You'll find a new episode the second Wednesday of each month! Want access to bonus content? Subscribe to Mindful Soul Center magazine
Aug. 11, 2021

A Life Divided

A Life Divided

In the fourth episode of YOU HERE NOW podcast, we speak with Jan Canty, Ph.D. about a shocking event, the murder of her husband a prominent psychologist in Detroit, that turned her world upside down in the mid-80s. She shares her story with us in the first half of the podcast and the impact that this event had on her life. Nearly thirty years passed before she started to share her story with the world.


In the fourth episode of YOU HERE NOW podcast, we speak with Jan Canty, Ph.D. about a shocking event, the murder of her husband a prominent psychologist in Detroit, that turned her world upside down in the mid-80s. She shares her story with us in the first half of the podcast and the impact that this event had on her life. Nearly thirty years passed before she started to share her story with the world.

In the second half, Whitney and I sit with her to discuss her healing journey through travel and creative expression and what worked for her. We also discuss how she is making a contribution to help others who have undergone similar experiences through her podcast, The Domino Effect of Murder and her book, A Life Divided: A psychologist's memoir about the double life and murder of her husband - and her road to recovery. Her podcast talks about the survivors of murder.

Visit https://youherenowpodcast.com for the transcript, a list of music in this episode and detailed guest information. Subscribe to our feed on your favorite podcast platform and leave us a review and help more people learn about the podcast.

#alifedivided #youherenowpodcast #storytellingpodcast #storytelling #healingtrauma #homicidesurvivor #truecrime #theforgottenones

--- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/youherenow/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/youherenow/support

the Mindful Soul Center - Our AUM/OM logo

A Mindful Soul Center Podcast

Transcript

(00:00:00):

Mindful soul center presents you here now

(00:00:50):

[inaudible]

(00:00:51):

Um, today's episode, a life divided. I'm Amy Adams. I'm Whitney Walker.

(00:01:05):

You mean y'all, that's why we're hearing about today. We're going to meet Jan Canty and she is a homicide survivor, which I'm not even sure that, I mean, to me, that sounds a little odd, but it's the person who, uh, was close to someone else that died by homicide. Okay. That sounds great. She's going to share her story and it happens in the early part of the eighties and it took her many, many years to be able to talk about it. And it was a long journey of healing. We'll let Jan tell her story and we'll reconvene. After In the beginning,

(00:02:09):

I thought he was kind of a, fuddy-duddy kind of a guy because he dressed kind of frumpy and was always smoking and had poor eye contact. But on the other hand, he was very kind and very modest. He was extremely supportive of my future goals academically, and that made a huge impression on me. And I can't delete the fact that I was impressed by his station in life. He was an established psychologist. He had a private practice in one of the best locations in the city. And from all intensive purposes, just seemed like a decent kind of guy. And he met my criteria, what I wanted, uh, to be with the kind of person I wanted to be with him. And he seemed like he had integrity, strong work ethic. He was supportive of me in terms of my goals and didn't have any nasty habits that I was aware of.

(00:03:03):

No, no, not problems with alcohol or drugs or even swearing much. So, um, it kind of evolved. I mean, I worked for him for a year before we started dating and then things unfolded from there. First person that showed interest in my goals, my school counselor, didn't my parents didn't it was an era in which you became a mom and had babies. And that wasn't something I was interested in. I didn't have any role models that were female. And so it was really refreshing to have somebody say, of course you can do this. Of course you can.

(00:03:39):

In the end, they were married for 11 years, but before we get there, let's back up a little bit.

(00:03:55):

He was slipping. He wasn't eating, he wasn't bathing and he wasn't making a lot of sense. And I carefully watched him. This was actually after I earned my PhD when I was in my post-doctoral fellowship and I kept a close eye on him. And in the morning, took him to see my mentor, who was Dr. Rutledge. He worked, uh, in, uh, Wayne state university medical center to have his eyes and ears on the situation. Cause I, I tried everything. I could. I looked through Medicare for medication bottles for shocking news letters, um, bills that I wasn't aware, nothing came. That made sense. And so Dr. Rutledge basically said, I, you know, I think he needs to be admitted to a psych hospital, but I wanted him placed at the university of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor. It's a very good hospital and there were no openings at that point. So I had to contain the situation as best I could until he could be admitted the following day. And he was there for six weeks. It made no sense to me why he was there, what had happened. And I was under the impression from his mother that this was his first psychotic break I later learned. That was not true.

(00:05:29):

[inaudible]

(00:05:30):

The thing that I think too is important to note looking back is that he was surrounded by some of the best experts in the field. And nobody cracked through his defenses to understand what was really causing the psychotic episode. So when he was released, their recommendations were pretty benign, not much in the way of followup care, just don't go back to work to that crazy schedule right away. You might want to cut back on the caffeine cause he did drink a lot of coffee and take it from there. And he was not willing to go along with those recommendations. He wanted to plunge himself right back into this crazy work schedule.

(00:06:11):

It wasn't just work. Something else was going on. Unbeknownst to jam. I had been living a double life.

(00:06:21):

One of the things had happened and there were others. But one of the things that had happened is when he was in the residence of John Fry and Don Murray spends the people that he was leading a double life with, who knew him as Dr. Miller. He found a scrap of paper with his accurate name and address and phone number. And it, it just on dead him, this, he thought he had control of the situation. And he didn't

(00:06:47):

The two people mentioned Dawn and John one, a teenage 19 year old sex worker and her much older boyfriend slash

(00:06:59):

Yeah, at that point in time, I was sick. I was not home. I had modeled for the third time. And my, my physician recommended I go recuperate at my parents' house. They lived in the desert, uh, about a thousand miles away. So I flew out to stay to recuperate, which gave him the opportunity. The other thing that facilitated it was that his mother handed him $5, $500 for his birthday. And he took that money and went downtown, looking for fun. Uh, they actually became like an audience to him and he would go there and pontificate tell stories about Detroit brag about his cases. And of course they would sit and listen because they needed the money for drugs.

