.

Mother Doesn't Want Her Sons with a Killer

Trish Conlon lost her custody battle to keep her sons away from stepmom Kristine Cushing, formerly of Laguna Niguel, who was declared insane when she killed her daughters in 1991.

As parents, we have a strong instinct to protect our children.

For one mother, this desire has led to a painful situation. Trish Conlon went to court to permanently change the custody agreement she had with her ex-husband when she learned he was married to and living with his first wife who shot and killed their daughters.

Once residents of Laguna Niguel, Lt. Col. John P. Cushing Jr. and Kristine Cushing had two daughters, ages 4 and 8. Kristine had been a Brownie leader and Sunday school teacher. She began taking Prozac while dealing with a heart condition.

Kristine shot and killed her two daughters as they slept back in 1991. She pleaded temporary insanity due to the Prozac she was taking. Both the prosecuting and defense attorneys agreed.

She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent four years in a mental facility. She had 10 years of psychiatric monitoring and was released when it had been determined that she no longer posed a risk.

Conlon and John Cushing had been sharing custody of their two boys, ages 14 and 13, from their marriage. Conlon learned John Cushing had since remarried his ex-wife Kristine. Fearing for the safety of her own boys, Conlon went to court to fight for full custody.

John Cushing had lied about his relationship with ex-wife Kristine and also had his sons lie to their mother about the fact that Kristine was indeed living with him.

Monday the court allowed John Cushing to continue the existing custody agreement he had with Conlon, citing that Kristine had already lived with the boys without any problems.

According Dana Rebik with q13fox.com, "The court has ordered John Cushing to ensure that there are no firearms in the home where the children stay."

The Moms Council lets readers know their opinions on the subject.

  • Wendy Bucknum says: The fact that the truth was not told about who is living at the house with the kids should be a huge red flag. The courts and this father are doing a huge disservice to these kids, in my opinion.
  • Julie Flores says: The fact the court thought enough to make the father remove any firearms from his home speaks to the level of doubt about the safety of the boys. She is either a threat or not a threat. The court ruled she is not, so why remove the firearms?

Look for Mom Talk every Wednesday at 1 p.m. for parenting topics, and get into the discussion.

