Incest Survivor Guilty of Slashing the Throats of Her Two Sons

“Michelle Kehoe of Coralville, Iowa, broke into tears as the jury of eight women and four men found her guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and child endangerment causing serious injury. The jury deliberated for just an hour and 40 minutes.”

Michelle Kehoe took a knife and slashed the throats of her two little boys, ages seven and two. Prosecutors say that Kehoe methodically planned to murder her sons and then herself, but one son survived to tell the world that his own mother tried to kill him. At age eight, her surviving son told prosecutors how his mother slashed his throat, and then did the same to his little brother.

“She cut me,” the boy said in a high-pitched voice.Police found him covered in dried blood in the family van the morning of October 27, 2008, near a pond east of Littleton, Iowa. Beside the van, the boy’s 2-year-old brother lay dead, his throat also slashed.”

After attacking her children, Kehoe attempted to kill herself by slashing her own throat with the hunting knife she used on her boys. When the mother realized that her suicide attempt had failed, she came up with a story about a stranger abducting her and her boys, and that the man tried to kill them all.

“Do you know where you’re injured at,” Deputy Stephen Peterson asked the boy in the recording.

“Just my throat,” the boy said.

“Who did that to you?”

“My mom.” The boy said his mother also put duct tape over his eyes, nose and mouth, but that he pulled them off after his mother left. “She was hurting my baby brother,” he said.” 1

Michelle Kehoe’s defense is that she suffered from severe depression which was the subsequent result of having been sexually abused between the ages of seven and thirteen by her stepfather, her stepfather’s nephew and a neighbor. Kehoe had attempted suicide many times before and was hospitalized for her depression. She received as many as forty-four electroshock “treatments” for her suicide attempts. 2

Normally I would have sympathy for an incest victim and would even have tried to find compassion for her because of the electroshock abuse that was administered to her. However, I cannot find an ounce of empathy for a mother who would choose to buy a hunting knife, lie to her husband about where she was taking the children, slash her boys throats, and then make up a story of abduction by a stranger in order to cover up her crime.

I don’t care if she was sexually abused every day of her childhood, incest can never justify the brutality, indifference and mayhem against her children, and the thirst for blood that was in her soul. If she was severely depressed she could simply have spared her husband the anguish and saved her son’s lives by only taking her own life –leaving her boys to experience childhood and live free of a mother who was so mentally warped seemingly beyond repair.

Michelle KehoeMichelle Kehoe

1. Source: Crime Stories True TV Iowa Mom Guilty of Murdering Son, 2

2. In Session, CNN

Photo Gazette Online

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6 Responses to Incest Survivor Guilty of Slashing the Throats of Her Two Sons

  1. jj says:

    I too am an incest survivor and I too have not considered harming children.
    I volunteered 4 hrs. week for 15 years as a co-facilitator working with a large number of men and women who were victims of incest as children.
    I spent 20 years working in the admission wards of a state mental hospital with children, teens as well as adult men and women on the locked wards.
    Since 1992 I have been totally disabled as the outcome of being assaulted on the ward by a mentally ill man. I have seen, if not it all, pretty darned close.

    Because you or I did not have the same outcome of repetitive trauma as did others does not mean it’s not possible for brain chemistry to alter to the point that one becomes so severely mentally ill that to them it seems a loving thing to end their child’s life rather than have them experience the tortures of the world they are sure (delusional thinking, yes) is ahead for them. It does not make sense because it is not rational.

    To allege that the fact that I have empathy for Michelle Kehoe equates that I do not have empathy for both of her sons is sadly misinterpreting my heart.
    It sounds like a symptom of the effects of being raised in dysfunction: black or white/all or nothing thinking. A strong desire to make sense and order (have control) when there are things out of ones control. I worked long and hard in therapy and in life to deprogram myself from that kind of judgmental thought process I learned at a young age. (This IS an almost universal issue for survivors..perhaps it’s some sense of safety in believing ones always right).

