Kevin Mengel Gave His Life to ‘Keep Family Together’

Kevin Mengel gave his all to keep his family together.  Eventually he gave his life.  Here’s one story (Delco Times, 8/8/11).

According to police records, Mengel was murdered by his wife and her boyfriend on June 17, 2010.  The West Goshen Township, Pennsylvania man had had a stormy relationship with his wife, Morgan Mengel, throughout the 12 years of their marriage.

That included his leaving her once and her filing for divorce and then withdrawing the petition.  They had three children, 12, 10 and 6.

Friends and neighbors say that Morgan Mengel had numerous extra-marital affairs throughout the marriage and that Kevin knew about them.

“I”ve had him crying on my couch over this girl,’ [friend Ryan Fitzpatrick] said. “He was aware. … I guess that”s where Kevin comes into play, that it was really, really important to keep his family together. He just wanted the family for some reason and that was the way it was going to be.’

“He was a very hard worker, very dedicated to his family. He just wanted to be a good father and a good family man,’ Fitzpatrick said. “I saw him quite often when the business day was done. We would go over to his place, sit on the couch, play with the kids.’

Mengel owned and operated a landscaping business that his wife helped run.  That’s where she met Stephen Shappell who is 12 years her junior.  He mowed lawns for the company, and co-workers report that it wasn’t long before he and Morgan were having an affair.  That began in May; by June, Kevin told her he’d “had enough” and would move out of their residence.

[Detective David S.] Maurer testified that Morgan Mengel said he wanted her husband dead because she did not want to go through a “messy divorce” that would likely prompt her husband and his mother to seek custody of the children.

Given his powerful connection to his children (relatives say that Fathers Day was his favorite holiday), Kevin Mengel likely would have done just that.  And given Morgan’s history of petty theft convictions, he might just have won.  In the past, she’s had at least two convictions for theft and neighbors say she stole a blank check from them and made it out to herself in the amount of $300.  They never filed charges against her, settling for her repayment of the money.

So Morgan allegedly convinced Steve Shappell to help her kill her husband.  According to police, she poisoned his bottle of Snapple that he drank at work.  The poison apparently impaired his central nervous system enabling Shappell to bludgeon him to death with a shovel owned by the landscaping business.  The two then buried his body in a field not far from the high school Shappell had attended just a few years before.

Amazingly enough, the pair were texting each other during the commission of the crime.  Here’s the exchange gleaned by police from their cell phone records:

6:22 a.m., Mengel to Shappell: We ready?

6:23, Shappell to Mengel: Yep at the shop now, al just pulled in.

6:24, Mengel to Shappell: K im jumping in shower. Ur not gona chicken out?

7:32, Mengel to Shappell: OK I told him i left his snapple there. Make sure u shake it.

10:08, Mengel to Shappell: He drinkin” it?

10:11, Shappell to Mengel: Ya kinda, really just waiting for him to bend over I have shovel in my hand haha.

10:33, Mengel to Shappell: U backin out?

10:39, Shappell to Mengel: It”s done get up here now.

10:39, Mengel to Shappell: Seriously?

10:42, Mengel to Shappell: Answer me.?

10:42, Shappell to Mengel: Dead serious.

10:42, Shappell to Mengel: Get up here now!

10:43, Mengel to Shappell: On my way. Pulse?

Morgan Mengel and Stephen Shappell are both charged with multiple counts including first and third degree murder and conspiracy.  Pennsylvania law doesn’t permit prosecutors to seek the death penalty in this case due to the absence of aggravating factors.  Kevin’s parents apparently told prosecutors they wouldn’t want the two executed even if the death penalty were available.

The three children are being cared for by Kevin’s parents.

On the surface, this is about the “eternal triangle” of husband, wife and lover.  As happens on rare occasions, one decides to take the life of one of the others.

But that’s not what this case is about.  It’s about the kids.  If it hadn’t been for the kids, Morgan Mengel could have divorced and gone her merry way with whomever she wished.  But the couple had three children to whom Kevin was passionately devoted.  With the numerous black marks on her record, Morgan likely figured she wasn’t a shoo-in for custody so she decided to get their father out of their lives.

Reliable social science shows that about 70% of divorce cases are filed by women.  It further shows that the reason women file more than men is that they know they’ll get the kids.  Losing custody of the children is the most powerful force preventing men from initiating divorce.  So my guess is that Morgan Mengel saw herself in their place – likely to lose custody of her and Kevin’s children.

A couple of sidelights: First, there have been a good many articles written on this case by a couple of different publications.  So far I haven’t found a single one that refers to the murder as “domestic violence.”  That accords with almost every case of intimate partner violence perpetrated by a woman against a man.  The facts are reported, but the fact that the crime is one of domestic violence seems never to occur to the reporters or their editors.

Second, Kevin Mengel’s death will not be recorded as a spousal murder by law enforcement authorities.  It’ll be called a “multiple offender homicide,” meaning that two or more people participated.  That’s perfectly accurate of course, but also skews the statistics on how many husbands are killed each year by their wives.  It seems that when women want to kill their husbands or boyfriends, they tend to hire someone else to do the job rather than doing it themselves.

So while official statistics show that about 1,300 women are killed each year by their husbands or boyfriends and about 300 men are killed by their significant others, those statistics understate the number of men killed.  The actual number is higher due to the “multiple offender” category.

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