​​​​​Semantricks  by Lewis M. Gediman (2008), is a book of puns 'for the American Idle'. The author credits Michael B. Laudor as one of three collaborative 'punsters'. He states Laudor has both undergraduate and law degrees from Yale and lives (at that time) in Orange County NY, where the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center is located.

Newton Cemetery, Plot J-North 10

A Voyage To Bedlam And Part Way Back; Yale Law Graduate, A Schizophrenic, Is Encumbered By An Invisible Wheelchair

November 9, 1995
The most interesting feature of Michael B. Laudor's resume can only be glimpsed between the lines. Sprinkled among the stellar nuggets of his life, from graduating summa cum laude from Yale University in three years to being awarded a coveted postdoctoral associateship at Yale Law School, are references to his work as a mental-health advocate and a consultant on ethics in psychiatric research. Mr. Laudor, 32 and by all accounts a genius, is a schizophrenic who emerged from eight months in a psychiatric unit at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center to go to Yale Law School. His success is about many things: the efficacy of new drugs in treating mental illness, the support of family, friends and colleagues and the steely refusal of a young man who became very sick at age 24 to be capsized by his disease. But shadowing his progress is always the question whether to reveal himself as a person with schizophrenia, the most common major mental illness - afflicting 1 in 100 people - and the most disabling. "Some people at Yale Law School told me not to tell anyone because mental illness is a career killer," he said. "They won't let you work in law firms, they won't let you work as a professor." Mr. Laudor is now looking for a job as a law professor in the New York area. After finishing his postdoctoral work last year, he avoided saying why he never clerked for a judge or worked in a big law firm. The truth was that he could not handle the pressure and long hours. But he told interviewers such work would not offer him enough intellectual stimulation, an answer he concedes was "incredibly arrogant sounding." He got no offers. This year, he is telling schools about his illness, even highlighting his involvement in mental health. The reaction is mixed. One interviewer asked if he was violent, which Mr. Laudor said reflected a common and painful stereotype. Another said, only half-jokingly, that Mr. Laudor's self-awareness would be refreshing, since a half dozen faculty members should probably be treated for a mental disorder. On the outside, Mr. Laudor, who divides his time between his apartment in Riverdale in the Bronx and his mother's house in New Rochelle, N.Y., seems composed. Tall, with fine features and big round glasses, he is charming and well dressed and makes the right amount of eye contact. As he quotes from Virgil's "Aeneid" and talks about synapses and dendrites with the ease of a neurologist, the pyrotechnics of his intellect are on full display. Yet underneath, the schizophrenia and the side effects from the risperidone, the medication he takes to keep the psychosis in check, are percolating. "I feel that I'm pawing through walls of cotton and gauze when I talk to you now," he said. "I'm using 60 or 70 percent of my effort just to maintain the proper reality contact with the world." Dubbing himself a "flaming schizophrenic," Mr. Laudor said that his decision to make his illness public and work closely with others with mental disabilities was a political and religious one. He is chairman of the Westchester Consumer Empowerment Center, part of the nonprofit Westchester Independent Living Center in White Plains, and a consultant to the New York State Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan.

'I Can Be A Role Model'

 "I am a religious person, and there is a notion in Judaism of tikkun olam, or to heal the world, and we are all, as a nation of priests, called upon to do our part to heal the world," he said. "People with schizophrenia are negated constantly, and I can be a role model. I can stand up and say I am a person with schizophrenia who has been a senior editor of The Yale Law Review, who is a reasonable candidate to be a law professor. "And if I am not doing that, I will be doing something else of value to society." Schizophrenia is often marked by a break with reality, paranoia, hallucinations, agitation, withdrawal, blunted emotions and diminished functioning. Some people do not respond to medication, and many do not have the constancy of support that Mr. Laudor has had from friends, relatives and a talented psychiatrist. Yet others do recover, or struggle through their symptoms to live independently and hold jobs. "If somebody in a white coat tells you you have a terrible disorder and you're never going to get better, chances are a whole group of people are going to buy off on that and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Dr. Courtenay M. Harding, a psychologist who is associate director of programs for public psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Harding has studied 269 severely ill patients discharged from the back wards of a Vermont mental hospital in the late 1950's. In the community, the patients, half of them schizophrenic, were given therapy, social support and job opportunities. Two-thirds of the patients "improved considerably or had fully recovered" 25 years after discharge, according to the study, published in 1987 in The American Journal of Psychiatry. Growing up in New Rochelle, Mr. Laudor was a standout from an early age. He often cut classes to play jazz guitar but got A's anyway. He read "Ulysses" and "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." He scored so high on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test that he was chosen to take part in the prestigious summer program of the Telluride Association in Ithaca, N.Y. Mr. Laudor breezed through Yale in three years, using the credits the university gave him for the advanced placement courses he took in high school. He had never been happier. The creativity and intelligence that made him different in high school let him fit right in at Yale. His first job after college was with Bain & Company, a management consulting firm in Boston. His dream was to make enough money in 10 years so he could support himself writing fiction. But after several months, he experienced what he now thinks was his first brush with illness. He thought his phone lines at work were tapped. He left abruptly and moved to an apartment in his hometown overlooking Long Island Sound to begin writing. For a while, things seemed to get better. But in 1987, his first psychotic break occurred after a confluence of traumas: his grandfather's death, a breakup with a woman and rejections of his short stories. He began to imagine that some musicians he jammed with once a week were part of a cult. Then he began to hear bells in the night, and embellishing a line from Psalm 130 about "watchmen for the morning," thought his neighbors were ringing bells to keep watch for the dawn outside his bedroom window. Schizophrenia usually hits in late adolescence or early adulthood and can retard social development. In Mr. Laudor's case, onset of the disease in his mid-20's probably worked to his advantage, since he had already acquired knowledge and skills and reached emotional maturity. Mental illness runs deep on his father's side of the family. After seeing a series of psychiatrists, he was hospitalized at Columbia-Presbyterian in upper Manhattan, where he received a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, a type of schizophrenia that also involves depression. It was a harrowing eight months filled with torturous hallucinations, but it was also the beginning of his recovery, thanks in part to antipsychotic medication.

A 26th Birthday 'Crying On My Bed'

"Everyone around me was screaming lunacy, and at first I got worse and worse," he said. "My reality was that at any moment they would surgically cut me to death without any anesthesia. I spent my 26th birthday there crying on my bed."
But he had visitors: friends, cousins, parents, rabbis. "I was afraid of them because I was so paranoid," he said, "but it was still a link with reality that filtered through to the subconscious mind." The next stop was Futura House, a halfway house for the mentally ill in White Plains, where Mr. Laudor went to a day program at St. Vincent's Hospital in Harrison. He received one-on-one, family, group and art therapy. His hallucinations and paranoia became manageable. The people at St. Vincent's said he was well enough to handle a job and suggested Macy's. "They saw me as a very high-functioning schizophrenic but not a very high-functioning person, and what high-functioning schizophrenics can do is limited," he said bitterly. "I could aspire to working a register at Macy's." His father, Charles, accompanied him to Macy's at Herald Square to observe a cashier in action. She was besieged by snippy customers, and Mr. Laudor's father predicted that he would be back in the hospital in six months if he took the job. Instead, his father urged Michael to go to Yale Law School, where he had applied just before becoming ill.
Guido Calabresi, dean of the law school, set the tone for the next three years. The dean told him that he was in a sort of invisible wheelchair and that he would place ramps wherever needed.

Few Classmates Knew Of His Illness

He told only a small number of classmates that he had schizophrenia. When his fingers stiffened from the medication, they typed for him, and when his vision blurred, another side effect, they read to him. "I went to the most supportive mental health care facility that exists in America: the Yale Law School," he said. Far from knowing that Mr. Laudor had a severe mental illness, the other students were somewhat in awe. "There were two people in our class who were far and away much more brilliant than everyone else, and Michael was one of them," said Diana Jarvis, a corporate lawyer in Manhattan who went to law school with Mr. Laudor. By the end of law school, Mr. Laudor had so impressed his professors that they asked him to join the school as an associate. For two years, he did research, published articles and attended faculty workshops. When it was over, in spring 1994, he applied for teaching jobs at law schools in the New York area, wanting to stay close to his family and doctor. But lacking experience, he got no nibbles. He sank into a depression, which coincided with his father's entering the hospital with prostate cancer. The depression was treated, and Mr. Laudor devoted the next year to his father, an economics professor at Adelphi University who died six weeks ago. Now, he is once again sending out resumes. Those who know him well are guardedly optimistic. "I think somebody who has the abilities Michael does should have an easier time than many because he is so talented," said Mr. Calabresi, now a United States circuit judge in New Haven. "He is a brilliant young person who has conquered what is always difficult -- an illness -- but has conquered it extraordinarily well." 

Woman Found Fatally Stabbed In Her Apartment In Westchester



​June 18, 1998

A woman was found fatally stabbed yesterday in her apartment in Hastings-on Hudson, a town in Westchester County, the police said. The name of the woman had not been released by the police in Hastings-on-Hudson last night. But Lieutenant Vince Schiavone, the executive officer of the town's Police Department, said that she was a 37-year-old lawyer who worked in the computer industry. The police said last night they wanted to question Michael B. Laudor, 35, the victim's live-in boyfriend, though they stressed that he had not been named as a suspect. Mr. Laudor voluntarily surrendered to police on the Cornell University campus, in Ithaca, N.Y., at about 11:30 P.M., university police said. He was being held in Ithaca. Mr. Laudor is a law school graduate who battled schizophrenia and recently sold the rights to his life story to a Hollywood film company. He was believed to have been in the apartment earlier yesterday, and was last seen driving away in a black Honda, Lieutenant Schiavone said. The police in Hastings-on-Hudson received a call at about 4:20 P.M. from someone expressing concern about the woman's safety, Lieutenant Schiavone said. When the police arrived at the woman's apartment at 19 Maple Avenue, they found the victim, fully clothed and lying in a blood-smeared kitchen. The homicide was the town's first since 1979. Lieutenant Schiavone said, ''We believe it's a homicide that occurred between people who knew each other.'' In 1995, The New York Times published a profile of Mr. Laudor that chronicled his impressive achievements - graduating summa cum laude from Yale in three years and later from Yale Law School - and his daunting demons - a schizophrenic condition that warranted an eight-month stay in a psychiatric unit at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. In recent months, Mr. Laudor had struck deals to write an autobiography, ''Laws of Madness,'' and to sell the movie rights of that book to Los Angeles Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures. The movie deal, published reports said, was worth $1.5 million. Brad Pitt has been reported to be negotiating to star in the movie. Mr. Laudor and the woman lived in a nine-unit, three-story garden apartment only a few hundred yards from the police station in Hastings-on-Hudson. Neighbors said that she had moved into Mr. Laudor's apartment in the past few months, and that the two were frequently seen together.