    What I would like to know is who decided how ‘insanity’ is to be defined in a legal sense? Lawyers, not doctors? Legislators? Who? AND when? 1800’s?
    1930, 1940, 1959, 1960? Has not our understanding of repetitive childhood trauma and its effects on brain chemistry not evolved since then?

    I do not dispute that Michelle Kehoe performed terrible acts. I dispute the system that puts her away for life in a prison cell rather than a state mental hospital where she has some chance of receiving proper medication for a brain chemistry disorder.

    Imagine if you will, as a survivor, you had been in a deep clinical depression and had not gotten adequate treatment to help your condition. Suppose you’d gotten pregnant, your hormones changed, and you crossed the line into psychotic episodes (I’ve seen it many times). Meds that were tried on you didn’t help you sufficiently; maybe someone missed finding the right one to prescribe…you feel yourself slipping further away into thoughts that seem imaginable… you even submit to 40 some shock treatments and you were still feeling hopelessness and out of control.

    You’ve asked for help repeatedly and nothing works; you’ve tried to will yourself better, prayed to God to become well and you sink deeper. You
    have thoughts about harming yourself, maybe even your kids. You may even begin to have fears you may do to them what your stepfather did to you for years and years. Or that what your stepfather did and your mother denied and abandoned you for was your fault, not his. Maybe you were just a bad seed after all. And now you’ve passed that seed on and they will grow up to be like you and cause abuse to happen. Not rational thinking…confused, fear driven obsessive thinking…I’ve seen it over and over.

    In this case, the laws for committal to a mental hospital in this and most states makes it very difficult to happen (I’ve done it once for a group member who was in danger from programming from a Satanic cult as well as cult members themselves as I was helping her extract herself from it…it was tough to get her hospitalized, even to save her life). I do not know what was or was not done by Michelle’s family or doctors.

    When Michelle’s sick thinking led her to drive into the lake, where was the Dept. of Human Services/child welfare? Overloaded w/caseload. The State of Iowa has slashed funding in this area for years, giving caseworkers impossible work loads (I’ve seen this)…and more slashes are underway.

    I’ve seen patients admitted to the wards so delusional, so paranoid, or so psychotically depressed (this is VERY different from what most experience as clinical depression) who, after adequate treatment are totally different people.
    I and many friends/coworkers were physically assaulted by patients in this state who, when stabilized, would never dream of harming anyone. I’ve also known patients with paranoid schizophrenia who are clearly out of touch with reality (i.e. getting messages from God in their fillings telling them that they are the Virgin Mary; i.e. that they are Jesus Christ and that they should walk down a major highway naked so that the world can know Jesus and be healed, etc., etc….who in the hospital proceeded to plot and plan how to time an attack on a fellow patient or staff member, some successful, some interrupted.
    Premeditated, yes…sane, maybe legally, but if it were your son or daughter would you believe that to be rational, sane, healthy behavior? Don’t think so.

    My friend, Rosie, was attacked by a female patient who left bruises on Rosie’s throat. The patient was a pretty, young woman who had small children at home. She was psychotic upon admission and had only been on meds a few days when she attacked Rosie. On a day almost a week past that, the young woman came to the door of the med. room for her morning meds, which Rosie was dispensing. The young woman saw the marks and asked Rosie what had happened to her. She did not know. She was not evil, she was ill and she needed medical help and counseling.

    For people who have not had this kind of life experience, I can imagine the challenge of understanding the ways severe mental illness can manifest. Each case is individual just as genuinely as each cancer patient is individual.

    While I can imagine that challenge and appreciate the difficulty, I also feel troubled that judgments are so easily made despite a lack of information and understanding of mental illness, which, though too common, could be interpretted as a lack of imaginative sympathy.

    Although my career ended with my having severe pain on a daily basis, what I gained in understanding the human condition of mental illness and what I’ve learned about the ability of repetitive childhood trauma to change brain chemistry leading to mental illness deepened me as a human being.

