Thursday, April 12, 2007


Reached at his home in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this week, Bob Bechtel talked openly and at length about the murder of a fellow Swarthmore student in 1955, the conditions and circumstances that may have compelled Bechtel to act, and what happened to Bechtel during his time at Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and in the decades since his release. Here are a few extra excerpts:

Q: The Killer Within is a story of forgiveness, and many people -- including the mother of the victim, Francis Holmes Strozier -- have offered their forgiveness. Have you forgiven yourself?

Bechtel: I think that I began to forgive myself in Farview. I began to understand that life has to go on. My insight in Farview — this is an institution for the criminally insane, there was practically no treatment of any kind, it was just hell on earth. And my insight was that the difference between Hell and Heaven is that in Heaven [people] help each other. So I decided to help the other patients and start up a school. I taught people to read and do math…. They got a standard gradeschool education... and it worked very well. The kids who were pupils in the school were getting discharged before I was -- which was kind of ironic.

Q: Were you taunted, bullied, at Farview?

Bechtel: There was an AA group there that I helped, because I was running the newspaper and the print shop... and I would give them publicity. The one guy in charge of it wanted to stay in power there, and I suggested that he step down, and he became very threatening. [But] I just faced up to him. It was the first time that I really ever faced up to a bully. This guy was bigger than I was, he was a professional football player, and I just stuck my finger right in his face and I said, "You don’t have the guts," and he backed down. So, that was another turning point.

Q: What do you think it was in your personality that invited bullying, made you the target?

Bechtel: I was intelligent and the teachers kind of favored me, and that made me like a teacher’s pet-type, and that’s a target for bullies. And because it started so young, when I was only 4, I developed this kind of automatic response where I would just start crying. And that was rewarding to them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucky man, he should be thankful he got away with murder and was allowed to lead a normal productive live. His victim didn't.

I have not heard of a single murder who can't justify in their own mind why they kill ... he insulted me, he tried to steal my girl ... he bullied me. Cry me a river. Given that someone is murdered nearly everyday in Philadelphia, does anyone believe this man's story is helpful in anyway? Probably will inspire the next 5 murders to try the bully defense ...

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Pottstown. I read about this movie in this mornings Inquirer. I was amazed as I had been told about this man's story as a child. I'm 57 now and my guess is I heard this story about fifty years ago. As I recall my Mother, who by the way is still alive and well at 88, knew this man's Mother. When I heard the story I believe the man was still incarcerated. the implication was that it was a tragedy for him and his victim but in some strange way, especially for him. I was told that he had been tormented by other students. The story I heard was that he was on scholarship and felt he had to keep up his grades and the other students resented him and tried to keep him from his studies. I recall something about them making noise with dripping water? In any case, I plan on seeing the movie this weekend. I cut out the article and sent it to my Mother who to my amazement doesn't recall the incident at all. I know she told it to me, I even remember the caliper of the gun used being a 22. It seemed ironic to me as a 22 is about as small as a firearm can be and yet it was lethal. I am not sure but I think the story was told to me as a secret. I don't think I was told the family name. The lesson was that you shouldn't bully people. Now it seems the story was a little more complicated than that.

5:20 PM  

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