(00:07:47):

[inaudible]

(00:07:47):

What I learned much later was that he had a habit of trying to pull fast ones on people and take delight when he was succeeding at it that he had. I learned later never been faithful to anybody in his life and it, and there were also things that he lied about that made no sense, but it was like, I knew one side of him decided he wanted me to know. And there was a whole lot more than I didn't know, till much later. And part of that, I attribute to the fact not only was I younger and I wasn't around to know him through his developmental years, but I was gone a lot. I was commuting a long way to go to graduate school. And we only spent a little time together because his mother was a widow by then and he'd go over there to help her. And he was working or so he said all kinds of crazy hours. So really in reality, we hadn't spent much time together at all.

(00:08:54):

[inaudible] suspicions.

(00:08:56):

It was very subtle things. I mean, initially he was drew, he was, there was a time we used to go on walks every night, uh, routinely, cause we'd try to make up for the little time we did have together and we'd always meet for lunch. And he started canceling our lunch dates. We didn't go for walks anymore. He was avoidant. And he started getting a little abrupt with me, which was very unlike him. And I don't know why it just came to me one afternoon. I, I asked him point blank if he was having an affair and he looked shocked and he started going into this thing about, I would never do that. And of course I've known people that do, but that's not me. And he was backtracking. And the thing I was paying more attention to wasn't his words. Cause I knew it was probably not true, but his actions and he looked frightened, he looked caught.

(00:09:54):

And by that time in our marriage, which was close to 11 years, I had started feeling like he just wanted to mentor me. And that now that I was becoming his professional equal, he wasn't happy about it. And I started, you know, and I, when I, when something would come up and I'd question him about it, like, well, according to recent research such-and-such and he didn't like that when I did that and this had gone on for about a year. And so in the back of my mind, I, I said to myself, what would I advise my sister or a close friend in this situation? Cause he won't talk to me. He's so preoccupied is the strongest word that comes to mind in terms of describing him very preoccupied. And I was preparing for the time when an F we had to part ways I didn't want to, but it felt empty. I felt like I was alone and never in my wildest imagination. Did I ever think or suspect he was up to what he was up to

(00:11:48):

[inaudible]

(00:11:48):

Then one day he just disappears.

(00:12:11):

[inaudible]

(00:12:12):

If that was a night that we had a really bad storm and I lost track of time because I was watching a three hour special on aids. Aids was a big news thing at that point in time. And it was a three hour special to raise funds, partly for aids and partly for raising funds for drought in Ethiopia. So it was a three hour special and I got, I got drawn into and I lost track of time. And when I looked up it was dark and I'm like, how can this possibly be? Where is he? And of course this was before cell phones and computers. So I called his office and just got the answering service. And I kept finding excuses, you know, like maybe as bogged down in the water, maybe his car died. Um, he'll be home. And, and as the evening progressed, it got to be a lot of 11 o'clock.

(00:13:01):

I was starting to really get panicked. Cause this is so out of the norm for him he's you could normally set your watch by him. And the strangest thing happened. I want, we had an office at our house too, and I wandered into his home office and I, the storm was still raging outside with lightening and thunder and hail and all this winds. And I remember looking up at the bathroom mirror in his office, bathroom attached to the offer and I said, aloud, he's not coming home. He's dead. And I kind of startled myself thinking, why did I say that? Of course that's being a bit dramatic. Of course she's not dead. He's coming home. And I kind of came out of that state. I don't know what you even call it and proceeded to report him missing. After that, calling his mother and mind and getting other people involved the next day

(00:14:02):

We went and reported him missing. So I told him that and they took the report, but nothing came of it when I came home and I could tell nothing was going to happen. I contacted Jabir Jr. Radio, who coincidentally was in the same building. Our offices were inch and they put a news bulletin out. And that, and I also called Ray Danford because he was a good friend of Al's. And I always liked Ray to ask him if he'd seen or heard from him. And he said, no, but I'll, I'll do what I can. And that turned out to be exceedingly important because Ray in turn, went to the police and told him all that he knew. And he knew the whole story because Al had confided in him. So he told the police what he'd been up to and who he'd been doing it with.

(00:14:48):

And they started investigating in that angle. And that proved to be important. I mean, they started gathering evidence. I didn't know what they knew of course. And they had a lot of circumstantial evidence when they got a search warrant and they could see that there had been a blood bath in the home of Carl, John, Carl Fry and Marie Don Murray spins, but they didn't have a body. And back then you needed a body. So basically they didn't tell me a lot. They just said, we have suspicions that your husband's been killed. He's been hanging out with these two in the downtown corridor and a red light district. We think he's been giving them a lot of your money. You might want to go home and check your finances. And we have good reason to believe he was dead. I was asked to come back the following week by inspector hill, detective Landero accompanied, man, I thought this is probably it. And it was, and they said I needed to go to the morgue, which was very nearby to identify his head because he had been dismembered

(00:16:01):

[inaudible]

(00:16:02):

Well, after I identified him, I tried to leave the Morgan, the media assembled on the threshold of the building, even though it was early on a Sunday. And that was shocking to me that they would do that. They were, it was an eye-opener and it was also a sign of things to come. They were relentless. They were intrusive, disrespectful, repetitive. They had no boundaries at all. Uh, so I've kind of went

(00:16:29):

Now it's Geico's motorcycle rules of the road before you ride, make sure your mirrors are clean and adjusted properly. And if you're going on a group ride, make sure the lead biker knows where they're going. Uh,

(00:16:43):

Ed, quick question. Where are you taking us? Oh,

(00:16:46):

I have no idea what am model leader, because I was a phone that dude with the red helmet.