    And what I’ve seen in the dismantling of our mental health system, beginning under the Reagan administration, sending ill humans to try to survive in doorways, alleys and parks, jails and prisons instead of treating their brains (last I checked a body part) in a hospital or mental health facility
    is enough to make me ashamed of this country and the apathetic citizens who allow it. Dorothea Dix must be crying in her grave.

    I don’t know whether I’m happy or sad for you that you have such quick judgment about another person based on what you did or did not do in your life based on the trauma history in your life.

    Maybe, like me, the difference between ending up as you or I did instead of like Michelle is that, speaking for myself, I had 1 person in my life that I was certain loved me: my grandmother.
    If not for her, I am certain, I would not have survived into adulthood. Even with her there were many times I was very close to ending my life.

    Michelle’s father died in a car accident of, in part, THROAT LACERATIONS, when she was only 6. He was her knight. Her mother was an alcoholic/her stepfather a child rapist–still free– (who knows how many others drunk mom dragged home before she married that gem?). When she told her ‘mother’, her ‘mother’ sided w/the rapist and threw Michelle away. What does a kid tell themselves when that happens? It must be me. I do not know what life was like for Michelle with the relatives she was sent away to live with.
    No dad, tortured by stepdad, thrown away by mom, puberty..drifting, lost, confused…living with the fear the rapist could come back at any time…all this in a young mind..and this is all we know through court records, there could well be more. If this isn’t a set up for instability…and if she did not have the 1 adult to let her know she was loved, was going to be okay, was going to be safe…think from the standpoint of the needs of a child, not with a judgmental adult mind and imagine how the road just might go in mental health/ mental illness….(not even including the hormonal upheaval of childbearing).

    “Evil is a lack of imaginative sympathy.” -William Sloane Coffin

  2. IRONSIDE says:

    Have you noticed the trend now that when you hurt your child they were ‘Abducted’…The big bad man did it…I just find the whole story so sad Alethea..I am looking at her face and wondering what is going on in that very damaged mind of hers.

  3. Venice says:


  4. jj says:

    I wish those who choose to judge so harshly would spend time working in psych. hospitals with severely mentally ill people. You would learn compassion for people like Michelle Kehoe and others. You would realize it is a system that is flawed that puts ill people like her in prison rather in a hospital for the rest of her life. You would know how easy it is to cross a line and not know it. Like Andrea Yates, this woman, in her deluded thinking believed she was doing a kindness for her children. To you an to me it makes no sense. It is impossible to make sense of irrational thought. It’s so easy to judge people as ‘evil’ when they are profoundly mentally ill. Evil can be defined as a lack of imaginative sympathy someone much wiser than I has said. Evil can also be defined as the unwillingness to treat people with chronic mental illness with the same compassion as one with cancer. Last I checked, the brain was a body part. I’d say it was time to get out of the 19th century, but in many ways they were kinder to their mentally ill brethren then. We know better but we refuse to do better for those who cannot find mental health on their own. The chances of Michelle Kehoe reoffending even if totally free are very small. The chances of the perverted ‘justice’ system reoffending are huge. This verdict disgusts me; not that jurors had much choice with a Middle Ages definition of legal insanity.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Bullshit. Andrea Yates systematically murdered her five boys one by one. She did so when no one would be home so that she could get away with it. She chased them around the house until she had drowned them all. Compassion for Kehoe? How about compassion for her little boys in the moment that their own mother slashed their throats? How about compassion for the fact that the little one who survived will have to live with that trauma forever because he looked into his mother’s eyes when she took a hunting knife to his throat. Let me tell you something, I have experienced severe depression because of incest and I NEVER would even think of taking a knife to a child’s throat. That is not depression or mental illness, that is pure evil –a Satanic act. Like Yates, Kehoe also premeditated the murder and attempted murder of her sons, and that is not mental illness in the sense of the law. She and Yates willingly carried out those acts. True mental illness, in the legal and moral sense, means no premeditation, no understanding of it being wrong to murder. Premeditation and trying to cover it all up means she knew it was wrong.

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