Incest and sexual abuse really does seem to “run in families.” I don’t know if it’s a biological reference or a learned reference from an environment. There are many victims who perpetuate the cycle yet there are many victims who break it. Those who are caught somewhere in the middle – determined not to repeat a tragic history yet unable to escape it – sometimes opt for murdering the abuser when it seems there is no other way out. An interesting option, not a typical one fortunately, but one can see how the abuser would lead a victim to perpetrate his own early demise.
Tom Lannert, son of Ken and May Lannert, had an unremarkable childhood. When he got older his relationship with his parents deteriorated. Deborah Lannert was the oldest of five children. At age 11 she was sexually abused by her father. Other members of Deborah’s family were also abusers or victims of incestuous sexual abuse.Tom and Deborah met when Deborah was 18 and living at home. After three months of dating they decided to get married. Stacey Ann Lannert was born in 1972 and Christy was born in 1974. The Lannert home was typically middle class. The family moved around a lot until 1979, when they decided to settle in Alhambra, Illinois. Neighbors described the family as quiet people who stayed to themselves. This should have sounded an alarm to neighbours, friends, and family. Incestuous families tend to retreat from the world behind closed doors, “staying to themselves“, hiding their business, and avoiding social contact. Their houses are typically closed and dark; drapes and blinds are often closed, as well as outer doors and gates. Families of incest live in a fortress, not a home.
When Stacey was in the third grade her father began sexually abusing her. The
abuse accelerated to sexual intercourse, usually occurring when Tom was drunk
and Deborah would not allow Tom to sleep with her. Stacey was sworn to secrecy
by her father and thought it was something favorite daughters did with their
dads. When she was in the eighth grade she realized that what was happening was
wrong and not normal and she began avoiding him but this did little but ignite
Tom’s anger. Throughout the years of sexual abuse Tom Lannert would become violent toward Stacey when she showed any negative reaction to performing his desired sex acts. This experience left Stacey with overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame and confusion and caused her to escape deep into a ‘safe place’ she created inside her mind. The sexual abuse that Stacey suffered did not stay a secret like Tom demanded. Her mother, cousin, her babysitter, and a psychologist suspected that she was being abused. Her mother discovered a blood streaked pair of Stacey’s underwear hidden in the basement stairs that led to the television room where Tom often abused Stacey. Deborah heard Stacey’s cries from the basement but figured Tom would take care of whatever caused the tears. She was certainly right about that.
When Stacey was 13, the Lannert’s divorced and Deborah left town and remarried,
leaving her daughters in Tom’s care. Surprisingly, Deborah was never nominated for Mother of the Year. Years later, Deborah stated, “what I felt was that he loved them and he would not hurt them. I thought he loved his daughters,” she said. “I feel like I failed to protect my children … and I will never ever forget that. I will never live this down no matter what.”Interesting that Deborah’s only concern was with hersef, not her children.
With Deborah no longer living in the home, Tom began to drink more and the abuse against Stacey escalated to multiple attacks per week. When Stacey reached her senior year in high school, she dropped out of school and moved to Guam where her mother and step-father lived, even though she did not feel welcomed there. Stacey’s sister Christy, age 11, was left behind with Tom. Christy dropped out of school and intermittently lived with her father, mother and relatives. Christy had been physically abused by her father but not sexually assaulted. Christy became increasingly desperate for Stacey to return home. During one conversation she pleaded for Stacey to return and admitted to her that Tom had assaulted her. Feeling guilty for having left Christy behind with Tom, Stacey returned home to Missouri. Once home, Tom began forcing himself on Stacey.
She began to fantasize about her father being gone – dead. Over time her fantasy became an obsessive drive that lead her to try find ways to end his life. She spoke to friends about killing her father or hiring someone to do it for her and of the money she would inherit once he was dead. For her, the ultimate and only solution to a happy future for herself and her sister was money to live on and for Tom to die. She saw no other options. Can’t blame the kid, really.
