The Psychopath Across the Street

The following is the first draft of a book I am working on about a Phoenix neighborhood’s experience with a psychopath with lived among them for about two years. I’d welcome any feedback by way of comments.


This is a work of fiction, but it is based on real events that took place in a Phoenix neighborhood. Several years ago, a psychopathic woman moved the neighborhood and soon started doing all in her power to make the lives of her new neighbors difficult. We will call this woman Brigitte O’Hara. Her name as well as the street names and names of the neighbors, judges, police officers, and others who dealt with Ms O’Hara have been changed to protect their identities.

Brigitte was very friendly with most of her neighbors at first, and in return, most neighbors warmed up to her and did what they could to make her feel welcome. However, one by one, she began picking fights with her neighbors for trivial reasons. Each time she had a falling out with someone, she called the old man across the street, James Horowitz, to ask for sympathy, and each time, James listened without comment. In every incident she described, it seemed to him that Brigitte was at fault. However, she saw herself as a victim. Then she stopped calling James. That was when he learned that it was his turn to be added to her enemies’ list. Most of this story is told from James’ point of view.

James did not know how to cope with her. He had never dealt with a person before who delighted in making other people’s lives miserable. Then, another neighbor told him that Brigitte had all of the symptoms of a psychopath. James had very little idea of what that meant. He had heard the term psychopath applied to serial killers, so he assumed that a psychopath was some sort of vicious person like Jack the Ripper.

The neighbor who was a retired social worker explained to him that psychopaths do not feel normal human emotions except for anger. Due to a brain defect that is not well understood, they cannot feel positive emotions such as love, empathy, remorse, and guilt, or if they feel these emotions at all, they feel them at a very shallow level. They are driven to go to great lengths to make the lives of other people difficult. They tend to be risk takers and are therefore often successful in business. They are seldom hardened killers, but they restrain themselves from killing for practical reasons, not out of a sense that to kill a person might be wrong.

Sometimes people who exhibit milder forms of psychopathology are called sociopaths. The two terms are layman’s terms, and there is no sharp division between them. Mental health professionals often prefer the term antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder. Psychopaths may have frequent scrapes with the law, but their offenses are generally minor. They are usually unable to fulfill responsibilities to friends, neighbors, or persons with whom they do business. They also feel they are victims and use this feeling to justify their persecution of others. Do not expect a psychopath to take pity on you if you feel victimized.

Although this is a work of fiction, I have based it on events in the East Phoenix neighborhood where James Horowitz lives. All names of all of the people in this book including Brigitte O’Hara and James Horowitz are invented to protect the privacy of the psychopath’s victims. I have invented a fictional street name to replace the name of the street where the person I call James Horowitz continues to live. I have also take the liberty of inventing dialog and incidents to protect the privacy of the victims of the real-life psychopath.

The fact that our psychopath was born in Miami, lived in California and Las Vegas, and married a much older Irishman, who conveniently died and left her his estate are taken from real life, although many of the details of her life in these places are the product of my imagination. For example, in the book I have the protagonist Brigitte O’Hara poison her Irish husband. I made that up. I have no grounds for believing that the real-life psychopath who served as a model for this book caused the convenient death of her older Irish husband.

During the several years that the man I have chosen to call James Horowitz and his neighbors had to deal with their neighborhood psychopath, they began to learn about her past. Almost every time she changed residence, she also went to court to have her name legally changed in an attempt to make it more difficult for law enforcement to keep track of her. By examining multiple police reports and court documents, I was able to piece together part of her history and the many scrapes with the law that she had had in several cities under various names and many aliases. She had been arrested several times, and the list of civil suits in which she had been involved as a plaintiff and as a defendant took several sheets of paper to print.

After about two years of living across the street from James Horowitz, the psychopath put her house up for sale and moved to another neighborhood a few miles away, where she repeated the process with her new neighbors. She was nice to all of them at first, but one at a time, she turned on them and did everything in her power to make their lives difficult, just as she had done in every neighborhood where she had lived throughout her life. James and his neighbors and I breathed a sigh of relief. She was now someone else’s problem. They began to forget her and get on with our lives, but she hadn’t forgotten them. She hired a private investigator to access their motor vehicle records, a criminal act under both federal and Arizona law. She compounded the crime by printing the pictures from the driver’s licenses in a leaflet that she circulated among her new neighbors.

The six people whose driver’s records our psychopath had stolen and published elected to press charges. It took quite some time for the motor vehicle detective to finish his investigation, and by the time charges were filed against her in both Phoenix and Scottsdale, she had disappeared. Legal documents that she subsequently signed and filed with the Maricopa County (Arizona) Registrar’s Office were notarized at the United States Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua. She had placed herself out of reach of American justice by moving to a country that has no extradition agreement with the United States.

I suspect that she is back in the United States now with yet another new identity, creating problems in a new neighborhood in a new city and using a new name. She favors calling herself by Irish names. She has a predilection for the names Mary and Catherine. Bridgette Catherine O’Hara is a name that I invented. It is not the name she used when she lived across the street from James Horowitz. However, to the best of my knowledge she was born in or near Miami, Florida on February 9. 1956, just as was the protagonist of this book, which would make her 61 years old in 2017. If a woman of about that age moves into your neighborhood, is nice to everyone at first, but then turns on all of the neighbors one at a time, she may be the woman who inspired this book.