38 | Memory Redux

There is no way by which the events of the world can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains; they are experienced and constructed in a highly subjective way, which is different in every individual to begin with, and differently reinterpreted or re-experienced whenever they are recollected…. The wonder is that aberrations of a gross sort are relatively rare, and that, for the most part, our memories are solid and reliable. Oliver Sacks. - LINK

Many deceptive persons believe that lying about memory is the safest route to take. Deception and an untruthful person’s asserted “lack of memory” about actions, events, incidents, or behavior, often go hand in hand…. Spontaneous and unsolicited assertions of “I don’t remember,” indicate the interviewee is attempting to wipe out, erase, and suppress certain pieces of information represented by “lack of memory” phrases.

Wendell Rudacille, Identifying Lies In Disguise

After I retired, I started studying the mind and memory. For example, I signed something but couldn’t recall even signing my own signature. I feel my memory is very fallible. My mind is getting weaker. Duane Frye, September 10, 2006.

JACKIE: But that’s the house that your mother was living in?

JAN: I could not say yes this is the house… I don’t really think of this as my family home. Um, it certainly could be.

*  *  *

JAN: I… just out of curiosity… how accurate is anyone’s memory from that long ago?

JACKIE: Well, you know, some people remember more than others.

JAN: Right, but how accurate would that memory be?

JACKIE: Well, obviously not as accurate as it would have been at that moment, that day.

JAN: For example… I have been telling the story of how I shot an antelope… for, you know, decades.

JACKIE: Right.

JAN: And the whole story about how it happened and… I have a vivid memory… of that event. Turns out I didn’t shoot that antelope. My sister did.


JAN: And I walked up to it because she couldn’t deal with having shot this antelope, and so I was the one who walked up and saw the quivering body with the, you know, big brown eyes.


JAN: But I did not shoot that animal. I still believe I did. I mean, it is so clear in my mind. So… in terms of having accurate memories, I don’t think people really do. And if you’re going to go back that far… I think it’s a big stretch to think that anyone, especially a vivid memory like that… I think that’s why I remember that is because it was [an] incredibly vivid memory. And it was wrong. Completely wrong.

Interview of Jan Frye by ACSO Investigator Jackie Gee, September 10, 2006

On September 10, 2006, five teams of detectives fanned across the country to interview Duane and his four children. They wanted to catch them unawares, but when Isaacson and Brandt rang Duane’s door in Florida, he was on the phone, apparently with his younger daughter Lynn. Lynn also called her sister Jan during her interview, but Jan didn’t answer the phone.

Jan wouldn’t identify a photo of the house where Betty was living when she was killed. She said she didn’t remember being there that morning—the last time she saw her mother alive—or taking her brother Greg to Doug’s karate class in Boulder. Nor did she want to refresh her memory by looking at what she’d told the cops and grand jury in 1973. Instead she questioned whether anyone’s memory is real. She did remember that Duane’s arrest made her livid with anger. Now, when it became clear that he was the renewed focus of the investigation, she terminated the interview.

Humans are complex creatures with simple defenses: repress it, fight it, debate it or kill it. We can simultaneously hold conflicting ideas, like self-justification and knowledge of guilt, but most of the time we dismiss what conflicts with our dominant viewpoint. Denial is a beautiful gift.

But wholesale rejection of the validity of memory—anyone’s memory—ignores this fact: without it, we can’t learn from experience. And if recall is selective, how do you look truth in the face and grapple with it?

Do you remember the last time you saw your parents alive?

I welcome your feedback and will respond privately.