Heart Full of Lies

I’m a big fan of Ann Rule’s true crime books.  I eat ’em up like candy.  Each one of her books offers fascinating lessons in basic human nature and human foibles.

I just finished reading “Heart Full of Lies.”  The basic lesson of this book is:  Just How Stupid Are People?  And the answer is:  “Very.”

“Heart Full of Lies” is the story of this young and attractive woman named Liysa Northon who murders her husband Chris Northon who  was a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines.  Liysa is a person with a long, and well-documented history as a compulsive liar.  She’s one of those people who constantly invents scripts in her head, and then tries to shoe-horn reality to fit in with her delusions, facts be damned.  Chris, on the other hand was considered by almost everyone who knew him (except Liysa) to be a very mild-mannered and non-violent person.

For a variety of reasons Liysa wanted to end her marriage.   So she lured her husband off on a camping trip to an isolated area in the middle of nowhere.  Keep in mind this is a person that Liysa had repeatedly claimed was a violent, psychopathic monster who she was deathly afraid of.  And yet she thinks nothing of inviting him off on a camping trip way out in the boondocks, just him and her, alone.   Sure, sister.

For the camping  trip Liysa packs, among other things, a stun gun, a loaded hand gun, handcuffs, sedatives and poison.   Just your typical family camping outing.   And whattaya’ know.   Hubby ends up dead.  They find his body in his sleepingbag, zipped all the way up, with a bullet in the back of his head shot at point-blank range.  Liysa claims she was in fear of her life and fleeing in the dark when she shot a bullet in the general direction of her husband’s sleepingbag.  What an incredibly lucky shot!  Liysa also claimed her husband was deranged on drugs and alcohol.  But again, whattaya’ know?  The autopsy found zero alcohol in his bloodstream.  They did however find enough sedatives in his system to knock out a horse.  As well as a seriously ulcerated stomach that was almost certainly caused by poisoning (and whattaya’ know, just weeks before the murder, not so un-coincidentally,  Liysa had been pestering one of her best friends if she knew where she could get a hold of some rat poison).

Liysa wanted to claim “battered woman syndrome” as her defense.  That she had killed her husband (the drunken, drug-addled, violent lunatic)  to protect herself and her child.  A defense that was so ludicrous her own lawyers decided not to even bring it up in court.  Among the many problems with that defense, husband Chris had zero history of drug or alcohol or violence-related problems (again, aside from Liysa’s contentions).  What’s more, Chris was a well-respected and highly responsible airline pilot with a spotless work record who regularly was subjected to drug-testing as part of his job (always coming up clean).

Faced with overwhelming evidence against her, Liysa pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter and an 18 year sentence (she ended up doing 12 and was released from prison in 2012 at age 50).   In the layman’s terms, Liysa was Just Guilty As Fuck.  By any standard that a reasonably intelligent and reasonably sane person could come up with.  And yet, Liysa was barely in prison for 2 minutes before she loudly started proclaiming her innocence and started planning appeals and threatening to sue her lawyers.  She and her father did in fact sue Ann Rule for besmirching the fine name of this specimen, the admitted and convicted cold-blooded killer.   A suit that was so fraudulent they were forced to pay Rule $60,000 in damages.  And good for Rule.  Its nice when the truth wins out over bullshit every now and then.

Now comes the really dumb part.  Along comes this so-called journalist Rick Swart.  This guy is just as dumb as dirt.  There’s no other way to describe him.  He writes a big frontpage article for the Seattle Weekly, loudly proclaiming Liysa Northon’s innocence, and lambasting Rule for (among other things) countless alleged factual errors, lies, and one-sidedness.   But, unfortunately for Rick Swart — and even more unfortunately for the Seattle Weekly — Swart failed to mention amidst his long-winded tome that half-way through researching the story he had fallen in love with Liysa and was engaged to marry her.  This is just about one of the biggest no-nos a so-called journalist can make.  It’s a little thing they teach in Journalism 101 called “objectivity”  and “disclosure.”   I guess super-genius Rick Swart missed that particular class.

But here’s the fascinating thing to me about “Heart Full of Lies.”  1.)  There are people in this world with no truth in them.  This is no news to anybody.  We all, unfortunately,  have had to deal with bullshit artists and sociopaths and self-serving double-talkers.  And 2.)  there are people in this world who have virtually no capacity to differentiate truth from lies.  They simply have no bullshit detectors.  I mean, Liysa Northon is not even a particularly good liar.  Throughout her life, she tells one whopper after another.  And she regularly gets caught red-handed telling one bald-faced lie after another.  And yet throughout the book — and even today after admitting and being convicted of cold-blooded manslaughter — there are still people who believe her!  People who accept what she says  without question, no matter how preposterous.   It is truly mind-boggling.  They live their entire lives in a blue fog.