From Mental Illness To Yale To Murder Charge

June 19, 1998
For more than a decade, Michael B. Laudor had wrestled with the demons of schizophrenia, managing to eke out startling victories over the delusions and hallucinations, like a degree from Yale Law School and more than $2.1 million in book and movie contracts for his life story. But today the disease seemed to have snatched its own brutal victory. Mr. Laudor was charged with the murder of his 37-year-old pregnant fiancee, Caroline Costello, a technology administrator at the Edison Project, the private firm that manages public schools. On Wednesday, her body, with more than 10 stab wounds in the back and neck, had been found in the kitchen of the apartment they shared on the banks of the Hudson in this suburban village, which had not seen a murder in 20 years. A short time before the body was found, Mr. Laudor's mother, Ruth, concerned about a conversation she had had with her son, had called the police and asked them to check on the welfare of her son and Ms. Costello in the apartment. Mr. Laudor, 35, was arrested at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., a place where, as a teenager, he had taken a summer program for gifted students. For reasons that were not clear, he fled to Cornell on Wednesday afternoon, driving Ms. Costello's black Honda to Binghamton and then catching the 10:15 P.M. Shortline bus to Ithaca. At Cornell, he flagged down a patrol car and told an officer that he had hurt his girlfriend and possibly killed her, said Simeon Moss, director of the Cornell News Service. Taken into custody, he was alternately calm and agitated and, at one point, struck a Cornell police officer, who was treated at a local hospital. This afternoon, Mr. Laudor, a tall, husky, bearded six-footer dressed in a blue Ithaca City Jail jumpsuit and bedroom slippers, was returned to the Hastings police station, next door to where he lived and visible from his balcony. There he was formally charged with Ms. Costello's murder. He had no prior record for violence. Friends spoke of two setbacks that seemed to weaken him in his fight against schizophrenia. In 1995, his father, Charles Laudor, an Adelphi economics professor who often talked him through the hallucinations and was a stabilizing influence in his life, died of prostate cancer. In recent months, the antipsychotic medications he had been taking no longer worked as well and doctors struggled futilely to find the right prescription. One friend said that in recent days he had stopped taking medication altogether. ''When I met him a year ago, the only way I would have known that something was wrong was that he spoke slowly,'' said another friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ''Other than that he was unbelievably charismatic, unbelievably bright, someone you'd never forget. Over the last year he definitely deteriorated. When I saw him at the end of April he seemed diminished.'' As a result of his recurring mental illness, he was withdrawn and depressed and making little progress in writing the life story on which the lucrative movie was going to be based, friends said today. They said they believed that the pressure of writing, even as he was unable to land a job as a law professor, contributed to his decline. ''I thought the book project would be good,'' said Vera Hassner Sharav, director of an advocacy group for mentally ill patients who worked on a program with Mr. Laudor in 1995. ''But what I didn't like was that he'd complain that he couldn't get out of bed in the morning. Writing, especially for someone with his condition, can be so lonely.'' Advocates for the mentally ill tried today to ward off any public conclusions that people with schizophrenia needed to be feared. Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Washington, said that dramatic shifts in behavior can occur when people stop taking their medication. There were signs that Mr. Laudor had reached a new and distinct crisis. On Wednesday, Ms. Costello, a wisp of a woman who typically worked 60 hours a week, told co-workers that she could not come in because of ''a personal emergency,'' said her boss, Tom Boudrot, director of technology at the Edison Project. Sometime in the morning or early afternoon, Mr. Laudor had also spoken by telephone to his mother, who lives in New Rochelle. Something in the conversation apparently disturbed Mrs. Laudor because at about 4:20 P.M., in what the police described as a distraught voice, she called the Hastings police station to let them know of her conversation with her son. ''The things being said may have been delusional and she asked us to check on their welfare,'' said Lieut. Vince Schiavone, executive officer of the village's Police Department, who spoke to the mother. The police found the body and decided to go directly to the mother's New Rochelle home to inform her. Lieutenant Schiavone said that it was clear to the mother that it was her son who had killed Ms. Costello. This afternoon, Ms. Costello's parents, William and Marilyn, flew in from Newton, Mass., where she grew up, to identify her body and talk to investigators. Mr. Laudor's successes in the face of his schizophrenia were so striking that he was the subject of an article in The New York Times in 1995. The story told of a promising childhood in New Rochelle, where he was regarded as a genius so precocious that he was reading James Joyce's ''Ulysses'' in high school. With no apparent symptoms, he breezed through Yale in three years, graduating summa cum laude in 1984. It was after college while working for a management consultant firm that he experienced his first brush with illness. He complained that his phones were tapped. Later, he began to hear bells in the night and to imagine that his room was in flames. Randy Banner, a journalist who is a friend of the Laudor family, said that Michael's father would talk him down from his hallucinations, asking him, for example, to place his hands in the flame that he imagined. His father helped him through Yale Law School, where he performed so brilliantly he was awarded a postdoctoral associateship. He also saw himself as a role model for the mentally ill, and in the Times interview expressed his displeasure with what he said were stereotypes of schizophrenics as violent. Two years ago, despite side effects from medication, he wrote a book proposal about his struggles. It won him a contract from Scribner that was worth more than $600,000 and a $1.5 million movie deal with Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment.
Mr. Laudor and Ms. Costello, who was known as Carrie, had apparently met at Yale, where she received a bachelor's degree in literature. ''She was in love with him,'' Ms. Banner said. ''She met Michael during his well period. Michael was the golden boy. He is handsome, kind, spiritual, a wonderful conversationalist, a wonderful sense of humor and he was destined for what everyone thought was greatness.'' Friends said that Ms. Costello stuck with Mr. Laudor through his illness. After the windfall for the book and movie, they moved in together in Hastings. She agreed to marry him and began studying Judaism, Mr. Laudor's religion, with the intent of a possible conversion. ''She was a very 'up' person,'' Mr. Boudrot said. ''I think it would take a person of that inner grain to look at a relationship that most people would say, 'Hey, this isn't for me,' and give it a fair shot. The eternal optimist. I think that's what most people would say about her.''

​Lawyer Held In Knife Slay: Suspect Fought Long Battle Vs. Schizophrenia

June 19, 1998
A Yale-educated lawyer whose struggle with schizophrenia was to become a Hollywood movie stabbed his pregnant girlfriend to death after going off his medication, officials said yesterday. Michael Laudor had become an icon of hope for thousands of people who have schizophrenia by overcoming the mental disease to triumphantly graduate from the fabled Ivy League law school. His struggle caught the eye of director Ron Howard, whose Imagine Films was set to make a film based on Laudor's life called "Laws of Madness," starring Brad Pitt. But in recent weeks, Laudor had begun to act erratically, losing contact with relatives and stopping the treatment that had spared him the terrifying demons of his disorder, friends said. His descent allegedly culminated Wednesday in the savage stabbing death of girlfriend Caroline Costello, a successful attorney with whom Laudor had lived for four years {sic} in Westchester's Hastings-on-Hudson. She was one month pregnant. Laudor, 35, fled in Costello's black Honda to upstate Ithaca, where he was nabbed early yesterday after a fistfight with cops, police added. He was charged last night with Hastings-on-Hudson's first killing since 1979. "Here was a young man who had been such an inspiration, and yet somehow he lost his grip on reality," said Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Health. "He simply was not willing to accept intervention" and had "stopped his treatment," said Flynn, who has been in contact with Laudor's family. The tragedy unfolded when Laudor's mother, Ruth, called police at 4:17 p.m. Wednesday to say she was worried because her son was not answering the telephone, police said. When cops arrived at the second-floor apartment at the River Edge complex just yards from the police station they found Costello, 37, dead in a pool of blood with stab wounds to her head and back. Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro would not disclose a motive or say whether Laudor's mental problems played a role. "What you have here are two young, well-educated people, and unfortunately one is dead and the other is charged with second-degree murder," Pirro said. "Not a happy ending." The bearded 6-foot-3 suspect wore a blue prison suit and green slippers when he arrived at the Hastings-on-Hudson police station. He didn't respond to reporters' questions. Laudor's left hand was bandaged, and he did not enter a plea at his arraignment. His lawyer, Robert Ollman, asked that his client be given psychiatric care and medicine. Laudor was taken to the psychiatric ward of the Westchester County Jail. His mother huddled with her other two sons, Richard and Daniel, in her New Rochelle home. "We're totally shocked," said Rabbi Amiel Wohl at Temple Israel of New Rochelle, which Laudor attended. After his law school graduation, Laudor lectured at Yale Law School, served as chairman of the Westchester Consumer Empowerment Center and as a consultant to the New York State Psychiatric Center in White Plains. Recently, he was invited to take a volunteer advisory role at the New York Psychiatric Institute, a prestigious Manhattan research center. But Laudor never attended any committee meetings. Family friends, like 51-year-old Ron Harris of New Rochelle, said Laudor kept to himself recently, failing to return phone calls and staying in his apartment for days.

Victim In A Stabbing Saw Only The Best In Her Schizophrenic Fiancee

June 20, 1998
On a summer night in 1995, there was a lively backyard party in New Rochelle, with music and hanging lanterns, and among the guests were Caroline Costello and Michael Laudor, who whirled around the flagstone patio with the grace of professional dancers. ''They looked up at each other and they were clearly, madly in love with each other,'' recalled Leslie Mignault, the party's hostess and a friend of the couple. Today, just days after Ms. Costello was stabbed to death and Mr. Laudor, her mentally ill fiancee, was charged with murder, Ms. Mignault recalled that summer night not so long ago to try to explain to a reporter how Ms. Costello continued a relationship with Mr. Laudor, despite the obstacles presented by his schizophrenia.
''I don't think she had a choice,'' said Ms. Mignault, with simple understatement. That determination to listen to her heart was consistent with other shadings in the portrait Ms. Mignault and other grieving friends drew of Ms. Costello today. They said she was an intensely private and deeply principled person who resisted pressure from her parents to break up with Mr. Laudor, a man whose schizophrenia was almost outweighed by an even more fundamental shortcoming: He was not from the Roman Catholic Church in which she had been raised. ''I know her family disapproved of her relationship to Michael because she told me that and I know that it saddened her,'' Ms. Mignault said. ''She said she was confident of her relationship to Michael and that her parents would come around.'' Today, Mr. Laudor, a tall, bearded man of 35, remained in the Westchester County Jail awaiting psychiatric examinations and his next court hearing on July 15. He has no prior record for violence. Ms. Costello's parents, who flew in from Newton, Mass., were waiting for the completion of an autopsy so they could begin making arrangements for a funeral. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials and friends confirmed that Mr. Laudor had told his relatives that he had stopped taking his antipsychotic medication because it was no longer working for him. Ms. Costello, 37, was slightly built, with light brown hair and a predilection for demure clothes. About the world, her friends and Michael, she was upbeat, but about herself she had a tendency to be deprecating. If she struggled with Michael's illness, her friends did not know about it. ''She had great intellectual abilities and she was very modest about them and somewhat insecure about them in the way that many accomplished women are,'' said Randy Banner, a friend of the couple. Yet while her fiancee had some impressive achievements despite his illness -- graduation from Yale Law School and more than $2 million in book and movie contracts -- Ms. Costello was no slacker. She was born in Portsmouth, Va., outside Norfolk, the site of the country's largest naval base. Friends say her father, William, served on naval submarines before he began his current career as a biostatistician. Her mother, Marilyn, is a registered nurse who was close to Caroline and her two other daughters. The family eventually moved to the Boston suburb of Newton, where Ms. Costello attended public schools, doing so well at Newton North High School that she was accepted at Yale. She graduated as a literature major in 1984. Some years afterward, she went to work for I.B.M. in New Haven, researching ways to apply computers in schools. To enhance her specialization, she enrolled in a one-year master's program at the Harvard School of Education. It was sometime in 1991, while she was working in New Haven, that she met Mr. Laudor, who was studying law at Yale. He was a witty and brilliant raconteur, yet deeply spiritual, with a strong interest in Judaism. He was touched by her generosity and tolerance. ''He thought she was the sweetest person he had ever met and he found her intensely attractive,'' Ms. Banner said. It soon became clear to Ms. Costello that Mr. Laudor spent a great deal of energy just attending to daily fundamentals. Staying in a conversation was sometimes wrenching, given his recurrent hallucinations. Ms. Mignault's sister Elizabeth Gene, who was visiting New Rochelle today, said she remembered a time when Mr. Laudor, comparing himself with other graduates of the New Rochelle public schools, lamented his lack of accomplishments and blamed the schizophrenia. But Ms. Costello ''was very supportive of him,'' Elizabeth Gene said. In June 1994, Ms. Costello took a Manhattan job as associate director of technology for the Edison Project, an upstart New York firm trying to prove that it could run public schools better than public servants could. She was managing the design of a new E-mail system linking the project's 42 schools. She and Michael lived together for a time in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, then she took her own apartment in Tuckahoe. After Mr. Laudor received a $600,000 offer from Scribner for his life story and a $1.5 million movie deal, they moved into an apartment in Hastings-on-Hudson with sweeping views of the Hudson River. Friends whom he had made over the years, like Ms. Banner and Ms. Mignault, became her friends. Ms. Mignault said Ms. Costello was delighted with Mr. Laudor's windfall, but was too sensible to think that their problems were over. ''Everybody felt that it was possible that Michael might have to live on that for the rest of his life,'' Ms. Mignault said. ''He had tremendous medical bills. Nobody thought it was icing. It was cake.'' Roughly six months ago, she talked with Ms. Mignault, who was pregnant at the time, about how much she wanted to have a child with Michael. She said they were going to start trying, and although they had not set a wedding date, Michael had bought Caroline a ring. 
''She wasn't a spill-your-guts type of person,'' Ms. Mignault said. ''And when she did talk about something personal, like wanting to become pregnant, it meant a lot because it was a confidence and they didn't come fast and loose with her.'' 
When her body was found on Wednesday in the kitchen of their apartment, law enforcement authorities revealed something only a few had known: Ms. Costello was pregnant. To her friends, it was another indication of her steely commitment to Michael and her determination to see their relationship flourish.

