Character Disturbance

Heartless Shoplifter with More than Stolen Goods in Her Bag

The suspicious behavior of the two girls browsing in a Manhattan Victoria’s Secret store a few weeks ago got the attention of some store personnel and a security officer, so they decided to alert police.  And the unusual smell coming from one of the girls’ shopping bags was also drawing attention.  When investigators arrived, it probably didn’t surprise them to find some goods in the girls’ bags that probably didn’t belong there.  But nothing could have prepared them for what else they uncovered in one of the bags: a dead infant.  One of the girls, Tiona Rodriguez, explained that she had “miscarried” the day before, after just 6 months of pregnancy, and simply didn’t know what else to do.  But even though the investigation into the circumstances surrounding this bizarre event is in its early stages, there’s already plenty of evidence to suggest the 17 year-old’s story has some big holes holes in it.  So now, Rodriguez and her friend and shopping companion, Francis Estevez, are facing some pretty serious charges.  The pair has already been arraigned on charges of shoplifting more than $200.00 worth of clothes, cosmetics, and a smartphone case, but far more serious charges will likely be forthcoming in the weeks ahead, once more detailed information is obtained.

When the two teens appeared in court for their preliminary hearing, several observers were struck by some very stark contrasts in their behavior.  Most remarkable was the stoic, emotionless demeanor of the young mother of the deceased infant.  She appeared to show no signs of being deeply affected by the remarkable events of the past several days.  By contrast, her friend wept openly and displayed other sentiments in line with the nature of the proceedings and its subject matters.  This led some to speculate about what could possibly be going on inside the mind of Rodriguez, who in addition to appearing unshaken during the proceedings, so nonchalantly carried her dead child around in a shopping mall during her shoplifting escapade.  And it’s the speculations and assumptions made by some that for me are almost as unsettling as the tragic events themselves.

No one really knows what to make of Rodriguez.  One of her neighbors described her as a “good girl” who simply got caught up in a bad situation (a good girl, that is, who just happened to go casually shoplifting with a dead baby in tow).  And in response to observations about Rodriguez’s unusual demeanor, her attorney stated that one could only imagine what the young teen must be feeling.  Anyone, adult or child, would simply have to be traumatized by the situation, he insisted.  Still others have conjectured that the youngster must either be suffering from some type of psychological disorder such as post-traumatic stress, or is in a deep state of denial.  But some less sympathetic folks have suggested in their comments on the teen’s Facebook page that she is a habitually irresponsible character whose reasons for doing what she did are almost irrelevant when viewed in the context of her ample record of dysfunctional social functioning.  As is the usual case in matters of this sort, Rodriguez will undergo a full psychiatric evaluation.

Investigators will take their time sifting through the facts and evidence, because there are ample reasons Rodriguez (and possibly even those close to her) cannot be trusted to provide an accurate version of events.  As mentioned earlier, the girl claimed she miscarried at six months but the medical examiner’s preliminary findings suggest the baby was born alive at nearly full term (8 1/2 months) and may have died later of asphyxiation (water was found in the child’s lungs and the bathtub in the teen’s home is being combed for evidence of possible drowning).  Rodriguez also claimed she was ignorant about pregnancy matters and had no idea about the particulars of a delivery but she apparently is also the mother of another child, a 2 year-old son, and has posted on her Facebook about her pregnancy progress and even posted she knew the cramps she was having was a sign she would soon be delivering another child. She also posted that she knew she needed to find a job and reported on the progress (or lack thereof) she was having so far on job interviews.

Until all the evidence is in, we’ll be left to speculate about many of the reasons this tragic event occurred.  But there are some possibilities many of us simply don’t like to consider.  Most of us are reluctant to think this is yet another tragic example of a teen entering young adulthood without the attributes of character necessary not only to function in the role of mother but also to pay due heed to and abide by the rules of responsible social functioning.  We might be even more reluctant to think that the reason Rodriguez displayed no signs of being sufficiently bothered by events is that she simply lacks the empathy necessary not only to feel the way a mother ought to feel about a child she’s bringing into the world but also to develop the kind of social conscience that makes a person feel bad about the idea of taking something that doesn’t belong to them, behaving in other irresponsible ways, or being neglectful (or perhaps even deliberately abusive) to the point that it caused the loss of a human life (and there’s evidence that we’re much more reluctant to entertain these notions when it comes to appraising the character of females as opposed to males).  That’s one of the main reasons I felt compelled to write Character Disturbance.  I wanted to sound the alarm about what I consider to be the defining phenomenon of our age.

