Pushing Up Lilies

Maine Shooter Robert Card and Military Suicides

Episode Summary

In this episode of Pushing Up Lilies, I invite you to walk alongside me as we explore the heart-wrenching case of Robert Card, a name that resonates with the unsettling complexities of mental illness. With a meticulous eye, we dissect the life and actions of Robert Card, whose journey took an unimaginable turn when he unleashed violence in a Maine shooting spree. Through my experiences and insights, I'll shed light on the profound impact of mental illness within the military community and the heartbreaking aftermath it leaves in its wake. We'll navigate the statistics, the personal stories, and the profound implications that surround these tragedies. * Listener discretion is strongly advised.

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Matson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True Crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:31 I wanted to talk this week about Robert Card.

0:35 He's the 40-year-old army reservist who shot and killed multiple people in Maine this past week.

0:45 Now, he was assigned to a training facility in Seo Maine, and he was due to retire from the army.

0:54 This year law officials had sent him for psychiatric treatment during the summer because he made threats to the bases and was hearing voices.

1:06 He apparently threatened to shoot up the base and underwent two weeks of inpatient psychiatric treatment.

1:15 And we know we've always heard that this is not uncommon for those in the military to suffer from some sort of mental disorder.

1:26 Although we don't know how many people reach out for help, there was obviously a problem.

1:33 It did not go unnoticed, and he was sent to treatment.

1:40 Law enforcement intervention took place in July after his unit became alarmed because of his erratic behavior.

1:50 And an army spokesperson, I know that in the news, they were saying that he was a firearms instructor, but an army spokesperson actually stated that he was not trained by them as a firearms instructor and did not serve in the army in that capacity card, who had been the suspect behind the mass killings of 18 people had previously complained that he hear d people talking negatively about him at the shooting sites.

2:23And we know that a lot of people who have mental issues may be paranoid and hear voices and those types of things.

2:31 That is apparently what was going on.

2:34 Now, the shootings occurred at the Shinji bar and grill and a bowling alley called spare time recreation.

2:43 And those two places of business were about four miles apart.

2:50 The background that they got apparently was from his sister-in-law.

2:54 She stated that he had previously reported that people at the locations of the shootings were speaking poorly about him.

3:03 He recently had started wearing hearing aids.

3:07 He believed that he was hearing people say things.

3:12 He got angry when family reached out and told him that the voices weren't real, that people weren't talking about him, that his thoughts were unrealistic.

3:24 When the news came across about the shootings, the family felt that he was a suspect when they heard where the shootings occurred.

3:36 They knew because he had previously said that people had talked poorly of him at these two locations that when there were shootings at those two locations, they pretty much knew it was him.

3:50 Now, the family texted him urging him to turn himself in.

3:55 The shootings killed 18 and wounded 13, 16 of those killed were male and two were female.

4:05 And the age ranges of those deceased were between 14 and 76.

4:14 Following the shootings, there was a three-day manhunt for him.

4:18 Supposedly, he grew up in the area and was very familiar with his surroundings and knew a lot of places to hide.

4:28 And so many people thought that he may be difficult to find for that reason.

4:33 They did finally locate his car and there was a gun in it.

4:38 It was found at a boat ramp.

4:40 They also found a suicide note addressed to his son.

4:44 They say that in the note, there was no specific motive for the shootings.

4:52 Now his cell phone was found at his house.

4:55 He didn't receive any of the text messages that his family had sent him, begging him to turn himself in.

5:03 And it also made him very difficult to track.

5:06 The police couldn't locate him because he had left his phone at the house.

5:11 He probably knew that and probably thought ahead.

5:15 These shootings mark the 36th mass killing in the US this year of those 36 mass killings in 2023 at least 100 and 90 people have died.

5:32 This is something that we sometimes talk about at our office.

5:36 It hasn't happened, knock on wood in our area.

5:41 But you never know when something like this could happen.

5:45 I think a part of us is on edge all the time because we don't ever say the key word.

5:51 We don't ever want to say.

5:52 It's quiet today.

5:53 No one's calling, you know what's going on.

5:56 This is weird.

5:57 This is strange because that's when the bottom falls out.

6:03 I think part of our job or one of the hardest parts is even when we're not busy, we anticipate suddenly becoming busy.

