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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

At Mother's Request, A True Story Of Money, Murder and Betrayal by Jonathoan Coleman

From Books


I got this book at the recent library book sale. I go every Fall and stock up. I'm glad I got this one. It has kept me rivetted since I opened it up to the first page. Coleman does a great job keeping you involved.

Franklin Bradshaw (from a Mormon family) married Berenice Harriett Jewett (raised in an irreligious family) on Halloween, 1924. They had their first child, Robert Jewett Bradshaw in August, 1926. They had a girl, Marilyn, in 1929. Their next daughter, Elaine, was born in 1931. Their final child was a 3rd girl, Frances Bernice Bradshaw born on 4/6/1938. They lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. They had a rough beginning during the 1920's and then the Great Depression. It was hand-to-mouth for their first years of marriage. But Franklin Bradshaw was a workaholic and determined to make money. He started an auto parts store when they lived in Provo, Utah and they lived in an apartment over the store. In 1937, he expanded by moving to Salt Lake City and opening another auto parts store. He bought a brick bungalow in May, 1937 and the family moved there. It would be their home for the rest of their lives.

Each of the parents had some severe problems in adapting to life. Franklin was very smart and had great business savvy. But he was also a miser, plain and simple. He had penny saved and scrimped all his life and he was so "thrifty" that it was beyond frugality and into miserliness. He became so successful and rich and this validated his ways and was the only way he felt successful. At home, Berenice was an agitator and nervous, always having nervous spells. When Franklin was home, she made him miserable. Home was not a safe haven for him so he came home less and less. He worked from 6:30am until 9:00pm, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At work he found the respect and validation he needed and found a friendly atmosphere. Things went the way he wanted them too (no matter how eccentric he was and how weird his "ways" were). At home, he was nagged, berated, put down, had the children turned against him, etc. Berenice lived a lonely life and I can certainly understand how an emotionally high strung woman could become such a shrew living in the environment she was living in. But, on the other hand, she brought a lot of it on herself. Berenice's constant drama only grew as did Franklin's withdrawal from his wife and children. Their problems fed off of each other and destroyed the kids. They had a very dysfunctional life.

Their son, Robert, had some type of mental or behavioral problems maybe since birth. But Berenice and Franklin raised him in all the wrong ways which exacerbated Robert's problems. He eventually began having epileptic seizures on a daily basis but they didn't take him to a doctor. They let their oldest daughter, Marilyn, take care of Robert. She became the mother of the group. Berenice ignored it and Franklin didn't want to spend the money. Robert was very smart. Coleman said he taught himself Russian and Chinese. He was no dummy. Robert joined the Navy as a young man but when he had his seizures, he was out of the Navy in just a couple of months. Robert became enough of a problem that they decided to do a lobotomy on him in order to calm him down. I really think it might have been Berenice's way of getting control and Franklin's way of escaping his troubled son. The lobotomy didn't cure him and he was institutionalized for the rest of his short life. Berenice went to visit him but she agitated him and played her mind control games with him to where it took days for him to calm back down after she left. The doctors asked her to quit coming but she felt it was her duty. Franklin refused to go visit his son. Out of sight, out of mind. Poor Robert wrote home and constantly talked about how much he wanted to get well and come home and learn the business so his daddy would be proud of him. It must have been his obsession to be like dad (a dad who couldn't be in the same room with his son) and make his dad proud of him and to become the patriarch of the family once his parents were gone. But it was not to be. Robert is the saddest of all of them. He probably was the least complicated and yet, the other children were the "smart" ones.

The two older girls went to college and made good marriages. They got out of Salt Lake City and never went back. Marilyn lived in NY and Elaine lived in California. Frances became the spoiled brat who grew up into a monster. She was born about the time that things were beginning to prosper for the Bradshaw family so she never knew any serious deprivation, except the deprivation of feeling unloved by both her parents. Berenice didn't love Frances, she obsessed over her out of guilt because she didn't love her children. Money was becoming available so Berenice spent money on Frances that she never did for the other 3 children. Frances grew up expecting it. She also grew up seeing how her mother manipulated Franklin and how she pitted the children against each other or against their father. Berenice was bad enough at the mind games but Frances became the master. She learned how to manipulate every person she ever came in contact with to her advantage. Her parents, siblings, 2 husbands, 3 children (Larry, Marc, and Lavinia), college friends, friends, social contacts, etc. Everyone became fodder for her convenience. She wanted money and she wanted it NOW! She was such a tyrant that she would have hysterical temper tantrums and threaten with anything that worked to get what she wanted. Her children were raised by this drama queen (and I don't use this nicely) and they became just like her. She taught them how to beg her parents for money, how to steal from her parents, how to forge checks on her parents bank accounts, etc, etc. She blackmailed, threatened violence or suicide, ANYTHING to get what she wanted. We aren't talking about a 2 yr old, but a grown woman with children of her own. Unfortunately, Berenice was living in a La La land believing everything Frances said and nothing anyone else would say. She totally blocked out her other children, her husband, her family or in laws and only focused on Frances. Frances did the same thing between Larry and Marc. Marc was her favorite and Larry was treated like so much trash. Once trouble came, Lavinia became the new favorite and the one that all was lavished on. But let me say, right up front, when I say "favorite" it was not a good thing. Larry suffered the worst abuse. But Marc and Lavinia were abused too, just to a lesser degree and this made them try all the harder to keep her happy so they wouldn't be locked out of the house like Larry was. Larry was used as the scapegoat to keep the others in line. She always threatened to lock them out and did it often. Children left to sleep in hallways and stairwells and walk the street of NY City because she has a fit of pique. She would threaten them with homelessness, being poor if their grandparents (or their father's) didn't come across with money to keep them in style (and we aren't talking about living in the projects but living in the best places and buying anything she wanted). She was totally dependent on the money that she scammed out of Berenice, Franklin or her ex husbands. She did all the drama and then would sneak around stealing, hiding assets from divorce courts, etc. to drain everyone around her of their money. She would threaten to commit suicide by trying to "jump out of the window" and scare her children to death. They grew up in this abnormal, greed-filled, drama until it made them into the same way.

I've spent way too much time describing this sick family (sans Marilyn and Elaine who seemed to be miraculously normal despite what happened to them). It was just eery how bad things got. Now for the mystery. Franklin has become a multi millionaire with a lot of auto parts stores in Utah. But they still live in the little bungalow and buys his clothes in thrift stores and drives their old cars to the ground before getting new practical cars. He hides his stock certificates in magazine and books and hidey holes in his Salt Lake City store. He constantly pores over his mineral leases and stocks and his books and tries all the loopholes in the tax codes so he can hoard his money and keep it safe. He keeps Berenice on a tight leash because she has become such a tool of Frances' greed. Berenice steals money from her husband to send to Frances so Franklin doesn't trust her either. The tighter he becomes, the more Berenice, Frances, Larry, and Marc get desperate and willing to do anything to get ahold of the money. Now, Franklin is found killed by gunshot in his store early one Sunday morning.

WHO DID IT?!? You will have to read this book to find out! Very interesting read!

I hope and pray that this family has found some normality and peace in the years since this book was written 1985.

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