'Once you’ve killed someone, you can’t just go back to being normal'
- Lindsey Haugen
Every single year, more than 6,000 people are convicted of murder in the United States alone. Of that number, less than 10% of those sent to jail are women. Killing (or at least getting caught killing), it seems, is something of a man’s game.
When women do kill, though, what is their motivation? It may be generalising somewhat, but research backs up that it’s often for revenge or financial gain. Women are far less likely to take someone’s life out of anger, sexual sadism or simply violent urge. They’re less likely to, but still capable of doing so.
Why did 32-year-old Lindsay Haugen strangle and kill her 25-year-old lover Robert Mast in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Billings, Montana, on the 15th of September 2015? Revenge? Financial gain? Vicious compulsion? Mercy? Curiosity…?
Well, it all depends on who you ask.
Montana Police have a very firm idea indeed. Based on their interviews with her, they firmly believe that Haugen killed ‘Robby’ cruelly and with malice aforethought. According to the lead investigator on the case, she was jealous and upset about Robby’s feelings towards an ex-girlfriend and lashed out in anger. Not only that but Haugen herself admitted during interrogation that she ‘wanted to see what it was like to kill someone.’
The killer puts forward a very different motive, however. Haugen says that she was merely helping Mast escape his crippling and unbearable depression. It was, according to her, a mercy killing. He had suicidal tendencies and had asked her to kill him on several occasions, she says. She was merely assisting him, setting him free. Doing what he had asked of her. Pleaded of her.
'I remember, one morning he woke up and just said, "Have you ever been disappointed that you woke up and you're still alive?"' says Haugen. “I just remember how upset he looked.”
The couple had only been together for some four weeks, but in that time they had built up quite a connection, according to Lindsay. A mutual dependence on alcohol may well have strengthened that bond. Just as it may have blurred boundaries and exacerbated both Mast’s depression and Haugen’s willingness to act in such an extreme fashion.
Psychiatrists could point to Lindsay’s shocking history of being physically, sexually and emotionally abused as to a reason for her strangling Robby in the back seat of her car on that fateful day. They could mention her upbringing, her drug use as a young teenager, maybe even her time in the military spent as a gunner on Black Hawks in Kuwait.
When Robby's mother and stepfather, Dori and Gene Greeson who both feature in the episode heard the news of his untimely death they were understandably shocked and distraught. Their son was a free spirit, a self-styled ‘traveller’ who suffered with acute alcoholism. They knew of his history of depression. Unlike Robby’s biological father and stepmother (who also both raised Robby), Robby's siblings and most of his friends, the Greesons have chosen to forgive Lindsay Haugen. The three share weekly phone calls and the couple regularly visit Lindsay in prison. Even though she took their son’s life.
On June 23rd 2016, at Yellowstone County District Court, Haugen was sentenced to 60 years inside the Montana State Women’s Prison for the death of Robby Mast. A ruling of 'deliberate homicide' in the state of Montana cares not for motive or reasoning or justification or nuance. All it cares about, as its name suggests, is merely if the murder was intended or not. And, of course, it was.
Whatever the true motive for the killing Robby Mast, Lindsay Haugen faces six decades behind bars.
Haugen’s next possible parole date is in 2030, after having served 25% of her sentence. The likelihood of her release is based heavily upon ‘the support of the victim’s family’. So it could be argued that it is very much in Lindsay’s interests to establish, maintain and develop a good relationship with Dori and Gene. She even admits as much herself, although is adamant that it’s not a factor in why she embraces her kinship with the couple. Accepting their forgiveness and love, she says, is the right thing to do. And it’s difficult to argue with that.
So, then. What are we to think? Well, it’s easy to be cynical. But it’s also tempting to be naive. To think the worst but hope for the best. What’s ‘the truth’ here? Who knows? All we know for certain is that - whatever the circumstances - Lindsay Haugen is a killer. As she says, she can’t just go back to being normal.