I Forgive My Son For Killing My Wife During Marijuana Psychosis

Posted on February 26, 2024 View all news

After 38 years, I cannot believe how vindicated I feel after reading the article in the Wall Street Journal, More Teens Who Use Marijuana Are Suffering From Psychosis, by Julie Wernau. 

My wife and I were married in 1963. Our daughter was born later that year. Our second child, a boy, was born in 1965, followed by our son Kurt in October 1966. I recall vividly right after New Year’s in 1967, my wife Judith started showing signs of depression and delusional behavior. It was severe enough that she required hospitalization. Medication helped, but over the years, she ended up back in the hospital for short-term and various treatments. Her doctor was Doctor Darrell Treffert, a well-known Psychiatrist in Wisconsin. To make a long story short, we adjusted to life as an average family. We were active in scouting and camping and took family trips like other families. Even though Judy’s condition remained, she could work, but things flared up periodically. She expressed only to me that her last pregnancy may have triggered her depression, which I think affected Kurt. 

Kurt started drinking beer with friends when he was 14, and one time in junior high, he admitted to ingesting mushrooms at a party. Then, we discovered his use of marijuana and confronted him, which led to some chaotic times. I was young and not as patient as I should have been. We sought family counseling from several sources, but things did not improve. Kurt became very angry most of the time. 

At 18, he graduated from high school and got a job, but his marijuana use continued; how much we didn’t know. Finally, after an episode where he threatened us with a butcher knife, we called the police. We tried Tough Love, where we told him to live somewhere else, but it didn’t last long; he always returned home. His anger did not abate. We demanded he enroll in a drug treatment hospital. He was there for about a week but was discharged because of his lack of cooperation with the program.

That day, Feb 6, 1986, when I picked him up from the hospital, he seemed almost normal. I worked the second shift then, so I left for work around 3 in the afternoon when my wife was coming home from her job. We were struggling with our marriage because we could not agree on how to deal with the situation. Kurt promised us he would give up drugs. 

We had a basement rec room where Kurt liked to hang out with friends, but that same day, he was smoking with a friend when he attacked him with a fillet knife multiple times. His friend ran out of the house to escape the attack, and then my son proceeded to attack my wife. My wife ran across the street to a neighbor who was an elderly lady, but Kurt chased her there. He ended up stabbing her 50 or 60 times. Then Kurt stabbed our neighbor to death. He closed the blinds and drapes, sat there, and waited for me to come looking for him. 

Another neighbor noticed the drawn drapes and thought this was not usual at the elderly lady’s home and went to investigate. He looked through the window and saw an opening between the drapes and saw my wife’s body. He called the police. 

Two policemen arrived, entered the house, and found Kurt hiding in the bathroom in the dark. When the police officer entered, he jumped him and stabbed him multiple times. The other police officer responded quickly and shot Kurt in the back. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The stabbed police officer was also critical but survived. 

I was at work when I was approached by security and was told that there had been a stabbing, with no other information. They offered to give me a ride home. I had no idea what was happening but dreaded the worst. 

Police were everywhere when I arrived, and I was placed in the back of a police car and told to wait. It seemed an eternity before they said I needed to be taken to the hospital. There, I was informed my son was in surgery. When I asked where my wife was, they hesitated but finally told me what had happened and that she had died. My world flipped over. I let out a bellow that I’m sure could be heard through the whole hospital. 

My other son was in college in St. Louis, and my daughter was also living there, working for a large hotel chain. I called and notified them of what happened over the phone. 

I wasn’t allowed in my home for several days while police detectives investigated my home. They may have thought I was involved. They allowed me to see my son at the hospital only once; they frisked me for a weapon. I had no malice toward my son, only paternal concern. I was devastated and probably in shock with the loss of my wife and the way it happened.

My son was tried in court and found innocent by reason of mental illness. They called it Schizophreniform. He had been delusional and believed he was receiving messages from God. He was committed to Mendota State Hospital in Madison. I visited him almost every weekend for nearly ten years before his release. 

After he was released, he got a job, served an apprenticeship, and became a master printer in the newspaper business. He still works at a printing plant. He attends AA regularly. He is married and has no children. He does not require any medication to sustain his mental stability.

I remarried eight years after the incident and live in a different city.

Only a few of my friends know this story. I have a hard time sharing this, and I am shaking as I write with tears in my eyes. I was the only one who understood the conditions that caused this, so I could not think of abandoning my son. I know some people thought I was wrong to forgive my son, but despite the horrific event my son created, he’s still my son. I knew what he really was like without being on marijuana. 

Every time he calls, he ends the call by saying, “I love you.” He is 57 years old now, and I am 81.

I cringe at the casual attitude people take about marijuana, including many of our politicians. I hope they get to read your article. I plan to send it to a few of them.

Paul Dehler

4 thoughts on "I Forgive My Son For Killing My Wife During Marijuana Psychosis"

  1. Thank you so much for your vulnerability and strength in revealing this very important story . You have suffered greatly but still have great compassion and understanding. I commend you and hope people realize how dangerous marijuana can be.

  2. Dear Paul,
    Thank you for sharing your experience to help others. My thank you also to Kurt for allowing you to share this.
    My heart goes out to both of you as you recognize Kurt as the victim of this drug. We need people like you to help others understand how dangerous THC can be.
    My son died by suicide blaming his severe cannabis use disorder for killing his soul and ruining his brain. From a discussion I once had with him, I believe he feared he could become a danger to others, perhaps leading to his suicide.

    Thank you for helping others.

  3. My daughter has tried to kill me in phycosis from THC and almost has ! If I was an avg 62 year old I would be dead! I have been an athlete all my life so being thrown down stairs and off decks and my head hitting tile I was ok! Strangled beaten the list goes on broken nose jaw on and on! It’s not my. Kid
    I mis my daughter so much😓😓😓🦾👣🙏👣

  4. I’m so sorry for all
    Your family has endured due to this poison it helps to have the terrible unraveling made sense of I wish you had found this group and these resources sooner to support you but it’s never too late to share your family’s tragic story to help others These kids have no idea what can happen to them with marijuana use it’s horrendous unintended consequences on so
    Many levels I hope this article gave you some peace in knowing there are many of us out her that understand what you have and are going through
    May comfort always be with you Sending love to you

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