6:11 You never know.

6:12 And that's just like police officers.

6:14 You never know when you're going to get that call that is going to require all hands-on deck.

6:21 The definition of a mass killing is when four or more people die in the same incident within a 24-hour period.

6:30 However, that does not include the killer.

6:33 The killer can commit suicide, or the killer can be shot by the police, but he has to have killed four or more people within a 24-hour period for it to actually be defined as a mass killing card was found dead in Lisbon Falls, Maine near the Androscoggin River.

6:58 He had an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

7:02 He was found near a recycling facility where he once worked. This year is the second highest number on record for mass killings now 2019 had more.

7:18 But this is what's crazy y'all because, I mean, I know we hear about them all but they're in different parts of the world, the focus because of so many other things going on in the World War and COVID and all those other things, we don't always hear about them, but there have been, and this blew me away 560 mass killings since 2006.

7:45 And in those 560 killings, at least 2900 people were killed and over 2000 were injured during this incident with card after the 911 calls started coming in which you can only imagine the mass chaos.

8:04 Four plainclothes officers arrived on scene literally within 90 seconds, I believe they said they were in a nearby shooting range.

8:13 And so it was very easy for them to just kind of drop everything and go over there when they heard what was going on.

8:20 Within 90 seconds, four plain clothed officers were there 2.5 minutes later, a uniformed officer arrived and one minute later, eight more officers were on scene.

8:34 This is a surprisingly quick response time but no one that got there was able to lay eyes on cards.

8:43 He was nowhere to be found within those 90 seconds that those first four plain clothed officers arrived there, which is crazy.

8:54 I know I've talked to you all about it before.

8:56 But we see a lot of suicides this time of year, we really expect them to pick up because it is close to the holidays.

9:05 There are a lot of people who are estranged from their families, they're struggling with financial difficulties, they are unable to pay bills and just the stress and chaos of the holidays is sometimes more than some people can stand.

9:24 They start missing their families, they don't talk to them on a regular basis.

9:28 They don't see them over the holidays.

9:31 It causes a lot of depression and of course, not only among veterans, but we do see a lot of veterans committing suicide.

9:42 It's so sad because a lot of them proudly display their awards and they're proud to have served our country.

9:53 It's really sad when I walk into someone's home and they've committed suicide and I see all these military honors hanging on the wall and all these certificates because, you know, in my mind, this person had so much going for them, they had so much to live for, but in their mind, they didn't.

10:14 It's really sad for me to think that anyone is ever so depressed that they would kill themselves.

10:21 And that seems to be the best way out for them.

10:25 You just want to wrap your arms around them because it's heartbreaking to think that anyone can experience that much sadness.

10:36 A lot of it is among veterans, but not always, I guess in looking and doing my research, I found a case in 2008 in Colorado Springs where a murder suicide had left two young Children, orphaned.

10:52 The grandmother who had custody of them said that PTSD caused by combat was to blame.

11:00 The name of this man is Russell Dwyer.

11:03 And he retired after 20 years of military service.

11:07 And he married a lady named Colleen.

11:10 They had two Children together and Colleen also had two kids from a previous relationship.

11:16 A total of four Children, Russell Dwyer would sit and cry about what he had seen when he was at war and what he had to do when he was in Iraq.

11:28 And he had nightmares and would wake up and make holes in the wall.

11:32 And this is something that we see very commonly.

11:36 Colleen and Russell separated because of his PTSD and the problems that it seemed to be causing in the marriage in March, March 19th, 2008, Colleen stopped by Russell's home to pick up the Children as you do when you're separated or divorced.

11:57 You know, you take turns with the kids.

11:59 I'm sure even though she knew he had PTSD; he had probably never really expressed anger towards the Children.

12:09 I'm sure she never thought that they were endangered when they were with him, but he met her at the door and killed her.

12:17 Now, the really sad part about it is their four-year-old son was standing beside him and he grabbed his little sister and actually ran upstairs, went into the bathroom and locked the door.

12:32 How traumatizing for a four-year-old to have to see his dad shoot his mom, but also how smart of a four-year-old to know that that's a situation that he needs to get him and his little sister away from.

12:50 What a brave, brave little boy.

12:53 But then after the two got upstairs in the bathroom, Russell killed himself.

