EXCLUSIVE: Expert Says Kerrigan Family Made Mistake Letting Son Into Home

Feb. 10 2010, Published 2:22 p.m. ET

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An expert on family violence believes that Nancy Kerrigan’s parents made a mistake in allowing their troubled son Mark to stay with them at the family home -- though he empathizes with that fatal decision.

Nancy Kerrigan’s Father's Death Ruled A Homicide

Mark Kerrigan, 45, who had a history of mental illness and violence, was staying in the family’s basement when he got into a fight with his elderly father which resulted in Daniel Kerrigan, 70, dying from a massive heart attack. The incident has been ruled as a homicide though the family does not believe Mark should be criminally charged.

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Richard Gelles, Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of 25 books on families including The Violent Home and Intimate Violence And Families, gave his insight into the terrible dilemma that faced the Kerrigan family.

“Had I been treating them, knowing their son’s background, then I would have told them not to let this person back into your home," he said. “That would have been my clinical advice but in reality there is no such thing as an 'ex-child' and the Kerrigans were clearly involved in a ‘push and pull’ situation with their son."

Nancy Kerrigan And Her Family At Her Father’s Wake

Gelles admits this was a "no win" situation. “I have real sympathy with their particular situation because it really was a ‘no win’ one and the reality is if I was to give ten other couples the same advice only two of them would actually do it."

Another aspect facing the Kerrigan parents was the guilt over having a child with such problems. “The really sad part is that often parents like the Kerrigans are reluctant to let the world know about their children’s problems as they feel they are to blame for them," Gelles explained.

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"In reality though, in the Mark Kerrigan case, this was a 45-year-old man who was still living at home and who had a history of mental illness and marital abuse.

“Clearly, there were other factors at play here that were not his parents' fault as he was shaped by other life experiences too at that age.”

Nancy Kerrigan Visits Her Mourning Mother

Mark – who is still being evaluated at a mental hospital – has pled not guilty to assault and battery charges.

Even if he had been able to counsel the Kerrigan family before the tragic outcome, Gelles doubts it would have altered much.

“Given what I know about the situation, I don’t think they would have followed my advice because that would have been a difficult road for them to follow."

As for the future, he surmises that there will not be a murder charge and Mark will end up in a therapeutic institution after a second degree plea to involuntary manslaughter.


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