They had little jokes between them, like many couples do, such as him hiding her wedding and engagement rings when she took them off to shower, just so he could have “the chance to slip the rings back onto his wife’s finger.” Now those rings are on a chain around his neck, a bittersweet reminder of the tragedy that took his wife Charlene and their eight-week-old infant son, Shane, away from him.
The Press-Telegram writes that after the birth of their second son, Ken Ventanilla noticed a change in his wife. In fact, in the days leading up to her death, he saw her “become increasingly anxious and paranoid,” even becoming obsessed with the health of Shane and his two-year-old brother, Vincent. It would get worse in the early morning hours, so Ken moved the whole family into the living room to sleep at night.
Then in the early morning hours of September 13th, he woke up and discovered everything changed:
“I immediately had an eerie feeling that moment. And I call out her name. ‘Charlene. Charlene.’ She doesn’t respond.”
Seeing a light coming from under the door of the boys’ bedroom, he went inside, and saw Charlene and Shane on a toddler bed, but did not really register what he was seeing:
“And I stared at the bed thinking, ‘OK they’re asleep, but why is there all this juice spilled on the bed?’ It looked like it was cranberry juice or something on the bed. It just wasn’t sinking in.”
His wife, the woman he built a life and family with, joked with and loved, had stabbed their infant son to death and then stabbed herself, ending her own life, as well. ABC 7 reports that both were pronounced dead at the scene.
As difficult as it is for Ken to speak about it, he told the Press-Telegram that he felt he needed to warn others of what he believes caused his wife to do what she did, and so people would understand she didn’t do it because she didn’t love her family.
Ken suspects his wife suffered from postpartum psychosis, something the Press-Telegram notes is rare and affects approximately 1 in 1,000 women who give birth:
Some mothers become so disconnected that they feel as if an outside power is controlling their movements or they genuinely believe killing a child is their best course of action.
According to Massachusetts General Hospital, postpartum psychosis often “represents an episode of bipolar illness” and the accompanying “delusional beliefs are common and often center on the infant.” Additionally, the risk for infanticide and suicide is high among sufferers.
Symptoms include auditory hallucinations, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, confusion, erratic behavior, and mood swings that rapidly go from depressed to elevated and vice versa. Symptoms can appear as early as 48 to 72 hours after giving birth, and usually show up within the first two weeks after giving birth.