Did Candy Montgomery Have a Mental Illness? Why Did She Snap?

HBO Max’s ‘Love and Death’ is a crime drama set in a small town shaken by a brutal murder. Candy Montgomery, a beloved church and community member, kills her friend, Betty Gore, with an axe. This stuns everyone, as no one would ever expect such a thing from her, who is seen as a dedicated mother, wife, and friend by everyone. It is also surprising because Candy had been good friends with Betty. There was never any animosity between them, and the day Betty was killed, her daughter was spending time with Candy’s children. Considering how well things had been between them, why would Candy do such a thing? What made her kill Betty with 41 blows from an axe? Let’s find out.

Psychiatrist Uncovers Deep-Seated Trigger

When Candy Montgomery went to trial for the murder of Betty Gore, she pleaded not guilty on the grounds of self-defense. According to her, on the morning of June 13, 1980, she went to Betty’s house to pick up her daughter Alisa’s swimsuit. Alisa was best friends with Candy’s daughter, and on behalf of the children, Candy asked Betty if Alisa could stay with them a bit longer.

Image Credit: KXAS-TV

The interaction began as usual, and Betty agreed to let her daughter stay at Candy’s place. However, Candy realized she was in a pickle when Betty asked her if she was having an affair with Allan. By then, it had been around seven months since Candy and Allan ended things, so Candy said no, but confessed to everything when Betty asked if she had had an affair with him.

Something turned inside Betty, and after almost letting Candy leave, she attacked her with an axe. Betty wanted to kill her because she didn’t want her to see Allan again. Candy promised she wouldn’t and didn’t want Allan anyway, but Betty just wouldn’t stop. In protecting herself, Candy pried the axe out of Betty’s hand and hit her on the head, but Betty didn’t stop. Candy pleaded with her to stop it and let her go, but when Betty shushed him, Candy snapped. She started hitting Betty and didn’t stop until she was spent.

For someone as calm, composed, and sane as Candy, it was impossible for everyone around to believe that she could kill someone so brutally. Her lawyer, Don Crowder, wanted to find out why Candy killed Betty. Did she have a mental illness or a personality disorder? Was she a sociopath? He hired Dr. Fred Fason, a psychiatrist from Houston, to figure out what went on inside his client’s head on the day of the murder.

Image Credit: Dallas Morning News

After a series of tests, Candy went in for a session where the doctor hypnotized her. He led her back to the morning of June 13, tracing back her steps to the point where she snapped. He focused on her feelings, leading her to verbalize them, no matter how painful, which is when he realized that the point where Betty shushed Candy was the trigger. Before this, Candy had been solely focused on protecting herself and getting out of the house. A blow or two could have done the job for her, and she could have run away, which the prosecutor later pointed out during the trial. However, Candy stayed for 41 blows long after Betty was dead.

Taking Candy further back in time, he focused on a childhood memory. This was when Candy was four years old. She lost a race to a boy named Johnny. In anger, she broke a jar. It isn’t clear whether she hurt herself while breaking it or her mother punished her for breaking the jar, but Candy got hurt and had to be taken to the hospital. She wanted to cry in pain, but her mother kept shushing her, forcing her to suppress that feeling, which festered over the years and rang like “a psychic alarm” when Betty repeated it.

According to the psychiatrist, once Candy snapped, she dissociated from her surroundings. The shushing triggered a reaction wherein Candy was completely unaware of what she was doing and acted in a blind rage. She didn’t come back to her senses until she had let it all out, 41 blows later.

Read More: How Did Candy Montgomery’s Lawyer Don Crowder Die?