The story of the SaddleBrooke cuckold gave the whole country a chuckle for a couple of days.
Early Saturday morning, the 68-year-old man shot the 22-year-old man whom he found sleeping with his 63-year-old wife in the casita outside their comfortable home north of Tucson.
Get it? A 63-year-old woman with a 22-year-old man? Ha-ha-ha.
But when you unpack their situation, and how everybody found out about it, the case really isn’t that funny and says a lot about the underbelly of the news and our own callousness.
I spoke with the married couple at the center of the story for about a half hour Tuesday, though they declined to comment for the record. They seemed surprisingly calm and a bit bemused by all the attention their domestic dispute has received, while acknowledging the whole thing brings up serious issues.
For me, the issues start with how we learned about the case. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, ever vigilant when it comes to publicizing their boss, Sheriff Paul Babeu, put out a press release Sunday in which you could detect a hint of glee at the story, beginning with the headline: “68 year old man shoots 22 year old man after finding him in bed with his wife.”
It included this canned quote from Babeu: “This was an unusual call for our deputies in a active senior community. Clearly, this young man should have heeded the warnings of the home owner to leave his residence and to stop sleeping with his wife. The young man is lucky that he only got poked with a cane and shot with a stray pellet.”
I asked Babeu’s spokesman, Tim Gaffney, why they put out the press release at all. He told me via email, “I had inquiries related to the case, and we put out news releases on almost a daily basis regarding events in Pinal County and cases our office investigates. Our office has received a great deal of praise from citizens and members of the media for transparency.”
The fact that the news happened to come out Sunday guaranteed better play for the story because TV stations and newspapers are desperate for news at the end of most weekends.
Then there were the assumptions of patriarchy and traditional marriage relationships packaged in Babeu’s quote, perhaps unwittingly, with his reference to the 68-year-old man as “the home owner” with the right to kick the young man out of the house for “sleeping with his wife.” First of all, if the wife invited the young man into the house, why does the husband’s wish that he leave take legal precedence? Second, who knows what the relationships were between any of them?
What’s clear from what the couple told me, and from the recording of the husband’s 911 call, is that this was a real emergency needing police intervention. After all, passions had escalated to the point that the man felt the need to fire a “warning shot” at the young man, Stephan Trevor Chapman, who is accused of disorderly conduct.
“I found the guy in bed with my wife. I told him to get out, and he attacked me and I shot him,” the elder man told a 911 dispatcher breathlessly after firing the shot.
But the situation is more complicated than that.
In the 911 call, the husband says his wife “is trying to take care of the guy. He’s out of prison. My wife’s defending him. She’s trying to take care of him.”
Asked by the dispatcher to explain, he said, “She does that with strange people, people who have mental problems.”
Online court records show that Chapman is facing misdemeanor criminal charges of trespassing and assault in Tucson municipal court. The Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, the regional mental-health agency covering Pima County, is scheduled to review his case today, a step taken when defendants may have mental-health problems.
Gaffney said in an email that the woman had lived with Chapman for a period of months earlier this year but that she had moved back in with her husband, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, in August. He also said the woman and young man have had a sexual relationship, though they were literally sleeping together when Saturday’s incident began.
Oh yes, then there’s the question of Parkinson’s disease. It’s hard to overstate the effect that any debilitating neurological disorder can have on a marriage or any close relationship. A partner, a lover, becomes a caregiver, and the strains can be immense.
All these issues come into play in this SaddleBrooke comedy. Hard to stop laughing, isn’t it?