So it got me thinking.  There are probably some people, a rare minority,  who can instantly tell when somebody is lying.  I once read about this private detective.  He said if somebody was lying to him he would literally get a visceral reaction.  Even if he had no good reason to suspect they were lying.  He would get this tingling feeling that something about their story was off.  It was a skill no doubt honed from thousands of interviews with suspects who were feeding him one line of bull after another.

On the other hand, there are other people who can never tell the difference;   who accept everything on its surface value.   Most of us are probably like that some of the time.  Its not that we’re shallow-minded, but most of the people we casually interact with in our daily lives, we have no reason to probe beneath the surface, no reason to question the validity of what they tell us, because it mostly doesn’t affect our lives one way or another.  Its usually only after repeated exposure to the compulsive liar that the pattern emerges and we realize their act doesn’t add up.

Then there is a third kind of person.   The person who can distinguish truth from lies.  But doesn’t want to.  Most of us reach that juncture at some point in our lives.   Where we’re forced to choose between accepting a painful truth or clinging to a sugar-coated half-truth.  Some people simply can’t get enough of the sugar.  While I was researching the life of Timothy Leary I concluded he was an almost classic example of the type.  He truly lived by the motto:  “You can be anyone you want this time around.”  Leary felt we could pick and choose any “reality” that most pleased us or most benefitted us.  Unfortunately for Leary, a cautionary tale from his life is that his bullshit almost invariably boomeranged back at him in a most painful way.  The truth may not always set you free.  But in the long run its usually easier to deal with than lies.

So anyways, Liysa was released from prison, and she married Rick Swart, and they lived happily ever after.  Liysa was able to “make a whole new life” for herself.  An option, by the way, that was not afforded her ex-husband who remains dead at this juncture.  But I have a word of advice for ole’ Rick Swart.  When you go to bed at night, you might wanna’ make sure the missus isn’t packing a stun gun, hand gun, handcuffs, poison and sedatives.  In other words, you might want to sleep with one eye open.

6 thoughts on “Heart Full of Lies

  1. Do you think there are really people who honestly can’t tell the difference between truth & falsehood, or are they just so blinded by self interest & desire that they delude themselves? I have met many men who have found a similar black widow (including myself), fall in love, & a serious & often fatal denial sets in to the point of delusion. It is just an extreme example how destruction follows in the wake of desire.

    1. Interesting question. I do believe that there are some people who can lie so well, and lie so habitually, that they come to actually believe the lies themselves. Lose the ability to distinguish lies from truths. Its been demonstrated that these types often easily fool lie detector tests. .. . Of course other people are so delusional, they have no idea which end is up, truth or reality.

      My website: http://www.acidheroes.wordpress.com

      1. The Hindus would say that it is all a matter of degree. If the outer world is just a projection of mental impurities along with attachment to this illusion, then we all fall prey to lies & liars to some degree. Those most entrenched in this cosmic illusion would be the easiest prey for the predatory types out there, but as Buddha said, the true enemy lies in the unaware mind.

  2. But I don’t want to downplay the damage sociopaths & their type can do. I was recently in a half way house that was run by thugs & confidence men. Most of the residents there were petty hustlers & third rate liars of some sort. I saw through the lies, but I had to get out of that environment because their influence was insidious & destructive to anyone if there long enough. I would imagine prisons to be the same, corruption from top to bottom. In fact many aspects of society are becoming that way.

  3. I wish I could meet that Lyonnesse a….Liysa woman the killer. She sounds like fun, and I like to camp. I’m sure she’s a truly wonderful person. Maybe I can Google her and get in touch. To bad she got married. I need love.
    Her name is very similar to the word lies. I know it sounds ridiculous but frequently names mean something… Like Ace backwards. Remember Krumm warned you against using that name.

    1. Yeah, I noticed the connection between “Liysa” and “lies.” Whats in a name, huh? I recently came across a couple of oddities in the newspaper. A guy named Burns arrested for arson. And this black guy with the unfortunate last name of Lynch who committed murder and was sentenced to death. Poor guy should have changed his name to Lunch. But then he probably would’ve ended up weighing 400 pounds. You can’t win.

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