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The American Psychological Association has released its long-awaited revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The on-line draft is available for review and comment until its publication in May 2012.

Dr Bob voiced reservations about a few of the changes, some of them substantive, but those that affect me will remain relatively intact. I was especially interested in diagnosis #301.81, Narcissistic Personallity Disorder, because I know people with the affliction. If you know an NPD, you know why it might be worthwhile staying abreast of the latest professional perspectives. Among all the classes and categories of psychological dysfunction, NPDs may be among the least likely to seek treatment because they simply don’t see themselves as ill. There is surprisingly little you can do for an NPD except put as much distance between the two of you as possible.

A couple years ago Howard wrote two articles about an NPD of his acquaintance, Marielle Leer, whose story has an update.

“A few figs from thistles…”

by Howard A. Tabor

Last week I got a letter from an old friend in Chicago, someone I worked with forty years ago at the start of my career in journalism. Tom Milauskas hired me for a newspaper job right after college and shared his investigative and research skills with a kid who knew less than nothing. I’m forever grateful to Tom for his wisdom and his friendship.

Two years ago I wrote here about Mary Ellen Leer, a high school classmate of sorts, who had only come back to life through an anonymous packet of receipts and snapshots that reconstructed a tragic weekend. Tom Milauskas had helped me locate information on Leer in Chicago and he recently found another odd footnote to her story.

An eye for an eye

Crime is no stranger to Chicago. Gang-related activities, racial tension, the growing disparity between those who have and who have not; they are endemic to large populations (and, perhaps, the stuff of “class warfare”?). I had come to Chicago shortly after the Summer of 1968.

One of the crimes I recall long after I had returned home for an opening at The Plantagenet was overlooked by many, I suspect: the murder of Lenny Brookes, a Black man found dead in the serviceway of a southside three-story Chicago apartment building. The neighborhood was scheduled for “renewal,” though the sort of “improvement” that would rise there was hardly a paradigm of social housing. Newer ain’t necessarily better.

Brookes had been found in the morning, with a single stab wound—from something like a screwdriver or ice pick—deftly swung upward through the ribs directly into the heart. Brookes had barely enough time to realize he was about to die. Inept police work sought a convenient candidate for a short and inevitably dirty trial. Public sentiment in the 70s wanted quick justice and, in this case, they got it. Mike Gerulis, a serviceman for the power company—Commonwealth Edison—had made a service call at that address late in the afternoon and some of his tools were found in the dark passage that lead to a rear stairway. Gerulis’ trial was a showpiece of judicial theater: an eye for an eye, with little concern for whose eye was put out. 

“An eye for an eye.” Few people ever complete the biblical quote, however, which goes on “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord of Hosts.” But that’s an article for another day. Gerulis remained in jail for more than ten years, an American Death Row domino on the slow track to vengeance, and was executed twelve years after the crime. So much for Mike Gerulis and his family—except that fellow Lithuanian-American and journalist Tom Milauskas was on the case.

Long before “cold case files” became popular TV fare, Tom pursued the case of his countryman Gerulis. A police contact in Florida wrote to share the story of Dale Sims, a woman who had died in Florida’s “redneck Riviera” in 1998. Sims had made a deathbed confession to a crime she’d committed decades earlier: a murder on Chicago’s south side while she worked as recruiter for a modeling school.

Sims had an appointment one evening with a family who hoped their child might get work modeling for catalog companies like Sears, J C Penney and Montgomery Ward. Fearful of evening meetings in downscale neighborhoods, Sims habitually carried an ice pick in her purse. That evening, suspecting something foul about the situation, she held the pick firmly in her hand while following the directions she’d been given. Halfway along the unlit corridor, a man lunged and she countered with a swift upswing of the pick.

Tom has verified much of the story passed on by Florda authorities and has posed this alternative story almost thirty years after the facts. Gerulis may yet be vindicated. But hidden in his files was a minor revelation about Marielle Leer.

More about that next week. In the meantime, make your judgments with due diligence. Please.

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