(00:16:52):

Oh, where is he? And the rule to saving on motorcycle insurance insurances in 15 minutes, Geico could save you 15% or more

(00:17:02):

Unexpected trouble. CashNet USA can take the stress out of borrowing emergency funds. Our fast secure application process makes it easy to apply online. 24 7 plus CashNet USA offer same day funding. If approved before 10:30 AM central time, Monday through Friday, additional terms may apply visit CashNet usa.com or tap the banner to apply today

(00:17:25):

As undercover, I guess you could say as possible. And my dad took charge of the front door and the phone and I, I didn't leave the house alone except to go to my office and back I, and I didn't go in very often at that point. And, um, that's how we were for a long time. And we were monitoring the situation. I did not net then know that I was being followed by the police because they weren't sure they had everybody involved. Uh, they were very good at it. I never had a clue I was being followed. Um, and then the next big thing was in December was the, um, preliminary exam. And I was subpoenaed to attend that. The purpose of the preliminary examination is to, uh, give formal charges to the people who are on trial. And they called me as a witness. It was, it was weird. Uh that's the first time I'd ever saw the two defendants in person in my life. At this point, I shifted out of being frightened, to being really angry and tired. And the weight of it was on me. I remember my mom telling me don't be afraid, go in there and tell the truth. And I'm thinking there'll be afraid. I am so angry. And basically they focused on the identification of his bottom of his head. That was the extent of their inquiry into me,

(00:18:55):

Not this time, but later on when the trial started shortly after the preliminary exam, there, there was a trial and I left town. I wanted nothing to do with the trial. Homicide survivors tend to have very different reactions to the trial. Some go every single day, no matter how long it takes and watch the evidence and are there. And I did not. I felt like no matter the outcome, nothing in my life would change. Whether they were let off, whether they were guilty, nothing. I mean, I'd still have this house to sell. I still be furious at him and not be able to tell him why I'd still have all these financial problems. And my physician called me in and had me go undergo aids testing because she was an IB drug abusing prostitute and aids had just been discovered. And it was like every day there was a new layer.

(00:19:46):

And so I was in survival mode and I withdrew, I, I, I knew I was cranky. I would get angry at the stupidest things. Like I go to the grocery store and I'd be like, why don't they make loaves of bread for one person? I don't understand that. There's only one of me, you know, I was looking for reasons to be angry. And at that point in time, I was so miserable. I don't think anybody would have wanted to have been around me anyway. And I just minimized. I mean, I, I was financially strapped. I was physically sick. I was constantly worried and living in this huge house I didn't, I never wanted, so I kept selling things to make money, to pay the rent, to pay the mortgage everywhere. I turned, I had bills. I turned down the heat in the house. I only ate twice a day.

(00:20:41):

I tried not to use much gasoline. I shoveled my own snow. I did everything I could think of to money because I was worried about being homeless at that point. Most of the people that I allowed into my life and there weren't many were supportive. They kind of treated me like kid gloves. Like I was porcelain. Like I was going to bust open if they said or did the wrong thing, which annoyed me because I don't see myself that way at all. Um, but I kept saying to myself, look, if you were in their shoes, you might be the same way. There's no script for this. There's no hallmark card. There's nothing that prepares you to deal with this as a friend to a friend. So give them a break, you know? Uh, and I just stayed a lot by myself. I mean, if I asked for something specific, they definitely did it.

(00:21:28):

Like my next door neighbor, um, helped me with some of the legal documents that getting my house on the market. He was into real estate, another friend of mine cam she helped me pack the house up in preparation for the sale. Celia was great in terms of the going down to the more, um, to the, uh, search for him that one weekend. And I stayed at her house a few nights. And then there was another couple in the neighborhood who gave me the key to their house. They had a beautiful house and they said, anytime you want it, just come up the back stairs in the bedroom upstairs, it's yours whenever you want, don't even ask. And so there were nights I crept over there after dark and just slept in their room just to be out of the house. I didn't like being in mind at all. It didn't, it, it, it was too big to ever feel homey. And, and, and because I had sold so many things, it was also partly empty now and the rooms just echoed it. It didn't feel like home at all.

(00:22:31):

Safety and trust.

(00:22:35):

Yeah. The sense of betrayal was very strong and it was compounded by the fact that I was on the beginning threshold of being a psychologist. So it was a lot of shame and self-criticism for like, I'm supposed to be an expert in human behavior. And here I am living under the roof with an imposter that I didn't see side-by-side for years. So it was a double kind of thing. It, it affected me personally and professionally. And it certainly made me not interested in dating. That was not even on the remote radar for a long, long time, many, many, many years later. Um, I still trusted the people that I knew beforehand that were my friends that didn't change. I certainly trusted my parents. They were wonderful, but I, I knew people. Yeah. I kept them at arms length. I did for a long time

(00:23:44):

Moving. I sold the house, which was difficult. I moved locally to a great place. I loved it. It was a brownstone. So I had people near me, but not with me. And I loved that about it. It was, I could hear voices in nearby res you know, there are places, but they weren't in my place. I just loved living there. I thought of it as my safe house. I met with Dr. Rutledge about returning to my practice full-time and he asked me to be the director of the program that I had been through because he was ill, fatally ill. And I had the turn of down, which was really hard. I just cause in the back of my mind, I was thinking, I don't know how long I'm going to be in Michigan. I just thought, is this ever going to die down? And I don't want to be known as the widow for the rest of my life.

