A son, a grandchild, a husband does something terrible and the family name is tainted forever.
Oswald. Ray. Bundy. Hinckley. McVeigh. Kaczynski. And now the suspect's name is Weston - Russell Weston Jr., accused of killing two Capitol police officers.While the families of the dead grieve and are comforted by millions, the families of the accused and convicted also suffer. For the rest of their lives, they live with the deed, the accusation, the stigma - and, only occasionally, the sympathy of strangers.
"There's such a swirl of emotions," said David Kaczynski, younger brother of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, who was sentenced in May to four life sentences plus 30 years for planting and mailing bombs that left three dead and 29 injured.
It was David who called the FBI's attention to Theodore, 56. The lead prosecutor in the case, Robert Cleary, called David "a true American hero."
"It's kind of hard to know what you feel," David said in a telephone interview from his job at a shelter for runaway and homeless youth in Albany, N.Y. "I felt numb, I felt frightened, I felt very vulnerable. And there is the instantaneous feeling that you know your life is never going to be the same."
In a 1996 interview, Wanda Kaczynski, the mother of Theodore and David, spoke of the hesitancy families felt years ago about seeking psychiatric help for a child. In Theodore's case, it was never seriously considered, she said.
Now David sympathizes with the Weston family, newest members of a club no one seeks to join.
Even in the clamor and confusion, the Weston family has accommodated scores of reporters who set up camp outside their home and invaded their church. They hope Russell's predicament will draw attention to the plight of the mentally ill.
The public and the press have come to understand "that there is an illness here," as these public tragedies have played themselves out time and again, said Laurie Flynn, executive director of the 185,000-member National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
Amen, says Jerry Ray, 63, whose older brother, James Earl Ray, confessed - then recanted - in the 1968 killing of Martin Luther King.
"I know Weston's father feels bad, but he's not guilty of anything. The son is mentally ill. I'd tell him it's not his fault," Jerry Ray said.
For all the pain, becoming unwitting public figures sometimes gives a new direction to the lives of the families.
That was the effect on Jerry Ray, who before 1968 had not been close to his brother. James Earl Ray died in April of liver failure, but Jerry is still campaigning for new tests on a rifle that he says will show his brother is innocent, a cause he's championed for 30 years.
When a relative is caught up in a sensational killing, "it changes your life completely," Jerry Ray said from his home in Smartt, Tenn. "You can't work at certain places because of the notoriety."
In 1963, when Lee Harvey Oswald was seized as John F. Kennedy's assassin, life became "unbearable," said his widow, Marina. Two decades later, their daughter, June, who was 1 year old at the time of the shooting, felt the sting when her assigned college roommate demanded she move out.
Serial killer Ted Bundy's mother, Louise, said the year he was executed, 1989, she got stares or averted looks whenever she pulled out a credit card or signed a check. Once, at a Methodist women's retreat, Louise Bundy talked about her son and the trauma caused in her life. Another woman began crying. "She was the mother of one of Ted's victims," Louise Bundy recalled. The two women did not speak after that. They turned away when they met.