James: Suppose she made the marks herself. Why would she do that?
Keats: Well, if she did it to herself, I believe that it was because someone else suggested that she do it to herself.
James: Why do you say that?
Keats: It’s the phrasing. If she decided, on her own, to cut herself, she would write something like: “Kayla will burn in hell” or “I will burn in hell.” She chose to write: “the Ludarac’s will burn in hell.” She included her whole family along with herself. These marks aren’t inspired by feelings of self-loathing or low self-esteem. I firmly believe the words came from an outside source that hates all of the members of the Ludarac family, or from a member of the family itself who suggested those specific words to her in some way.
Harker: Objection. This is pure speculation.
James: In your professional opinion, was Cooper Ludarac the victim of child abuse?
Keats: I believe so, yes.
Keats: Well, Cooper wasn’t the victim of physical abuse as Kayla may have been. Cooper was lied to extensively. The damage is mental and could be ongoing.
James: Can you elaborate?
Keats: During the interviews, it became clear that Cooper was under the distinct impression that his sister, Lucy, is still alive and that this impression was clearly imprinted in his brain by his parents. They told Cooper that Lucy was sleeping underground, and that they had woken her up and she was as fine as she ever was.
Harker: Objection, Your Honor. This is hearsay.
J: Mr. Harker, in this jurisdiction, statements made by a child of Cooper’s age during therapy are admissible. I’ve told you this before. The objection is overruled. The jury is reminded that Dr. Keats is testifying only to Cooper Ludarac’s statements, not necessarily the objective truth of events. You may continue, Ms. James.
James: Parents explain death to their children in strange ways sometimes. How is what Dana and Jonathan told Cooper different?
Keats: Well, based on Cooper’s statements during my interviews, Jonathan and Dana Ludarac retrieved Lucy’s corpse at some point in an attempt to convince Cooper that Lucy was still alive. Again, based on what Cooper said and some evidence retrieved during an exhumation by the County Sheriff’s Office, it sounds as though Jonathan and Dana actually possessed Lucy’s embalmed corpse in their home at one point and attempted what may have been a marionette or, I don’t know, weekend-at-Bernie’s-type-situation. My point is that they went remarkably far to lie to their son, and he is currently under the impression that his sister is still alive and walking around somewhere. That kind of belief will do incredible damage when he does eventually realize that Lucy is really dead. At that point, he will experience her death emotionally, and, additionally, it will be coupled with the shattering of the ideal of life after death. In addition to that, he will know that his parents deceived him, which can be equally damaging.
James: What exactly are you basing this marionette theory on?
Keats: Like I said, Cooper is definitely under the impression that his sister is alive. When I asked him about Lucy, he referred to her in the present tense and said that she still comes by their house sometimes, but not always. He claimed to have seen her in person. On a long shot, the County Sheriff’s Office exhumed her grave. The corpse was not in it. It would appear that Cooper really did see Lucy, but only in some artificially animated context. Basically what I’m saying is that Cooper believes his sister was resurrected. Since that can’t be the case, his parents are almost certainly responsible for implanting the idea. I was not able to determine the exact nature of how they did this though. My theory is based on what Cooper told me.
James: Thank you, Doctor. Nothing further, Your Honor.
Harker: Did Kayla Ludarac ever explicitly say that her father had harmed her?
Keats: Not specifically, no.
Harker: Just a no is fine. Did she give the impression that her father had suggested that she should cut herself?
Keats: Again, not specifically, no.
Harker: So, no. You mentioned that it could be any member of the family who did it or convinced her to do this. Could her mother have done it?
Keats: That’s possible.
Harker: How about Cooper.
Keats: I think that is far less likely, given his age, but also remotely possible, I suppose.
Harker: Does Kayla know her sister is dead?
Harker: So, if they did at all, Dana and Jonathan lied only to the one child?
Keats: It would appear so.
Harker: Did Kayla mention anything about this, what did you call it—weekend-at-Bernie’s-type-situation?
Keats: She did not seem aware of it, no.
Harker: You would think she would notice if that kind of thing were going on around the house, wouldn’t you?
Keats: Yes, it would be logical to assume she would notice.
Harker: How would you describe Cooper Ludarac?
Keats: Well, he’s only six and aside from the circumstances he has become involved in, I think he is actually fairly normal.
Harker: Is he smart?
Keats: Yes, I think so.
Harker: Is he creative?
Harker: How about imaginative?
Keats: Yes, he’s very imaginative, but what he—
Harker: Is it possible that what he described to you, in reality, never really happened.
Keats: That is, I suppose, remotely possible, but —
Harker: So, just to be clear, everything you just told us could be just a wild theory presented by a very imaginative six-year-old.
Keats: It could be, yes, but I think—
Harker: Nothing further, Your Honor.
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The People v. Jonathan Ludarac (Abridged)Horror
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