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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 25, Issue 5

Love and Murder in Suburbia: A True Story

One family's tragedy underscores the perils of concealing abuse by an intimate partner

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During the early morning hours of September 9, 2002, Peter Clancy arrived at his house in upscale Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., armed with a large kitchen knife. He tried the garage, which did not respond to his opener, and then the front door, but the lock had been changed. So he picked up a chair from the deck and hurled it through a kitchen window.

Hearing the breaking glass, Debbie Clancy called the police and told them her husband had just broken into her house. Debbie then ordered her two young sons, ages nine and four, who had been asleep in her bed, to stay put. She grabbed a golf club and ran past the bedrooms of her other two sleeping children, a 10-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl. Facing Peter on the stairway, she turned, ran back to her bedroom and slammed the door, but Peter chased after her. With the knife in his hand, he approached Debbie and stabbed her in the stomach. Debbie fell onto the bed. While Debbie screamed and kicked, her children begged, “Stop! Stop!” Even the dog went after Peter, biting him in an attempt to protect Debbie. Debbie slid to the floor, where Peter stabbed her repeatedly with the knife—seven times, according to newspaper accounts. Debbie was still breathing, so Peter pinched her nose and mouth until she stopped.

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