by medication (Robin Williams also started new medications for his Lewys Body Dementia). Thank you again, great article.
This story is so horrible it seems sureal. I grew up in Wayzata, with a few years in Connecticut aand this kind of unspeakable crime just doesn’t happen in Minnesota. Espessially not with children. And maybe i have deep feelings about this because when i was 10 we lived in a small town in Connecticut and a High School Boy killed his whole family, and a girl that was 10, which effected me my whole life. I am a mother of 2 teenagers, and am horrified that these 3 teenagers were gunned down by their father. Can you even imagine what their last minutes on earth were? Can we even talk about what a wonderful man he was and this gruesome crime in the same breath? I don’t think so. There was something wrong for a couple of months before this happened and he knew it. He wasn’t returning phone calls. In my opinion,You don’t just wake up one day and go on a shooting rampage and kill your entire family. The most tragic thing is he had to know something was horribly wrong within himself. People missed the signs, friends saw him, but you can hide those things, For awhile. There’s so much more to this story I’m sure, but instead of saying what a wonderful person he was, I am going to focus on praying for those children and their mother, the real victims in this horrible story.
You missed the entire point. You might try reading it again with an open mind. -rc
Thanks for this post Randy and my sincerest condolences on your losses. I knew Scott well and had the pleasure of spending some time with him. I will miss his presence, his work, smile, love — everything he exuded and was about dearly. I appreciate you writing this post Randy. We’ve never met although I hope to get the opportunity to meet you at some point and thank you for your work and just being who you are — it’s awesome, you’re awesome and I appreciate it. Cheers to you.
Sympathies for your loss, Mike. -rc
I’m sorry for your loss and the loss of the whole world. There are so many people taking so many medications now, and many can’t or don’t consider side effects this mixing can cause. About a year ago my doctor had me try a medicine, and after a few days I was very irritable. Big understatement! It peaked when I shouted at my wonderful, understanding wife of 17 years and had to walk it off. As I went down the street, I was planning to divorce her or worse, all for the heinous crime of suggesting I have a computer expert look at a problem I was having with my PC. Afterwards I couldn’t figure out why I was mad at her. I dropped that med immediately.
I sat with Brian and Karen at every one of my daughter’s, and Brooklyn’s, soccer games. They were kind, gentle people. They loved Brooklyn so much, it was obvious. Nothing about this story adds up….a tragedy of all tragedies, the worst.
I think the internet has allowed humans to indulge the part of our brains (all our brains) that fuels riots and lynch mobs, only without the risk of experiencing real violence and death. Is the deplorable vitriol that fills virtually every “comments” board a symptom or cause of our growing divisiveness and shrinking compassion? I’m certainly not qualified to even guess.
I personally go back an forth between wanting to find the magic words to enlighten people and make them think more introspectively, and just becoming a hermit.
Just curious, was there a point in the article comments where the posters started arguing about whether he was a Democrat or Republican?
I don’t know — I had to stop reading them. I got the gist and moved on. -rc
I am very sorry for your tragic losses. I had also thought the same questions as you. He seemed to be full of life, son a quite type, wife unknown. It’s normal to look for answers, give blame etc. If this helps you at all, I’d like to pass along, a family member of ours has also taken their life. It was found that a medication, a prescription sleep aid to be exact, was the factor. Their personality & character showed anything but being in a suicide state. I do believe his must had also been connected to a medication. I’ll keep all those who knew them in my prayers.
That is so sad, Randy. Thanks for the details. I’ve been wondering. I didn’t know either of them, but I know the community they belonged to — which you provided — and I’m so sad to know it’s been hurt like this. Deepest condolences.
Thanks, Phil. We all appreciated your time in the community too. -rc
I have to be honest and admit that I am one of those people you refer to who responded angrily to this unfortunate tragedy. I can only speak for myself as to the why, and it all boils down to how senseless it is. I cannot fathom how anyone can pick up a gun, aim it at their own child’s head and pull the trigger, no matter what the cause. I can understand shooting a spouse in the heat of passion. I can understand shooting yourself in the grips of despair. But to kill your own flesh and blood, and three of them, is just so horrible, so unimaginable that anger at the perpetrator is a, I believe, natural, human emotion. It comes from a place of sheer helplessness. How could something like this happen, especially in a place like the Lake Minnetonka area, where privilege and all that glitters abounds? If someone who has “made it” in life can resort to this, where does that leave those that have nothing they had? The vacations, the beautiful home, the toys and the stuff that is all supposed to make life better, to make it good. It comes from a place of protectiveness. To think of his wife, reaching for her phone to call for help, and seeing the man she married, the man whose children she bore, the man whose life she shared pointing a shotgun at her and ending hers is just so egregious that it is hard to reconcile.