(00:24:31):

So I decided the only thing I had to do that that would help me was to pack up and leave. And I did not want to do that. I love to try it. My friends were there, it's all I've known. Um, but I did it. And I think in retrospect it was a good decision. One of the benefits of moving people could not associate with the story with me in my new setting. They had no knowledge of it. I never brought it up. This was before the internet. So it was pretty easy to run away, I guess you could say, and not have to deal with it. Um, the people that did know me from before knew me before. So for them, I think it was part of it, but I, I did not want to be defined as merely the widow. And I saw that coming.

(00:25:17):

I could see that in time. I would be defined by this. And I thought, no, no, no. They've taken so much from me already. All my finances, my husband, my health, my sleep. They're not going to take my identity too. And that's why I just thought I'm taking control back and I'm going to move. I'm going to switch careers and go into academia. And I'm not going to look back. I they've gotten all they're going to get from me. And the best revenge is to be successful. And that's what I did. I, I was very determined to do that and became almost too good at it. I wouldn't tell anybody anything. I lived that way. So automatically that I didn't even give it a thought. There were years. I didn't even think about it myself. It's like gone.

(00:26:09):

[inaudible]

(00:26:13):

Fitting towards new life.

(00:26:17):

Any years, many years later decades, I was at a meeting at work where we had a guest speaker, a physician. And I don't recall the topic off the top of my head, why he was there, but an offhanded comment that he made during his talk was that people who hold a secret in for a long time tend to have health problems that it's not healthy to hold a secret in. And I was very struck by that comment. And I thought, Ooh, that's not good. So I went back to my office and I thought about that. And it was about the same time when, um, coworker was missing and people were coming up and talking about that and saying, can you imagine having somebody in your family missing? And I was saying no. And even though internally, I'm thinking, of course I can. And the whole thing is kind of came to a head.

(00:27:02):

It's like, why am I being so secretive about this? Why am I not so authentic? I mean, I was feeling like I was leading a double life. And I looked over at the bookshelf in my office that afternoon, where I had collection of books of people who'd been through trauma and spoke about it and wrote about it. And I thought, if they can do it, I can do it. And what's the big deal. And I made a cognitive decision to start entertaining the idea of coming out of my shell, but it was, it was still then a long and drawn out process. It wasn't an overnight thing, but I made the decision that it had used it. I had used up the usefulness of keeping it under wraps. It was necessary in the beginning. I'm glad I relocated. I'm glad I didn't spread it around. And people couldn't talk about it with me because I needed to gain control back of my boundaries in my life. But it had used, I'd used up its usefulness and I no longer wanted that and I want it to feel more authentic. So I had to consciously, deliberately and repeatedly make an effort to reverse that pattern and start talking about it.

(00:28:10):

[inaudible]

(00:28:10):

Writing the book. It was a mixed bag. I mean, yeah, you, I mean, I really, we experienced the frustration with myself for not seeing it, but I also look back and think, you know, given the lack of resources, which are still around today for homicide survivors, but even more so back then, no victim advocate, no internet, nothing. I landed on my feet and it made me feel more confident that I can, I can withstand the pressure that I, you know, I didn't go, I start drinking. I didn't do drugs. I didn't hide. I didn't end up in a psych hospital. I never did anything illegal. And I did the best I could with what I had. I tried to, um, use it for good and to say, you know, these things occasionally happen to people and if they do, what can I do to benefit their situation?

(00:29:01):

Based on my experience, I look at it like I have a contract with the reader or listener. If it's an audio book that they're devoting a lot of their life to this story. And so you owe them the best of what you have to offer in terms of writing ability and honesty and some kind of inherent bigger lesson that they can apply to their own lives than just telling your own story. And it, and that's why it took six years to write it. I tried to base it very heavily on accurate research. I revisited Detroit twice with the detective that I mentioned earlier. I interviewed people, including my parents. I looked at old photos of microfiche of newspapers. I scoured what I could find to make sure I had it accurate because some of it was a little hazy in my mind. You know, given the state of mind I was in

(00:30:01):

Opening, my doctor said you'll never be able to get pregnant. And I thought, oh, that's something else to take it from me. Wonderful. So, okay. So, uh, although in my heart of hearts, it, adoption was never a big, second best in my mind to thinking, I, I always thought of it as, why not, that'd be kind of a cool thing to do. So I found two sisters that were in need of a mom and they were in foster care and they were at the time I met them three and, um, almost five, the social workers thought we would be a good fit with me and my daughters because their mother had been murdered. And she felt like as they got older, I'd be able to help them with that. And at the time I adopted him was a year later. And, um, that was a whole nother chapter, a whole nother experience of being a mom. And there were special needs children. They had learning disabilities, they were biracial. So they came with some baggage too, not just from their history, but just who they were. I mean, being biracial is not easy. And, um, and that opened up a whole nother focus for me. And I just thought the three of us are going to make it, you know, we're, we have this shared experience in our life and I'm here to help them through it. They're my babies. I mean, they're not babies anymore, but they'll always be your babies.