Ominous Calls Before Slay - Schizophrenic's Mom Feared For His Fiancee
June 20, 1998
Schizophrenic Yale Law grad Michael Laudor deluged his mother with phone calls in which he ranted about suicide and murder in the hours before he allegedly butchered his pregnant fiancee in Westchester, police said yesterday. The conversations so unnerved Ruth Laudor that she called cops to report her fears Wednesday afternoon. After officers found Caroline Costello's blood-soaked body, they went to New Rochelle to tell Laudor's mom what had happened but she already had suspected the worst. "She looked at us and said, 'Is she?' and we just nodded," said Hastings-on-Hudson police Lt. Vincent Schiavone. Ruth Laudor refused yesterday to discuss the killing. "This scrutiny is painful," she said, peering through the door of her home. Michael Laudor, 35, who had gone public with his seemingly successful struggle with mental illness, was on a suicide watch at the Westchester County Jail last night. Police said yesterday that Laudor used a professional chef's knife to stab Costello, 37, in their apartment Wednesday, police said. Laudor apparently attacked Costello from behind, stabbing her at least 10 times in the back and head. Costello, a successful education consultant with a bachelor's degree from Yale and a master's from Harvard, was found in blood in the kitchen of the Hastings-on-Hudson home she and Laudor shared for four years {sic}, officials said. Costello, who was one month pregnant, tried desperately to fend off her attacker, police said. After the killing, Laudor fled to Cornell University in upstate Ithaca, 170 miles away, where two decades earlier he had attended a summer workshop for high school achievers. He was apprehended there by campus police, then picked up by detectives and driven back to Hastings for arraignment on a charge of second-degree murder. Authorities said he was nearly catatonic during the four-hour drive back to Westchester County. When Laudor's friends looked into his eyes yesterday, only the madness looked back. "I look at his eyes, which I have many, many times, they are somebody else's eyes," said Randy Banner, a journalist who has known Laudor for 13 years. "If you can fathom that, they are somebody else's eyes. " "When he was well, he was the healthiest person you could ever want to know," Banner said. "But when he was ill, he was simply someone else."
Laurie Flynn, a spokeswoman for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said the incident was deflating because when Laudor went public with his illness in a 1995 New York Times article: "We thought, what a wonderful and courageous thing it was for him to step up and say people of talent and accomplishment can have schizophrenia and they can manage it and keep moving forward. It was a very inspiring story of accomplishment and hope. " Flynn said people with schizophrenia sometimes "are prone to outbursts of agitated or violent behavior." There are successful drugs, but schizophrenics often stop taking the drugs when they feel they're better. "When people with schizophrenia are receiving treatment, those symptoms are under control. We saw that with Mr. Laudor," she said. "When people are not in treatment, sometimes those symptoms lead to tragedy." Investigators said they knew of no motive for the killing.

A Hotshot Haunted And  'Hunted'
June 21, 1998
The goblins of schizophrenia invaded Michael Laudor's life without warning. Sheepskin from Yale in hand, Laudor was a rising young hotshot at the Boston management-consulting firm Bain and Company. The paranoia that would eventually take over his existence crept into his mind with such stealth, the cocky associate didn't suspect what was happening. All he knew was that for some reason, bosses and co-workers he once liked and trusted were spying on him, tracking his movements, bugging his phone. Even a competent and devoted secretary, Abby, appeared to be a devious enemy with crimson fangs in one early delusion. "One minute we were standing in a well-lit room, and in another second, like a candle flickering, we were in darkness flashing on and off and there was blood dripping from her teeth as her clawed hands reached for me," he
recalled. That terrifying episode and others like it are chronicled in a riveting 80-page proposal for a book Laudor, 35, was writing when he was arrested last week for murdering pregnant fiancée Caroline Costello. In disturbing detail, the manuscript, which was being made into a movie, tells how a brilliant young man was torn apart by mental illness and overcame the torment of a mind filled with imaginary Nazis, infernos and torture. Before the schizophrenia set in, Laudor's life held nothing but promise. The son of a college professor and a homemaker, with two talented older brothers, Laudor grew up in suburban New Rochelle in the 1960s and 1970s. Bored by his classes, he nevertheless breezed through high school with honors - a popular kid, an accomplished athlete, a talented jazz musician. It was the same story at Yale, where his photographic memory helped him ace classes with little effort, giving him plenty of time to down beers with friends and court beautiful coeds. When he graduated in 1984 in just three years, he had a raft of honors to his name: summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and a prestigious philosophy prize. His brash plan was to make enough money in the business world to retire in 10 years and write fiction. But after the hallucinations started at Bain, he quit and moved back home to spend two years writing short stories, doing freelance consulting and jamming with jazz musicians at a nearby bookstore. During this period, he ran into an old high-school crush, Joann, a raven-haired clarinetist. Their whirlwind romance was his emotional awakening, and their heart-wrenching breakup his undoing. So smitten was Laudor he followed Joann to Europe, where he spent months working on a novel. When he ran out of money, he returned to New Rochelle, and she fell in love with another man. The romantic rejection was one trigger for the next psychotic break. In Laudor's unraveling mind, his life began to look like the plot of his own novel - a tale of terrorists, Holocaust survivors, ex-Nazis and conspiracies. "The jam sessions that I went to on Monday nights in Hastings at the Riverrun Bookstore now seemed to be the meeting of a cult, some sort of Moonie or neo-Nazi group intent on kidnapping me," he recalled. The delusions were so convincing, Laudor asked a cop friend to check out his pals. With the help of his trusting parents, Charles and Ruth, he put anti-bugging devices on his phone and contacted a cult expert. Anyone who had tried to help him was now seen as an evil force. He even made a book critic who was reading his short stories return the writings. The mental meltdown had physical ramifications: vomiting, bloody noses, skyrocketing blood pressure, a racing heart, uncontrollable shaking and sleeplessness. "I would be walking through Wykagyl in New Rochelle when suddenly I would see Nazis in trench coats with their hands dipping into their pockets, reaching for guns as I would dive for cover. I was terrified," he wrote. The assailants were the characters from his novel, so he burned it in a desperate attempt to keep them at bay. He immersed himself in Judaism to ward off the Nazi cultists. None of it worked. The panic attacks escalated. At the synagogue, time would stand still for what seemed like an eternity. The hallucinations got much, much worse. "I soon burst in at 3 in the morning to accuse my parents of being impostors, of having killed my real parents while they themselves were
neo-Nazi agents altered by special surgery and trained to mimic my parents," the manuscript says. When his father tried to console him, he screamed: "I don't know why you killed my father or who you are," and ran to the attic to fling open closet doors and trunks. "I was searching for the bodies of my dead parents," he remembered. Another night, Laudor lay awake in bed, chanting Jewish prayers to scare off members of the bookstore cult he believed were marching toward his home. Help came in the form of a hallucination. He saw his next-door neighbor, Holocaust survivor Harry Gingold, float before his second-floor window in religious garb. "In his hand, he held a bell and he smiled at me as he rang it. I realized the old Jews of my neighborhood were keeping a night watch to keep me safe. I waved at old Harry from my bed and his old eyes smiled at me as he nodded. But I still couldn't sleep." Friends and family did what they could to help Laudor, but they were no match for the torment inside him, which governed his every action. When a med-student pal got him to take a mild anti-anxiety pill, he had no way of knowing Laudor did it only because he believed the tablet was poison his friend would swallow if he didn't. Finally, another family friend convinced him to see a psychiatrist. The first two candidates lasted only a few sessions; Laudor realized they couldn't comprehend his brilliant ravings. The third was a keeper, and he told Laudor's family that Laudor needed to be hospitalized. They took him to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, where he reluctantly admitted himself, and imagined seeing a sign on the wall that said: "Experimental Surgical Unit." His stay in the hospital was agonizing. He tried speaking to his parents in a secret language and became infuriated when their answers didn't match his questions. "The Nazi agents pretending to be my parents came every day," he said, recounting how he would assume tae kwon do positions whenever the impostors entered the room. He thought books and television shows were sending him bizarre, private messages. An exercise program that showed people balancing on their hands and heads fed his paranoia about being dismembered alive. "I was sure the show was being broadcast directly to me from the heads of the medical unit. They were going to start removing limbs from me, without anesthetic, any minute. "They were going to ask me to balance and laugh as I rolled around on the floor." Laudor was cooperative with the doctors as they tried to find the right combination of drugs to bring him back to reality. He assumed that if he didn't put up a struggle he'd be one of the last killed. As smiling "Nazis" in white coats gave him injections, he prayed for the "allies" to come and liberate him, fantasized about how he could let the Red Cross know about the torture without being killed. In February 1987, he decided to escape. Barefoot and without a coat, he walked out a fire door, past a security desk and into the street. He wanted to go to Iowa, where he had once hoped to attend a prestigious writing institute. He couldn't find a friend he thought would help him, then got cold and returned to the hospital. Before being admitted, Laudor had applied to law schools, and while he was in the hospital he was accepted by all seven. His brother Danny asked him what he should do. "The monkeys are eating my brains!" Laudor yelled before managing to tell his brother to tell Yale yes and defer for a year. "Stop them, Danny. The monkeys are eating my brains!" Eight months after he was brought to Columbia-Presbyterian, doctors decided to discharge him. He was sent to a halfway house where he clashed with staffers who expected him to be docile and unopinionated. The director, he said, feared his strength and didn't know what to do with him. Finally, despite a “child-like" romance with another patient, Laudor quit and moved in with a friend. His caretakers insisted he wouldn't be able to hack law school and thought he should get a simpler job - like a cashier at Macy's. But after spending an afternoon at Macy's watching customers abuse clerks at the department store, Laudor's father said Yale would be less stressful. The transition was rocky. Laudor wept the first time he met the dean and threw a fit when he saw that his dorm room didn't have a bed. The dean, Guido Calabresi, his associate Steven Yandle, and Laudor's father carried in a bed from another room and used a brick to pound it together. The incident was symbolic of how Yale accepted and treated Laudor. Calabresi told him when the law school accepted a student in a wheelchair, it built ramps to accommodate him. Michael, he said, was in an "invisible wheelchair." The young man with the fractured psyche excelled with the help of a small group of friends who got him out of bed when he was depressed, helped him type his papers when the drugs made his joints stiff, helped him while he wept at night. There were still many frightening episodes. The drugs couldn't make the paranoia and delusions disappear; they only made them more manageable. Laudor was sitting in a torts class with a hundred other students when he imagined the room was on fire. Tears streaming down his face, he ran to the front of the room and fled out the door. From the moment Laudor's schizophrenia appeared, his father had been his biggest ally, convinced his youngest son could beat the awful disease. The retired professor learned how to coax his son out of an episode. "I can't move. The room's on fire," Michael told him over the phone one morning, when he imagined his dorm room was being engulfed in flames. "I was inside the fire, surrounded by the fire, but somehow untouched," he wrote of the three-hour terror attack. "I had somehow stumbled into bed and awakened in Dante's Inferno." Charles Laudor talked his petrified son through it, recounting a day long ago when he pulled the petrified little boy out of the cold water at the beach. Just touch the fire, the father gently told his son, and I promise you won't get burned. After graduating from law school with honors, Laudor was given a research fellowship at Yale and spent two years in the warm cradle of New Haven. By the time he left in the spring of 1994, his father was dying of prostate cancer, and he was unable to find a teaching job. Depression grabbed hold, but once again, Laudor emerged triumphant. By the time Charles Laudor died in 1995, a new chapter of his son's life had started. A newspaper profile about his battle with schizophrenia had generated considerable interest in the publishing world. Scribner's signed a $600,000 contract for his life story. Imagine Entertainment bid more than $1 million for the movie rights. He moved to an apartment in picturesque Hastings-on-Hudson and got engaged. He was, one friend noted, the very "model" for the successful schizophrenic. Despite the trappings of success, Michael Laudor was still a very sick man, and the drugs that had allowed him to slip from the shackles of mental illness apparently stopped working about a year ago. The hallucinations came back with a vengeance. Paranoia consumed him. The blanket of depression was suffocating. In the last two months, he couldn't sleep, stopped eating, didn't return phone calls, and couldn't get out of bed in the morning. The old horrors were haunting him, the very same demons he had tackled and beat into submission a decade ago. But this time, Michael Laudor lost the battle.