12:58 He knew that he had problems, but he never went to the VA, and he never reached out for help.

13:07 None of his issues were documented.

13:10 None of his depression, none of his anger, none of his mental anguish was ever documented.

13:20 I know that sometimes we claim that and of course, we all know the mental health of the world is not being taken care of as it should.

13:30 But a lot of people just don't reach out for help.

13:35 If they would, then, you know, they may be able to get the help they need to keep these things from happening.

13:41 But a lot of people just don't, they don't want help.

13:44 That was Russell.

13:46 He did not qualify for VA benefits because PTSD was not documented.

13:52 Like I said, the grandmother, the mom's mother raised the Children and each child got, I believe it said $500 a month.

14:02 It got me to thinking because looking back, you know, Robert Card, although he served in the military and was almost ready to retire.

14:12 He had never been in combat.

14:15 I thought to myself, like, ok, it makes sense that he's just a civilian with depression.

14:22 But the fact that he was a veteran, like, how does that really come into play if he never deployed?

14:28 Because you always hear about people in the military suffering from PTSD after they've been overseas and after they've been deployed because of the things they see and the things that they're forced to do.

14:39 And so I thought to myself, you know, how is it, that car did what he did and killed all those people having never been deployed.

14:51 And then we have Russell Dwyer who had been in combat and was struggling but just wouldn't get help.

15:01 The latest figures confirm a confusing fact.

15:05 Most soldiers who kill themselves have never deployed to a combat zone in researching when I found that I found it a little bit confusing because I was like, I've always just associated PTSD and mental health issues with those in the military to soldiers who had deployed and been in a combat zone.

15:29 But the truth is that that can't be further from the truth.

15:34 I believe military culture is highly resistant to mental health counseling.

15:41 They're basically trained to be tough and handle their own issues no matter what comes up.

15:48 Like you want to be manly.

15:49 You want to be the strong man that doesn't need help.

15:53 And doesn't ask for help.

15:55 And I know that I've heard this of a lot of family members whose veteran family members have committed suicide.

16:04 He wouldn't get help; he wouldn't go to counseling.

16:07 He didn't believe anything was wrong.

16:08 He didn't want to admit anything was wrong.

16:10 He didn't want anyone to know that something was wrong.

16:14 They are trained to handle their own problems and they don't want help.

16:17 They don't want counseling and it's difficult for them to give up that sense of control.

16:25 A lot of the soldiers that committed suicide would do so in the first two months to three years.

16:33 And that's just due to the difficult transition of being in the military boot camp, going back and forth to family, not being able to see family as much, maybe feeling like they don't fit in, in the area that they've been assigned.

16:48 Surprisingly, it's most common again in the first two months to three years due to the transition.

16:56 Veterans who were forced out for misconduct or other problems were twice as likely to take their own lives, which that makes sense if you get in trouble, but they are also ineligible for psychiatric care, which is available to honorably discharged veterans.

17:18 But if you've had issues and you're forced out of the military, then you're ineligible for psych care, which could be what you need.

17:27 Right?



17:28 I mean, it could be the problem that triggered everything, any problems that you're having any misconduct that's going on is very likely to be caused by a psychiatric issue that has to go untreated because you can't get psych care because you're not eligible for it.

17:47 Also, in doing the research, people, it seems who get deployed two and three times are very resilient.

17:59 These people have gone back and forth overseas.

18:02 They've seen terrible, terrible things.

18:04 They've been forced to do terrible, terrible things.

18:07 And so the rate amongst those people does not go up, I found it kind of surprising that it was more likely for people transitioning into the military who had been there for less than three years to suffer depression and attempt or commit suicide than it was for people who had deployed overseas two and three times.

18:33 It just surprised me that the rate did not go up.

18:36 The army seems to have the highest number of suicides of all branches.

18:43 I was looking into what they're doing to kind of help prevent this and help get a grip because we all wonder, right, because it happens all the time.

18:53 But they are saying now that blood samples can be taken and could contain biomarkers that indicate stress levels.

19:02 That's one thing they're doing to kind of record the amount of stress that's going on amongst these people in the military.

19:11 However, unfortunately, this study has to go on for quite some time before they can really get numbers.

19:18 The suicides will have to continue to happen for them to see how high the stress levels have to get before people finally break again.