(00:31:26):

Another addition to the family,

(00:31:31):

He was brave enough to marry me, even though they were in early adolescents, it was no picnic. Let me tell you, because you have the adoption issues on top of the typical adolescent stuff. And the man, he just said to them one night, he said, you know, you're trying your darndest to get rid of me, but that's not going to happen. And I told my daughters, I said, you know, I'm a happier person when I'm around him, which makes me a happier mother. So if you want a cranky mother, keep it up because if you drive him away, you're going to pay for it. On the other hand, if you accept him and go along with this, I'll be happier, which will benefit you in the long run too. And in the end they were thrilled. It took a while, but I mean, they, when he came time to adopt them, they took his name and I'm like, what, what, what am I?

(00:32:23):

You know, but anyway, okay, well they think the world of him and they call him and is there a crisis? And it worked out he's very different. He is a career army. He was a Lieutenant Colonel at the time he retired, he was an airborne ranger. And when we were dating, he was trying his darndest to pull this out of me. I did not want to talk about it, but I knew I had to. I mean, if we're going to ever make this a serious relationship, I can't keep evading this. So I would say things like, well, no, he didn't die of natural causes. He died because he was killed. And I'll tell you more later. And eventually I just said, somebody killed him and I'll tell you more later. I mean, I kept stringing it. I, I just, it's so exhausting to talk about it.

(00:33:06):

And I did not want his pity. And I was so unaccustomed to talking about it, that it was very hard. And in fact, my daughters who are now in their twenties, late twenties and my husband even didn't even know the full story until the book came out, I was a hard sell. I mean, he, he was such a gentleman. Finally. He said, look, nobody's after me. And I've, I've gone through clearance briefings with the army. There's no secrets there. Like he was having to prove himself to me. And I thought, you know, this isn't fair to him. He's not out. He's a different person. And he's so different. I mean, he loves football and fly fishing and cutting the grass. I mean, he couldn't be more different. And he was, when he read the book, he was angry for me. Like how could anybody do this to you? It's just not a feature of our marriage, our lives at this point in time. Except as it comes up with the book or my podcast or other things, he's so easy to be around. He's what you see is what you get. And he couldn't be more different.

(00:34:47):

[inaudible] we'll be back after this

(00:34:50):

Brief message

(00:34:53):

With prime, get light bulbs delivered in a day. Edison would be proud. Indeed. I'm proud. Get your everyday essentials delivered fast. Crime

(00:35:04):

Changed everything.

(00:35:07):

Fall is the most birthday packed season of the year. So chances are you have a few celebrations coming up, make sure your friends and family feel special with a gorgeous bouquet of roses from one 800 flowers.com. 1-800-FLOWERS makes it easy to send the perfect gift. 24 multicolored roses for just 39 99 to get 24 multicolored roses for just 39 99. Visit one 800 flowers.com/tune in that's one 800 flowers.com/tune

(00:35:37):

In. If you want to build lasting habits that will help you to reduce stress and have access to timeless tools and resources you can use to create more peace in your life. Head on over to members dot the mindful soul center.com. Subscribe to the all access digital edition of the magazine and get access to past issues for less than $1 per week. We have solutions for you. Mindful soul center, magazine, publishes in-depth articles. We have audio files and videos on yoga life. Self-care meditation, gratitude, philosophy, art and music, mythology and symbolism, and much more including social justice issues. There are so many benefits. We don't want to waste your time here to list them off, head on over to members dot the mindful soul center.com and subscribe or read a few articles for free. Let's get back to you here now with our guests, Jan Canty, and we discuss her healing journey and her podcast. Hello, Jan, welcome to you here now. And thank you for sharing your story. We really appreciate

(00:37:03):

It. Thank you for having me on,

(00:37:06):

I mean, as you share the experience of a homicide survivor, what is the grief experience like someone who endures that because a psychologist, you knew a lot about the steps of grief. What, what is it like for your unique situation to go through that?

(00:37:23):

I think of course there's some overlap between grief from natural death and grief from a homicide, but there are unique aspects as well. For example, if you look at just the public domain information in a natural death, usually if there's a published obituary, it'll just say very little about the survivors, you know, that they were related to this person and it doesn't even give the cause of death. Many times the reverse is true. If you're a homicide survivor, everything, and anything is up for grabs. In my case, they published a map to my house. They showed up at my office and published information about what that looked like. So it invaded my practice. They talked to waitresses who had waited on me at my favorite restaurants. I mean, anything is up for grabs. So you lose a further sense of control because of the public thirst for information and the media's willingness to provide that.

(00:38:23):

Another big difference is that unlike people who grieve a loss from a natural death, you have a lot of interface with the law enforcement part of it. And that's of course understood. I mean, 65% of the time of death is perpetrated by somebody close to the victim, either related or close friends. So it's of course, you're going to have some interface with the legal system. Another part, of course, it's very different is you have to attend to, you don't have to, but many people choose to go to a trial and you see the graphic photos and testimony here, the graphic testimony of medical personnel and law enforcement, which you're spared in a natural death. So I think in many ways, there's other ways that differs, but there is some overlap, but it is a unique experience. And one that it's not well understood or research really.

(00:39:22):

Yeah. And you have like the combination of, uh, grief from death and then the trauma, right? So it's like a double.