That being said, I appreciate your article. It made me think. It made me better able to summon up some sympathy for Brian Short. By all accounts, he seemed to have been a genuinely nice guy. Sometimes in cases like this, we find out that though some may sing the praises of the perpetrator, a darker, not so great picture emerges of life behind closed doors. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and the ones that could refute that if it was refutable are all gone. And if the toxicology reports come back not supporting the possible anti-depressant theory, then we probably never will know what really happened.
I feel terrible for the families left behind and so hurt by this. I feel terrible for the friends who loved these poor people. And I feel terrible that this sort of thing happens at all in our society. I sure wish it didn’t.
Thank you for your article.
You ask why people in news articles lash out so viciously. You use words like ‘Evil’ and ‘Privileged’ with regards to the story. I read the link you posted and put myself in the shoes for a moment of a typical reader. We see comments like “They were just your normal, typical family” & “were “at every single soccer game”. “They were the nicest people in the world…”
What does that say to someone like me, a person with a similar family, it says that wow that could be the neighbor I spoke with over the fence this weekend. It could be MY friend with a family who I thought was doing well. It could be me. It’s that last one that sets people off.
Now contrast the comments above with this statement from the start of the article: “…came upon a scene their chief called “unspeakable” — the bodies of five family members, including three teenagers. The five bodies bore traumatic injuries and were scattered throughout the large house” or this “…the victims appeared to have died of severe injuries.” I don’t include these quotes to cause you harm Randy but to help answer your question.
We are told how great the kids were, they were not dealing crack out the front door, they were in school doing well and not the local trouble maker. They were good kids. We hear how great the wife was how generous they all were how they were GOOD people. They were not hated they were not outcasts they were what we like to think we are they are us. They are one of the good ones.
So WTH? They were brutally taken from this life like this? Why should that happen to someone so good? Why should someone so good, so nice so great be taken away in this brutal manner?
Then we read the words murder suicide. Clearly no good person could do this right? Recall it could still be ‘us’. Only the worst possible human being could do this. Clearly this shoe fits. “…scattered throughout the large house” not lying quietly in bed. This just ramps it up even more as we start to fill in our own blanks of what happened in that house. Now as predictable human beings we want to lash out at someone anyone as this hurts it’s too close to home. The easiest target of this is the person attributed to in the article. The husband. The man you knew as a friend. I did not know him and reading the article I would not attribute the same characteristics to him. Why would I? I did not know him from Adam. But reading what I did in the story it begins to outweigh everything else.
To most his final act overrides what came before, all of those that he helped, the site he created the impact he had on others was all erased in the mind of the reader. All that matter was what came at the end. No it’s not right. Clearly there is more to the story. The writer of the article sees this as well, you can tell based on the quotes included. If they did not they would not be in the story talking about the good he did. They were trying to show the good in him, they were trying to tell that story. But we read what we want to, we process what fits our own narrative. Is it right hard to say. By having a place on the internet to vent is it possible we are reducing the pressure on those who may be on the edge. I hope so.
You said that most would think “Only the worst possible human being could do this.” I would think only someone with true mental illness could do this, even if it’s “only” a temporary psychosis. Seems to be it’s a bit sick to spew hatred at someone who is ill. -rc
Just read an interesting article that was supposedly based on interviews with some of Brian’s closest friends. They were also shocked and blown away by what has happened, how it seemingly came completely out of the blue. One mentioned, as you did, that the lawsuit was likely weighing heavily on him. They also both spoke about Brian’s lifestyle. They described him as very generous, insisting on picking up the tab for everyone when they went out for dinner. That he bought top of the line in everything he purchased. One described him as loose with his money and said he directly questioned Brian if he was living beyond his means but got no response. Much has been made of his $2 million dollar home. No matter how much money one makes, it is possible to spend more. We see it with professional athletes and lottery winners, especially those with very humble backgrounds like Brian’s. Isn’t it possible he got himself in over his head, got depressed which clouds judgment, and could see no other way out? He hid his troubles so his friends, which he seemed to have many, couldn’t help him. The article by the criminologists says that is not an uncommon triggering scenario.