19:30 I mean, we deal with suicides all the time.

19:33 Robert card being in the army.

19:36 Maybe it had something to do with him, retiring, something to do with the fact that he was leaving the military.

19:45 He was hearing voices, there were definitely issues going on.

19:49 They got help for him.

19:50 He was impatient for two weeks and I don't really know what makes them decide that two weeks is enough.

19:58 I feel like obviously he needed more.

20:01 Again.

20:02 It's not my place to judge.

20:03 But I feel like if your spouse is saying that they want to shoot up their base, probably be a good idea to take their guns away from them.

20:13 But then how do you do that again?

20:14 Because they're trained to be resilient, they're going to get angry.

20:19 There's going to be issues and you just don't know when someone can break and when someone can go somewhere in public and do something like this.

20:31 Veterans comprise nearly 1/4 of the suicide deaths in the United States.

20:38 It's crazy that 17 veterans when you look at the statistics commit suicide every day, I guess the takeaway from this would be that if you're struggling, it's ok to share your feelings.

20:57 Even if you just reach out to a friend, you don't necessarily have to get counseling.

21:01 But the 988 suicide and crisis Lifeline is available.

21:09 You can call or text 988 and you can chat with someone online if you feel like you're in a crisis.

21:19 There's also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and that number is 1 802 738255.

21:31 They also service the veterans service line.

21:35 Now, when you call, a lot of places are going to have different options for veterans and different options for Spanish speaking callers.

21:46 But the good thing is in most cases, a trained case worker is going to answer the phone.

21:52 And so you'll be speaking to someone that's trained.

21:55 They may be a volunteer or a staff member or a professional, but they all go through training to answer calls and they are trained to talk calmly and to listen and to assess your risk and determine if you're in danger or not.

22:14 A very small percentage of them call the police regarding what's going on if they feel like that lives are in danger or that your life is in danger.

22:24 But you can share as much as you're comfortable with sharing and talk about anything.

22:30 Some people call to talk about their mental health.

22:33 Some people even call to talk about relationship issues or abuse or physical illness or financial problems, any of those things.

22:44 There's not really a script that they follow, but they ask questions to understand your problems so they can get you the resources that you need to get help.

22:56 There's no time limit as far as how long you can talk to people.

23:00 But finding a connection with somebody is the first step in helping to feel better with thoughts of suicide.

23:09 Again, I want to give out the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1 802 738255.

23:18 Again, toll free hotline in the US for people in distress who feel like they're at risk of harming themselves or others don't hesitate to call.

23:29 And if you need to and just talk to somebody, I know sometimes it's hard to talk to family.

23:36 And again, a lot of people just don't want to reach out and get help.

23:40 They don't want anybody to know what's going on.

23:42 But, you know, when it comes to this, everyone eventually finds out it's found out by more people than would have found out what was going on mentally with somebody.

23:55 If they had just gone to get the psychiatric help they needed.

24:00 On that note, we have quickly gone from summer to winter in Texas.

24:05 It was literally 100 and 10 1 day and the next day it's like 28.

24:11 My husband says that in North Dakota they used to put on their Halloween costume, and they put their snowsuit on over it and go trick or treating.

24:19 And I'm like, what's the point of wearing a Halloween costume if your snow suit is over it? And he's like, well, it was just part of the fun, like you had to have a costume and then when you go indoors you can take your snow suit off and everybody can see your costume.

24:33 But I think tonight here it's going to be in the 20s and although I feel like we will have some trick or treaters, I don't think they're going to be out long.

24:42 It's going to be super chilly.

24:45 It is nice as long as it's not raining and nasty.

24:48 And I know other parts of the country are used to this weather all the time.

24:51 But in Texas we are not, no one knows how to drive when it's raining and when it's cold, we're all sitting at work with our heaters on under our desk and hoping that we don't have to go outside.

25:02 Hopefully, we'll not have a busy day at the EMS office today and I'm not saying the key word, but we're going to cross our fingers for that.

25:12 And hopefully we get to stay warm in the office and I hope everyone else does so as well.

25:18 Hope everyone has a happy Halloween.

25:20 Try to stay safe and stay warm.

25:22 See you next week.

25:24 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing up Lilies.

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25:39 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at pushinguplilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.