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Autism Tragedy as Psychiatrist Mother Allegedly Murders Son, Commits Suicide in MD

Weep This story is from MyFoxDC . Our condolences to the child's father and other family. We'll discuss this in further detail soon. For now, just pray. For Benjamin, Margaret, all of us. KS

By BOB BARNARD/myfoxdc

WASHINGTON - Montgomery County Police say a well-known psychiatrist and author shot and killed her teenage son, then turned the gun on herself in a murder-suicide inside their Kensington home.

Police were called to the rented townhouse on Simms Court Tuesday afternoon. They say Dr. Margaret Ferne Jensvold, 54, was found in her bedroom with a gunshot wound. 13-year-old Benjamin Barnhard was found in his bedroom also suffering from a fatal gunshot wound. The Maryland Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the case a murder-suicide.

FOX 5 News spoke with the boy's father, James Barnhard, who calls his ex-wife a lovely person who likely killed their only child out of desperation and love.

Barnhard says Ben was tormented by bullies at school for being extremely overweight and on the autism spectrum.

Statement from James Barnhard, ex-husband and father of victims:

"I loved my son and ex-wife, and I was proud of both of them. My son was a successful graduate of Wellspring Academy. He was featured on "Too Fat for Fifteen: Fighting Back," and lost 160 pounds in the last year, due to his hard work and determination.

I do not understand this tragedy, and I do not know why this has happened.

I will hold them in my heart, and they will be sorely missed by all who loved them. Please keep us in your prayers."

By ERIC TUCKER Associated Press

A psychiatrist specializing in women's health and her 13-year-old son were found dead in their home in suburban Washington in a likely murder-suicide, police said Wednesday.

The bodies of Margaret Ferne Jensvold, 54, and her son, Benjamin Barnhard, were found Tuesday afternoon in their respective bedrooms. Police were called after one of Jensvold's co-workers reported being unable to contact her for several days. Jensvold was divorced and lived with her son in the upper-middle-class suburb of Kensington, Md.

Both bodies had signs of trauma, but police did not elaborate. Capt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery County police spokesman, said officers had obtained a search warrant for the home and were continuing to investigate but believe that the deaths were the result of a murder-suicide. He would not elaborate on what led police to that conclusion, and said autopsy results were still pending.

"We of course still have to gather all evidence," Starks said.

Jensvold was most recently working with Kaiser Permanente in Kensington, said her ex-husband James Barnhard, Benjamin's father. He said he was still in disbelief and had not yet heard a timeline from police as to what they believed happened. He said he had last spoken with Jensvold several days ago to arrange a time to pick up his only son from her house.

"Ben was a very sweet and loving child. I mean, he was just one of the kindest and sweetest kids a parent could ever wish to have," Barnhard said. He said his son had spent the last year at a weight-loss program in North Carolina and had shed more than 100 pounds and loved sailing and other water activities.

He said he had no indication of any problems between his son and ex-wife.

"She was always nice to Ben. Sometimes she could get a little frustrated with him, but she was always nice to Ben," he added.

In 1990, Jensvold filed a federal lawsuit against the National Institutes of Mental Health, where she had been a medical staff fellow.

She alleged that a male superior harassed her because she was female and fired her in 1989 before she could complete the third year of her fellowship program. An eight-person jury found in Jensvold's favor, but that decision was rendered moot in 1996 when a judge held that she did not have the right to a jury trial and called her version of events an "illusion" and "widely exaggerated and skewed."

"She's an incredible person. I know she struggled against significant adversity, personally and in her career, and overcame a lot of hurdles to do some wonderful research and be a really good practitioner," said Lynne Bernabei, an attorney who represented Jensvold in her case.

"I think she had a great compassion for women and improving the lives of women through good health research, and she had a real passion for that," Bernabei said. "It wasn't just a 9-to-5 job for her. She really cared."

Read more:


Laura Speranza

Unquestionably, there are not enough resources out there to support the autism boom. But to place the blame of these events on a lack of support system or services, is misguided. And, most misguided of all, is for the blame to be placed on the disability itself. The talk of these ‘poor’ people dealing with this ‘terrible’ disability is unfortunate and does no service to the autism community. When somebody walks into a convenience store and shoots the clerk, we don’t ask what was going on in the murderer’s life to make them pull the trigger.

I wrote about this in my blog -



Heidi N

You are completely wrong about the training for psychiatry.

Psychology is a minor for most premed students and is not considered a significant prerequisite for entrance into medical school.

When you are in medical school you then take about the equivalent of 1 semester of basic science psychiatry in your first two years of med school and then you typically do a clinical rotation in your third year of medical school that typically last about two to three months.

In your fourth year of medical school if you are interested in psychiatry you then take up to three, two month elective rotations in the various psychiatric venues: child psychiatry, adolescent, adult, criminal etc.

After you have determined that psychiatry is the field for you, you apply to a residency program and get accepted. Your first year is an internship year which is typically done in internal medicine so that you learn how to diagnose and take care of patients with medical diseases that can have psychiatric manifestations like Wilson’s disease or Huntington's Chorea.