Ours is an age in which a variety of socio-cultural factors are arresting the development of sound character in too many of our young persons.  And while arguments can certainly be made to the contrary, it’s my assertion that these character development delays and impairments are behind many of the societal ills that plague us and many of the tragic events that make headlines from time to time.  Moreover, when folks assume that the perpetrators of the heinous acts we so often hear about simply must feel like anyone ought to feel about their actions or simply must be suffering from some kind of illness – simply because they can’t imagine why else someone would do such things or that anyone could be so heartless or otherwise deeply flawed in character – we only help perpetuate the problem.

The fact that a newborn infant died and was nonchalantly carried around in a bag during a shoplifting spree is tragic enough.  But the greater tragedy is that far too many folks these days are significantly arrested in their character development, and lack sufficient empathy, social awareness, moral compass, regard for life, respect for property, and self-discipline (in other words, lack sufficient maturity of conscience) to function responsibly in society and to profit from past mistakes.  Compounding the tragedy is the fact that we have neither taken seriously enough the nature and extent of the crisis we face and its impact on all areas of our lives (economic, social, academic, political, etc.) nor have we made the decision to tackle it head-on.  When events like the Rodriguez case occur, they rightfully should unnerve us.  And when the principal actors in these kinds of dramas seem completely unfazed by their actions, it should unnerve us even more.  It’s understandable that we might enter into a state of denial in the face of such things.  But as is always the case with denial, it does not serve us well in the end.  We have a monumental problem before us and if we don’t fully recognize and accept it, we certainly don’t have a prayer of appropriately addressing it or, hopefully, overcoming it.

32 thoughts on “Heartless Shoplifter with More than Stolen Goods in Her Bag

  1. Dr Simon, since you’ve said you’re going to write another book on the phenomenon of this age, how is it going to be different from Character Disturbance?

    1. It’s going to look deeper into the socio-cultural underpinnings of character disturbance – both the aspects of society that “enable” and those aspects that “promote” character impairments and a much more robust discussion about the course of action that must be undertaken to reverse the trend.

      1. I can remember reading something a long while back……..the difference between primitive society childhoods and the childhoods so many people seem to believe a child has a right to in this country. People in our society seem to think it’s not fair if a child is not allowed to be a care free, entitled to a childhood, fun loving child. Of course play is one thing and important for children and adults and there are many lessons that COULD be learned from play time. In these tribes, children participate in everything about adult life from the time they are able to contribute. They actually do so willingly because they want to be a part of the group/ society. They just DO it.
        I think that when you learn to value and enjoy EVERYTHING or at least accept that there are things about life that you just DO, even if they are not whew hop “fun”, it is a sign of maturity. When you can shift from being entertained to feeling satisfied accomplishing goals and responsibilities? I’ve seen that shift in my attitude over the years…..and i’ve learned to push myself a little further and further towards that.

  2. Wow, great topic. I see signs of hope everywhere then see other signs of greater alarm.

    Recently I heard of a young couple whose baby died of starvation while the young parents partied with guests in the same house and in the hearing the mother said something (paraphrase) they hadn’t fed their baby because “we had better things to do.”

    It’s like everybody now gets an education in reading and writing but in many ways we as a species are simultaneously increasing in literacy while regressing back to being raised by wolves.

  3. On YouTube, I wish I could find the link, was an animated video written by a self-proclaimed narcissist. The title of the video was something like “Why Narcissists do not see the connection between their actions and the (harmful) consequences/impacts of those actions, how they affect others.”

    In the xtranormal animation, the person explains it was a lack of proper mirroring growing up, that they sort of feel both invisible and need to be the center of attention.

    This is by no means an excuse. But it could provide a clue – we’re glued to these screens all day and this behavior as a group could be lowering the rate of *proper, appropriate public shaming.*

    1. Not so much “don’t see”, but more like “don’t reflect on”, don’t bother to think of”, “dismiss”, “underestimate” or “fail to appreciate”.

