Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Neil Entwistle

White Lies

To some extent, everyone fakes it from time to time, exaggerating an accomplishment, playing a role, or faking experience or credentials. Benign hypocrisy involves us in telling "white lies" or going through the motions of something we don't really wish to do. The question in the Entwistle case, if he's found guilty, is whether he over-indulged in this otherwise harmless behavior, taking it too far until it was beyond his control, or whether he presents a different kind of behavior altogether.

For the men already mentioned, faking it apparently brought self-esteem and praise from others, so even if they initially felt guilty, their ego satisfaction could override it. Still, perhaps they did not feel guilty. Perhaps they merely indulged a narcissistic desire to please themselves. When a family and a social appearance worked for them, they were happy to keep these things in their lives. When the family and the pretense became a burden, they had to go.

Neil Entwistle
Neil Entwistle

But sometimes the role-playing can become an addiction. It can be satisfying to fool people, and for men with no substance to begin with, it's almost necessary to be able to do so. When they succeed, especially in ways that garner prestige and acclaim, they keep it up. Once their lies grow into an identity, they must lie more to protect the façade. That can mean cutting off people who confronts them, undercutting them, or removing them altogether and eclipsing their ability to reveal the lies.

Like Longo, Hacking and Romand, Entwistle has offered a story after the fact that supposedly clears him of murder. He found Rachel and Lillian already dead, he insists, and then went to his father-in-law's house to use a gun to kill himself. He didn't have an explanation for not calling 911, for the one-way ticket to England, for leaving his wife and daughter's bodies unattended, or for his Internet searches. He also didn't say why the gun he had handled to supposedly shoot himself seems to be the same one used to kill his wife and daughter.

Usually the men who tell such tales have a clear idea of what they plan to do when the need arises, because they've rehearsed it in their fantasies often enough. What they're not prepared for is the aftermath, and that's where their stories fall apart. Entwistle has no story that makes sense, and it remains to be seen whether his mounting debt and web of lies played a part in this tragedy, but one thing is clear. It's a situation we've seen before and the developing pattern appears familiar.


On June 25, 2008, after two days of deliberations, a jury in Woburn, Mass., found Neil Entwistle guilty of the murders of his wife and nine-month-old daughter. The next day he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


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