You then do a three or four year residency in psychiatry with real outpatient and inpatient psychiatric patients at the various clinical venues and hospitals. You are required to take in training exams yearly and a board exam to become board certified in psychiatry. The residencies typically have periods of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy training and after you finish your residency you may do a fellowship in any of the subspecialty areas including psychotherapy psychoanalysis etc.

The training to become a psychiatrist, which is years and includes clinical as well as didactic training and standardized written test as well as board certification exams, completely dwarfs the requirements to become a psychologist as this in total is far greater than "60 classes on psychology"

As you may or may not know Sigmund Freud was himself a neurologist prior to creating the specialty of Psychiatry.

With all that being said I would like to conclude my remarks with the following observations.

Psychiatry is BULLSHIT and psychology is bigger BULLSHIT. Both are pseudoscientific at best and highly politicized.

I was in training in the 1980's when psychiatry was being taken over by pharmaceutical companies. The debate was raging between the psychoanalytical types and the drug dealer funded psychopharmacologist. The big drugs then were Haldol, Lithium and Thorazine.

DSM ii and DSM iii were political books that were in conflict about homosexuality, drugs and society. Whoever was in charge and the most well paid made the rules and that is unchanged even to this day.

The price of fraudulent science is failure conflict and misery.

Psychiatrist and psychologist were the perfect people to pawn autism off on as they are confused themselves about just about everything including their own mental health.

Many of the med students who had mental health issues from sexual orientation to frank neurosis went into Psychiatry to try and correct their own deficiencies creating a scientific loony bin of doctors.

They are now in charge of our children’s health. Indeed just look at some of the papers and thought s expressed by psychiatrist about the Autism and the families that are affected by it. "Refrigerator mom's" "Theory of Mind", "Weak central coherence theory". These are respected scientific theories that are written by doctors who themselves are fulminating with the pathology of mental illness as no sane person could write this.
As far a Paul Thorrsen, another psychiatrist, who could ever think of this person as anything but a paid sociopath?
This lady unfortunately believed in the theories of autism and simply could not fathom that she had injured her child by vaccinating him and could not bring herself to decry what she had previously embraced. She came to the realization that she had been bamboozled and took her life and her child’s life and that is tragic.


Media Scholar

A simple blood test for Bartonella could have prevented him from being special needs for the first 14 years of his life.
Pathogens may or may not have been a factor in the late child's life and records might tell if it was so. According to the story I read, the mother had, at least, inserted PANDAS literature into her divorce papers in 2009 (?).

One can only guess from that time that she had sought out more information including treatment on that and wasn't the sort of person to throw in a scientific study to maximize her alimony settlement.

Also, the late child may have been vaccinated. His age would mean he received up to a dozen or so Thimerosal-containing vaccines coupled with a double dose of a triple jab containing three, live, neurologically-active viruses.

Doctors once knew that one neurologically-active virus infection right on top of another could lead to permanent neurological disabilities and was sometimes lethal.

All this, and somewhere in the back of the mind is the fact that in unevenly yoked relationships where one parent doesn't care enough about the vows they take at the alter to carry their share of life's burdens the other will need to work over-time. This leads to very disorganized life with little rest. Emotions frazzle and ugly things get said.

For most of America marriage had for centuries assured that there would be at least one parent at home to do chores and guard the fortress. As divorce rates soared in America a new child arose, they began to call them latch-key kids.

Children I knew in these unhealthy environments tended to make up for the lack of emotional attention and/or parental supervision by over-eating and not exercising. No one considered a bacteria to be a cause of that.

The mother had quite a life. As a professional she was spot-lighted nationally for having dealt with discrimination matters relating to her profession. That she was battle-hardened by the process may have affected all of her relationships.

Yet, that, more than anything else, makes it almost unimaginable that a simple matter of schooling would be something she could not cope with.

She hasn't been added to the SSRI stories site at this time, but that may change in a while.


This is very sad news.
This parent must have felt very lost and overwhelmed.

Heidi N

I don't want to sound insensitive, but want to relay some facts and opinions. I was taught in school that psychiatrists had a higher rate of suicide than other health and mental health professionals. Here is my view as to why. Psychiatrists sit at a desk handing out psych meds. When one doesn't work, they give another. This is not even taught as proper practice. What is taught is to rule out medical conditions before giving out psych diagnoses. This would infer actual medical testing, other than a liver and thyroid panel which is currently the typical procedure. Also, people don't understand that psychiatrists have to have only Intro to Psychology in pre-med. Any other pscyhology is well, limited and usually given in a rush during clinicals. A psychologist on the other hand, has to have 60 classes on psychology. Psychology is where problem-solving is taught. Psychiatry practices should be totally redone. I'll never forget my own son's 9 years of seeing psychiatrists. They refused to do medical testing, saying it's a waste of time and won't help. They were completely wrong, and eventually I learned that my 14-year old had Bartonella causing most of his psych symptoms. All those years wasting my time and his. And he also received much ridicule as do most people with special needs, and parents do as well. I was blamed by school personnel for not having a behaving child. Anyhow, it's very sad. A simple blood test for Bartonella could have prevented him from being special needs for the first 14 years of his life. Proposterous really, when it's in the medical literature that bacteria and viruses can cause mental illness and worms can cause developmental illnesses, etc. Anyhow, also want to point out that Bartonella can cause significant weight gain or actually thinness. Pathogens are related to our weight, not just our diet.

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