      Also, perhaps someone could want to do whatever they please because they experienced some kind of shaming or other things that could be constructive, but they sensed were being used with ulterior motives. They might then develop an attitude towards such things, consciously writing them off as something only used to belittle or manipulate.

      1. I truly believe that of Spathtard. I got accused of motives that I KNOW were not true. Things that I asked for in the relationship that were not unreasonable for an adult woman to want and need from a man in an adult relationship but I was accused of being controlling. AND he never explained his point of view about anything. It’s called rational communication between two people. no…….he just assumed I was trying to control him and all i wanted was to be respected. He could not hear anything that even slightly resembled criticism whether it was meant as “criticism” or just a statement of something I didn’t understand about the way I was being treated……..

      2. You’ve mentioned the book Stalking the Soul by Marie-France Hirigoyen, which I have read. At one point the author mentions how one part of such toxic relationship is blocking any real communication.

        1. J, did you think the book was on target? I really identified with it and need to re-read it.
          AND ………that would be one of the areas I would be able to agree with. Communication with him = placating me with BS and empty promises, intimidating me with verbally and emotional tactics, the implied, ever present threat of abandonment. And at some point it just becomes more fruitful to try to fix things than not fix things. Comunication blocked. it’s not that our communication skills needed improvement………I’m sure they did…….I’m sure mine did but in my opinion, my efforts to communicate isn a better way were blocked as a tactic. Another thing I just didn’t understand at the time. I didn’t know it was just another hoop he was holding up, just out of my reach. I’m sure it was all very amusing to him as I failed and failed with each attempt.
          How cruel. I know I was really trying. Im sure that was the icing on the cake for him…….what a good little circus dog I was. Again, If I didn’t love the man I now know to be an impostor, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago.
          Most people would think that if you have to lie to and trick someone in order to win (in their mind) it would be an empty victory. I know that I would feel no satisfaction from that sort of accomplishment, but then again, it wasn’t a game to me……saddly…

          1. Edit!!
            And at some point it just becomes more fruitful to try to fix things than not fix things.

            fruitful?? No…..painful! Sorry about the typos!

          1. You know J,,,,,,,,I’m getting totally paranoid about these web sites. I trust Dr. Simon and I trust Aftermath because they are overseen my professionals. The rest of the mess is full of weird things……people. One thing I think is a red flag about other web sites is when they have those rolling advertisements. Dr. Simon “plugs” his books but I say go for it Doc! Aftermath is OK to and Dr. Robert Hare is one of the leading experts in Psycopathy. He has recommended books on there but none of the commercial rolling advertisements.

        2. Sorry, Puddle, I haven’t yet answered your question. I think the book explains, dare I say illuminates, a lot. How abuse progresses is so insidious and I feel many people don’t know about it enough. They only have some feel what it’s all about after they’ve gone through it themselves(or someone close to them has). Otherwise they may never concern or even think about educating themselves about abuse or other factors that the baser side of humanity utilize. At least that’s how I’d put it.

          1. J, it’s SO huge what you are saying. And if I had to pick one word to describe the experience I have been going through it would be “insidious”. SO insidious in fact that it IS almost impossible to retell to someone who wasn’t the one going through it. Like the fabric of time had a HUGE ripple in it and it swept down, captured me for two+ years and then spit me back out. Everything I experienced and still am trying to understand is so different than most peoples experiences in life and relationships that I just feel alone with it………………but I need help getting through this but……’s like trying to solve a wooden puzzle that’s missing several pieces?

          2. You describe it in interesting ways, for sure, and I do believe that someone, who didn’t go through it themselves, would have tough time comprehending, truly, how toxicorrosivadicic it must’ve been(remember when we pondered on the appropriate words to describe the pain). I’ve been bullied myself and heard many vilifying, scapegoating phrases and evasions of responsibility. Still, I don’t think it’s anywhere near what you went through.

            Perhaps you could try creative writing. Now I don’t know if you’re at all into it and it’s not my business to say what’s good for others, so take this as a suggestion. Writing may help a lot, at least I’ve known some people for whom this is the case.