Hastings Resident Accused of Murder
Rivertowns Enterprise
June 26, 1998
The day before the fatal stabbing of his fiancée in their Hastings apartment 35-year-old Michael Laudor visited with Rabbi Edward Schecter of Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings. “I did see Michael on the Tuesday morning before the tragedy occurred and I had a chance to meet with him and talk with him”, Schecter said Wednesday. “There was no reason to think he was a danger to himself or anyone else. The Michael Laudor I know is not the Michael Laudor who committed this murder.” Laudor, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was charged last Thursday with killing 37-year-old Caroline ‘Carrie’ Costello. He was apprehended in Ithaca, N.Y. more than several hours after Costello, who was in the early stages of pregnancy, was repeatedly attacked with a chef’s knife. Police discovered Costello’s body last Wednesday at 4:20 p.m. in the kitchen of the couple’s three room second floor unit at the River Edge apartments on Maple Avenue. Schecter, a longtime village resident, described the pair as “a warm and loving couple”. He said that “If you spent 10 minutes in a room with Michael and me and you had to take a vote on who the rabbi was you’d pick him. He was a teddy bear of a man.” Costello, who was raised Roman Catholic, met with Schecter last summer to discuss converting to Judaism. She attended synagogue regularly with Laudor from 1996 until last fall. According to Schecter, there was a lot of physical contact between the couple – she touched his shoulder as he helped her read through the services. Schecter saw the two together for the last time on the Friday evening before the murder. “They hadn’t been at the synagogue since the previous high holidays (last fall), so this was the first time we had seen them and they were very pleased to be back. They said this had been a difficult few months, but they were glad to be back”, Schecter said. While reporters and television crews circled outside the “No Trespassing” sign in front of the red brick River Edge complex a day after the murder, a maintenance crew trimmed shrubbery and mowed the lawn overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Everything else seemed normal in a village that building manager John Picone referred to as “Mayberry”. Standing at the complex entrance last Thursday afternoon, Picone recalled that Laudor, a Yale Law School graduate, and Costello, an educational administrator with a master’s degree from Harvard, had lived in the building for the past two years and that there were never any problems with them. “He was a perfect gentleman, a very nice guy”, Picone said of Laudor. “She was very pleasant, very cordial. Basically, it’s a very tragic thing.” And while the tragedy has shocked the tiny village of 8500, where there hasn’t been a homicide in 19 years, it appears that few in the community had any contact with Laudor, who grew up in New Rochelle, or Costello, who moved to Hastings from Manhattan two years ago. On Tuesday, employees and owners of various village shops struggled to remember the murder victim. None could distinctly remember anything about her except that she was quiet and polite. “They were both very pleasant when they came in. They always seemed happy”, Dorothy Honovich-Kavanaugh, manager of Hastings Video on Warburton Avenue said Tuesday. “They were both basically quiet. It’s really sad.” Citing confidentiality laws, Honovich-Kavanaugh declined to comment on the couple’s movie selections. Jimmy Johnson, who delivers pizza for Villaggio Sereno in Hastings on the weekends and also lives at River Edge, described Costello as pretty and petite. “She was nice”, Johnson said Tuesday. “When the guy (Laudor) answered, he was kind of weird - he wasn’t creepy, he seemed kind of innocent.” Johnson, a 21-year-old senior at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, recalled delivering a large vegetable pizza consistently every other weekend and said that Costello gave him a $3 tip for the $14 pie. “Neither one of them seemed to be a part of the community - these were people who were so involved in the day-to-day, they didn’t have time to take part in the community”, Peter Rockwood, owner of Rockwood & Perry Wine Merchants on Warburton Avenue, said Tuesday. “Maybe they would have gotten there if they got their life in control. Unfortunately, it spun out of control.” Police found Costello’s body last Wednesday, immediately after they received a call from Laudor’s mother, Ruth, of New Rochelle.  Mrs. Laudor asked officers to check the apartment, located just 100 yards from police headquarters, because in an earlier conversation with her son, he indicated he may have hurt Caroline. Laudor was nowhere to be found after police discovered the victim and that her black 1989 Honda Civic was missing. Schecter said that in the hours after the murder, police evacuated the temple and summoned him and his wife, Laurette Leinwand, to headquarters out of concern for their safety. “They were watching every place he had been over the past 24 or more hours. The police were being very protective of the local community”, Schecter said Wednesday. According to Simian Moss, a spokesman for Cornell News Service, at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Laudor found Cornell University campus police and told them he needed help, that he had hurt his girlfriend and may have killed her. “He said he had driven to SUNY Binghamton, then took a Short Line bus from Binghamton to Ithaca, got off the bus near campus, walked onto campus and then flagged down an officer”, Moss said last Thursday. Cornell and Ithaca police took the bloodied shirt Laudor was wearing into evidence. Police declined to identify evidence taken from the Short Line bus Laudor took to Cornell and have refused to reveal where the knife was found.  According to reports, Laudor was alternately cooperative and combative with campus police. At one point, Laudor became abusive and struck a campus police officer in the face. The unidentified female officer suffered a minor injury and was treated and released from Ithaca’s Cayuga Medical Center. There is no charge pending against Laudor for the assault, according to Hastings police. Police still do not know why Laudor made the four-hour trip to Cornell. From Cornell, Laudor was taken to Ithaca City Jail, where he was picked up by Hastings Det. Sgts. Wayne Pietropaolo and Thomas O’Sullivan. Costello’s parents, William and Marilyn Costello of Auburndale, Mass., drove to Hastings the day after the murder to identify their daughter’s body and talk with police. “They were stunned, shocked, dismayed”, Lt. Vincent Schiavone said Friday. “They thought he would harm himself more than he would harm her.  Costello’s funeral was held Wednesday at Corpus Christi Church in Newton, Mass. A 1979 graduate of Newton North High School, Costello earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale University in 1984. It was there she met Laudor, according to reports. At the time of her death, Costello was an associate director of technology .for the Edison Project in Manhattan, a job she took after leaving IBM at Hamden, Conn. in 1994. The Edison Project is a nonprofit organization that provides educational programs, technology plans and management systems to public schools. “It’s a real tragedy” Gila Reinstein, public information officer at Yale, said Friday. The only information Reinstein could offer about  Costello were the vital statistics listed under her yearbook photo. Deborah Doorack, a spokeswoman for Edison Project, provided a more substantial profile of her colleague. “She was enormously intelligent. She performed her job here at Edison Project with extreme grace and skill - no problem was too small for her to get involved in”, Doorack said Tuesday. “She gave everybody 100 percent. She had a quiet personality, but if you got to know her she was funny and a good conversationalist.” A victim of mental illness for more than 10 years, Laudor graduated from Yale University summa cum laude and later worked as a postdoctoral associate at Yale Law School from 1992 to 1994, rather than take on a clerkship or look for an associate position at a law firm. Laudor was involved in the Westchester Consumer Empowerment Center in New Rochelle and the Westchester Independent Living Center in White Plains, both advocacy groups for the mentally ill. He also lectured at Yale Law School and was a consultant to the state Psychiatric Center in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. According to published reports, following a 1995 New York Times article on Laudor’s apparent triumph over schizophrenia, he sold the rights to his life story to Hollywood publishing and film companies for more than $2 million in 1996. The autobiography, titled ‘The Laws of Madness’, was to be made into a movie produced and directed by Ron Howard; actor Brad Pitt had considered playing the lead role. Reports indicate that plans for the book and film are now uncertain. The 6-foot-3 inch 250 pound Laudor, looking dazed and despondent at his 5 p.m. arraignment on June 18, was outfitted in a blue prison uniform the read ‘Ithaca City Jail’ and green foam prison slippers. His hands were held in passive restraints strapped to a belt. As he lumbered silently into the courtroom, Laudor avoided all eye contact before taking his seat in front of Village Justice Michael McElroy. Several uniformed police, including a detective from Yonkers, stood facing Laudor from different points in the room, hands on guns. Laudor’s attorney, Robert Charles Ollman of New Rochelle, approached the bench with his client, as did Assistant District Attorney Barbara Egenhauser. “I am going to reserve any rights I have to request a felony hearing”, Ollman said before McElvoy. Acknowledging that no bail can be set for murder suspects, Ollman emphasized Laudor’s need for medical and psychiatric attention and requested that he receive it. Ollman said that Laudor had been under the continuing care of a Manhattan psychiatrist and requested the doctor be allowed to visit Laudor or at least communicate with him in jail. Laudor was sent to the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla where he is being held in the facility’s psychiatric unit. He is due back in court July 15. “I know the family well”, Ollman said after the arraignment. He wouldn’t comment on his private conversation with Laudor at the arraignment but said, “It’s tragic for all parties involved.”