That said, I reread your article and I think I finally understand your point. That if a kind, generous, caring man that Brian seemed to be can get themselves so underwater and lost as to trigger an act like this, couldn’t it happen to any of us? I would hope not but you may be correct. That is scary to consider.
It is indeed. I don’t have info about his finances, but my impression is that he was not in terrible financial state — certainly nothing to commit suicide over, let alone “save” the family from living in poverty. But I could be wrong. -rc
First of all, I’d like to express my deepest, most heartfelt condolences for you and Kit, the families, the friends and communities affected by these tragedies. The way you have told their stories makes it all the more heartbreaking to me. Though I did not have the honor of knowing these two men the way that you did, your writing brings such humanity and sensitivity to each of them, showing us who they truly were. And they touched so many lives, it’s almost impossible to see how such a tremendous void will ever be filled. All I can say is that I know what an inspirational influence and encouragement *you’ve* been to me, and I have no doubt that Brian and Scott also engendered such feelings to those with whom they came into contact.
I did want to relate one thing, because I feel it is relevant. I have struggled with depression on and off my entire adult life, and as such, must be careful about the medications I take and their interactions with each other. I have health issues, one of which has been treated with Lyrica. I’d been on it for a few years, completely uneventfully, until about 2 years ago. A very close friend that I emailed every day, sent me an email expressing extreme worry over my preoccupation with “no longer being useful”, and thinking those who loved me would be far better off without me here. I honestly hadn’t noticed but looking back over the past several weeks of communication was frightening. I make it my business to know the side effects of any medication I take, and I realized almost immediately this was coming from the Lyrica. I stopped it that day, and within 4 or 5 days, the thoughts were completely gone. But had I not had someone I was unable to hide from, or perhaps been as vocal about it with him….I doubt sincerely I would be here now. I was lucky.
If you are dealing with depression (or have a history of it), and are on meds, it is imperative that you have a good physician monitoring you. These drugs DO help many, but they can also cause uncharacteristic personality changes that go unnoticed until its too late. If you have a loved one on them, stay in touch. And don’t be afraid to intervene. You could be saving a life.
Wise words, Marsha. Thanks. -rc
Thanks for the article. Brian has spent the last 18 months with me and 7 other guys in our EO Forum and he was everything you described. Our group is struggling and seeking to understand. Your thoughts, memories, and information has really been helpful.
I’m glad it has helped. And I’m grateful to learn we were not the only team on Brian’s side. -rc
Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Randy. This entire string has been one of the more compassionate and intelligent responses to one of life’s very difficult tragedies that I have seen on the internet in quite a while.
My condolences to you. Thank you for your courage in sharing such an intelligent perspective.
Thank you Mr. Cassingham for filling in the backside “rest of the story” so eloquently. As part of the allnurses.com Admin Team for 14+ years, you painted the picture of the Brian I knew: down to earth, outgoing, tech savvy, inquisitive, a nursing advocate who deeply cherished his wife and family, supporting the children with his + Karen’s presence at their activities. I taught Brian and Karen how to be exhibitors at nursing conventions, helped at their first exhibit in 2004 + worked with Brian at the following ones for 10 years.
You summed it up well: “you have to admit something to yourself: if a guy that sweet, humble, generous, and kind could murder his entire family, then anyone can.” It is that thought I keep in my mind when the emotions overwhelm me: 5 spirited lives ended too soon.
Just so. I’m glad that someone from the AllNurses staff found this, and I hope you’ll call it to the attention of the rest of the staff. I know that Brian valued you all greatly — he spoke very highly of both the paid staff and the volunteer moderators. -rc
I personally would not be alive today without antidepresants. They require close monitoring, just like chemotherapy, insulin, coumadin, opioids (another stigmatized group of medications), and many other medications.
Mental health care in the US is so poor partly because of the stigma surrounding psych meds. No sane person would discourage a cancer patient from getting chemo or radiation, or someone with gallstones from having surgery, yet people with depression are recommended everything from yoga to herbs to Jesus to weed (which apparently cures everything) because “psych meds are bad.”
I don’t know if the world will ever know why Brian Short killed himself and his family. However, I’m fairly certain that if he was on antibiotics, no one would implicate them. Score one for the psych med stigma.
You quote “psych meds are bad” as if I said any such thing. Please read what I did say: “some [antidepressants] are well known to cause suicidal thoughts, especially in the early stages of treatment. Doctors are supposed to monitor patients closely early on.” That’s not a “stigma,” that is true. Please tell me which antibiotics are well known to cause suicidal thoughts and actions.
