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Psychology prof helps Advance reporter analyze tragedy

Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010
    When Douglas Nemeth attacked his family and then slashed his own throat, he was struggling to take command of a situation he had lost control of.
    That’s the theory put forth by a psychologist interviewed about the out-of-work chiropractor’s possible mental state when he went berserk on Sunday evening, cutting his 34-year-old longtime girlfriend, along with her 3-year-old daughter and 22-month-old son, before turning the knife on himself.
    “Maybe it was partly financial, partly his lack of employment ... something to do particularly in a male with a series of events that had led him to feel that he had no power over the situation,” said Miles Groth, a professor in the psychology department of Wagner College.
    “So the only thing left for him to do is destroy the situation, and that infers he’s part of the situation, which means destroying himself too.”
    Following the attempted triple murder-suicide, the entire family was taken to Staten Island University Hospital, where Nemeth was pronounced dead, officials said.
    His girlfriend, Victoria Orlik, was released from the hospital Thursday, as was her son, Brandon. However, her daughter, Sasha, remains in critical but stable condition in the pediatric intensive care unit, according to Arlene Ryback, a hospital spokeswoman.
    Several attempts to reach Ms. Orlik at home were unsuccessful.
    According to Ms. Ryback, a parent of a patient in the pediatric ward is allowed to stay overnight; however, Ms. Ryback did not know whether Ms. Orlik had stayed.
    Neighbors have wondered how such a tragedy could happen to a seemingly happy couple, who lived peacefully together for several years.
    In September, Ms. Orlik was expected to begin her second year as a special education teacher at PS 72 in Manhattan. Her page states she graduated in 2000 from Hofstra University, where she studied early-childhood special education.
    Meanwhile, Nemeth, 41, reportedly had not worked for two years, and stayed at home to take care of the children.
    Groth, the psychologist, said the way the act was carried out made him suspect Nemeth was experiencing a figurative sense of impotency.
    For starters, Nemeth used a knife, an object typically associated with men. (In the Port Richmond case last month in which police say a woman slashed the throats of three of her children, the weapon was a straight razor.)
    Second, Nemeth aimed for their throats, as opposed to stabbing them. “You go for the throat, you know that’s going to silence them from talking, silence them from life,” Groth said.
    “My first thought is something about his masculinity was deeply offended,” Groth added. “You kill off the whole cast of characters. That way, there’s no sense of situation you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis that’s causing so much emotional distress. You end the play.”

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