Schizophrenic Indicted In Fiancee's Death

July 28, 1998

A Yale Law School graduate whose struggle to overcome schizophrenia gained him national attention was indicted today by the Westchester County District Attorney's office in connection with the stabbing death of his pregnant fiancee in June in their apartment in Hastings-on-Hudson. The four-count indictment charges Michael B. Laudor, 35, with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of weapons possession in the death of Caroline Costello, 37. If convicted, Mr. Laudor could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. His lawyer, Andrew Rubin, said he would probably argue that his client was not responsible because of mental impairment. Laudor has been held without bail at Westchester County Jail in Valhalla. Mr. Rubin said that two court-appointed psychiatrists had found Mr. Laudor unfit to proceed with a defense.
Mr. Laudor is to be arraigned here on Friday before County Court Judge Kenneth H. Lange.

Mental State Of Suspect Is Debated In Slaying Case

Aug. 1, 1998

Michael B. Laudor, the schizophrenic man accused in the stabbing death of his pregnant fiancee, Caroline Costello, continues to show signs of unrelenting mental illness, including confusion about whether Ms. Costello is actually dead. ''I'm not certain he understands that,'' said Andrew Rubin, Mr. Laudor's lawyer, after a brief court appearance here today in which defense and prosecution lawyers argued over whether Mr. Laudor is competent to stand trial. Judge Kenneth H. Lange of Westchester County Court said at the hearing that Mr. Laudor, who is confined to a mental health unit at the county jail, remained intransigent about taking the medication meant to curb his delusions. Mr. Rubin described the refusal of medication as a classic symptom of schizophrenia. ''You have to understand,'' Mr. Rubin said, ''you are dealing here with someone who is very, very ill.'' The defense team is considering asking the court to move Mr. Laudor to a secure psychiatric hospital because the county jail can prescribe only a limited number of drugs, and they do not include an anti-anxiety medication that he had successfully taken in the past. In a hospital, Mr. Rubin said, Mr. Laudor would have better psychiatric supervision, would be more likely to comply with his medication regimen and thus would be fit to stand trial more quickly. The Westchester District Attorney's office said it would not oppose such a move if the safety of others could be assured. But a lawyer in the District Attorney's office who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Mr. Laudor continued to behave violently, citing a recent assault of a corrections officer at the jail. Mr. Laudor was arraigned on that assault charge on Thursday. In court today, heavily bearded and manacled at the wrists, Mr. Laudor seemed disoriented, staring straight ahead with glazed, unresponsive eyes. He did not speak -- Mr. Rubin entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf -- and he did not appear to acknowledge one of his brothers, who sat near the front of the courtroom. Psychiatrists say that only a small portion of schizophrenics are ever violent, and that those cases usually happen when a halt in medication allows a resumption of delusional voices that urge these acts. Mr. Laudor has already been found unfit to stand trial by two court-appointed psychiatrists, and at today's court appearance, the District Attorney's office requested a third examination by a doctor of their choosing. The judge agreed to the request on the condition that Mr. Laudor's lawyer be present along with a psychiatrist chosen by the defense, who could observe but not participate. If the prosecution's doctor finds Mr. Laudor fit to stand trial in his Aug. 11 exam, a competency hearing will be held, probably in early September. But the District Attorney's office said it will waive that hearing if the doctor agrees that Mr. Laudor is unfit. If Mr. Laudor has not yet been moved to a psychiatric hospital, he would be moved to one at the point when he is found to be unfit, and his competency would be reviewed periodically. Even if he is eventually found competent, it is likely that Mr. Laudor will employ an insanity defense at his trial. Experts in psychiatry and the law say that most schizophrenics can be stabilized in a matter of months on proper medication and are thus able to understand the charges against them and assist in their defense, which is the legal definition of competence. If they are not stabilized ''after a reasonable period of time,'' according to a 1972 Supreme Court ruling, they must be released or civilly committed to a mental institution. ''It is very rare that a person is found to be unrestorable,'' said Richard J. Bonnie, a criminal law professor at the University of Virginia. ''The expectation is that he would be ready to go forward in a number of weeks or months.'' If Mr. Laudor does go to trial and is convicted of the two counts of second-degree murder he is charged with, he could be sentenced to 25 years to life.

Man Charged With Murder Says Fiancee Provoked Him

Aug. 9, 1998
Michael B. Laudor, the schizophrenic man accused of murdering his pregnant fiancee, told the police that he stabbed her because she was talking about having him ''put away,'' court papers say. Mr. Laudor told the police that his fiancee, Caroline Costello, ''was threatening to have him put away, so he might have killed her or her wind-up doll,'' according to statements filed in Westchester County Court. The reference to the doll was not explained, but Mr. Laudor may have been referring to the fetus Ms. Costello was carrying. The court papers say that Mr. Laudor, 35, made the statements at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., on June 17, the same day that Ms. Costello, 37, was found stabbed to death in the kitchen of their apartment in Hastings-on-Hudson. In another development, Mr. Laudor has been charged with punching a guard at the county jail. Mr. Laudor hit a correction officer ''below the left eye with a closed fist'' four days after his arrest, Anne Marie Corbalis of the Westchester County District Attorney's office said on Friday. Mr. Laudor, who faces 25 years to life in prison on charges of second-degree murder and weapons possession in the death of Ms. Costello, was charged with third-degree assault in the attack on the guard. A conviction on all counts in the assault could add a year to his sentence. Mr. Laudor, the court papers say, told campus police that after the attack, he drove Ms. Costello's car to Binghamton, N.Y., then took a bus to Ithaca. When the police saw him there he was covered in blood, but he assured them ''he was not hurt, that the blood on his person was Caroline's blood,'' the court papers say. ''The defendant stated that he knew he wanted to hurt her and the wind-up doll she carries around,'' one document says. In filing the statements, prosecutors said they were planning to offer them as evidence at Mr. Laudor's trial, but there may not be one. Two psychiatrists appointed by the court have found Mr. Laudor unfit to stand trial, meaning he is unable to understand the charges against him and to assist in his defense. Prosecutors have insisted on an examination by Joel Dvoskin, a psychologist, now scheduled for Tuesday. Mr. Laudor's lawyer, Andrew Rubin, was on vacation Friday, his partner said. Last week, Mr. Rubin said that Mr. Laudor was so mentally ill that he might not realize that his fiancee, who was known as Carrie, was dead, a theory that might be supported by one of the statements filed on Friday.
According to the papers, as Mr. Laudor was being driven back to Hastings, ''the defendant asked detectives to take him back to Carrie.''

Defendant Unfit For Trial In Murder Of Fiancee

Aug. 28, 1998
A Westchester County judge has declared a man who overcame his schizophrenia to graduate from Yale Law School unfit to stand trial in the murder of his pregnant fiancee. The ruling by Judge Kenneth Lange came after a psychologist's examination found that the defendant, Michael B. Laudor, would likely disrupt court proceedings. The psychologist, Joel Dvoskin, of Tucson, Ariz., concurred with two mental health experts who also had found Mr. Laudor, 35, incompetent to stand trial. In a confidential report, Dr. Dvoskin, who was brought in by prosecutors, found that Mr. Laudor was ''currently psychotic'' and unlikely to sit through a lengthy trial without ''acting out in some disruptive manner.'' After announcing his decision Tuesday, Judge Lange ordered Mr. Laudor committed to the custody of state mental health authorities for up to a year. Prosecutors made the judge's ruling public on Wednesday. Mr. Laudor's fiancee, Caroline Costello, 37, was found slashed to death on June 17 in the kitchen of the Hastings-on-Hudson apartment she shared with him. Mr. Laudor has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder. At the end of one year in a psychiatric facility, mental health authorities would be able to ask the court to extend his confinement if he is still incompetent, prosecutors said.