(00:39:30):

And I think what a lot of survivors don't even understand is that those are those two very important distinct aspects of the experience should be dealt with differently and sequentially. In other words, I think you have to first calm down the ref, the trauma response first to help a person feel safe, to help them get sleep, to help them have a sense of even minimal control over their lives. Quiet that reactivity of the brain first, before you can even go to the reef aspect of it. And lots of times that's not understood and it's unsuccessful because of that. People jump to and society wants you to jump to right into the grief process. And it's very common that homicide survivors will have people say to them, well, how come you're on over this yet? It's been three months. Or why is it taking you so long? I mean, they want you to get over it in quotes. And that feels very stigmatizing. And I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they're not putting things in the proper order. And some clinicians don't know that even so it's like this big secret that's important that people understand. I mean, not, it's not like nobody understands it, but it's not well understood and shared

(00:40:47):

Jan, what were some of the things that really helped you to feel like you were moving on with your life after and how much time did it take after things had settled after the media wasn't approaching you as much? What were some things that changed for you or something you can engage with to help you to feel like you can move away from? Because I imagine that anybody that's a part of kind of a high-profile or such a setting that we publicized, that it can be hard to move away and kind of pick your life back and not identify with that.

(00:41:18):

Well, initially it was hard because there, there kept, it kept happening. I mean, there was the death, there was the trial, there was my physician saying you need aids testing. There were tax bills. There was the sale of the house. It's hard to move on when you keep having to clean up from the mess. And that took a couple of years. And of course the reporters didn't help. They kept it open. But after a couple of years, I think I really didn't feel like I could get anywhere without moving out of state. I wasn't sleeping well. And my, I didn't have the energy. It took to do clinical work anymore. I never did. Again. I, I was in training for it for, you know, a long time over a decade, but I never regained the sense of momentum and energy that I knew what it took to be a good clinician.

(00:42:07):

I wasn't that present anymore in somebody's life space. And I also didn't, I worry, I don't know if this would have happened, but I worried that I would, in my mind minimize their situation, comparing it to mine. Like, why are you complaining about losing a job? People lose jobs every day. I mean, I didn't want to be that kind of clinician. I didn't want to risk that. I didn't know if it would've happened or not. I don't know. I didn't go back to clinical work instead. I went into academic work, so I moved away and that was another loss. It was sad. I loved where I live. I love my house. I love my friends. I love my job. I love my surroundings. It was familiar, but I thought I got to leave. And because I took that step, it was under my control to leave.

(00:42:54):

That was a first step. And it was like, you know, this is back and forth the internet too. And it was a pop opportunity to say, I'm going to reinvent my life. What do I want, where do I literally took out a map of the United States and said, where do I want to live? And what do I want to do? And how many people get that opportunity to just have a clean break and start over? Because I didn't have children at that time. Wasn't married, obviously. So I did. And, and then I noticed subtle things like I started sleeping better. Um, I started concentrating more on feeling more creative. I hadn't felt creative in years. I started getting into photography. I started laughing at things again and imagining what I wanted more out of life. And I, then I thought about, I was teaching a graduate course in cross-cultural psychotherapy.

(00:43:42):

And I thought, you know, to do that an adequate job of that, I really need to travel internationally because otherwise it's just booked mem book information. So I started traveling internationally. And when I did, I proved, I preferred to go to very remote places without much in the way of resources, without many other Americans around. And I needed an interpreters and I would do that. And I, and I, I loved it. I loved the photography of it, the stories I would bring back to my students, but the one thing that it was benefiting, I was benefiting by doing it, which I didn't even realize at the time till I got kind of some distance from it, was it really put my situation in perspective in a way I could not have imagined. I mean, I came away from places and I, after I thought about it, I thought, you know, I have clean water.

(00:44:33):

I have paved roads. I have plumbing, I have electricity. I was never homeless. I have legal rights. I had insurance. I have colleagues who believed in me. I have my education and so on and so forth. And I felt so much gratitude for what I did have that I felt my situation wasn't so bad. And it wasn't like our whole marriage was that bad. It really put it into a perspective that I guess I could say it made it more of a bite-size problems and this looming determiner of the rest of my life. And I just felt like, you know, it could have been so much worse. I mean, I could have died. Uh, there's a lot of possibilities. International travel was my therapy, I guess you could say. And after I did that, I, I, I felt good. I felt happy. I felt ready to even entertain the idea of maybe dating again.

(00:45:30):

I mean, I'm talking like 15 years after the death and what I ended up instead of adopting two children first. So I adopted them and, um, I had done my traveling and then I decided, you know, part of healing is to be physically fit. So I started going to the gym very regularly when I met a whole nother group of people that I connected with. I'm still friends with, we met four mornings a week at six 30. We worked out together and decided after a year and a half of that to do triathlons together. So we did, we did triathlons at least twice a year. I was on my sixth triathlon in preparation for my sixth triathlon. And I should say sprint distance, these aren't Boston marathon triathlons guided thing. He's a sprint distance triathlons. But, um, I was in training for my sixth one and I was climbing a steep money hill in may.

(00:46:26):

So it was, it was soggy the ground. It was a steep hill, but it was muddy. And I lost my footing and it was so steep that the fall wasn't very far, it was like falling against a wall, sort of. And I broke my arm and I'm like, what the heck? How could I break my arm? I only fell like 12 inches. You know, my nose was practically on the dirt when I fell. And I went into the hospital, expecting them to reset my arm. And instead they kept me overnight in this broken condition saying they needed to get further testing. And I, I was on so many drugs. I don't remember a lot of that. But what I do recall is waking up the next day with a titanium rod in my arm and a diagnosis of cancer. They said that I had multiple myeloma, at least the beginnings of that. It was smoldering myeloma. And that would probably had other breaks in my body. Once they did a full analysis, which turned out to be true. I had fractured a little bit parts of the body

(00:47:29):

[inaudible]

(00:47:34):

And most people, I was fortunate this way. Most people have a broken back as their first indication. And I did have a fracture in my spine, but I didn't have a broken back. Wow. And so I could set, I mean, they couldn't set my arm because there was no bone to set. So they put a titanium rod in there and I went on my way and I thought stupidly, well, I've got that over taken care of. And they go, no, no, no, you got to go through radiation. So I went through radiation and I have a, a tiny little blue dot where they did the, um, radiation treatment. And my daughter said, I ought to have it changed to a tattoo that says lucky break. And then I went through chemotherapy, which wasn't real pleasant. And then I thought I was done. And then they said, no, now you need to go through an autologous stem cell transplant.

