A Parent Confronted: Butch, Ulysses

Robbed of a Mother

"On the morning of June 25, 1978, my father woke my brother and me, and told us that our mother was outside and that he wanted us to ask her to come back into the house," Butch recalls. "So, he sent my brother and me outside. I walked over and sat down next to my mother."


Butch returns to the scene, sitting on the railing where his mother sat that day. "She would've been right here, very close to me. I said, 'Mother, will you please come back into the house?' and she turned to me and said, 'Butch, would you go back into a place where you felt like you were not wanted?'


"At some point, I heard my mother come back into the house, and I heard her tell my father that she was leaving. My father said, 'If you try to leave, I'll kill you.' My mother yelled out, 'Kill me! Kill me!' And then I heard two gunshots. My mother was shot twice in the head. My father killed my mother. I walked over to her, and she had this huge hole in the right side of her head," he says, breaking down in tears. "I didn't know what to do, so I went back into my room and took a pillow off of my bed and brought it out there, and lifted my mother's head and I put the pillow under my mother's head.


"My father was saying, 'Butch, I had to do it. She was going to leave me.' I always felt like my father used us to get my mother back into the house. I have not been able to forgive my father. Every time I go to Chicago, and I go back to that place where I last saw my mother, I always wish that I could see her again and tell her not to come back into that house," he says tearfully.


Dr. Phil meets Butch and plays a video of his father, Ulysses, telling his side of the story:


"I came home one night; my wife wasn't home," Ulysses begins. "A short while later, she came to the house, walked to the dresser where we keep our weapon, took the weapon out, pointed it at me. My sons came out of the room and observed this. The gun was put back up. They went into their room. She went back down the hallway. She came back after a period of time. She had been drinking, and once again, there were words, and again, she went back to the get the gun, and we wrestled for the gun. I wanted to get control of it. I shot her. I couldn't believe this was happening. My intention was never to hurt my wife. Scare her, yes, but never to take her life. As a result of my wife losing her life, my son, Butch, has literally shut me out of his life."

After the video, Butch says he's heard it all before. "It's the same convoluted tale of lies," he says. "I didn't come here to make a spectacle of myself. I didn't come here to make a spectacle of my mother's memory. I came here thinking that if there's a power that can create the universe, then there's a power that can give me the opportunity to forgive. But I will not forgive lies. I just won't do it."


Ulysses had agreed to appear on the show, but was admitted into the hospital the previous night for his heart condition and other health issues. He joins the show via phone from his hospital bed.


Ulysses speaks to his son, and Butch describes his childhood household.


Ulysses, after hearing his son describe the violence in their home, says, "I'm really speechless, because apparently a lot of things have been left out, as far as what he's seen," he tells Dr. Phil. "It appears to me as though, if my son is visualizing me being the bad guy all that time, it seems like this is a situation that really can't be solved."


"In fairness to your son, the facts are you did shoot his mother in the head twice and kill her, correct?" Dr. Phil asks.


"That is correct," he says.


"So, given that you did shoot her in the head twice and kill her, I would think that you would understand that he would have some very strong feelings about that."


"Of course," Ulysses says. He admits there was domestic violence in his marriage to Butch's mother, and he did threaten her with a gun in 1971.


[AD]Dr. Phil tells Ulysses that at 74, this may be the last time he speaks to his son. "I pray that's not the case. If there's something he needs to hear from you, wouldn't you like to know what that is?"


"I sure would, Dr. Phil. As a matter of fact, I'll go one better than that. If my son wants to hear me say, 'I shot your mother twice,' I'll say it, because I did," he says. "Yes, I took her life. I destroyed my life. I destroyed her life. I destroyed my son's life. I did. I'm guilty of all that. I take complete responsibility for everything. I have carried this with me all of my life. But at the same time, Dr. Phil, I feel that I have been forgiven by a higher being, and we all stand in judgment. I mean, what more can I say?"

"You say you take accountability for this, but you say this was an accident," Dr. Phil says to Ulysses. He turns to Butch. "You say you heard him say he was going to kill her, and I don't get shooting somebody in the head twice as an accident. You need him to own this. That's the problem, that he's not owning this, right?"


"That is absolutely the problem, Dr. Phil. The 12-year-old boy that I was still lives inside of me, and that 12-year-old boy still goes back to that same place where his mother was every day. And it's that place where I heard my father say, 'If you try to leave, I will kill you,'" Butch says.


He explains that he has examined the court documents from that day, and his father's statements include claiming he never said those words. He also says his father told the court that he put the pillow under his wife's head, not Butch. "After my father shot my mother, he came into the room and looked at both my brother and I, and he said, ‘Butch, Keith, I'm sorry. I had to do it. She was going to leave me.' The court documents say, ‘Butch, Keith, I'm sorry. I had to take the gun away from her again.' The 12-year-old remembers very well, and I won't be insulted by a man who keeps saying that it was an accident."


Ulysses responds to his son, and Butch reacts angrily.


Dr. Phil thanks Ulysses for talking to them from a hospital bed and says goodbye.


"I wish my son the best. I still love him. I still want to have a relationship with him," Ulysses says before signing off.


"We'll talk again," Butch tells his father.


Butch tells Dr. Phil that he's not closed to the possibility of a relationship with his father. "In the perfect world, Dr. Phil, as ridiculous as it sounds, my father would say to me, ‘Butch, I meant to kill your mother.' In the perfect world, he would say that, and I would understand, and I would do what I could to connect with my father. My father continues to keep a lie between us," he says.

Butch says he thinks it may be possible to reach a place of forgiveness.


Dr. Phil tells him, "Everybody has a different way of thinking about and conceptualizing forgiveness. To me, forgiveness is all about you and nothing about him. If you don't forgive him for that, then you and he are locked in a bond of hatred and bitterness for the rest of your life. It changes who you are. Anger and bitterness and hatred is such a pervasive emotion; it just crowds its way into everything. I know that you may wait the rest of your life waiting for him to give you something he doesn't have to give. But you know, and I know and he knows what happened that day. It's clear, right? He did it."


"He did it," Butch agrees.


"And he used you to do it," Dr. Phil says.


Butch says he often thinks about what would've happened if he had told his mother to run instead of asking her to go back inside. "There were times I asked my mother, ‘When will I be old enough to fight my father?'" Butch gathers a breath as tears well up in his eyes. "She told me, ‘Just work on being a better man than your father.' And so, for me, that's part of this process for me." Butch says he feels he needs to " and that maybe his mother would want him to " bridge the gap and make peace with his father. He says he hopes to take his father out to lunch one day soon.


"I believe that your mother knows what's going on. She knows that you are on this quest, that you are on this journey, and every situation needs a hero. You can't forgive the people who deserve it; you've got to forgive the people who you deserve to be free of," Dr. Phil tells him. "Your father probably doesn't deserve your forgiveness, but you deserve to forgive him. When you forgive him, that doesn't mean that what he did was OK or what he says is OK. What it means is 'I refuse to invest my energy and emotion in you. This situation needs a hero, and it sure isn't you, so it's going to be me.' And that's what forgiveness is about, and that's the choice that you can make."