A Safety Net For Schizophrenia

Aug. 30, 1998
On June 17, Michael B. Laudor allegedly stabbed his pregnant fiancee, Caroline Costello, to death in Hastings-on-Hudson. Mr. Laudor is a Yale Law School graduate and suffered from schizophrenia, which when left untreated can be dangerous. The case has raised issues concerning gaps in the nation's mental health system. It has also caused those who work with the mentally ill to call for more understanding of the illness and new methods of treatment. ''One of the questions here is that given that schizophrenia is so much more treatable today than it has ever been, why aren't these people getting treatment?'' said Laurie M. Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, based in Arlington, Va. ''Where are the problems in our system that people who so obviously needed help didn't have it?'' Roughly two million people in the United States suffer from schizophrenia, but fewer than half are receiving the treatment they need, Ms. Flynn said. On the one hand, the development of powerful new drugs that can stabilize patients has vastly improved treatment for those afflicted. At the same time, there seems to be little in the way of a safety net in the mental health care system so schizophrenic patients who begin to relapse can be helped before they become psychotic. Part of the problem is historic. In the 1960's, when strong antipsychotic drugs were developed, states began closing mental hospitals. Not only did the new medications offer a chance to treat the mentally ill more compassionately -- for some patients, it meant the first time they could live without being chained to a bed -- but it also saved money. But the approach required construction of a network of community-based clinics, where patients could continue to receive treatment. That network was never built, advocates say. In New York State, the Legislature passed the Community Reinvestment Act in 1993, mandating that money from closed psychiatric hospitals be reinvested in the community. But the mental health budget has since been cut. ''If you were to look historically at what the state invested in mental health before and after reinvestment, you will, in fact, see reflected a cutback over time in the growth of services in New York,'' said Michael Friedman, former regional director of the State Office of Mental Health and senior consultant to the Westchester Division of New York Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains. ''Community reinvestment money hasn't been enough.'' Compounding the treatment problem is the nature of the disease. Schizophrenia is an organic brain disease, said Dr. Thomas Smith, director of New York Presbyterian Hospital's Schizophrenia Disorders Program. It is best known for psychotic symptoms: hallucinations and delusions. The illness is also marked by paranoia and social withdrawal. Most recently, doctors are focusing on the cognitive problems. ''People with schizophrenia have problems processing information and thinking consistently,'' Dr. Smith said. ''The whole notion that I am sick, especially with an illness like schizophrenia, requires a level of abstract thought, and some people lose the capacity for that level of thinking with the onset of the illness.'' These elements can conspire to make patients stop treatment. The medications have unpleasant side effects. Like any person with a serious illness, many mentally ill patients can be in denial over their condition. And emotional stress can exacerbate the illness. ''All of these factors can start interacting together and you get missed doses, then you may get a little paranoia, and you can get a vicious cycle of noncompliance,'' Dr. Smith said. ''And once you cross a threshold, it all goes downhill. Once we lose track of patients, we don't have a lot of options.'' It is Dr. Smith's last point that has caused anguish for families of the mentally ill. Parents of adult children with schizophrenia cannot force their children into treatment until they become so psychotic they can be committed to a psychiatric hospital. And they often experience what is known as ''revolving door hospitalizations'': patients stop treatment after they are discharged and deteriorate again. ''Families feel enormously frustrated and quite helpless because they have to sit and watch someone they love deteriorate, and they are unable to get them help until they become dangerous,'' Ms. Flynn said. ''With the legal system, you get to the place where you have to go to court to get your loved one into treatment.'' Each state has its own standards. In New York, a judge must consider three criteria: a person must represent ''imminent danger'' to himself, ''imminent danger'' to someone else or demonstrate a ''gross inability'' to care for themselves. What advocates for the mentally ill would like to see is more middle ground: help for a schizophrenic patient when he first begins to show signs of regression and before he becomes dangerously ill. ''In the Laudor case, he had gone off his medication,'' Mr. Friedman said. ''That, of course, points to the importance of medication but also to the importance of someone paying attention. It raises the question of outreach. What happens when people stop going to see their therapist, what efforts are made to follow up after that? Some people will do nothing, some will make a phone call, some will actually knock on a door and say, 'Where have you been?' How aggressive should the follow-up be?'' 
Many advocates believe that follow-ups should be carried out by a service called Assertive Community Treatment. In cases where people will not go to clinics, a team is sent to the patient. Members of the team will monitor medication and offer clinical services in whatever setting is comfortable for the client. In some pilot programs, community-based teams have the authority to commit someone to outpatient care -- patients are required to take their medication, and if the team discovers missed doses, the patient will be hospitalized. Westchester County has a Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program. ''We made a decision that one of the most important things that was needed to fill in the gap between normal clinical services and inpatient services was a major attention to case management,'' said Steven J. Friedman, Commissioner of Community Mental Health. ''We developed a very extensive, decentralized network,'' The county has a crisis team - an emergency, mobile psychiatric service, available 24 hours a day. The teams are run by the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, with offices in Peekskill and New Rochelle. Commissioner Friedman emphasized that state reinvestment money has been used for outreach.
''We have a group of very talented, free spirited, skilled psychiatrists who are willing to see clients in their home, on park benches, in the library, or any setting the client wants, to be pro-active in reaching out and convincing the client that service is desirable,'' Mr. Friedman said. ''It's very deliberately done so that we don't lose contact with individuals, and they build up a relationship of trust with members of the team. If they build it when they are at their healthiest point, it carries over when they are less healthy. We have learned to develop programs that meet some of the gaps in service by listening to clients and their families.'' Advocates also say that family education is critical. At New York Presbyterian Hospital Westchester Division in White Plains, a survival skills workshop is offered to teach family members how to help their loved ones manage the illness. Families are taught about the history of the disease, the variety of symptoms and treatments, how to limit the amount of emotional stress in the household and modify their expectations. One of the most difficult aspects for patients and their families is to cope with the stigma associated with mental illness, said Dr. Jody Shachnow, associate director of social work at the hospital. Most studies indicate that people with mental illness are no more violent then those in the general population. Research from the National Institute of Mental Health in Washington shows, however, that a small percentage of patients with a history of violence who are untreated and take street drugs are at a greater risk for violent behavior. ''It is so unfortunate that people only hear about schizophrenia in the context of violence,'' Dr. Shachnow said. ''These dramatic cases - Laudor, Ted Kaczynski or John Hinckley - are not the typical stories of schizophrenia. Mostly it is a story of quiet suffering.''

Schizophrenic Is Found Competent For Trial

Aug. 29, 1999
Michael B. Laudor, the schizophrenic man who was celebrated for his successful treatment until he was accused of killing his pregnant fiancee, has been found competent to stand trial, the State Office of Mental Health says. ''It is our doctors' opinion that Mr. Laudor is fit to proceed'', Jill Daniels, a spokeswoman for the state agency, said Friday. A court conference is scheduled for Tuesday. A year ago, doctors told a Westchester County judge that Mr. Laudor was unfit to stand trial. Mr. Laudor was sent to the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in New Hampton, N.Y., for treatment. Mr. Laudor, 36, was charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Caroline Costello, 37, who was found slashed to death on June 17, 1998, in the kitchen of the Hastings-on-Hudson apartment she shared with Mr. Laudor. Earlier, Mr. Laudor had been treated for schizophrenia so successfully that he graduated from - and taught at - Yale Law School. He was hailed as a role model and was profiled in The New York Times. Preparations were under way in Hollywood to film his life story. If the doctors who recently evaluated Mr. Laudor had considered him still unfit, he would have remained at the psychiatric center. Because the second-degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life in prison, there would have been no limit on his commitment.

Man Who Killed Fiancee Is Sent To Mental Hospital

May 12, 2000
A Yale Law School graduate who stabbed his pregnant fiancee to death after he had become a role model for the mentally ill will not stand trial for her death but will be committed indefinitely to a state psychiatric hospital, a judge ruled today. The judge, Daniel Angiolillo of Westchester County Court, accepted a plea of ''not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect'' from Michael B. Laudor, who two years ago killed his fiancee, Caroline Costello, in their apartment in Hastings-on-Hudson. At the time, Mr. Laudor, who had successfully battled schizophrenia, had stopped responding to medication and had become severely delusional. Jeanine F. Pirro, the Westchester County district attorney, tried to prosecute Mr. Laudor and won an indictment on a charge of second-degree murder. But the case was derailed in March when the prosecution's psychiatrist, Dr. Park Dietz, concluded that Mr. Laudor was insane at the time of the killing, and thought Ms. Costello was not human but a ''robot'' or ''doll'' acting on behalf of a conspiracy to kill him. At the hearing today, the district attorney's office reviewed the events of the killing and its aftermath in horrific detail. Ms. Costello's relatives fought back tears, and Mr. Laudor, whose mental state has improved recently, stared ahead and blinked. The prosecution then asked the judge to accept the plea.
Ms. Pirro, who was in the courtroom but did not address the judge, said the findings of Dr. Dietz, a leading prosecution psychiatrist, had killed the case. ''I don't have a choice,'' she said. ''I'm disappointed in a legal system that allows a psychiatrist to decide whether an individual should stand trial.'' Mr. Laudor, a native of New Rochelle who will turn 37 on Friday, had graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in three years and was working for a high-powered management consulting firm when he first experienced symptoms of his illness at age 24. For eight months, he was hospitalized at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Upper Manhattan, where he received a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, a type of schizophrenia that includes depression. He then moved to a halfway house for the mentally ill in White Plains and improved enough through medication and therapy to enter Yale Law School. He did so well there that he was asked to join the school as an associate. While looking for a position as a law professor and working as a mental-health advocate in the New York area in 1996, Mr. Laudor signed a book and movie deal for his life story worth $2.1 million. At the time of the killing, he was still working on the manuscript. Mr. Laudor and Ms. Costello had dated for years after they met in 1991 in New Haven, where she was working and he was attending Yale Law School. She, too, had gone to Yale, receiving a bachelor's degree in literature in 1984. Friends say the two had a very loving relationship, and Ms. Costello, who, at her death, was associate director of technology at the Edison Project, supported him through his illness. In court today, Mr. Laudor answered several questions from the judge. Although his voice was breathy and strained, his answers were lucid, and he seemed deeply distraught, his face red and contorted, as he listened to the angry and emotional statements read by Ms. Costello's mother and sister. ''As parents, it is horrifying for us to accept that our daughter was murdered by someone she loved and trusted,'' said Marilyn Costello, whose husband, William, stood at her side. ''It is horrifying for us to accept that our daughter died all alone, bleeding, terrified and in pain. This is a nightmare that haunts our waking as well as our sleeping hours.'' Mr. Laudor's family released a statement after the hearing, expressing relief at the outcome. ''We do not today celebrate any legal victory,'' it read, ''but rather mourn the loss of Caroline Costello.'' 

Following Up

May 26, 2002
After Success Story, A Brutal Relapse
It was a real-life story heavy on hopefulness and headed for Hollywood. Then the reality turned tragic. In the 1980's, Michael B. Laudor, an employee of a management consulting firm in his 20's, began experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, which became so acute that he was hospitalized for eight months. Afterward, with medication and therapy, he was able to enter Yale Law School, where he excelled, graduating in 1992. Widely cited as a role model for those battling schizophrenia, Mr. Laudor signed a book and movie deal in 1996 worth $2.1 million. But two years later, with the book unfinished and the cameras yet to roll, he stabbed his pregnant fiancée to death in their Hastings-on-Hudson home. Psychiatric experts said he had stopped responding to medication and, severely delusional again, believed that his fiancée, Caroline Costello, was a ''robot'' or a ''doll'' conspiring to kill him. A judge accepted his plea of not responsible because of mental disease, and committed him to a high-security state mental hospital until he could be deemed no longer dangerous. These days, Mr. Laudor, 39, is in the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in New Hampton, N.Y. The State Office of Mental Health said last week it could not disclose any patient's condition. His brother, Daniel Laudor, said Michael had ''obviously improved'' since the killing, but was ''obviously worse'' than when he graduated from law school. For the Costello and Laudor families, the aftermath has included not only struggles with grief, but struggles with each other. The Costellos sued the Laudors over matters like Ms. Costello's life insurance and retirement savings, for which she had named Michael as the beneficiary. 
They wanted the assets, her father, William Costello, said last week of the Laudors. ''They told us otherwise and were deceptive.'' Daniel Laudor said his family had always agreed that those assets should go to the Costellos, but ''they constantly changed their lists of demands.'' The litigation was recently settled, with the details under court seal, the men said. 
The planned movie was scuttled, but those who were to make it, Imagine Entertainment and the director Ron Howard, went on to make another battle-against-schizophrenia film, one with an uplifting ending: ''A Beautiful Mind,'' inspired by the  math genius John Forbes Nash Jr.

