It is still Valentine’s Week so let’s consider the extremes to which people will go for love. Beautifully Cruel is mostly a story about Tracey Richter-Roberts and the lengths to which she was willing to go for cash and personal sexual fulfillment, but buried within is an interesting story about what others are willing to do for love and/or sex.
Context: Ms. Richter-Roberts sued her first husband and accused him of sexually abusing their toddler son in order to secure custody and child support cash. The second marriage, to an Australian, proceeds in a similar fashion:
Not a year into the marriage, Michael said later, Tracey was screwing around on him, having repeated affairs. This, mind you, fit into her MO; she had done the same to John Pitman. The marriage, almost from the first few months of Michael being in the States, was in shambles.
“Tracey went back to their home [from the office],” Ben [the local prosecutor] continued, “took a bubble bath and, an hour after the [fight with the husband], called the cops on Michael. When the cops got there, Tracey told her fictitious version of events and then had Bert make a statement that he, Bert, had been abused by his [step]father, Michael.” Michael spent the night in jail. Because of Bert’s allegations, Child Protective Services (CPS) conducted an investigation, which Tracey wasn’t expecting. This addition to the truth, if you will, wound up being the beginning of a situation Tracey would soon find herself in with no way out. CPS reports are, by law, given to the biological parents. So John Pitman, Tracey’s ex, received a notice that Michael had abused Bert (which was untrue). When she realized what she had done, “Tracey had Bert lie [again] and tell Child Protective Services he wasn’t referring to Michael when he said his father hit him, but rather his biological father, Dr. Pitman,” Ben Smith added. Thus, Pitman received a notice of the allegation of abuse against Bert by Michael—but also that he, too, was once again the target of a child abuse investigation. This after Pitman had fought and proved false two sexual abuse claims already by Tracey. This became, in effect, the catalyst that sparked Pitman’s filing for a change in custody in late 2000—a filing on Pitman’s behalf, Ben Smith went on to claim, that facilitated Tracey’s new plan to now make sure that Pitman lost this new child custody case.
The story that that a guy in Virginia had abused a boy in Iowa ends up having some legs and Ms. Richter-Roberts wasn’t able to stop all of the gears from turning:
Tracey’s attempts to portray Pitman as sexually abusing Bert had failed. Every single exam, every single accusation she had ever made against John Pitman over the years—thus subjecting Bert to several colonoscopy-like exams for sexual abuse—had been proven to be nothing more than unfounded nonsense, trumped up by a woman hell-bent on destroying a man and his reputation so she could keep the cash flowing. None of it worked. Tracey had made it all up, according to the state and several investigations into the alleged abuse. The court was going to side with Pitman and his new motion to gain custody of Bert.
Thus, the obvious solution to all of Tracey’s problems—potentially losing custody of Bert and all of that money associated with custody, at a time when her husband’s computer company was hemorrhaging money they did not have—was written in a narrative by a local special-needs kid. If Dr. Pitman was arrested and charged with conspiracy, Tracey’s life—that is, as she saw it—would turn around.
She persuaded a 20-year-old neighbor, Dustin Wehde, to come over to her house, write a diary in a pink(!) notebook talking about how he had been hired by the first husband to kill the man’s son, and then shot the kid 9 times, purportedly in self-defense. The diary was conveniently left in the kid’s car, which he parked in the driveway during what was supposedly a home invasion (the second husband was away on a business trip). Despite all of the inconsistencies and absurdities in the heavily armed woman’s story about how she happened to kill an unarmed young man, it took the authorities 10 years before they arrested her and put her on trial.
Here’s the love story part of the book:
Thirty-year-old John Pitman, in his fourth year of medical school, was working a rotation at the hospital one night as a medical student, when he crossed paths with a woman claiming to be a radiographer, who caught his eye. She was simply breathtaking then: long, dark, thick mane of hair, all teased up into a 1980s metal-band do. She wore loose-fitting hospital scrubs and smelled of the sweetest perfume. She smiled and seemed nice. “Tracey . . . Tracey Richter,” she said. Tracey was twenty years old; John Pitman nearly ten years her senior. With her perfectly sculpted body and full face, high cheekbones and plump lips some women pay lots of money for, it was clear to John, like many men Tracey had come in contact with, that she could have chosen any guy she wanted.
Later, John would assess the dating portion of their relationship and find that Tracey had represented a picture and persona of a woman who’d had a tough life at home, didn’t get along with her father, and seemed to yearn for the sympathy that narrative would get her.
When they got back [from skiing in Vail], John and his roommate were in the kitchen talking about the incident earlier. The roommate was saying if Tracey, like everyone else, had taken skiing lessons, then the entire situation could have been avoided. But Tracey had refused to take the lessons. Tracey must have been eavesdropping, because she came storming into the kitchen at that point. She had heard what the roommate said and was clearly pissed. She got right into the roommate’s face. A vile, angry look washed over her. “It was wrong of you to expect us to wait for you,” the roommate said. “You are acting like a crybaby!” Tracey became enraged and charged the man, sticking him in the face with her right hand, and then striking him “fairly hard . . . sending” his glasses “flying across the room.”
John finished medical school in June 1987. The University of Colorado was up next. “I’m going back to Chicago, John,” Tracey said one night before they were scheduled to leave. She’d made up her mind. “I’ll decide while in Chicago whether I’m coming out to Denver or not.” What could he do? They packed and left for Chicago. John told Tracey he would drop her off and head to Denver. If she wanted to come out, great; if not, was there anything he could do to change her mind? It seemed as though they had been through so much. Tracey was a lot to deal with. Very needy. Very sensitive. Very dramatic. Tracey had always wanted dogs, as did John. They both wanted a home. As they were driving out to Chicago, John indicated he had something to say. He wanted to give the relationship one more shot. “Will you marry me?” Tracey accepted.