On the day of the murder Stacey and Christy got a hotel room late at night. Worried that Tom would kill their puppy, they returned home at 4:15 a.m. to sneak the puppy out. Stacey entered the house through the basement window. In the basement was the rifle. Tom Lannert was asleep on the couch. Stacey leaned the rifle on a ledge, pointed it at her sleeping father, and pulled the trigger. The bullet struck Tom, and broke his collarbone. He jumped up, not knowing he was shot, and told Stacey to call 911. Stacey searched for the phone but was unable to locate it. Tom began berating her for taking so long in getting him help and Stacey began to panic. She later confessed to thinking, ‘He doesn’t deserve to live’ and returned to find him lying back on the couch. She shot him in the head, killing him. She then left the house the same way she had entered.
Prior to his murder, Tom Lannert had recently dissolved his consulting business, put his house up for sale, and spoke to neighbors of moving to San Francisco. The next day Stacey and a friend returned to her father’s house with a plan to appear as if she had just returned and discovered his body. After cleaning her car she called the police. During questioning her friend implicated Stacey and soon after Stacey confessed to the murder. Her dreams of Tom being out of her life forever and of inheriting his estate valued over $100,000, came to an end. The prosecutors alleged she murdered her father because she wanted his money. Stacey claimed her father had sexually abused her from the age of eight, and that her report of the abuse to her guidance counselor, babysitter, and psychiatrist had brought no result.
Charged with first degree murder and other felonies, Lannert’s lawyer offered the defense of insanity or mental defect, after his attempt to use the “battered spouse syndrome in her defense. The court limited mention of “battered spouse syndrome” but allowed the defendant to make “an offer of proof of self-defense“. However, the judge refused to include any claim of self-defense in his instructions to the jury. According to the court “the defendant’s testimony didn’t indicate that she was in immediate fear of serious physical injury or death, as her testimony was that her father was passed out and drunk, or at least asleep when she fired the first shot”. The court concluded that there was not any basis in the evidence for her claim of self-defense. The jury found her guilty and sentenced her to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Outrageous. It seems to me Stacey had already served time with her life.
On January 10, 2009, outgoing Missouri Governor Matt Blunt commuted her sentence and since she’d served 18 years, she was eligible for immediate conditional release. Sounds fair to me. Too bad she had to put in the 18 years first. She was released on January 16, 2009. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, however, thinks Stacey is a manipulative liar who deserves to live out the rest of her life in prison. “I have not changed my mind at all about Stacey Lannert. She murdered her father for his inheritance, and solely for his inheritance,” he said, referring to the estate worth nearly $500,000 that she stood to inherit. McCulloch also argued that Lannert “spent wildly,” forging her father’s name on checks and using his credit cards before she took his life. “She was never sexually abused by her father or anyone else, and she ought to be back in the penitentiary, and shame on Gov. Blunt for letting her out,” McCulloch said.
“He was not Ozzie Nelson, no. He was a bad father,” McCulloch said. “He was a bad parent, and he was a bad drunk. But there is no evidence that he was sexually abusing. You know you can be a rotten SOB and still not be a rapist. Stacey Lannert is lying “through her teeth.” “The only credible evidence of any sort of motive is that she did it for the money,” McCulloch said. “And she’s not going to get her hands on it unless she takes out her father.” McCulloch wondered why if things were so bad, she didn’t just leave. conveniently, McCulloch ignores the fact that six months before the murder she went to live with her mother 7,000 miles away, on the Island of Guam, only to return home after a desperate call from Christy. He also misses the point about sexual abuse. There is never abuse that a child is being sexually abused. That’s why the abuser gets away with it for so long.
“I wanted him to leave me alone. I wanted him to leave her alone. I didn’t really necessarily want him to die, but I didn’t want him to be able to … hurt us again, to be able to get us,” Lannert told ABC News correspondent Cynthia McFadden in 2002. ABC News has covered Lannert’s story for the past seven years. Christy Lannert said she was in first grade when her father started beating her, and that she was 12 when her father began pushing her to drink alcohol with him. The more he drank, she said, the more violent he became. To this day, she can’t bear to see the home she and her sister grew up in.”I don’t care to see the stairs that he used to kick me down. I don’t, I don’t want to see the windows that I would have to climb out at night,” she said. “So I didn’t have to wake up being choked. Any man who can hold his daughter down and rape her is evil. And nobody stopped him. No one.”
Stacey appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Joyce Behar Show, and Piers Morgan Tonight, discussing Healing Sisters, a non-profit organization she founded assisting victims of incest and sexual abuse.
God bless her. And Christy.