The Dangerous Act of Writing

AGNI Magazine Issue 81 (2015)   Boston University
Her boyfriend was very intense. I know, because he’d been my boyfriend before he’d been hers. This was at Yale in the early eighties. Bob and Debra Spark, then Bob and Robin Kornegay, though Robin was with Bob far longer and more seriously than I had been. Bob wanted to marry Robin, but Robin wasn’t sure. They were young, after all. She didn’t want to be with one person all her life, to marry before she experienced anything else, so she broke up with him. Not long after, Robin was looking out her dorm-room window, when she saw a tall, attractive man sitting on a courtyard bench. She went outside and started talking to him. A very purposeful self-introduction. Robin Kornegay meets Michael Laudor. I was impressed when I learned this, thirty years after the fact. I would never have been so bold when I was in college. And then what came next had such romantic intensity! Robin and Michael talked for three hours. About what? “Truth and what intelligence is, and his faith,” she remembers. “I didn’t have a strong faith, and he had grown up with a tradition.” He was Jewish from a middle-class home in New Rochelle. The two had a passionate, three-week relationship. Then Robin went back to Bob. But while they were still involved, Robin brought Michael to her dorm room, as one invariably does with a lover. If her roommate, Carrie Costello, was around, she would do splits. “Splits?” I said when Robin told me this. “Like gymnastic splits?” I remember Carrie as petite, a blond girl with bangs, who didn’t exactly push herself forward in conversation. “Yes,” Robin said. “She’d never done that before, and I thought, ‘Hey, this is weird.’” Indeed. When Robin asked Carrie why she was doing splits, Carrie said she was trying to get Michael’s attention. She thought he was cute. This surprised me, too, this directness. If I were attracted to a friend’s boyfriend, I’d never say so. Carrie didn’t act on her attraction, though. Not during the three weeks Robin and Michael were together and not for years after. Then in 1990 Carrie visited Linus Yamane, one of her closest friends from her undergraduate days, in New Haven. (She was working at IBM and living there herself at the time.) Michael happened to be one of Linus’s roommates in a four-bedroom sublet. Michael and Carrie re-met and got involved. Still, in Robin’s mind, she introduced the two. She introduced them in 1983, and Michael killed Carrie in 1998. He stabbed her to death in the kitchen of their apartment in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Everyone was shocked when it happened: Michael’s friends, his former classmates and professors. Robin was driving to sign a new job contract when she heard the news on NPR. She pulled over to the side of the road and wept. The dean of Yale Law School, Guido Calabresi, also cried. A college friend of Michael’s, Betsy Graves, who remembers him penning her little ditties that referred to her as “lassie,” sent Michael a card, letting him know she was still his friend. Yes, yes, Michael was schizophrenic — he’d had a psychotic break after college; we all knew that; he’d confided his struggles — but he wasn’t a violent person. Gentle, compassionate, and warm is how his law school classmate James Forman remembers him, adding, “He had a kind of rabbi-in-training manner.” He was deeply moral and kind. Brilliant, by many people’s estimation, and witty. He was fun to talk to. He had to have been completely taken over by the disease to have done it, everyone said. A terrible irony, since his employment struggles in and after law school led him to work as a mental health advocate, challenging, among other things, the conventional notions about the mentally ill and violence. What had interrupted those efforts was what looked, at the time, like a stroke of good luck: a positive New York Times article about what Michael had managed to achieve academically despite his schizophrenia. The New York Times article led to a major book deal and then a film deal, $600,000 from Charles Scribner and Sons, and $1.5 million from Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment. There was talk of Brad Pitt for the lead role. The last time I talked to Michael, he was telling me about his good fortune. He had a habit of calling me, out of the blue, once a year. I’d known him because we were in the same dorm at Yale, though they call them “colleges” not dorms. Each college encompasses a dining hall and a library as well as student rooms. I’d see him in all these places. Michael used to call his law classmate James Forman once a year, too, to wish him happy birthday. A touching surprise, Forman thought, since they weren’t all that close, and the only other person who religiously made such a call was Forman’s mother. Months after my last conversation with Michael, I was on the phone with Melanie Thernstrom, a writer friend. I had been away teaching and hadn’t read any newspapers or listened to the radio for a few weeks. “What are you working on?” I asked her. “Well,” she said. “The New Yorker wants me to write an article about Michael Laudor.” “Oh, I know Michael,” I piped up. I assumed the story was about his big success. “I just don’t know if I want to write another book about murder,” Melanie said. Her first two books had concerned murders, and she was in the process of turning the New Yorker offer down. It took me a long, long while to process the conversation that followed. I do remember eventually shouting, and even though I was at work, “What? What? Michael Laudor killed Carrie Costello?” I flashed on the first time I met Carrie, not long after she’d transferred to Yale from Middlebury. She was standing in a dorm room, being introduced to new people. She struck me as shy — there was another transfer, a tall, amusing, theatrical woman, who seemed to be stealing the limelight. But my first impressions were wrong. She was “spunky,” her friend Linus Yamane later told me. She wasn’t intimidated, as other undergraduates were, by Linus’s status as a graduate student. She had no problem challenging his perceptions. “It’s been in the news,” Melanie said, surprised I didn’t know what she was talking about. When I hung up, I went to the library, where I found a magazine article with more details: On her last day of life, Carrie had stayed home from work because she was worried about Michael. His mother, also worried, had called and, after a disturbing conversation with Michael, phoned the police. Sometime after that call, he fled north to a college campus where he’d once been a student in a program for gifted and talented youth. There, wearing blood-drenched clothes, he waved down a college security car — or a police car, this detail I don’t remember — and said he thought he might have killed his girlfriend. If not for the caption, I wouldn’t have recognized Michael in the photograph that accompanied the magazine article. He’d always been big but slim with a close-cropped beard and glasses. Now he was bloated, more fully bearded — strange to me. A Google search will get you the rest of the details. He told police that Carrie “was threatening to have him put away, so he killed her or her wind-up doll,” The New York Times reported. In her 'To Punish and Protect', prosecuting attorney Jeanine Pirro, now of Fox News, writes of her disappointment when a forensic psychiatrist concluded that Michael was “suffering from a mental defect at the time of the killing.” Pirro quotes the psychiatrist as saying, “He thought Carrie was evil. In his mind, it’s all good and evil.” To which Pirro responds, “No, that’s my mind you’re talking about. In my mind, it’s all about good and evil, and Laudor is evil. He killed that girl.” But Michael was not evil. We all knew him to be good, and yet he did, indeed, “kill that girl.” How can one even begin to understand this? Can one say that his illness did it and that he didn’t? That he was “not himself ”? Yet who is the self: the healthy self or the whole person, whether healthy or not? Are you guilty of the results of madness over which you have no control? The law has its own answer. And what about the court of public opinion? When I tell Michael’s story to friends, people inevitably bring up Adam Lanza or the Santa Barbara killer. But the news reports suggest that those murderers never had an intact, integrated personality to begin with. Michael did. There was a reason so very many people were fond of him. “I loved him,” Guido Calabresi, who is now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, told me. For years, I imagined it would be best for Michael never to return from the psychosis he descended into when he killed Carrie. Surely, if he knew what he had done, he wouldn’t be able to bear it. I felt confident that he’d kill himself if he knew. Fran Bennett, the wife of a Yale engineering professor, a lover of books who served as mentor to both Michael and me, came to the same thought independently. Later, I wondered if our notion was unkind. Maybe it would be better to be dead than to be alive in a forensic hospital, subject to the horrors of your own mind. Michael was primed, perhaps too primed, for success before his psychotic break. He’d graduated from Yale summa cum laude in three years. To save his parents money was the avowed reason. He then went to work as a consultant for Bain & Company in Boston. “Why did you want to go to Yale?” a former classmate’s mother once asked him. The mother was without pretension — uneasy, in fact, with her daughter’s enrollment at Yale. “Because I want to make money,” Michael said. Later the mother told her daughter that another of her college friends was an oddball, but not Michael: “That Michael was a winner.” In fact, Michael didn’t want to make money. He wanted, like me, to be a writer. When Michael saved up enough, he left Bain and rented an attic apartment in a rambling Victorian in New York. There he wrote Isaac Bashevis Singer-style stories until he went crazy. Or, in more clinical terms, until he had his first psychotic break. Fran Bennett reported that his characters started talking to him, but not in the way that writers often speak of their characters talking to them. They’d come up to him while he was walking down the street; some of them wanted to kill him. He ended up at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital for many months, then at a halfway house. As part of his treatment plan, his doctors suggested he find a low-stress job when he returned to the world. I remember him telling me the doctors wanted him to be a clerk at Macy’s. One of his college roommates remembers it as bagging groceries. But Michael told me his father knew he wouldn’t survive such a dreary life, apart from all intellectual stimulation, and saved him from that fate. (Or maybe that’s the polite way of putting it. The plainspoken version: Michael thought he was too smart for that. His father did too.) Sometime before the psychotic break, Michael had been admitted to all the law schools he’d applied to. He chose to return to Yale. After being accepted, he’d taken a deferment and then another deferment. To be admitted again, he needed to tell them what had happened. He did, and Yale allowed him to matriculate. With his father’s day-by-day help by phone, Michael got through. In the mornings, when he woke up thinking his room was on fire, his father would tell him that things were okay. He would encourage Michael to reach out his hand and touch the fire, so he would understand that the flames weren’t really there. At the time, Michael told friends that he was working sixty percent of the day just to figure out what was real. It wasn’t only Michael’s father keeping Michael intellectually engaged. He had help from a by-all-accounts-inspired New York therapist named Murray, several good friends, and the law school professors he’d opened up to about his situation. When more traditional job placements and academic offers were not forthcoming, Michael was still able to do research for his professors during the summers and afterward on a postdoctoral fellowship. Indeed Michael received so much help from Yale Law School that he came to think of it as something like his halfway house. This was, in a sense, what the memoir and movie were going to be about. (Ron Howard moved on from the aborted Laudor project to make A Beautiful Mind about John Nash, a different brilliant schizophrenic.) Guido Calabresi was one of the many people who shepherded Michael along. He looked at the psychotic break as the equivalent of a car accident. It was something bad that had happened to an admitted student, but the student was still admitted, and as long as his physicians said it was safe for him to attend school, he was welcome to do so. When Michael first arrived on campus to find his law school dorm room empty, Calabresi himself helped lug the necessary furniture across campus. Calabresi remembers saying to Michael, “If you were here, and your problem or illness was that you needed a wheelchair and a ramp, there would be a wheelchair and a ramp. It isn’t so easy to do, but I will be your wheelchair and ramp.” Calabresi came to know Michael well. “He was very interesting, original, slightly kooky,” he says. You don’t put together a great law school on the basis of psychological stability, Calabresi observes, and then adds, “Everyone is struggling. The degree of people, faculty, and students who have some problems of mental health - I don’t think people have any idea.” He remembers a law student who sat for an exam and wrote a very good answer to the first question, then answered the second question by writing, “I am the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Windsor.” The student was admitted to a nearby mental health center and spent years as an inpatient until a pharmaceutical treatment came along that worked for him. He was released, finished Yale Law, and eventually went on to a legal career with the government. Owen Fiss and Bo Burt were also Yale Law School professors who helped Michael when he was a student. Did they help too much? Is that possible? Yale accommodated Michael’s disabilities with extensions and support that the real world couldn’t or wouldn’t offer later. One summer Michael was hired to work at a New York law firm, but he was having difficulty concentrating at work. Or so Burt, a specialist in biomedical ethics, remembers. All of the summer associates were in one office, and Michael didn’t want to share the same space. (Robin remembers the situation differently. The problem was that he didn’t want to sit in a room with his back to the door.) Burt says Michael went to the hiring partner and explained that he was a schizophrenic, which apparently did not sit well. Michael