Yes, mental illness is terribly, and unfairly, stigmatized in most societies. The way to change that is to address the very real issues head-on, not whine when someone shows that there’s more to think about rather than scream “evil!” or “monster!” That’s not a productive way to get to the end result you say you want. -rc
Thank you for your awesome blog. I found it on Karen Short’s sister’s Facebook page and have reposted it to mine.
The Short family lived next door to us for 2+ years, and were wonderful neighbors. Brian was everything you described. They bent over backwards to blend into the small neighborhood of 9 homes. Everyone loved them. Our hearts are so heavy with the loss of this family, and we’ve been trying to make some sense of the tragedy. Your blog has shed some light on the possible reason this happened. I felt the Brian I knew couldn’t possibly have done this. My heart is a bit lighter after reading your insight. Thank you again. And I’m so sorry for the loss of two of your dear friends.
My condolences for the loss of your friends. The part of your article in which you talk about anger leading to insensitive comments, assumptions and labels is spot on in my opinion. I am fascinated and troubled by the amount of “trolling” there is on media reported stories such as this one. Social media can be an amazing tool as demonstrated by Allnurses.com. It has also become a place to lash out, spread negativity and smear people almost anonymously and that is a very scary reality.
Both of these events are sad beyond true understanding. One was a freak event, the other so painful to even think about. Perhaps that is one of the reasons people lash out against a story like the Shorts — it is so hard to think about because of the pain.
I have one minor quibble. I had the pleasure of taking a Drugs and Human Behavior class from Dr Frank Etscorn, who commercialized the nicotine patch. (I say this to state my source.)
He made a specific point about all drugs: there is no such thing as a “side-effect”. There are only effects. Some are desired for a specific context, others are not.
For a trivial example, Rogaine was first marketed for a specific reason. Trials showed it was not effective for that condition, but it did seem to cause balding men to grow hair — a ‘side-effect” of the first trials.
I am not trying to minimize what happened to Mr Short and his family. One lesson is that this kind of medication, while the original intent was positive, also has the effect that, under the right condition, it can cause an otherwise smart, funny, loving man, to perceive the world in such a manner he needed (for what for him were probably logical and reasonable reasons *at the time*) to commit acts that otherwise he would have never entertained and would be repulsed by such acts.
If the drug causes this type of effect, the prescribing needs to come with a number of safeguards. We would not allow the sale of a car that would blow up after driving it between 1000 and 2000 miles. This is a drug that has, for a non-trivial percentage of patients, causes them to have such violent thoughts (even only to act out only on themselves).
One last note: I think you missed “Liz, Vermont”s point completely. She was making a very valid point about stigma, and the point many try other “medical therapies” because “psych meds are bad.” She is referring to *other* people’s reactions to the stigma of mental illness and the current medical options.
I may have indeed misunderstood. Thanks for the alternate point of view. -rc
One of the best ways I can think of to support you, Randy, and what you do, is that I just resubscribed my premium subscription. May we have far more happy times in our lives than painful ones.
A very kind thought; thanks. Simply writing about it helped me: it gave a little meaning and context to both an unthinkable act, and a random accident. Having both happen so close together provides a way to compare and contrast, which gives a lesson to those willing to ponder the differences. And it reminds me not only how lucky I was to have both of these men as friends, but how fortunate I am to have readers who are willing to read such difficult stories and learn from them with me. The resulting richness added to our lives is a tremendous gift. -rc
May our Creator comfort all those who were touched by those brilliant people who lost their lives.
Out of such tragedies (both events, all those lost), I hope that the fond memories of those loved and lost can sustain those who are in grief, and remember the best of those who are now gone.
I cannot offer anything other than my deepest sympathies and prayer that out of this will come some answers, perhaps closure, and a chance to improve the future of persons being treated with anti-depressants, and perhaps better safety for those who climb mountains as well.
Antidepressants, I have cabinets full. I am given them to treat a nerve ending problem and not one single doctor has ever monitored me closely. The one I have been trying for a year now keeps putting me in a coma for 48 hours and Doctor tells me to just keep trying and I may get used to them.
