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Obdulia Sanchez: Psychology of a Tragedy

Obdulia Sanchez, 18, was recently charged with manslaughter in the death of her 14-year-old sister, Jacquelin Sanchez.

Authorities say Obdulia Sanchez was driving a car while intoxicated on Friday, July 21, when it veered onto the shoulder of a road about 75 miles northwest of Fresno, California and rolled into a field. The older sister livestreamed the accident and at one point, during a hysterical rant, said, “I killed my sister but I don’t care.”

Why she didn’t care and why her attractive and talented younger sister is now gone has the makings of a tragedy.

The accident appeared to be the culmination of a history of conflict between the sisters and the result of parents who favored one sister over the other.
“What I think is [Obdulia] knows she’s done something wrong,” her father, Nicandro Sanchez told ABC affiliate KFSN. “Because she knows, and that’s what I feel. She feels bad for herself, but she killed her own sister.” He added that his oldest daughter “needs help.”

The father said Obdulia, who graduated from high school last year, had a difficult childhood. She was in the custody of Child Protective Services the past two years, he added. The father seemed to think his daughter’s troubled personality came out of nowhere; he takes no responsibility for it.

When parents do that, it makes their abuse all the worse.

A child is generally put in the custody of Child Protective Services because she is being abused or neglected at home. She is taken out of the home for her own protection. What this says is that the father, mother, or both were in some way mistreating their eldest daughter to the extent that someone reported it to CPS.

Jacquelin Sanchez, the 14-year-old younger sister who was killed, was supposed to celebrate her quinceañera—her 15th birthday–a coming-of-age celebration that is practiced in the family’s culture, on the following Sunday. During this celebration she would be given a lot of attention. It appears that Jacquelin was the “good daughter,” while Obdulia Sanchez, her older sister by four years, was the “bad daughter.”

The father’s immediate response of accusing Obdulia of killing Jacquelin speaks wonders. Instead of supporting her, he condemned her.

Jacquilin seemed to be the “star” of the family and the father’s favorite. She was more attractive than her older sister and apparently more talented. She had aspirations to become a singer or actress when she grew up. Her happiness at being her parents’ favorite, her optimistic goals, and her upcoming quinceañera may all have provoked jealousy in her older sister.

On Facebook, Obdulia Sanchez’ profile picture shows her with a gun and reveals her troubled personality, as well as trouble with the law.

In a recent post, she wrote, “My friend gon ask me: ‘why you single b*tch?’ My resonse, ‘B*tch I’m f*cking phsyco. I thought you knew….’” She recently posted about her 18th birthday, “BIG 18 in April 😉 Party Party Party like a (racial slur)… just got out of jail. Hml on my 18th BDay. April 5th.” In another post, she wrote, “I get locked up and (racial slur) get girlfriends and go back to they babies mamas. Lmfao Weak as’ f*cckkk.”

In 2015, a self-loathing entry on Facebook read, “F*ck lazy (racial slur) why are u alive?? 😔 #Die.” Later that year, she wrote, “Wish Me Luck because I got Court in the Morning. Hope I dont get locked up.” She wrote under a video of police activity, “F*ck the pigs.” In 2014, she posted, “The moment you realize how irrelevant you are to the world …Life is a b*tch and then you Die.”

The picture we are left with by all her posts, by her father’s attitude, by his and perhaps his wife’s favoritism of the younger daughter, who seems to have been groomed for stardom, is not a pretty picture. It describes Obdulia as a tormented individual with both suicidal and homicidal tendencies (“Life is a b*tch and then you Die.”) as well as an authority complex (calling the police “pigs”).

Often homicidal and suicidal tendencies are found in the same person, as when someone kills their whole family and then kills themselves. Perhaps her reckless drunkenness on the day of the accident had an underlying unconscious suicidal and homicidal undertow.

Through the years I have worked with a number of people who described a dynamic in their families of origin of the parents idealizing one child while demonizing another. Sometimes, when the oldest child becomes the problematic child (usually due to overly punitive and shaming parents), the younger child is given the message: “Don’t be like your older sister.” The younger sister sees the trouble the older sister is always getting into and becomes the “good daughter” in order to avoid that trouble and to win her parents’ favor.

The troubled older sibling often becomes jealous and angry about the positive attention her younger sibling is getting and often picks on the younger sibling and bullies her. The older sibling may be resentful and think, “If I had had that kind of positive treatment I’d be happy and optimistic too.” The disparity between the way one is treated and the other is treated widens over the years and breeds more discontent and antipathy.

When looked at in a psychodynamic context, we might say that it was in actuality the father who was the ultimate cause of the accident, because of the way he abused one daughter and favored the other. But then we could go back to the father’s childhood and find causes of why he was the way he was, and then trace a pattern of deficient parenting, generation before generation, and find similarities in parenting styles in each generation. Thus it is ultimately no one’s fault, but simply an aspect of what is means to be human.

The accident, seen in this light, was a tragedy. Nobody wanted it to happen, but things like that do happen because humans are humans. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves, that we are underlings,” said Shakespeare in his play, Julius Caesar.

Obdulia Sanchez: Psychology of a Tragedy

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2017). Obdulia Sanchez: Psychology of a Tragedy. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 17, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychoanalysis-now/2017/07/obdulia-sanchez-psychology-of-a-tragedy/


Last updated: 27 Jul 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jul 2017
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