When Cupid's arrow isn't sent with love
By James Alan Fox
Monday, February 13, 2006

Mysteriously rooted in ancient Roman mating rituals and named after a martyred priest granted sainthood, Valentine's Day has long been a holiday for lovers. It is also a special day for manipulative, controlling, narcissistic con men to turn up the charm.

Ladies, you know the type. He's shallow, disappointing, selfish and self-centered for 364 days of the year. But come Feb. 14, he's a Prince Charming facsimile, saying all the right things and bearing all the right gifts to persuade you that his love is true. Then literally overnight, that same sociopathic shell of a man reappears the next day.

Forty-five year-old Jamie Stonier of Concord keenly remembers Valentine's Day, 2003 - the last she shared with her husband Harold, a handsome military man whom she had fallen for at first glimpse some five years earlier. She couldn't cope anymore with his rigid, arrogant, domineering personality, a change in him that emerged once the honeymoon was over.

Jamie saw no future with a man she no longer loved or respected. As soon as the school year ended, she would separate from Harold, taking away her two sons, the younger of whom she had had with him.

Harold pleaded for a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over, offering up Valentine's Day roses, perfume and Godiva chocolates. For Jamie, that was no longer an option. "There was too much damage," she recalls. "He had sucked everything out of me."

But for Harold, divorce was not an option either. Forever possessive of whatever (or whomever) was his, Harold wanted custody of his son at any cost, hiring a hit man, who was actually an undercover federal agent, to murder his wife. Caught on tape arranging for the $70,000 murder-for-hire, he explained, "This is, to me, actually a small price to have my son with me full-time."

Jamie is one of the lucky ones. Harold was arrested after the sting and now resides in federal prison. Were it not for his poor judgment in recruiting, she would have seen her last Valentine's Day, and her youngest son might be living with a killer.

Jamie's "near death" marriage has had a lasting impact. She is slow to trust others, especially men. Financially, she has been drained and lives in public housing, struggling with the $20,000 debt that Harold had run up.

How could Jamie Stonier have been so blind not to see through her husband's egocentric veneer? You could ask the same question about Carol Stuart, Karen Sharpe, Laci Peterson or, if allegations are true, Rachel Entwistle.

While the rate of homicide among partners has dropped by 50 percent over the past three decades, it is mostly men who have been spared an early "death do us part." Violence remains a part of too many relationships, and ironically men have often been the undeserving beneficiary of intervention efforts on behalf of domestic abuse victims.

Restraining orders, shelters and other services have assisted women to escape turbulent relationships without having to use a loaded gun to shoot a loaded husband. Men, however, often see these interventions as just another challenge to their supremacy.

On one occasion, Jamie Stonier had called the police when Harold lost his temper during a quarrel. Like many other forgiving females before her and since, she took him back, hoping to salvage the relationship for the children's sake and believing his empty promise to change.

Unfortunately, tomorrow's holiday will bring no joy to Jamie Stonier. I urge you to join me in sending a gift on her behalf to the ROSE Fund (Regaining One's Self Esteem; www.rosefund.org) to help the countless women wounded by Cupid's arrow.

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. Talk back at j.fox@neu.edu.