Sandra Boss isn’t the only smart woman conned by an abusive man with a roster of aliases. Barbara Bentley’s story was featured on Dateline last night: “The Years of Living Dangerously: A wife is trapped in her husband’s mysterious web of deception.”
Their stories have so many similarities that I’m chilled. Barbara’s charming, fascinating, and charismatic late husband presented himself as a retired Navy rear admiral and the descendent of two infamous admirals named Perry/Peary. They were VIP guests of the Navy during Fleet Week in San Francisco. He had war medals including the Congressional Medal of Honor. They were invited to President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration and the inaugural balls. The only part of his story that was true was that he was the black sheep son of Admiral Perry, who founded the Seabees.
The truth was that he was a con man wanted by the FBI for impersonating a US Navy officer.
Like “Clark Rockefeller,” John Perry swept Barbara off her feet. Soon he was living with her and proposed marriage. The groom’s family didn’t attend the wedding in Mexico. Barbara heard lots of family stories, but introductions never took place. John explained his family perceived her to be a “gold digger.” John’s consulting assignments didn’t produce income. The bills piled up. Barbara found herself getting deeper and deeper into debt to fund their lavish lifestyle. The FBI wanted to talk to John.
Like Sandra, Barbara began to get suspicious: who are you? John became emotionally abusive and threatened to leave. There was a near-fatal car wreck. A tumble down the stairs. Barbara started digging into John’s background. John’s stories lost credibility.
Out of the blue, he joined her on a business trip to Indianapolis. He brought along a bottle of ether. He believed he would get double indemnity if she died during a business trip.
The bottle of ether came along on a trip to Washington, D.C. to finalize an employment contract John claimed he had with an admiral. After listening to John’s excuses for days, Barbara lost patience and threatened to go home. In an instant, an ether-soaked wash cloth was covering her face. The couple fought. John threatened to jump off a bridge because he claimed he had cancer.
Barbara called the police. John was arrested and convicted of attempted murder. He served 10 months of a five year sentence.
While he was in prison for attempting to kill her, Barbara discovered that under Califorina’s no-fault, community property laws, she was obligated to pay him alimony, half of her retirement, and for his insurance. She was furious.
Passion, planning, patience, and persistence fueled her 1 1/2 year lobbying effort to change the laws. She is now happily remarried. She’s become a victim’s rights advocate and has a blog. Her memoir A Dance with the Devil: A True Story of Marriage to a Psychopath was published late last year. It’s gotten rave reviews on Amazon. You can read my review by clicking here. (There’s a link in that post to her appearance on BlogTalkRadio.)
After their divorce, John conned another woman into changing her will and funding his extravagant lifestyle. During an argument about finances, he threatened to shoot himself with a shotgun. The next morning, she found him dead of a prescription drug overdose.
Barbara’s advice to women walking in her shoes is to pay attention to your instincts and to not challenge an abusive person. You can read more about Barbara on her web site. She’s proof that one person engaging in Outrageous Acts of Social Justice can indeed make a difference.