Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John List

The Marriage

He did, however, meet his future wife there, in a bowling alley. Helen Taylor had gone out that night with her sister, Jean Syfert. Helen was a recent military widow with a nine-year-old daughter. John courted her enthusiastically, and she was eager to find a new husband. He seemed like a mama's boy, but he was kind and stable. John's mother, however, did not like this arrangement one bit. She was suspicious of Helen, mostly because the 24-year-old woman had had several miscarried pregnancies already, and because she did not belong to their church. She was not one of them.

Helen then announced that she was pregnant. John knew they would have to get married, and soon. He seemed proud that there was some evidence that he had already been to bed with her. They tied the knot two months after they met, on December 1, 1951. Then John introduced Helen to his mother. Alma would never let John forget that he had married beneath himself. Helen soon let John know that she was not actually pregnant. It was not long before she regretted her rush to marry him.

They were scheduled to go to California, to an Army accounting center, and John decided to invite his mother, since she had never seen California. It was Helen's first taste of how firm a presence John's mother was in her husband's life. They disliked each other and John was always caught in the middle.

When the Army discharged him, John took Helen back to Detroit where he resumed his accounting job in a prestigious firm. Their first child, Patricia Marie, was born in January of 1955, winning Alma over. Then John took a job in a growing company and moved his family to Kalamazoo, where another child was born, John Frederick.

Helen, uninterested in John's religion, began avoiding attending church, leaving him feeling abandoned. He began to feel angry and to sulk in private. Then Helen got pregnant again, which depressed her. Brenda, Helen's first child, was growing estranged. Now 16, she wanted to get out of the house and she was causing trouble. After Frederick Michael was born in 1958, Helen took to the bottle. She also became addicted to tranquilizers and began to see a psychiatrist. She was spending more money than John earned and neglecting the children, leaving much of the child rearing to him. He rarely complained, but on occasion, when Helen pushed him too far, his face became blotched and he would tremble with rage. Once he even overturned the kitchen table. However, she simply said she was not cleaning up and left him to do it. He got down on his knees and picked up the broken dishes.

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