October 12, 2008

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

When the Bear family came home from an evening of foraging at the local Chinese buffet, Mama Bear noticed that someone had been eating in her kitchen.

"Who ate the crab cake and left the crumbs on the counter?" she asked.

"Not I," said Papa Bear.

"Not I," said Baby Bear.

Papa Bear went upstairs and saw that someone had been sleeping in his bed. In fact, that someone was still sleeping, curled up in Papa Bear's blanket on the bed, with his shoes, socks, and pants lying on the floor.

"Who's been sleeping in my bed?" Papa Bear asked.

No, wait a minute, scratch that. Modern bears have cell phones. So Papa Bear did not confront the intruder. Instead, he quietly crept downstairs, gathered up Mama Bear and Baby Bear, and went outside to call the police.

Goldilocks was still asleep when police rolled up.

"What are you doing in my house?" demanded the brazen, modern-day Goldilocks of police.

As it turns out, poor Goldilocks was a 50-year-old man who - with the recent economic downturn - had just lost his job. He was apparently so drunk that he entered the wrong bed in the wrong house. In fact, he got off the bus a full eight miles from his own home in Damascus, Maryland.

The drunken Goldilocks was apologetic.

"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," he told the Bears. "And by the way, you have a very comfortable bed."

The modern-day Bears were also a good deal more charitable than in the original tale.

Mama Bear, a middle school teacher named Joanne Breiner, packed up a container of homemade chicken soup, homemade cookies, and spareribs for Goldilocks.

"I think her mom would have been disappointed if we didn't feed the intruder," said Papa Bear (aka Bob Breiner).

In the modern saga, by the way, Baby Bear was 16 years old and had carelessly left the front door unlocked.

Police would not reveal Goldilocks' real name, saying only that he had no criminal record.

Why am I posting about Goldilock and the Bears?

Because in forensic psychology we sometimes get cases like this. Indeed, I had a case very similar to this one, except the Goldilocks in my case was arrested and prosecuted for burglary. In my case, Goldilocks had not been drinking; rather, he was sleepwalking while in an altered state due to an extremely high fever. His charges were dismissed based on witness accounts of his illness, medical records that substantiated his fever and lack of blood-alcohol, and his documented history of somnambulism (sleepwalking).

In the forensic context, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) cautions about the possibility of malingering - or faking - of such fugue-like states in order to avoid criminal responsibility.

"Criminal conduct that is bizarre or with little actual gain may be more consistent with a true dissociative disturbance," states the DSM-IV-TR.

That must have been what police concluded in Goldlilocks' case. Instead of arresting the embarrassed fellow, they released him to his wife. After all, most burglars don't just eat the crabcake and go to bed.

The Washington Post has the story.

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