(00:48:19):

By that time, my husband and I were commuting and he wasn't able to be there for the three months inpatient treatment. But my daughter was there. My daughter returned from Texas where she had been living. She was 21 at the time. And I'll never forget this. If I live to be a hundred she's I, she looked so weary in this process. I mean, she had a lot to do. She had to take my temperature every hour. She had to make sure I made all my appointments. I was on 35 different medications at home, not including what they were giving me my IVs and making me eat and so forth and so on. And I looked over her and I said, you look so exhausted. I hope I haven't asked too much of you. And she said to me, she said, mom, she said, you helped save my life. And now I'm helping save your life. And I'm like, wow, that's kinda cool. Yeah, there was that challenge. And, um, so, you know, it's, but again, I use the same strategy as I did before. And I said, let me be grateful for what I do have. I've got health insurance, I'm in a world-class medical center. I have no other health problems. I have a caregiver. My daughter for these three months, there is so much to be grateful for. I just decided, you know, I could, it could be worse. She's moving forward. And that's where I am.

(00:50:01):

Well, so I'm very curious too, because as a therapist who was doing the fellowship of your doctorate, when did you go to therapy? Uh, after like, uh, right after things happened or did you wait, did you not go? I mean, I'm curious about,

(00:50:19):

I worked with my mentor throughout the ordeal. I mean, so periodically I would meet with my mentor, but he and I, and he was very helpful to me, but then he got leukemia and he had to quit his practice and he moved to Florida. So there he was. And I moved to, uh, for many states away. And back in those days, there was like I said, no internet. I consult, I put some feelers out for some clinicians. There was nobody that had any familiarity whatsoever with working with anybody. Who'd been through trauma of that kind. They were familiar with domestic violence. They had talked about child abuse and I thought there's enough dissimilarities there that that's not going to help me. And so I just talked it away and, and instead I thought I've got to rely on myself. I don't think anybody has enough understanding to help me. They don't, they've never subjectively been through this. They, they don't understand the difference. The trauma is not one big melting pot. There's different forms of it. It has different impacts on people. So, no, I mean, after that, I did not go back into, into therapy. What I found, like I said before, that worked much better for me was traveling, writing physical workouts. And I tried to do it in other ways, artistic expression being another one.

(00:51:53):

Well, and there's that, what did that expression like physician heal thyself, right? So,

(00:51:58):

Yeah, but I think the, the end result was that I, I felt as if I got what I needed from that in the same way somebody would have through therapy and doing my podcast. What I have discovered with talking with other homicide survivors, very few of them feel understood as well. And many of them find other ways to benefit there's one person. Uh, he was a homicide detective and he found that his quote breakthrough was through dance and a tango. He said he loved to do the tango. And it opened up this watershed moment of him, where he was able to sit and talk with his wife about his experiences as a homicide detective and the grief that he held inside for years. And, and, and all I'm trying to say is that I think there's many paths, psychotherapy being one to get where you need to go

(00:53:23):

As a survivor of homicide, you were compelled to start a podcast. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about that.

(00:53:33):

Well, the podcast idea came from a relative who does crime scene cleanup, and she knew my history and recommended it at first. I didn't want anything to do with it because I thought I couldn't surmount the technical part of it, but I found that other podcasters were pretty supportive and helped me along. And that's been, uh, two years now. I'm almost at the end of the second season. And I've interviewed many people from different countries, even who have had violent death occurred to someone they care about. Not all of them were relatives. I've also interviewed people related to the death experience, such as homicide detectives, grief therapists at victims, advocates, and so on. And my intention is to raise visibility and awareness understanding of this population because it's fairly unknown to the general public. And I think that's partly the homicide survivors mentality. We tend to run from the spotlight.

(00:54:37):

We don't want to be in the camera, but it also, I think is society's disinterest. I mean, if you look at true crime podcasts or movies or research, it's mostly on the perpetrator a little bit on the crime itself and the victim, but that's about it it's as if they exist in a vacuum. If we're shown on movies where like an, a fleeting scene or LA we're a plot twist, and that's the end of it. And the biggest myth that comes from all that it is that the public is led to believe that the trial and conviction or exoneration of the defendant is the end of the story. And in many respects, that's just the beginning. And the other part of it is that once it gets to trial and most cases do not 95% of homicides in the United States anyway, are resolved through a plea bargain, not a trial, but if it goes to trial, um, it's usually right about the time that the homicide survivor is starting to heal.

(00:55:40):

So it reopens all these old wounds and we're really not wanted in the courtroom. We're discouraged from being there both by the prosecution and defense. So there's a lot, that's not known about us. There's a lot that's misunderstood. And I wanted to, by, by having the podcast, I wanted to be a voice and to correct myths, to provide for resources and connect interconnection among people that need it. The only other thing I'll say about the podcast is I've met some very remarkable people. People that have something in some cases stood more than one homicide in their life. And many people find unique ways to try after a period of time to it, into something positive. And it's like, I, I feel like I found my tribe through them. Like they understand me. I understand them. It's, it's a unique kind of understanding. And I'm always on the hunt for new people that want to join the podcast and talk about their own grief experience through homicide.