I was on another kind 5 years ago and was hearing and seeing things that were not there. That loud sound from Jaws of Life tool was on my front porch, I could watch my door frame buckling in. When I touched it all went back to normal till I let go then house would vibrate and buckle some more. It took 24 hours for that pill to wear off. Point is you are right, Randy. Those little pills mess with the chemistry of your brain and make you into someone you normally are not. It’s scary when you count the amount of people getting these and the rash of shootings and other crazy things going on. I am very sorry to hear about your friend’s and wish I could do something to help. Take care.
I know they work for a lot of people — but not everyone. This is a great example of “handing them out like candy” …and not doing proper monitoring to see some truly bad side-effects. -rc
I am sorry for your loss but I’m also one who was angry about the Short family tragedy (although I didn’t post anything). “Why angry?” Kit asks? Because, as you put it, “Antidepressants are given out like candy in this country, yet they can have terrible side-effects” (or just ‘effects’ as bandit in Albuquerque pointed out).
Someone close to me once went to see a psychiatrist and after a 50 minute appointment, was given a prescription for an antidepressant. Luckily, this person recognized the malpractice evident in this action and sought out the help of another professional. So while all the facts are not in, mistreatment of depression and other mental illness (e.g., over-medication, under-medication, lack of access to care, stigma) is causing way too many tragedies in this country.
Yet another example, and all of these are from the fairly small population of TRUE’s readers. Amazing. -rc
Brian seems to indicate two problems with this country: background checks are ineffective, and medicine is too volatile.
Despite recent claims of decreasing crime, there were more than 11 million arrests in the US last year. Some were misdemeanors, and some were felonies. Brian probably would have passed a background check if he’d attempted to purchase a gun. Despite passing this feel-good “protection”, he’d be capable of killing his family if he wanted to. Now think of the millions of people who have difficulty finding a job or finding a place to live. Many homeless shelters refuse convicted felons. Should we continue to refuse social rehabilitation to the people who need it the most? Should we continue to demand three or more years of homelessness and unemployment for all mentally ill parolees? To what extent is society prohibiting or discouraging rehabilitation, not just for convicted criminals, but substance abusers and other people?
As for medicine, I’ve tried every anti-depressant I can think of at various points in my life. All of them had serious side effects, and none of them eroded my depression. I’ve since stopped taking all anti-depressants, and I still have symptoms of side effects of previous so-called “medications”. Regarding the claims made about Brian in this particular case, let’s just say I believe they’re plausible. I firmly believe Zoloft and risperdone should be taken off the market immediately.
I’m sorry if this post came across too strongly for its timing.
No problem at all: I intended to start a conversation with this post, and voices of experience are exactly what’s needed to make it clear there IS a problem. As I said, these drugs help a lot of people — and clearly make some worse. If we are going to continue to use them, the patients need to be closely monitored for side effects to reduce the chance of this happening again. -rc
It is difficult to make sense of the senseless….
Those that have never suffered from depression or mental illness of any kind can not begin to imagine the depths of despair. It saddens me to think about how isolated, helpless, troubled & defeated Brian had to feel to do the terrible things that transpired. It was easier to do what he did than to ask for the help that he needed.
Be vigilant with your friends, family & loved ones. Rich or poor, successful or not….we are all human.
And we all have troubles that affect us. Well said, Marie. -rc
I want to thank you very much for writing this article about Brian. I was reading an article online about the funeral that was held today for Brian and his family and it referenced you and your website. So I decided to check out your website to see what you had to say. And I am glad I did.
I am a RN and have visited the Allnurses website in the past and therefore knew of Brian through that venue. When I heard the news, I was absolutely stunned, shocked, in disbelief. I have really been grieving over this and of course wondering, How? How could this happen? Why? Not in a critical way of Brian but trying to understand how a caring individual could be at the center of such a destructive event.
Your article was the first that I have come across to really see the “real” Brian, who he was. I’ve been able to catch glimpses of Brian through other people’s posts on Allnurses. But your article was really different. Very personable, not sterile. So I want to thank you very much for sharing these personal remembrances of Brian. The picture of the three of you on the beach really says it all.
I agree with the poster who said it was the first time that she could “feel sorrow and peace in one breath”. Finally, after reading your article and being able to hear your stories about Brian, I was able to really feel the sorrow, shed some tears and find a bit of peace at the same time.
My very sincere condolences to you on the loss of both of your friends. May you find comfort and support from the friends, family and community that surrounds you.