Dan Avery September 01, 2011 at 05:57 PM
Prozac? That sounds like the "Twinkie" defense to me. How many people eat some Prozac and then kill their sleeping kids? If that's a real side effect then the drug shouldn't be on the market. There's clearly something else going on within this woman. What if she discovers that 18 year old single malt has the same effect on her some night? What if she tries a peanut-butter, banana, and mayo sandwich, then licks her lips and blows away both kids with a shotgun? We ought to look at the idiot who presided over her first trial. Now there's someone who should have their robe and gavel taken away forever.
Shripathi Kamath September 01, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Except that she is not on trial for her Prozac induced killing spree anymore. That case was decided a long time ago, and I note that BOTH the prosecution and the defense agreed upon the sentence. So, how should we decide these cases, Dan? In the court of public opinion with limited facts and knowledge of the details and circumstances of the case, or in a courtroom in the presence of experts in the field, attorneys and possibly a jury? Here are the circumstances of the original case: http://articles.latimes.com/1991-10-20/local/me-509_1_family-services And then, this: http://articles.latimes.com/1994-11-11/local/me-61455_1_mental-hospital But you raise a good point about Prozac. *If* it is a drug that causes dangerous mood changes in some patients, then it should not be on the market. But that means we need to test and study that (if we haven't already). Who pays for that? Assuming that it was deemed safe, why should we dismiss the opinion of the judge and the prosecutors (rarity) who agreed upon her initial sentence? It is good to examine our system and policies in the wake of a tragedy (she was depressed from her husband being away at war, and then finding out that she was going to be divorced), but an indictment of the system simply because the limited exposure to facts are disagreeable or shocking? We should be more reflective than that.
Dan Avery September 01, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Shri, Quite often the defense and the D.A. agree simply to move an overly clogged system along. And let's face it, it rare when the best legal minds decide to work for the state when they could make a lot more money working elsewhere. That is why O.J. walked away from the court house. D.A.s do great against public defenders who are either new or also not the greatest minds practicing law. To so that another way, D.A.s do great if they are taking poor people into the court room. So for all we know, the D.A. looked at her lawyer and thought "the best I can get here is four years." And he thought that because he understood the other guy had a better mind. Bottom line is we should dismiss it because common sense tells us to. I had a friend who was excited because a treatment place he worked in was going to get a guy from Utah who had been convicted of cannibalism while high on LSD. My friend said "well he was on LSD when he did it." My reply was "look, man, we've both been high on acid a bunch of times. You ever eat anyone while tripping? Anyone you know ever eat anyone while tripping?" Common sense, Shri.
Shripathi Kamath September 01, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Unh uh. It is not "quite often", it is extremely RARE that a DA, defense and the judge agree on an insanity defense sentence where killings have taken place. Ask your brother, how rare are insanity defenses in such cases so successful that both the DA and the defense agree to such a sentence. OJ walked away for different reasons, and that case bears no relevance here since there was no agreement between the attorneys at all. 'So for all we know, the D.A. looked at her lawyer and thought "the best I can get here is four years." And he thought that because he understood the other guy had a better mind.' Yes, and for all we know the DA was banging the accused twice on Mondays, and three times on the weekends. But we don't know that. "Common sense, Shri." Yes, common sense dictates that we follow the advice of scientific professionals who dedicate their careers to researching mental health issues, drugs, societal impacts, and have specific knowledge and details of the case rather than voices on a blog. The same common sense that tells us that global warming is happening, and is anthropogenic, based on a consensus of climate scientists who spend decades researching the phenomenon and not listen to the shill with C average grades in vet school observe that "Wow it is cold in Buffalo and snowing heavily! What global warming, libruls!!!" Reflection, not emotion.
Shripathi Kamath September 01, 2011 at 07:21 PM
And if common sense were to be followed, should we not disband the practice of insanity defense, and get rid of the mental health science studies we do altogether? Surely seems to carry NO weight here against "common sense" here.
Dan Avery September 01, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Actually I'm all for getting rid of the "insanity defense." In some sense you have to be insane to kill another human being. So we're really just trying to argue degrees of insane. I say we get rid of the death penalty and then when someone kills someone we lock them up for life, no parole. If they actually are barking mad, you send them to a prison for the "criminally insane." We used to have those once upon a time.
Shripathi Kamath September 01, 2011 at 10:53 PM
