In each of the last three years, there were roughly 17,000 murders in the United States. Of these, about 11 percent were committed by women. In most cases women kill to defend themselves during a confrontation: It’s her life or his. Women seldom murder other women and almost never kill strangers. That’s what men do. When a woman kills her husband, boyfriend, or lover, the crime is called “intimate murder”; because the victim is known, and because a confrontation is usually the source of her rage (almost all female killings are unplanned), the charge is usually manslaughter. Once a woman enters the criminal justice system, her fate may be eased by chivalrous public defenders, judges, and juries, who sometimes buy into gender stereotypes of women as nonviolent and passive, relational victims who deserve to be punished but not severely. At trial, a woman may generate sympathy via honest or well-played emotional displays. Is crazy-in-love a special requisite for intimate female murder? Or is there something more to the story than ruined innocence? To illustrate, here are three local cases, a consideration of contestable intentions that led to the violent end of a woman’s love.
I Loved My Husband, and I Didn’t Do It on Purpose.
Marion Scott Lowry’s early life was traumatic. As a teenager, she and her mother moved to Ocean Beach, where the mother sold marijuana for the Hell’s Angels. A stepfather stole money from Lowry’s mother and frequently abused her. The mother, unable to care for her daughter, was forced to give up Marion, and at 13, Marion was placed in a foster home. Lowry, who told her story to a psychiatrist and a psychologist, transcripts of which are on file with the San Diego Superior Court, said that in 1969 her mother owed the Hell’s Angels $500 in drug proceeds, a sum she could not pay. According to Lowry, the motorcycle gang had her mother killed. The court-ordered psychologist wrote, “Her mother was placed on the freeway in the fast lane, while on heroin, by the Hell’s Angels and run over.” In the police report, the cause of death was ruled an accident.
A lost teen, Lowry ran away from her foster family but was later found and returned to school. She failed 11th grade and again ran away, this time to San Francisco, where she used drugs. She took LSD, then “graduated” to the hallucinogen STP, a much stronger psychotropic drug. As a result, Lowry was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and given antipsychotic medication to come down. Typically, when Lowry was prescribed such drugs, she “flushed them down the toilet.” At 18, she overdosed on a prescribed drug — 100 tablets of 100 mg Mellaril. Her stomach was pumped and she was saved. (Two other suicide attempts occurred: she sliced her wrists at 28, and she cut her neck at 38.)
Lowry, who is now 54, told the psychologist that she had been raped five times, but despite years of drugs and physical abuse, she continued to work. Her résumé includes stints as a cashier, fast-food worker, department-store clerk, maid, and a horse trainer in Arizona, her favorite job: eight years off drugs, tending animals. Along the way, Lowry married twice. With her first husband, she had a son; with her second, the union ended when she committed adultery in order to — as she claimed — get away from the man.
The man she cheated with was John Raymond Tramposh. The pair married in 1983 and lived for many years at Diamond Jack’s RV Park in Jamul. Lowry recalls that the pair drank heavily; both broke into cars to steal things, even when either she or Tramposh was on parole. Still, Lowry remembers the marriage as “excellent — no matter what, my husband was always there for me. No matter how much of a failure [I was], no matter how much I struggled,” he was, she said, good to her, and she to him. “I’d pick him up, and he’d pick me up, when I was down. When I’d run from him, he’d give me chicken soup. We had verbal fighting.” Her neighbors said, “We were either fucking or fighting.” Apparently, the fighting included times when, according to Tramposh, Lowry would strike him “on the legs with pots and pans.”
In 1991, Lowry was hospitalized with a “nervous breakdown.” In the psychologist’s report, she described herself “drinking beer, raising hell, falling asleep, cracking my teeth, and yelling at my husband,” Tramposh. While under a psychiatrist’s care, she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given Klonopin, along with other antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Another psychiatrist diagnosed her as having “manic depression, schizophrenic residuals, and suicidal tendencies.” In 1999 and 2000, she was hospitalized at County Mental Health hospital for “psychological disorders.”
By 2006, Lowry had an extensive criminal record: 10 misdemeanor convictions and 11 felony convictions, along with 8 “criminal failures to appear.” The charges and convictions include selling heroin, forgery, receiving stolen property, defrauding businesses, petty theft, escaping jail, disorderly conduct, vehicle theft, burglary, begging, child stealing, transporting narcotics, battery, prostitution, assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm, and DUI. Lowry confessed to the psychiatrist, “I’m a high-end bitch. I steal the nice things so I can have money in my pocket. My problem was I’d see it and take it because it was pretty.” Of late, Lowry has supported herself with Social Security disability payments.
Lowry’s day is given over to a pack of cigarettes, three or four drinks, and four to six cups of coffee. She takes methadone and Xanax. Long-term drug use has taken its toll. The psychologist describes Lowry as plump, poorly groomed, tangential in her thinking, labile (prone to swings of emotions), and “inappropriately angry.” Her speech can be “poorly logical.” Her judgment and her insight is “poor.” She is “in the average range of cognitive ability.” The Michigan Alcohol Screening Test classed her a “problem drinker.” The test suggests that “individuals with this profile are suspicious, mistrustful, easily threatened, and likely to overrespond to minor environmental stresses with belligerent behavior and emotional outbursts.” The personality disorder Lowry has is severe: it is marked by loneliness and feeling misunderstood and by a tendency to be highly manipulative and self-indulgent. The psychologist found no evidence that Lowry is a psychopath.