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Crime Theory and Victimization Final

Self-Control Theory and a Suburban Murder
Payton Bronstrop
CJ 4340.256
Crime Theory and Victimization
May 3, 2021
For this paper I chose to read Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the
Suburbs by John Bloom and Jim Atkinson. In this case, Candy Montgomery, a middle aged
suburban wife, was said to murder her friend Betty Gore. To explain Candy Montgomery’s
criminality I will be using the Self-Control theory proposed by Hirschi and Michael R.
Book Summary:
Candy Wheeler was classified as an independent and aspirational person from a young
age but seemed to lack motivation for being successful on her own. Though she moved out and
began working directly after high school, she dreamed of being a full time stay at home mom and
wife. She maintained a high standard of wanting a rich and successful man, and had an active
dating life before she met Pat Montgomery. Though Pat had strong intentions to be wealthy one
day, Candy was not too fond of him upon their first encounter. She eventually decided to pursue
a relationship with him and they had a small wedding. Following their marriage, Pat began a
successful career at Texas Instruments and they were able to purchase their dream home in
Lucas, Texas after having two children, a son and a daughter.
Allan Gore worked in the telecommunications field while Betty Gore was a grammar
school teacher. Following their first child being born, Betty suffered from postpartum depression
and she was typically just prescribed Valium by her doctors because of the lack of research in
mental health in the 1970s. After their second child was born, Betty’s depression worsened
which greatly affected her and Allan’s marriage.
Like many times in her life, Candy Montgomery was getting bored of her day to day
mundane life and was considering having an affair to add excitement and make herself feel sexy.
Her fascination for Allan Gore began during a volleyball tournament that their mutual church
hosted one weekend. Candy and Allan had previously met before because their daughters were
friends and they attended the same church, but Candy was more intrigued in him than before.
After some time of back and forth flirting, Candy asked Allan if he would be interested in having
a “no strings attached” affair, where they would participate in only causal sex. Allan agreed and
the two began meeting each other during their lunch breaks at motels to engage in their said
casual sexual relationship. After a few months of their spontaneous and exciting affair, Candy
found herself losing interest in just the sexual aspects and she once again was losing interest in
her life.
One weekend when Alisa Gore, Allan and Betty’s daughter, wanted to stay another night
at the Montgomery's home, Candy stopped by Betty’s house to ask permission since she wasn’t
picking up the phone. Upon her arrival, Betty had informed her that she knew about the affair
with her husband. Following this event, Allan attempted to call Betty because he was out of town
for work, but she never answered. Allan’s neighbor walked through the unlocked front door to
hear their newborn baby crying in her bed and in a poor physical state. Sure something was
wrong, the neighbor walked through the house further where he found Betty laying in a pool of
blood with her face smashed in. Police focused on Allan’s lack of emotion during the
investigation of the murder and his confession to having an affair with Candy. Upon questioning
Candy, police gained adequate evidence for her arrest. During the trial, Candy insisted that Betty
came at her with an ax during their confrontation about the affair. Candy said she then grabbed
the ax in self defense and killed Betty then returned to church to teach bible study. Because
Candy claimed self defense, she was found not guilty, but doubt arose following the verdict
when people questioned whether Betty actually knew of the affair. Allan claimed Betty never
mentioned her knowledge of the affair to him and according to her parents, Betty referred to
Candy as a good friend in a handwritten letter days prior. People believe that Candy attacked
Betty because of jealousy and that she claimed to be bored of the affair to create an innocent
narrative for herself (Bloom and Atkinson, 2018)
Summary of Theory:
The Self-Control Theory was proposed by Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi when
challenging theories related to career criminals and the tendency to commit a crime or analogous
act. The theory suggests that unrestrained individuals or people with little commitment and no
concern with long-term consequences are attracted to crime because they are self-centered and
exhibit low self-control. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, self-interest is the motivating
factor in human behavior which reflects the desire to obtain pleasure. To fully understand the
Self-control Theory, it is important to understand the definition of self-control in terms of how
Gottfredson and Hirschi intended it to be perceived. The implementation of self-control is mainly
formed in childhood years from adequate parental management, and individuals who aren’t
properly punished for behavior result in having low self-control exhibiting criminal activity for
immediate pleasure and minimal effort. Gottfredson and Hirschi describe six characteristics of
low-self control individuals including the need for immediate gratification, simplicity,
physicality, need for risk taking, self-centeredness, and anger. (Winfree and Abadinsky, 2017).
Many examples of studies have been conducted to test the empirical validity of
Gottfredson and Hirschi’s proposal. In an study conducted by Matt DeLisi and Machael Vaughn
when looking at the impact of self-control and criminal behavior, it was found that self-control
had the greatest impact on criminal tendency when compared to race, ethnicity, gender and
socioeconomic status (DeLisi and Vaughn, 2008). In another study conducted, researcher found
that studies that tested claims of the Self-Control Theory generally reported the same results,
The fact that measures of self-control independently formulated by different researchers
produce similar results lends credence to the conclusion that the relationship of
self-control to crime/deviance is not due to a unique operationalization of the construct of
self-control. (Burton, Cullen, Evans, Alarid, Dunaway, 1998)
This claim further supports the empirical validity of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s proposal on the
correlation between self-control and crime because it provides explanation researchers who test
the theory normally produce the same results.