          3. J, I have some learning issues and it’s hard for me to write,,,,,,,another thing that is hard to explain. But spell check on the computer, although not infallible because I can even stump spellcheck often enough, is very helpful for me. Anyhow, I wrote a poem about all of this,,,,,,pages and pages and scratch notes, and notes on envelopes of mail that were right in front of me at the time, verse after verse after verse!! This went on for a good two weeks! My brain was locked right into it. I’d be driving my car and the words would come to me and i’d be writing and driving. It was so weird!! ANYhow,,,,,,,I got all these words and then I couldn’t put them together…….I just couldn’t wrap my head around completing the actual poem!

  4. It’s not even lack of empathy here. It’s so far beyond that.

    It’s lack of sufficient public shaming.

    But it’s beyond that too – it has something to do with our fragmented mass media and news consumption habits. For example, I had not heard of this story until reading it on your blog.

    I know the standard behavior is to whine and complain about “the media” falling short and not reporting it.

    But never do I hear pleas, or guilt, that the public needs to step up and start reading the newspaper. Many many a time I would hear “the media should have reported this” when I recall reading about the same event in a newspaper or website, proving the media HAD reported it. And maybe it’s too late – maybe “the media” is too far gone.

    Growing up I was shamed by my elders when I was not informed or at least making an effort to stay informed on current events. I understand that news can be negative and biased and we should not get too caught up in the scandal of the day. And in many ways, I did not pay attention to the direction of my own life, because I read too much and was too caught up in current events.

    We need to get reconnected to each other somehow, I think we need to embrace God but even that itself is not enough.

    1. Claire, lets not forget…….The whole structure of live and making a living is SO different now than it was in the newspaper reading hay day. It just seems like there is not enough time for most folks to sit down and read the paper. My father worked and would come home eager to sit and read the paper. My mother would read some in the morning and some in the evening. Who does this anymore?? When?

      1. Do you know what a time sink facebook is? I’m just saying we have to try to compel people to connect to each other and to society at large.

  5. Your right Claire…….there really is plenty of time in the way you are saying. back in the day, people didn’t have computers, cell phones, cable tv, all the modern-day distractions. I hear you about Facebook. i don’t do all that media stuff and I’ve spen an inordinately HUGE amount of time on this computer since this happened with Spathtardx. WAY more than I used to. in a way it has saved me though, the validation and support, but it is a time sink as well.

  6. OK after reading this story, awful as it is, a story like this happens about every decade, probably more frequently but makes the news at about that frequency.

    Recall the teenager who gave birth at the prom then went back out to the dance floor to boogie down.

    Yes this young shoplifter needs to be punished but if she didn’t want to get caught why was she carrying the dead infant around in her bag?

    It’s tragic and she needs to be punished and we need to pray for her soul.

  7. Here’s a story: Affluenza

    (CNN) — Attorneys for Texas teen Ethan Couch claimed that his “affluenza” meant he was blameless for driving drunk and causing a crash that left four people dead in June.

    Simply put, Couch, 16, claims that his condition stemmed from having wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for him.

    Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him Tuesday to 10 years of probation but no jail time, saying she would work to find him a long-term treatment facility.

    But Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” “There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day. The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can’t buy justice in this country.”

    1. In today’s post, I’ll be mentioning that next week I’m posting on this very topic and all its ramifications!! I’m working very hard to make this not only a thoughtful piece but also to address what I consider to be the biggest travesties of justice when it comes to character issues, true mental illness, and social justice.

      1. I applaud your work but the story is complicated, and it’s important to read beyond the headline. Look at this nugget of meat, which reveals your ideas are catching on, they are studying it and look what this other person says about an “aggressive” subgroup of parents whose own kids report their parents would be mad at the school for disciplining them for cheating:

        “She says in one of her studies, her team gave youths several different scenarios, ranging from minor to serious infractions — such as being caught for the third time with vodka at school or plagiarizing on a test — and asked them how likely their parents would be to protest any punishment for them.

        “There was definitely a subgroup of kids that said, ‘My parents would object (to punishment from school officials),’ ” she said.

        However, she points out that this is not the norm. “It’s a small group (of parents) but very vocal, aggressive, entitled. … There is definitely a small subgroup that is powerful and way off the charts.””


        1. You’re spot on. And I too am encouraged at how many folks are catching on to character issues and the factors responsible for the character arrest of our young people. My piece will not be to echo outrage by some who only wanted to see this young man punished in a manner that they hoped would ease their pain. Rather, it will address the pressing need we have for clear, accurate, and honest dialog on the topic – a dialog I’m more than happy to weigh in on.

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