By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Despite that behavior, Trimmer insists that "there were no red flags" to warn anyone of an impending tragedy. "Tempers flare up all the time, with most of our people," he says. "The truth is that we followed her; we talked to her and said, 'What's going on? Is everything okay?' We tried to alleviate some of the pressure. But sometimes we rely on places like hospitals, and assume they'd be taking care of some things regarding her new baby."
"Did someone offer her relevant services and she refused?" Mark Ragins asks. "Did someone who knew her offer to raise and lower her meds as her hormones declined? It's not like she turned down appropriate treatment. Services for the mentally ill -- including psychiatrists, including pills -- just aren't offered where the homeless people are." If Elizabeth had had the benefit of an extended relationship with a social worker or psychiatrist, he argues, her needs could have been foreseen.
Trimmer contends that Elizabeth was an expert at masking her symptoms, and claims that the counselors available to Elizabeth could not have known about her illness. "Confidentiality is a huge barrier," he says. "If the client doesn't sign off on the information, we can't get it." (Since Zelazo's death, "L.A. Free Clinic has really stepped up the effort to provide psychiatric assessment for each individual involved in the prenatal clinic," he says.) Unfortunately, when Elizabeth's psychiatric profile was made available, it was to her court-appointed public defender, Terry Shenkman.
A SMALL WOMAN WITH VOLUMES OF BLACK curls, more likely to be found in a corduroy Laura Ashleytype dress than a suit, Terry Shenkman is a fast talker and a rigorous interrogator. At the preliminary hearing of The People vs. Elizabeth Lynn Faber, on April 14, 1998, she questioned prosecution witness LAPD Detective Jose Duran about her client's mood the day of the incident. "Now, what was Ms. Faber's demeanor like when you interviewed her?" Shenkman began. "She was just talking normal," replied the detective. "She answered our questions. She showed no emotion." "And for you it is normal," asked Shenkman, "to show no emotion when a person finds out her baby is dead?"
Elizabeth was initially charged with first-degree murder, but Shenkman managed to get the District Attorney's Office to have the charge reduced to second-degree murder, to which Elizabeth pleaded guilty in exchange for the promise that she would not be sentenced to jail, but committed instead to Patton State Hospital. Officially, she has been sentenced "until such time as her sanity is restored," for a period "not exceeding 15 years to life." According to Shenkman, she could be released in as little as six years. Mark Faber hopes that his daughter will soon be eligible for CONREP, the Department of Mental Health's conditional outpatient release program. "She is beginning to see a future for herself outside of Patton State Hospital," he wrote in a recent e-mail to friends and family.
While in jail, Elizabeth had been required to take medication, if only to keep her manageable. "It probably wasn't the best combination for her," Shenkman says. "It was just so they could control her." Still, the change in her personality, according to her parents, was remarkable. Where once there had been rage, there was now lucidity and friendliness. Her hyper-religious delusions had subsided, as had her accusations and aggression. "They had her on lithium for a while, and on Halcyon and Prozac," Kathy Faber says. "And then they took her off lithium for a month, and I thought, 'What the heck is going on?' But they put her on Depakote, which turned out to be really effective. When Lynn called me, she said, 'It's like my head has cleared up.'" On August 26, 1998, Lynn wrote a letter to her parents from jail. "To my beautiful mother and father," it began, "whom I miss too much, from Elizabeth Lynn Faber, your only daughter.
"How can I explain the way I feel right now? Over and over, I hope the next day arrives without the memories of cursing the both of you out. It seems to me all the love I've ever known has come from the both of you. The way I've treated you in the past is and was so painful . . . I don't know how to thank you except for telling you, as often as I can, that I love you. Once that was an impossible thing for me to do, but because of your support, I'm slowly learning how to conquer the hate. Thank you for helping me. Love always, Lynn."
By every account, including that of her parents, Shenkman, people in the mental-health community who watched her case, and even Elizabeth herself, confinement to Patton State Hospital was the best of all possible outcomes -- better, even, than if Elizabeth had simply been set free. According to Jacobs, "She's very lucky to be in Patton and not in jail. When you come right down to it, murdering a baby is a really bad crime."
THERE ARE MOMENTS IN THIS STORY IN which it seems easy to fault Mark and Kathy Faber for letting Elizabeth get away from them, for not letting her return home after her husband left, for not understanding that her substance abuse was likely an attempt to medicate herself. But while Elizabeth's illness was raging, Kathy was recovering from a successful battle with ovarian cancer and Mark was changing careers, from church pastor to engineer. They acquired their education in mental illness as they watched it unfold. "Parents become very savvy after a few years," Jacobs has observed. "But a lot of tragedies take place along that learning curve."
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