Thanks, Jeanne, and I’m honored if my story about Brian helped you. -rc
We went to the funeral service for the Short family yesterday. It was incredibly sad, emotional, heart-wrenching, beautiful and loving. The thread that ran through the service was the family’s love for one another and their friends. I could feel their love engulfing us. There were many hundreds in attendance, including many of the children’s high school classmates who are struggling with their loss. A brother-in-law was one of several who gave a tribute, and he spoke of Brian’s recent significant weight loss and his reclusiveness. He said that Brian had been on meds for depression which hadn’t given him any relief. This tragedy has rocked this community to its core. Hopefully, some conversations and awareness regarding anti-depressants will be forthcoming. RIP Short family.
I truly wanted to be there, but had committed to travel in the other direction. Several from our group represented us, and have reported back. Thanks for this detail, too. -rc
“My theory (yet to be confirmed) is that he had some sort of bad reaction to the antidepressants;”
I think I know what you mean. Sometime after 09.11.2001 I had occasion to attend party in New Jersey.
Two females at the party said they were PhD psychologists, and had been working overtime counseling first responders and others who were near ground zero.
Andrea Yates’ trial had hit the headlines so I asked their opinion if her GP taking her her off her psych meds cold turkey was a factor.
A retired cop at the edge of the conversation jumped in with “Just fry her, regular or extra crispy.” The Psychologists agreed.
I was a bit shocked. Perhaps it’s the difference between a talk doc and a pill doc.
Effexor shows homicidal ideation as a rare adverse event. Yates had been taking 450 mg, twice the recommended maximum dose, for a month before killing her children. Haldol had been discontinued by her doctor two weeks before the murders.
I am Karen’s sister and first I wanted to write to thank you for your blog. You are very astute in your thoughts about our families’ horrible tragedy. I read all of the comments and by the replies it shows most people have empathy and can understand that this man, my brother in law and great friend, was not capable in any way of committing any type of cruelty or injury in his normal state. I do want to clarify because people have commented on how Brian himself, his family and friends could not be aware of his mental decline. I just wanted to assure that he, his wife, his friends, colleagues and family were all very vigilant in pursuing every avenue possible when there were signs that Brian was in trouble. Brian had no stigma or ego in regards to pursuing treatment that would lessen his depression and anxiety. I think because Brian had never before shown any signs of mental illness so we all assumed it was temporary stress that we all experience from time to time and though it was taken very seriously when it didn’t dissipate, no one could have ever imagined in a million years what the outcome would be or have even given this scenario a thought.
I have had family members who have suffered from mental illness their entire lives and not once did they ever threaten suicide or worse. Most people with mental illness are never violent. That being said Brian did not have a chronic mental illness or previously suffer from depression. So we are all at a huge loss to understand. I have done a lot of research since this devastation occurred to our family and looked at all avenues or possibilities. Knowing almost all the details of what had transpired prior…the only thing that fits is the medication. I will continue to be vigilant in my quest for answers, but like one of the comments stated unfortunately we will never really know or have proof of why or how this happened. What we do know is that this amazing father, husband, and friend did not choose this in any sane or normal state of mind, and that something took over in his brain to the extent that who he was had been completely relinquished without his control, knowing or of his own doing! Also there were no outward signs of violence or even bad temper leading up to any of this. Hoping in writing this people can further set aside false notions and also my hope is that more research can and will be done so that someday this may never happen again. Thank you Randy and all others for supporting Brian’s true character and for the endless support from others in our families great loss of the beautiful Brian, Karen, Cole, Madison and Brooklyn.
Thanks much, Kelly, for writing. You are very generous in your support for Brian, and I knew Brian well enough to know what you say is true. The Brian I knew would be absolutely horrified at any threat to his family, and done anything within his power to safeguard them against harm. The only thing that I can think of to explain this is not mental illness per se, but a terrible reaction to drugs that were designed to alter a person’s mental status, and didn’t work the way they were intended. I really appreciate your perspective. -rc
First of all so sorry for the loss of the Short family.
I met and talked to Brian a few times as my daughter and Brooklyn were friends. They seemed like a nice family.
I have suffered from clinical depression for 25 years and been on and off antidepressants. Antidepressants have taken me from the bowels of despair and made my life good again. They just work really well for me.
One thing to consider is I’m hearing it couldn’t have been the depression and had to be the medication. My experience is the opposite. Brian was in a depression apparently. I’m not saying his depression caused him to snap, but my experience and what I understand about SSRI antidepressants is that it is more likely to be the depression and his anxiety about finances that was more likely the issue.
I’m glad they work for you. They probably help most. They certainly didn’t help Brian. -rc