That I have a less of an issue with. It is a consistent position Dan, to reject the notion of an "insanity defense" altogether, possibly for the very reason you cite -- to kill you have to be insane to some degree. In fact, I offered that at the very beginning, either we invest in studying, diagnosing insane people and if/how they can be rehabbed, or we do away with the system that costs us, and we get outraged when we find a specific scenario unpalatable. To me, asking and trusting professionals to do a very demanding job, and then simply dismissing their work as *totally* inconsequential and merit-less is silly. Of course, we could argue if insanity should be considered in crimes, and how we should have different penalties, treatments, confinements, etc., but all those are irrelevant to the case at hand. Likewise with the death penalty. On the death penalty I do have a somewhat conflicted position in that I am in favor of using it to stop certain crimes in progress (hostage taking, deadly assault in progress, etc), but not when the criminal has already committed the crime and is in custody. Again, irrelevant to this case. Under your scenario of "no insanity defense", we would not even be commenting on custody, because Kristine would be rotting away in some padded cell, and the only people getting upset would be the ones that are enraged that she is still alive and two dead kids are not getting any justice. Blood-lust is kinda hard to satisfy that way.
Julie Flores September 02, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Regardless of the decision on Kristine's guilt or her sanity, as a mother, I would not want my kids living or staying in the same house as her. Call me irrational, but I would not sleep one wink if my kids were under the same roof as her. No court decision or scientific studies can guarantee with 100% accuracy that she would not kill again. If it has been decided that prison time is not in the best interest of justice that is a separate issue on whether or not I would stake my kids life on it.
Shripathi Kamath September 02, 2011 at 04:36 AM
"Regardless of the decision on Kristine's guilt or her sanity, as a mother, I would not want my kids living or staying in the same house as her. Call me irrational, but I would not sleep one wink if my kids were under the same roof as her." Perfectly understandable, and not irrational. I think that the mom Trish Conlon shares your angst. In similar circumstances, I can imagine fearing the same. "No court decision or scientific studies can guarantee with 100% accuracy that she would not kill again." Most everything in life is not 100% guaranteed anyway, so there is no reason to expect that such would be different here either. "If it has been decided that prison time is not in the best interest of justice that is a separate issue on whether or not I would stake my kids life on it." More than that has been decided by us. We have decided that insanity defense is reasonable, that scientific advances do make it possible to rehabilitate such people, that mental health experts can determine if such people no longer pose a risk, that judges, DAs and defense attorneys are competent enough to make the determination. And when we did, we didn't decide that on the basis if someone says they are really really really fearful, then we will simply toss all that out, and do whatever that fearful person wants. Which is why I take the position I explained above.
Dan Avery September 02, 2011 at 04:55 AM
I hear you on that one Julie. Nor would I want my kids with that particular dad. She's his ex-wife and he remarried her? And then he tells his kids not to tell their mom and to refer to her by a phony name? !!!WARNING!!! So were they his daughters also? And what was the story with her and some kids in Oregon? You ask me there are red flags all over the field.
Rebecca Goddard September 02, 2011 at 05:35 AM
I agree with Julie and Dan - Shripathi - you are completely off the reservation and if you think this person is so safe, why don't you send your kids there for a sleepover.
Shripathi Kamath September 02, 2011 at 05:41 AM
I have a better idea. Why don't you learn how to read, and then we can discuss your unsolicited advice for my kids? That way, you'll know a little more than you do right now, and all of us benefit.
Rebecca Goddard September 02, 2011 at 06:07 AM
She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent four years in a mental facility. She had 10 years of psychiatric monitoring and was released when it had been determined that she no longer posed a risk." Either we accept a medical diagnosis that she no longer poses a risk or we basically should abandon any pretense of treating such mentally challenged people. We cannot do both. These are your words, that I read. So since you stated her sentence was appropriate for her insanity and we should stand by it and a parent shouldn't argue the system of having her children be with a killer, I'm just saying. If that is what you think, why not have her over to baby sit then. Thanks though for your warm statements of love tolerance and hypocrisy.
Shripathi Kamath September 02, 2011 at 06:50 AM
'Either we accept a medical diagnosis that she no longer poses a risk or we basically should abandon any pretense of treating such mentally challenged people. We cannot do both.' "These are your words, that I read." Thanks. You see that either..or construct? That says you should either accept A or do B, and not both. It does not say WHICH. And your inability to find any statement of mine that evenly remotely resembles "you think this person is so safe" is not your fault really. I never said it. The problem is though that you have been caught red-handed in a dishonest accusation, and have doubled-down. If you had read my response to Dan, where he picked B, you'll see that I had agreement with him. And if you had seen my response to Julie, you'd have seen that I too share her fear and concern about kids being at the dad's place. Which is why I suggested that you learn how to read. You are willfully poor at it. "Thanks though for your warm statements of love tolerance and hypocrisy." I'd say you're welcome, but it is not me whose 'warmth' is exuded in not reading what was said, and then asking someone to send their kids over to a stranger's house, because your hatred for something unsaid blinds you. I said nothing about your kids, or what you should or should not do with them. Hypocrisy, indeed. But more than that, plain simple dishonesty on your part. But then, that's about all one can expect from you. Quadruple down?
