The Unanswerable Question

There was once a family. Thomas Frazza, his wife Betty, his 19 year old daughter, and two boys John, 20, and Kevin, almost 14. Known for their laughter, their friendliness, and the closeness. They were well known in two communities, both the community in which they lived and the community in which they had their summer home.

Thomas was known as being friendly with a gift of gab and for his involvement with his family. He owned his own business, but it was failing. He attempted to sell the communications business, but couldn’t find a buyer. He loved his summer home, but the time came that a decision had to be made- a choice between the family home and the summer home.

Kevin was also well known and well liked by peers and teachers alike. Just about to start 9 th grade, he was known for being a bit of a “clown” and how he could make people laugh. He was also skilled with a hockey stick. Kevin was a diabetic, but never let that drag him down- he was known to joke about it even though he had to give himself shots. He wanted to be a sportscaster when he grew up.

John was also known as a bit of a jokster. A college student, he was majoring in accounting. He also had a job at the theatre. Some say he was there so much because he enjoyed it, some say he stayed there so much to avoid fighting with his father. Allegedly, his father had recently told him that he was either going to have to get a second job or quit college. John had an online journal in which he invented humerous stories based on the people and the events at the theatre. In the last story he wrote, he said to stay tuned for part two. Someone big was going to die. His Sunday night at work, he said he was going to go home and finish the story.

On Sunday, the wife and the daughter had gone to the summer home for an open house. On Sunday afternoon, a friend had been at the home, he has stated that he went to the bathroom and heard John and Thomas exchange angry words, but he couldn’t tell what they were arguing about. He has stated that when he came out of the bathroom, everything was friendly again. 

Police say that Sunday night the boys were in bed. And they say that Thomas Frazza  walked into each bedroom and shot both boys at close range. Thomas Frazza was found dead in the basement, dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound. Two handguns were found with his body.

As kids grow, they tend to pull away from their family for a while. Peers become more important to them, they have their own activities, and as their independence grows, their need for their their parents lessens. Certainly a young man in college, with a job and a girlfriend was not going to have much of his time left for family activities.

As a parent, that can be difficult. Parents often look at their grown up children, and see the little kid they loved and raised, and it is hard to let that go- to allow that relationship to change. Instead of being the center, parents become the periphial part of the kid’s life. And to be honest, there is often one child- maybe too much like the parent, or too different from the parent. While still loved, there are more difficulties.

Kevin, just entering that age where the kid is working toward adulthood. Involved in sports, his friends, the teen activities. Did the father also sense him slipping away? Or did he only see his own “fears and failures” in Kevin. With the loss of his business, would he be able to provide college for him?

Thomas, a businessman who was losing his business and the summer home he loved. It is odd, how much we allow our jobs to become our identities. We say we work for our families, yet that very job and any success or failure is what we often feel gives us our measure as a person. And with his kids developing their own independence, yet another piece of identity that some see as changing- others see as losing.  

Two people left to wonder that age old question. Why,  why them? There will be other questions. Did they miss something, was there anything they could have done differently? Would things have been different if they had understood more, did more, did less? Were they to blame? Not likely, survivors often feel guilt……even undeserved guilt. Maybe there were things they could have done differently. But there were things that Thomas could have done differently also.

Bright flames extinguished, a father and husband, two sons and brothers gone. A wife and mother, a sister and daughter left to carry on the family, carry their memories and  grieve for them.


A house as hostage?

First of all, let me make it clear that no one has been charged in this incident.

Dr. Nicholas Bartha, 66, and his wife have been in a bitter dispute over a divorce since the wife filed in 2001. Portions of that divorce have gone to the appelate court.

The couple were married in early 1977. Bartha was a Romainian who immigrated here with his future wife in 1974. He was said to very proud of their home, which they moved into in 1986. His attorney has stated

“He wanted to stay married,” said Ira E. Garr, Dr. Bartha’s lawyer until last year. “He wanted to maintain the status quo so he could continue to live in this house,” “He wanted nothing other than to remain in this house for the rest of his life.”

