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A Tragedy in Milton

In a quiet Massachusetts town called Milton, a man called Kerby Revelus stabbed two of his sisters to death, and attacked a third in their family home late Saturday afternoon. The third sister is in the hospital but is expected to live. Because of a police officer’s quick and decisive action upon arriving at the scene, he likely saved the third sister from becoming another victim. The officer shot Revelus dead.

And now, all turn to the question, “Why would anyone do such a thing?” And the reason I’ve been holding my breath is to see whether Revelus had some history of mental illness, which is the only answer I think would explain such actions to many. I didn’t have to wait very long:

A clearer picture emerged yesterday of Revelus, the 23-year-old who had been depressed recently because his criminal record was preventing him from finding a job, a relative said. […]

[A n]eighbor said that some mornings, Revelus would stroll down Belvoir Street as people headed to work, talking nonsensically and taking swigs from a bottle in a brown bag. Sometimes he would talk cryptically about God’s purpose for him, Kamara said, and other times he acted edgy and hostile.

Well, there you go. He was “depressed” and he apparently drank a lot. And in drinking, he would act, well, drunk. Saying crazy things and talking cryptically.

But in this case, perhaps we actually have some evidence of Revelus’ possible mental illness — schizophrenia, which is most often diagnosed in young adulthood (Revelus was 23):

Alpha Kamara, who lives next door to the Revelus house, said he went to high school with Kerby Revelus and that he had been acting strangely, waxing philosophical about the meaning of life, telling weird stories, even stealing a pair of his underwear.

“We were talking Friday and he’s telling about life, questioning people’s lives and talking about Jesus. He was talking crazy,” Kamara said.

Conversations with Kerby Revelus grew increasingly irrational, and Alpha Kamara said he seemed to grow detached. Kamara said the two had recently been talking about their former girlfriends when Kerby Revelus suddenly stopped and started talking about religion.

I’m not sure we’ll ever know the answer, since no evidence has emerged that suggested Revelus ever sought treatment. Which wouldn’t be a surprise, seeing that if he just started experiencing these symptoms in the past few months, it’s not something that would’ve immediately called for treatment.

People with schizophrenia are no more likely to commit violence as someone without. But someone who is under the influence of alcohol and is experiencing his first schizophrenia symptoms would be at increased risk for violence. Especially if they had, as Revelus did, a prior history of criminality (in his case, gun charges).

None of this helps us understand how one human being could do this to another human being, much less their own family. And there’s likely little that could’ve been done to prevent this tragedy, since the early symptoms of schizophrenia are so often confused with other things (like stress, alcoholism, etc.). It’s a sad day in Milton, and we send out our deepest sympathies to the family who had to endure this tragedy.

Read the full article: Milton suspect in his sisters’ deaths confused lately, friends and family say.

A Tragedy in Milton

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). A Tragedy in Milton. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 30 Mar 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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