Anon September 02, 2011 at 03:04 PM
Yes thats it Felicia, you got me!!
Bretta September 02, 2011 at 05:01 PM
I agree the person who killed children should be forever barred from being around or caring for children. Banning firearms is meaningless - there are many other ways to kill if there is intent. You have to wonder about the guy who would take back the woman who killed his children - I mean, you can forgive a person but to bring that person back??
Julie Flores September 02, 2011 at 05:14 PM
To be fair, I don't see where Shri was stating that the kids would be safe with Kristine. But it is a complex issue. If society decides that insanity defenses are valid in certain cases then the reality is some of these individual will be living among us. And Krisitne would be well within her legal rights to have more children. The difficulty in this case is that someone else's children have been dragged into it. Statistically Krisitne is probably very unlikely to kill again. But I think the father of these boys may not have their best interest at heart. These legal battles upset the whole family and it's hard to imagine why he can't empathize with Trish's fears. Surely there is a way that he can be involved with his boys in a manner that doesn't cause the mother undue stress.
Dan Avery September 02, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Folks, by the way an ad hominem argument is latin for a personal attack. It means "against the man." It is an argument that attacks a person's motives or character. And it's the most common logical fallacy. It's an argument that has nothing to do with reason or logic. It's used because either someone doesn't have a valid point to make about the issue being discussed. Or it's used out of malice to destroys someone's character. We see a lot of the latter in our politics. It's always amazed people in other countries that we elect the people who employ this type of argument. People who think don't engage in ad hominem arguments. The ad hominem is a sign of a lazy mind. What people in other countries don't understand is that most people in the U.S. have a very mediocre education. That's why 18% of us think we're in the top 1% of income earners.
Shripathi Kamath September 02, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Since I am required by contract, I must correct you Dan. And I do it with the authority of your fellow Minnesotan. Al Franken. His research says 19%. I forget, are we going all ridiculously smug and negative now, or is it just me? [Hey, one can drive a truck through that opening I left above]
Dan Avery September 02, 2011 at 06:49 PM
So Shri, To return to something you said earlier. I too agree that we should study the minds of criminals and of the mentally ill. In fact, after reading The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ransom, I think we should also be studying political leaders and C.E.O.s that clearly display psychopathic tendencies, i.e., Bush, Cheney, Obama, Gates, Jobs, et. al. Simply because we can't ever hope to solve any of these problems without seriously studying them. I think the "professionals" you cite are a poor solution because most of the time they are dealing with intelligent people who are having problems coping with a world they never made. They really don't understand the people who kill their own children, or reload on their mom in the upstairs hallway. "On the death penalty I do have a somewhat conflicted position in that I am in favor of using it to stop certain crimes in progress (hostage taking, deadly assault in progress, etc)..." That's not the death penalty. That's called "an officer-involved shooting." For it to be the death penalty, one needs a trial by jury. I have no problem with officer-involved shootings that are justified.
Dan Avery September 02, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Well actually, if you parse Mr. Franken's 19% you'll find that 1% of them actually are the top 1% of income/wealth in this country. So 18% only think they are in the top 1%. I know, math, it's confusing, but numbers, I'm told, don't lie.
Shripathi Kamath September 02, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Since therapy sessions are private, even the group ones, I'd only tease a little here. I had the opportunity to share a session with the spouse of an employee/co-worker of Steve Jobs two decades ago. Just think of that. The spouse of an employee/co-worker (not ex-employee) was in therapy because of Jobs. Yes, a test of such minds could reveal a lot of useful information. Too bad Cheney isn't around anymore to make it happen. I understand that distinction between death-penalty and officer-involved shooting, but I feel conflicted about the euphemism, which is why I stated it the way I did. "Prolonged detention" does indeed make Obama sound more refined (really?) when he is talking about imprisonment of people on grounds that they *may* create problems for us. "Enhanced interrogations techniques"? No, torture. We should be civil enough to be blunt about such things. Maybe that is the true insight into the mind of a psychopath. Question for you: what do you think we should do with that information? Offer it as an AP elective on leadership training? Something else?
Dan Avery September 02, 2011 at 07:05 PM
So, if I were I real "Jack in the Box' I would accuse you of reading marginally better than you think Rebecca reads, because you clearly didn't notice my careful use of the construction "18% of us think..." :)
