Did unemployment, foreclosure and America’s economic woes cause Pittsburg murder-suicide?

On Thursday, Jason Aube’s foreclosed three-bedroom, two-bath Pittsburg home was scheduled to go up for auction. 

Early that morning, the out-of-work, 40-year-old posted a suicide note on Facebook and at 4 a.m. called police to say he had shot his 35-year-old wife and her parents. He also said he was going to shoot himself.

Police  rushed to his Jack London Court home and finally entered the house at 9 a.m. to find Aube and his family members dead.

Media reports quoted police as saying that Aube’s “financial stresses led to the shooting.” Aube and his wife, Cynthia Tiburcio-Aube, had filed for bankruptcy in 2009, saying they owned more than $500,000 for a home valued at $200,000, according to news reports.

The shooting and the couple’s plight, “increasingly common in the county’s prolonged economic downtown,” prompted Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover to release a statement, which, according to the Contra Costa Times, urged residents in similar straits to seek help by calling resources such as 211, the county’s emergency help line.

“This tragedy is the worst outcome you can think of resulting from the pressures of today’s world,” Glover told the Times. “For this family, it looks like the pressures became too much, and the world came crashing down.”

The news stories, and Glover’s statement, suggest that the economy and “the pressures of today’s world” caused this tragedy.

Did they?

Given my politics, I usually would be one of the first to point the finger of blame at ethically challenged  bankers or spineless and possibly insider-trading politicians for creating the conditions that led to the recession, the housing crisis and tragedies like this murder-suicide.  But with this particular situation, my immediate thought was “Not everyone who has faced foreclosure over the past few years had taken a gun and opened fire on his loved ones and himself.”

I also re-read some of what has been uncovered about the psychological profile of people who commit what’s called familicide. I say “re-read” because I worked pretty extensively on researching murder-suicides for a story I did for Diablo magazine on a San Ramon mother who killed herself and her 3-year-old daughter.

In an article, “Murder-Suicide in Families,”  the National Institute of Justice says that in almost all cases of familicide the killer is a white male. The leading risk factors are:

  • A prior history of domestic violence
  • Prior history of poor mental health or substance abuse, especially alcohol
  • Threats, especially increased threats with increased specificity

A story published last week on Fox Business News quotes a Manhattan psychologist who says there has been a spike in murder-suicides nationwide since the 2008 recession. “Money and financial success and security are very closely tied to both physical and psychological well-being and self-esteem,” says Joseph Cilona. Without money and financial success, there is an increase “in general feelings of hopelessness, and dissatisfaction with life circumstances,” Cilona said. “All of these issues can be associated with suicidal thinking and violent behavior.”

But a domestic violence professional, echoing the views of other mental health experts, was quoted as saying that a bad economy doesn’t make someone abusive. It just takes someone who is already abusive and “increases the frequency and severity of abuse,” the article said.

So far, there has been no indication of a history of domestic violence or substance abuse in the Aube household. Obviously, though, Aube has access to firearms. 

The National Institute of Justice article says that the very low number of murder-suicides — compared to other violent crimes — makes it hard for researchers to understand exactly what role the economy plays. 
“What is known is that economic distress is a factor, but it is only one of several factors that trigger a man to murder his family. In most cases, the couple has a history of disagreement over many issues,” the article says. Yes, a man’s job loss may be a “critical factor” leading to a murder-suicide. “But most experts agree that the strength or weakness of the national economy is not related to the frequency of murder-suicides, despite media coverage that suggests otherwise.”

2 thoughts on “Did unemployment, foreclosure and America’s economic woes cause Pittsburg murder-suicide?

  1. A key fact missing from this story is that the husband paid only $190K for the house in 1999, that's less than the current market value of $200k.

    Where did the $300k+ that he owed on this property go? Vacations, toys, fancy SUV's, TV's, supporting a lifestyle he couldn't affor maybe?

    I guess personal responsibility is no longer required or expected in this society and it's easier to blame the “evil banks and corrupt politicians” for our mistakes and lack of good judgment.


  2. @11:34 – I lost my job in 2001, was a single parent and had a house in a great neighborhood with great schools. The line of credit I had on my house had been opened while I was employed and was going to be used for routine improvements to the property. Instead, it became my lifeline. It allowed me to keep the only home my child had ever known while I got back on my feet. But at 40+ years of age, landing a job did not come easily even when the economy was good so I ended up eating deep into that line of credit.

    Many people have used the equity in their homes to start businesses or pay for their children's education. Maybe not the best idea but it's hardly in the same league as vacations, toys, and fancy SUVs.

    Evil banks and corrupt politicians have gotten by for too long by selling the story you spin. Corporations have collectively behaved much less responsibly than individual American citizens and yet people like you get upset at people like me who are just doing whatever we can to provide for our families.

    As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Aube is a murderer, plain and simple. He is responsible for those three horrible acts and for those alone he should be viewed as evil. The economy is a non-issue in this case and to say otherwise is an insult to the many people who are suffering yet still being good husbands, wives, and parents.


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