(00:56:54):

[inaudible]

(00:56:55):

I guess I like to say thank you again for joining us and sharing how you healed through all of this. And, um, I really appreciate you taking your time Jan, and sharing your story, because I think other people that were really helped them, if you want to share your website and that way people can find you and reach out to you and maybe your email,

(00:57:17):

The, uh, website is I tried to put everything in one place to keep it simple. And so it's just www all in small letters, Jan Canty, P H d.com. And if you go there, it'll take you to the podcast. It'll take you to the book. It'll give you, um, contact information. Everything is in one place,

(00:57:40):

And we'll have everything in the show notes, and you'll have a profile on the, you hear now podcasts.com website as well. So if yeah, great.

(00:57:51):

Well, I appreciate Amy and Whitney, that questions and the opportunity to reach out and hopefully connect, especially with other people out there who may have experienced something like this. Yeah,

(00:58:03):

Yeah. It's, uh, it's gotta be so challenging cause it's not like you have one place you can go to for

(00:58:10):

It's a real patchwork quilt of resources and trying to gather, um, connection with people. It's, we're S we're trying, but we're not very visible.

(00:58:29):

[inaudible]

(00:58:30):

What did you think about Jan's interview?

(00:58:34):

I thought it was remarkable. That's not a story that you hear very often or a perspective that you get to hear very often, because as she points out homicide is, is fairly rare in the bigger scheme of things. We, we hear about it a lot because it's notable, right? So we hear about all the time on the news, but I don't know anyone that's been involved in a homicide or had it happened to someone they loved or cared about, uh, not personally. So it was pretty incredible to hear that first person that counts and what really fascinates me is that, that interaction between trauma and grief, where, you know, it was, it was a horrifically traumatic event, but it was also man that she thought she was in love with. So those two components really created it. They both created great, but it kind of is a dual sort of, you know, disturbance yet also sadness. Very fascinating, unique story.

(00:59:35):

Yeah. And I think it's kind of interesting because I'm noticing with all of the stories that are being told that this seems to be a common thread, is that there's almost like these dualities to them, you know, cause we have these kind of extreme emotions and then our sadness and our shock and, you know, it's just such a mixed bag. And we don't really, um, in general, I think people, you know, unless they are around someone else that maybe has experienced something similar, we don't really, we don't have a map of how, what to do or how to deal with this stuff.

(01:00:19):

And that was good because she talked, she talks a good amount about moving on and starting to, you know, exercise and connect with the people in our community and all of that. And just feeling like she was able to engage in things that helped her take some steps away from what she was immersed in for years.

(01:00:36):

Yeah. I, for me personally, I mean, I'm just amazed at how, uh, she was able to even really remarry and to move on because the level of trust that is broken, I mean, it's one thing for not that her thing is like, her problem is bigger than someone else's problem. It's just that, um, it's just this combination of factors. It's not just, I mean, there was the infidelity and the, uh, horrific events that followed all of that and not really knowing who your partner is. And I think for me, I do sometimes listen to true crime podcasts. And one of the reasons why I like to listen to them, I mean, not that our podcast is anything like that at all, or intended to be

(01:01:32):

Part of that today.

(01:01:34):

But, um, I think, uh, it's kind of, I'm always fascinated by the fact that there are these like multiple dimensions to people and, um, you know, usually they're integrated and um, I mean maybe, you know, we all have our ups and downs throughout life or different periods of time, but sometimes these kind of extreme things and it, it does seem hard to fathom how, um, someone can, uh, be doing something like living this other life and not sharing it with people around them. So the double life thing I think is really fascinating what she brought up. Also, her husband had a double life for this period of time. And then, um, she herself ended up having, uh, almost like a double life where she was hiding the fact that she had this experience. And then, uh, it wasn't until she really kind of came out and started talking about it that I think, um, you know, she was able to really, really, uh, free herself in a way anyway. So that concludes our podcast for today. If you'd like to share your story, visit, uh, you here now, podcast.com and there is a voice recorder there and a contact form and share your story with us.

 

Jan Canty Profile Photo

Jan Canty

A Life Divided

A native Detroiter, Jan Canty, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, photographer, educator, consultant and cancer survivor. She holds a terminal degree in psychology as well as a post-doctoral fellowship from the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine. Then life happened. And grew dark.

Her spouse of 11 years went missing and was found murdered in July of 1985. The media exposure was relentless. After the trial and convictions of the two assailants she began her 30-year redacted life and quietly moved deep into the Midwest. She taught psychology at a small, rural college away from tourists, airports, memories and intrusive questions. The harsh climate drove her further west after which she adopted two special needs sisters and remarried. She worked as a forensic psychologist in a large mental hospital and taught graduate school in the evening. Her chosen specialty was cross-cultural psychology which lent itself to photography and international travel to remote villages on five continents. Dr. Canty was awarded Faculty of the Year her second year of teaching.

Life circumstances delivered her to be uniquely qualified to write about surviving murder both from a professional and a personal viewpoint. This is the underpinning to her true crime memoir, A Life Divided (in print and audiobook format). She also launched a podcast for other so-called homicide survivors entitled “Domino Effect of Murder” in 2020 and later developed a private Facebook group for those struggling with grief after homicide (called Homicide Survivors and Thrivers).

Dr. Canty presently lives and works (as a consultant) to the federal government full time near the lush rain forests of the Pacific Northwest where rainfall often exceeds 12 feet per year. She spends her free time with her family, two Saint Bernards, engages in photography, scrapbooking, gardening and traveling.