Theory and Crime Explanation:
The Self-Control Theory proposed by Gottfredson and Hirschi best explain the criminal
or analogous acts that Candy Montgomery participated in. Candy exemplifies having low
self-control throughout her life. Upon further research and examples that were stated in the book,
Candy portrayed a constant pattern of acting out through the duration of her teenage and early
adult years. She often found herself bored of her life and strived to find excitement.
Although the theory can be linked to career criminality, low self-control does not always
require crime. An individual can participate in analoguos behavior such as drinking, drug use,
illicit sex, and possibly accidents. Because the theory does not define what specific criminal
behaviors are likely to occur, there is great versatility in the type of crime or behavior (Akers,
1991). Although Candy did not have a criminal history, the theory can be applied to her
continuous acts of self-centeredness and gratification.
One characteristic that is consistent with people who have low self-control is simplicity.
In the book, it is expressed that although Candy strived for a rich and exceptionally handsome
husband, she quickly settled for someone who she considered mediocre for the simplicity of it.
She tended to avoid complicated decisions and always wanted to be a stay at home mom or
housewife rather than working. During her confrontation with Betty, Candy would rather kill her
than have some sort of ongoing conflict.
Secondly, Candy’s actions relied mainly on immediate gratification. The Self-Control
theory emphasizes that one major factor in determining someone’s ability to participate in
criminal activity is their desire for immediate gratification. An individual's actions are influenced
by their need for immediate gratification, where they overlook the long-term consequences and
favor the instant fulfillment (Duckworth and Steinberg, 2015). For example, upon graduation
she would rather have casual relations rather than form deep connections because she was not
interested in the long term tie. This idea continues through her life when she decides to have an
affair with her husband because she was feeling bored or unsatisfied. Instead of talking through
her feelings with her husband, she instantly jumped to sleeping with another man because it
didn’t require much emotional strain and gave her immediate gratification. According to
Gottfredson and Hirschi, individuals with low self-control are unable to recognize the
incompatibility of the crime with long-term interests and objectives (Gibbs and Giever, 2006).
This can explain why the benefits of Candy’s actions outweighed the possible consequences.
Although she knew cheating on her husband was wrong, the affair brought more gratification
than the weight of the consequences if either spouse found out.
One thing to note is that a criminal opportunity must be present inorder for an individual
to participate in that act. When an opportunity is presented, low self-control leads an individual
to act on the opportunity. When there is an absence in criminal opportunity, low self-control
cannot manifest a crime because the individual must first be introduced to the act (Hay and
Forrest, 2008). In a study conducted when evaluating the relationship between self-control and
opportunity, it was found that self-control is depleted when given the opportunity to an
individual. Individuals ultimately possess some sense of self-control, but the failure to apply
control occurs when opportunities are given for immediate gratification (Muraven, Pogarsky and
Shmueli, 2006). Because opportunity plays a major role in acting on criminal activity, the
quantity of opportunities can have a direct relation to how often an individual engages in
criminal activity. In a study conducted comparing the relationship between the number of
opportunities individuals are given and the number of criminal offenses or analogous acts
committed, researchers found that:
Compared to the general population, people with extensive histories of criminal
involvement may be more attentive to new criminal opportunities and may learn about
such opportunities more often because of their continued association with other criminals.
(Longshore and Turner, 1998)
Opportunity played a major role in Candy’s behavior. In order for her to first cheat on her
husband, an opportunity had to arise first. If Candy and Allan had never flirted the day of the
volleyball game, it is likely that she would not have made any effort to produce a relationship.
Furthermore, if Allan did not suggest making plans to meet up every other week at a motel, it is
likely that their relationship would not have advanced. And finally, Candy was given the
opportunity to murder Betty when she was watching her daughter and made a visit to her house.
Had Betty replied or picked up Candy’s phone calls when asking if her daughter could stay the
night at her house, Candy would not have had to go to the Gore’s home to ask in person. This
interaction created the opportunity for Candy to murder her.
In Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs by John Bloom
and Jim Atkinson, Candy Montgomery’s criminal acts can be explained by the Self-Control
Theory proposed by Gottfredson and Hirschi. The self-control theory explains that individuals
who exhibit low self-control participate in crime or analogous because they seek immediate
gratification, are self-centered, and have a need for risk taking. Although Candy is not a career
criminal, her personality, faithfulness to her husband, and the murder of her friend Betty Gore
correlate with the main tenets of the self-control theory.
Akers, R. L. (1991). Self-Control as a General Theory of Crime. Journal of Quantitative
Criminology, 7, 202–203.
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suburbs. Open Road Integrated Media.Winfree, T., & Abadinsky, H. (2017). Essentials of
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