was given a private room but no work to do. After law school, it was clear that working for a traditional firm wouldn’t be possible. Michael hoped then for an academic job in New York, near his psychiatrist. Nothing was really coming through, however, until the windfall of the book and movie deal. The only problem with a book deal is that you then have to write a book. I had two friends who, on entering a mental institution, were forbidden to write. One was Michael. The other was David Foster Wallace, one of the most lauded writers of his generation, once featured on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Magazine, recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, and author of numerous highly praised books, including his magnum opus (he is the sort of writer who is spoken of as having a magnum opus), Infinite Jest. He is the Baby Boomers’ Thomas Pynchon. If you had asked me in my twenties or thirties which friend, the schizophrenic Michael or the depressed David, was more likely to be violent, I’d have said David. David had an edge. His relationships with women were complicated. I remember being told that he trashed a friend’s coffee table during an argument. I used to compare the two men a lot after Carrie died, and then reprimanded myself by saying, “Debra, there is nothing to puzzle through here. Schizophrenia is a different disease from depression. That’s all you need to know.” But then, David killed someone too. He hanged himself when he was forty-six. Dissimilar deaths, of course, but violent deaths all the same. Both men went off their medications. Michael didn’t like the way his medicine made him feel. It gave him a dry mouth, affected his sex life. He couldn’t read for more than fifteen minutes at a time. One source told me his medicine stopped working, and only then did he stop taking them. I’m not sure that’s true, but it would get rid of the issue of blame if there was no willful act that sent him into psychosis. Many schizophrenics — as well as healthy people — are reluctant to take their meds. The reluctance may even be a symptom of the disease. A popular book for family members of the mentally ill is Xavier Amador’s revealingly titled 'I am Not Sick! I Don’t Need Help!'. In the beautifully written memoir 'The Center Cannot Hold', Elyn Saks, a chaired professor of law, psychology, psychiatry, and the behavioral sciences at the University of Southern California Law School, writes about her own years of disinclination to medicate her schizophrenia, despite the obvious evidence that pills were the only thing keeping her from florid psychosis. As for David Foster Wallace, “Whenever he was not writing well, he wondered if [his anti-depressant] played a role,” D.T. Max writes in his biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. At the end of David’s life, he was struggling mightily with his work. “Writing,” Max reports him telling a friend, “is like shitting sharp stones.” David went off his anti-depressant, Nardil, and fell into a deep depression. When he tried other drugs, they didn’t help. Eventually he asked to go back on the Nardil, but it no longer worked. Was the culprit not just the failure of medicine but the failure of medicine coupled with the dangerous act of writing? I asked a psychiatrist friend why Columbia-Presbyterian, in the case of Michael, and Massachusetts’s McLean Hospital, in the case of David, might have prohibited the men from writing. The friend was surprised at the prohibition, said it wasn’t usual for the mentally ill as far as he knew. Another psychiatrist said that perhaps the issue with both men was that they needed to be in the here and now. It’s a lot of work being in a mental hospital, she said. It’s not like there is a lot of free time. People need to work on themselves. They can’t be escaping into an imaginary world of their own creation. That book deal was the worst thing that ever happened to him,” Fran Bennett, the woman at Yale who had served as a writing mentor for both Michael and me, told me recently. That said, it seemed like a godsend at the time. Michael’s record as a schizophrenic seemed to make him unemployable. Carrie had a good job - she’d gone from a position with IBM in New Haven to Harvard for a master’s degree in education to a job as assistant director of technology for the Edison Project, a private manager of public schools. But Michael didn’t want to depend on her. The book contract looked like gainful employment. Of course, it meant being alone at a desk, writing about painful material. When he’d last written, really written, creative work, he couldn’t separate reality from fiction. Now he had to return in his mind to the darkest part of his life. And he had the pressure of a book deal and a deadline. Still, I didn’t worry much when he told me he was having trouble writing. All my writer friends struggled with their work. Writing wasn’t the only pressure in the end. Michael’s father and great supporter died of prostate cancer. Carrie wanted a child — she was, in fact, a month pregnant when she died — and Michael was frightened to have one, in no small part because he wasn’t the only mentally ill person in his family. There was trouble along the paternal line. He didn’t want to pass down his illness. Most of the people I’ve talked to about Michael don’t have memories of him acting oddly. Michael would tell them — he would tell me — about his struggles, but aside from a flattened affect due to the medicine, he always seemed very much himself. A few do have stories to tell. When I met Guido Calabresi in his New Haven chambers, he said, “Michael did tell me that on some occasions he thought of me as the devil.” “What did you say?” I asked. “I smiled, and I said, ‘I’m a mighty strange-looking Devil,’ and he said, ‘I know it. It is nothing that ultimately wins out. I know what is going on.’” Linus Yamane, the roommate who re-introduced Carrie and Michael, remembers there were days when Michael wouldn’t come out of his room. When Linus said something like “Let’s have dinner together,” Michael would look scared, thinking Linus had said he wanted to eat him for dinner. At least Michael was well enough to share this perception later, to know he was confused. There was a time, after he was first jailed, that Michael wanted to know why Carrie wasn’t visiting him. So how much does he understand now? The four people I know who have received letters from him don’t know what sort of accommodation he has made with what he’s done, or they aren’t able to articulate it for me. As for the people I know who have visited him, one man says he’s still smart and thoughtful and funny, but he’s also symptomatic. Another man speculates that Michael remains symptomatic because he might subconsciously want to keep himself in the forensic hospital, might fear leaving  - since how could he trust himself again? I twice wrote to ask Michael if I could visit him at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center, where he lives, but I didn’t get a reply. If he’s still paranoid, maybe my letter struck him as suspicious, as if it had come from the CIA and not from me. Or maybe my interest is of no interest to him. Maybe he just needs to be left alone. When I ask people about the contents of the letters they’ve received, they shrug, say they don’t remember, that it was just commonplaces or a regret about the life not lived. At the time when Yale Law School hired Michael’s old classmate James Forman, Michael mused in a letter to a former professor that if things hadn’t gone as they had, perhaps that could have been him. It’s not that schizophrenia would, in theory, have prevented Michael from achieving all he hoped to achieve. In her memoir, Elyn Saks describes how she, in a manner of speaking, secured the life that Michael did not. Like him, she was a spectacularly bright person who went, by all appearances, from one academic success to another. Class valedictorian at Vanderbilt, Marshall Scholar at Oxford, her work frequently singled out for high praise by her instructors. Like Michael, she went to Yale Law School. Like him, she struggled with schizophrenia and had a long in-patient hospitalization. Like him, she had good friends and therapists, all of whom cared for her deeply and tried to help her out. But her life story ended up being very different from his. Though she, too, resisted medicine at times, she eventually found one that worked for her. She became a professor, also a research clinical associate at the Los Angeles Psychiatric Society and Institute, and, in addition to writing movingly about her schizophrenia, she has written about forced treatment and the rights of the mentally ill. Among her honors: a MacArthur grant. So why did Michael’s life turn out as it did? Perhaps Michael was simply one of those people medicine couldn’t treat. Or perhaps his prodigious intelligence made him believe, at times, that he was capable of outrunning his illness — as if one could be smart enough and determined enough to “beat” schizophrenia, as if (though surely he was smart enough not to believe) will and intelligence had anything to do with it. Perhaps his past successes and his drive to sustain his achievement were part of the problem. Could he have been trying to do and be too much? Might a job at Macy’s, or a less boring equivalent, have been a good idea after all? When Robin Kornegay was dating Michael, he told her about the golem, the Jewish folkloric creature fashioned out of mud who at first protects his community but then, growing and growing, runs amok, endangering the people he was meant to help. Though Robin is now a pediatrician, she spent a year as a stay-at-home mom in Europe while her husband was dean of Notre Dame’s law school in London. On her long walks that year, she reflected on Michael and Carrie. “I had the idea,” she says, “that Mike was the golem. He grew and grew as a person and then his brain grew even further in a very uncontrolled and disturbing way, which was not acceptable to society and which was not reality.” Robin started a book that year titled “The Golem,” but she’s misplaced it. “I may have thrown it out,” she says. “I was ridding myself of the burden of that relationship.” Robin is not the only one I know who began to write to process what happened. Linus Yamane wrote a private piece. Michael’s psychiatrist contemplated a book. Jonathan Rosen, Michael’s childhood best friend and neighbor, is under contract with Penguin for a book. And here I sit, typing, feeling similarly compelled. Writing may be bad for some minds. For others, it serves a therapeutic function. It helps to have it out. But to what purpose, I wonder, even as I write this. Why rehash the tragedy after all this time? Could something have been done to prevent this? Could Carrie have been saved? The answer seems to be no. Bo Burt says, “It’s such a common American response to say, ‘It shouldn’t have happened. We should have some techniques to prevent it.’ But the tragic vision says, ‘Bad things happen, and good people can’t stop them. You do your best.’ Sometimes things are wrong. Sometimes everybody is behaving absolutely rightly, and tragedy happens.” Why write it then, after all these years? One person close to Michael’s story, who didn’t want to talk, said it could only harm Michael to have attention of any sort at this point. It would hurt his chances of release to a private medical facility. Could something written harm him more than he’s already been harmed? And if there’s any chance of it, why pen this? When I approach people who knew him, some don’t want to talk, but most say, “Yes. Please. Call me. I welcome this conversation.” It’s not only Michael, after all, whose life has been affected. When I found out about Carrie’s murder, I was living in Waterville, Maine. Two years earlier, there had been a bizarre murder in town. Mark Bechard, a psychotic man had gone to a local convent, the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, and bludgeoned and stomped two nuns to death. Two others were gravely injured. Bechard had been mentally ill but a member of the Catholic community, frequently present at prayer. One of the nuns who he killed was considering offering him a job in the yard. Just as Michael’s friends, family, and physicians were trying to help him on the day of Carrie’s murder, so Bechard’s family was trying to get in touch with his doctor on the stormy night — the phone lines down — when he set out for the convent. The tragedy in the convent kitchen played out in ten minutes. On a summer afternoon in 2014, I visit the nuns in the hopes that they will have something to teach me about Michael and Carrie. I know the nuns have forgiven Mark Bechard — “What else can you do?” the Mother Superior, Sister Mary Catherine Perko, says to me — in a way the Costellos did not forgive Michael. But who can blame Carrie’s parents? I can’t imagine feeling any sympathy for the mentally ill if it was my child who’d been murdered. What’s more, Carrie had named Michael as the beneficiary of her retirement savings and her life insurance, and the Laudors kept the money for Michael’s trial. Insult added to (unbearable) injury. A civil suit followed. As for the nuns, their hearts are open. “Poor creature,” Mary Catherine says to me of Bechard "he was a sick, young man not taking his medicine." She adds, “But we don’t want this to happen again.” Talking about the effect the murders had on their faith, Mary Catherine says that the nuns were “called to a deeper awareness that Jesus was carrying us.” I read something Mary Catherine told an NPR reporter about the bell at St. Peter’s in Rome, where she lived for decades before coming to Waterville. So I ask her about it. She has the idea it must be very hard to be that bell, hit again and again, but then, oh, what a beautiful sound the bell made. What a lovely thing to believe, I think. Yes, as she is suggesting, there is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, in the way a community can respond to a tragedy, as with the many friends who came out to support the nuns in their time of need. Clearly I am not the only one who has been turning the intricacies of Michael and Carrie’s story over and over for fifteen years. But a beautiful sound? No. That could only apply to the community that has been hit, not the individual. There’s no beautiful sound in Carrie’s death - a professional and academic success, a lover of long bike rides, a self-deprecating woman and loyal partner. “She screamed the most awful scream,” one sister, in a news report, said of one of the nuns Bechard strangled, “and then her cries were stifled.”

When adjudged okay again, Michael went home.

Then you must speak of one that loved not wisely, but too well.

Othello (Act 5, Scene 2)