In early 1991, Tracey had spent thousands of the family’s dollars on breast implants. It was April 1992 and Tracey was showing off her new breasts to a friend and the Pitmans’ new babysitter, Monica (pseudonym).
Tracey had been working at a medical facility and “began an affair with a man” who worked there. She blamed him, claiming he was obsessed with her and one day cornered her in a dark room and forced himself on her. She loved the attention, at first, she later admitted. It was something she was not getting, according to her, at home. So she “had intercourse with him” two times and then “called it quits,” leaving her job. At home, to John, it was a different story. “I’m being sexually harassed,” [#MeToo] she told him. Tracey said the guy was someone closely connected to the owners of the company. “He is possibly even following me. He asked me out one day and I refused. Since I said no, the company has been complaining about my job performance.”
Monica found an issue with Tracey’s mothering skills. “Bert was often dirty and/or inappropriately dressed,” Monica reported later. Because of this and several other things Monica uncovered about Tracey, their relationship deteriorated. The one major problem Monica had was that Tracey got involved with several “shady characters” she had met at the strip clubs, both male and female strippers who used drugs “and possibly engaged in other illegal activities.” Tracey seemed to be drawn to people like this.
Beyond those incidents, there were all the men, Monica said, claiming Tracey was not only having an affair with a guy she worked with, but a male dancer and another man—all at the same time. “She even sold one of their dogs and told John that it had been run over by a car,” Monica told authorities.
When Tracey found out Monica was onto her, she spun it and claimed Monica couldn’t be trusted because she was having an affair with John at the time.
“I wish you were dead,” Tracey said one night to John during a fight. “I wish that you had gone to Desert Storm [the husband was in a military program] and died.” She slapped him across the face.
TRACEY GOT A NEW JOB and worked part-time during the day. John felt a bit less stressed; however, he worried what she was going to do next. Then the behavior started all over again. He never saw any of the money Tracey earned, nor had he any idea what she did with it.
Then she fell in with a new group of people—and with that came another affair. John suspected this when, with Tracey working what was only about twenty hours a week, she was never at home. She was always out, gone, always hiring a babysitter. … When he did run into Tracey at home or talked to her on the phone, John would ask where she was going. “Work,” Tracey would say. But she was dressed like a $500-an-hour hooker—dolled up in tight, short skirts, wads of makeup lathered on her face, skintight blouses showing off her large breast implants.
Tracey was sleeping with a man—maybe even two or three—fairly regularly by this point, even buying him gifts. Skis. Weekend getaways. All on John’s credit cards, mind you. When John questioned the charges, Tracey gave her husband the guy’s name and said he must have stolen the numbers from her pocketbook at work. John called the credit card company, which then tracked the man down. Of course, he said Tracey had bought the items for him. He told the credit card company he and Tracey had been dating for four months.
By March 1992, after John suffered a nasty back injury while sledding with Tracey and Bert, having been in a back brace for three months, the marriage, hanging on by a thread as it was, deteriorated into dust. At this point, Tracey did not even hide what she was doing anymore. She did whatever she wanted, went out whenever she wanted, slept with whomever she wanted, spent whatever amount of money she needed. Each job Tracey took on always turned into a drama and ended with her leaving or being fired “on a note of controversy,” John later said in a report.
By early summer 1992, Tracey agreed to move to Chicago so John could begin a plastic surgery fellowship at Northwestern University. Perhaps this was the final chance for their marriage.
Then John thought about something else: before leaving for Toronto [for a medical conference], Tracey had demanded he “up [his] life insurance.”
John decided to call the private investigator his parents had used to look into the credit card theft in Vail. … “I’m concerned for your safety, Mr. Pitman,” the PI said. John was now scared. “I think I should put her under surveillance,” the PI suggested. “Okay,” John agreed. Within two days the investigator came back with some news. Tracey had spent two nights in one guy’s apartment, a “bodybuilder type.” She had spent the entire time with the man.
While in Chicago, John had his private investigator continue surveillance and report back. Tracey moved around a lot, always seemingly involved in something reprehensible. A lot of the men she interacted with during her day “appeared to be bodybuilders.” One of her favorite dresses to wear out at night was a “tight black evening dress, long black gloves, [with] high heel pumps.” On several occasions, the PI followed Tracey into adult bookstores, where she’d spend time buying sex toys and condoms and oils and then head off to a motel, where a man would soon meet her. She’d spend a few hours inside and the man would leave. A while later, another man would arrive and enter the same motel room, spend several hours and leave.
“Tracey had stolen one of Dr. Pitman’s prescription pads,” Ben Smith added. “That’s how she was able to obtain the steroids.”
So here’s a guy who was smart enough to be a plastic surgeon, rational enough to get the U.S. military to pay for his medical training, capable enough to serve as an officer in the U.S. military, etc. Yet he couldn’t resist marrying a woman whom he knew to be violent and tried to hold onto the woman as a wife despite knowing about her multiple affairs, incompetence/neglectfulness as a mother, involvement with criminal activities, etc.
I’m not in love with the way that the book chops up the timeline or the way in which the author TELLs readers that this woman has lied when the facts easily SHOW the lie. And that one person would be willing to lie in order to get what she wanted isn’t surprising. But the book is fascinating when you think about people on the other side of the “trade” as Wall Streeters would say. Why were so many people, especially men, buying what this woman was selling? After, literally, a life of crime, here’s the scene at her murder trial:
Tracey was now engaged to a man who sat in the courtroom every day. She “blew kisses at him” and signed the words “I love you,” a courtroom source recalled.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to interview that man and ask him, in a country of 327 million souls, why would he choose to be engaged to an accused murderess who had already been convicted of a variety of lesser crimes?
More: read Beautifully Cruel