49 | A Perfect Family

They had one of the most wonderful marriages I have ever known and my father could never have done such a thing to anyone, let alone to the woman he loved so much.  And I think that you people did him an injustice when you told me you would do everything to find the people who did it and then arrested the person who could least have ever done such a thing. 1973 Grand Jury Testimony of Jan Frye

The children selected for the family projection process are those conceived and born during stress in the mother’s life; the first child, the oldest son or oldest daughter, an only child of either sex, one who is emotionally special to the mother, or one the mother believes to be special to the father. Murray Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice

American psychiatrist Murray Bowen studied the family as an emotional unit and analyzed it in terms of systems theory. The smallest stable relationship is the triangle. A triangle relieves stress by diffusing it to a third person or another interlocking triangle. It also creates anxiety because there’s always an “odd man out”.  Being odd man out can trigger depression or physical illness. The fundamental family triangle is mother, father and child.

All families have secrets. Doug didn’t know his sister Jan had a baby while she was in high school. Interviewed by cold case cops in 2006, Jan was forthcoming about this and recalled it as a bonding time with Betty. But Duane sold their house and moved the family to Huntsville, Alabama—except Doug, who stayed with his aunt Cherrie so he could keep swimming with his team, and Jan, who gave birth in an unwed mothers home in Denver.

Betty didn’t even tell her closest sister Jean.

When Jean and Dick made a surprise visit to Huntsville that Thanksgiving, the girls were very stand-offish. Jean thinks Betty hit the roof when Jan got pregnant, and that she demanded that Duane ask Martin Marietta for the transfer. But uprooting her family did not stabilize it or her place in it.

Jan and Duane were close. She was Jin-Jan, the only pet name I heard him use. If Jan’s defense of Duane in 1973 is any indication, Betty never regained the inside position. When Barb Dean entered the picture, a new triangle formed. Betty was again the odd woman out. But at the time of her murder, there were other things on her mind too. She told Virginia Moldenhauer she was worried about Doug’s upcoming wedding to a girl of whom she disapproved, and Jan’s relationship with Fred, a boyfriend Betty loathed. Fred lived west of Boulder in Sunshine Canyon. Jan had dropped out of CU, and as she told the cold case cops, her life back then was sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

The immediate problem was that Jan had brought home a dog which destroyed part of Duane’s fence. The dog had to be given away, but Betty didn’t want Jan to give it to Fred because that would give Jan an excuse to see him. The night before the murder, Jan left her parents’ house with Fred for a Chick Correa concert and Sunshine Canyon. No wonder Betty started crying.

The next morning Betty phoned our flat. The call was awkward and brief. She wanted us to give a message to Jan. But Jan had a phone too, and Duane also had Fred’s number. Maybe Sunshine Canyon was a call Betty simply couldn’t make.

What is your position in your family?


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