Dan Avery September 02, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Actually I think if we truly made a sincere attempt to understand those types of minds, it'd become rather obvious what to do with the information. We would use it to improve our society and ourselves. Just imagine how an understand of that would change our notion of Justice for instance. It would change our notion of humane in a good way I think. It would probably lead us into understanding ignorance. For instance, some extremely talented, gifted people are racists. Why is that? It makes no sense since racism is based on ignorance and we're talked about extremely intelligent, often highly educated, people. And yet they remain ignorant about something so fundamental to being human?
Rebecca Goddard September 02, 2011 at 10:04 PM
More than that has been decided by us. We have decided that insanity defense is reasonable, that scientific advances do make it possible to rehabilitate such people, that mental health experts can determine if such people no longer pose a risk, that judges, DAs and defense attorneys are competent enough to make the determination. No matter what you say above, there is nothing that a judge can determine that would make me put my children in the care of a killer rehabilitated or not. Since our court system and public servants, and county workers, social services are a horribly flawed system, and Kristine in my opinion should not be allowed to be around children. The law says what it says and can be spun by any lawyer or jaw jacker to fit loopholes, but that doesn't mean that it has any common sense or correctness. Just like Joy Behar asked Casey Anthony's defense team after she was acquitted of murdering her daughter "Why don't you let her babysit", the defense lawyer sat there stunned and basically said not a chance would she leave her kids with Casey Anthony, and they acquitted her.
Shripathi Kamath September 02, 2011 at 10:17 PM
"No matter what you say above, there is nothing that a judge can determine that would make me put my children in the care of a killer rehabilitated or not." Noted. I am not asking you to, nor I am claiming that it is the best (or worst) thing for Trish's kid. What I am pointing out is that the system is in place, and it is something we as a society have decided. We elected leaders who have created this for us. "Since our court system and public servants, and county workers, social services are a horribly flawed system, and Kristine in my opinion should not be allowed to be around children." I disagree with your assessment that such is the case. Sure, every system can be improved, but that's a far cry from stating that it is horribly flawed. Lots of people work hard to make it work, and if they fall short, we need to work with them to improve it. If we want to change it, tweak it, we should. As to your opinion regarding Kristine, again, noted. I get it. You do not want Kristine to be with kids. contd...
Shripathi Kamath September 02, 2011 at 10:27 PM
"The law says what it says and can be spun by any lawyer or jaw jacker to fit loopholes, but that doesn't mean that it has any common sense or correctness. " Except that this case (the trial of Kristine) was a rarity. Where the DA, the attorney and the judge all agreed. When there is a killing involved, DAs often seek something more, it is in their best interests career-wise. A conviction in a homicide case makes one! Judges (wasn't that judge in Red OC?) don't want to be the ones getting blamed for a relapse, so if anything it should tell us that they actually spent a lot of time doing something that would be unpopular. There is NO upside for the DA or the judge to let a killer be remanded to a mental hospital. The easier thing to have done would have been to incarcerate her without the possibility of parole. That would be the "common sense" solution. They even had a confession. 'just like Joy Behar asked Casey Anthony's defense team after she was acquitted of murdering her daughter "Why don't you let her babysit",' Which plays well for the galleries, but is a poor rhetorical device. The issue is not that Casey Anthony is a saint or a great baby-sitter, but that the prosecution in the case failed to do its job. All the defense attorney had to respond was "Because she has shown herself to be a uncaring and neglectful mother". Emotion is fine, it rarely solves problems that are intrinsically cerebral in nature.
Panglonymous September 02, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Re temporary insanity (thoughts in the midst of a rip-current...) Time is tweaked, everything seems to be happening automatically in a wild series of cause-and-effect. I couldn't have *willed* myself to do anything - the event seemed powerfully destined to unfold of its own. Fortunately, the outcome was benign but I deserve no conscious credit for that. Three people were involved and, thinking back, the only thing that might have saved us was that none of us had hate in our hearts. Can't prove it, but it seems right. If it had ended badly, I could not have denied responsibility. We seemed fatefully/mutually responsible. I've only experienced it once at that level. Sound familiar to anyone?
Bretta September 03, 2011 at 12:07 AM
@Julie at 4:25pm 9/1 It isn't necessarily the judges, or just about children. My experience, similar to Mark's, was the judge ordered the people out of my parents' home (vulnerable adults being used) but it still took me several months to completely get users and their possessions and a huge amount of garbage out of there. I called the sheriff, every single time the perps trespassed. The Sheriff deputies made the decision on their own, contrary to judges orders, to not ruffle the perps' feathers. Not that my story is directly to the point of the article; my point is often enforcement officials will not follow the written orders, leaving everyone frustrated.
Panglonymous September 03, 2011 at 09:42 PM
mini-pan: "uh, no sir. most of us are securely-hinged." :-)

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