The wife described some of their homelife in the divorce papers. She was born in the Netherlands, during the Nazi occupation. She was also Jewish. And she reports the home was allegedly decorated with “swastika-adorned articles” and she further alleged that Bartha became enraged if she attempted to take them down. She reported feeling that he was  “intentionally traumatizing” her. The divorce papers also allege that Bartha ignored her while she battled breast cancer.

A judge granted the divorce, and ordered a payment of $1.23 million plus alimony in the amount of $2,000 per month for a period of 3 years. However, he refused to declare the home as marital property and ruled that the wife had no rights to the property which at that time was valued at $5 million dollars. But Dr. Bartha appealed that decision. Allegedly he wanted to stay married, and he would have had to sell the house to pay for the settlement. Bartha’s attorney says that “He didn’t love her,” Mr. Garr said. “He was emotionally and constitutionally opposed to divorce. He was a man who worked all the time and couldn’t stand being alone.”

Early in 2005, the appellate court ruled that the home was marital property. The attorney says that after that decision, he lost contact with Bartha who did not respond to letters and phone calls.

Allegedly Bartha attempted suicide more than once during that period. Reportedly he barricaded himself in his office and filled it with insecticide once. And allegedly he was found in the office basement once, passed out with the gas on.

In August of 2005, his wife was awarded a judgement of more than $4 million. She reportedly said “I have no doubt that respondent will ensconce himself in the marital residence and refuse to leave it after the auction is held,” she said. “He has said many times that he intends to ‘die in my house.’ ” The judge ordered the home to be sold at auction and that the sheriff serve him with eviction papers, no more than 10 days after the auction. A sheriff’s deputy showed up Friday with the eviction papers. Another doctor who shared the office reported that he did not appear to be visably upset.

On Monday, the townhouse exploded sending fireballs high in the sky and debris raining down on the neighborhood. Five passersby were reported to have been injured in the explosion or the aftermath. Ten fireman were injured fighting the fire.

Bartha was found buried in the rubble. He guided rescuers to him while talking with him on his cell phone.  Detectives want to talk with Bartha, but have been unable to because of his injuries. An investigation is ongoing as to whether Bartha deliberately caused the explosion, and possibly was attempting to commit suicide.

According to reports, there is evidence that a plastic tube was connected to a main gas line in the basement, with a radiator valve. When the valve was open, it would allow gas to escape throughout the home. It is believed this was an intentional act.

Reportedly on June 8 th, a routine check of the home by the gas company showed a gas leak. The gas was turned off, and Bartha was requested to fix the pipe. The gas was turned back on after the utility company ensured that the leak was repaired.

According to reports, Bartha’s wife got an email from him on Monday. He is reported to have said “When you read this … your life will change forever. You deserve it. You will be transformed from gold digger to ash and rubbish digger. You always wanted me to sell the house. I always told you I will leave the house only if I am dead. You ridiculed me. You should have taken it seriously.” “The legal system is corrupt, killed my brother, and now I [sic]. I am not going to evict me as the Communists did Romania in 1947.” Reportedly copies of the email were also sent to the governors of New York State and California, George Pataki and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and to the Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Brit Hume, and others.

Normally, I don’t discuss the area the event occurred in. That is purposeful, as most could happen anywhere in the US. But this is different. Everyone remembers the World Trade Center and the traumatic events that occurred there. New York has been making a valiant attempt to both remember that tragedy and to recover from it. But never-the-less the news of explosion brings terrorism to mind, with many reliving the events of that horrendous day, week, month and year. So not only were the five civilians injured, ten more firefighters injured, and property damaged. But there was additional trauma to the whole city.

And that is all separate from the trauma to the wife, and to the two children the couple had. Was it the unfortunate side effect of a man committing suicide, or a man attempting to hold the house hostage in the ending of the relationship? I would say that only Dr. Bartha would know for sure at this point.


Edititorial commentary from James Daly. More details about the email.


Dr. Nicolas Bartha died of the injuries he received in the blast on July 10. A hospital spokesman stated he lingered in a medically induced coma until Sat., about 11 pm.