A Food Network Star's Murder/Suicide Pact

Juan-Carlos Cruz Food Network

As increasingly bizarre details of the apparent murder-suicide pact between former Food Network chef Juan-Carlos Cruz and his wife emerge, we are left with more questions than answers when it comes to how this couple arrived at the tragic place in their lives that they did. Why hire a gang of homeless men? Why attempt to pay them with ripped-up $100 bills?? Didn't it occur to him that this would make for an excellent and potentially lucrative screenplay rather than a real-life plot???

The narrative of events is rightly being called "Shakespearean," but perhaps that paints too romantic a picture of star-crossed lovers, one that glosses over the layers of deeply troubling issues that are the real heart of the story. With his wife in a long-term state of devastation and depression due to her infertility, Cruz allegedly sought out a group of homeless men to murder his wife, thus sparing her the Catholic sin of suicide. The plan was thwarted when the homeless men contacted police.

Sources say the Santa Monica Police Department and the L.A. County District Attorney are fully aware 47-year-old Jennifer Campbell has been despondent for years over her infertility and has spoken openly to friends that she wanted to end her life. But Campbell is a deeply religious, practicing Catholic and the church views suicide as a mortal sin. Our law enforcement sources say the information police and prosecutors have "is absolutely clear" -- Cruz was trying to honor his wife's wishes by ending her life. He then planned on killing himself. [Source: TMZ]

In this version of events, Juan-Carlos Cruz escapes being characterized as a cold-blooded killer, but is capitulating to your wife's death wish really an act of love? While infertility is certainly a profound issue for any couple to deal with, and many couples do, most find a way to come to terms with the implications for their lives and for themselves as individuals. And Campbell and Cruz were both in their late forties—hadn't the initial shock passed? Weren't they able to consider other ways to cope with the problem?

It's also true that the plan was not a victimless crime, even if Campbell wanted to be murdered. The homeless men that Cruz approached would have become murderers, which is certainly something a devoted Catholic would consider abhorrent. And Cruz himself was initiating the crime, and then allegedly planning to off himself—aren't these things considered sins as well? Cruz is currently being held on $2 million bail, and yesterday pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempted premeditated murder.

We hope that the truly strange details of this story don't obscure the disturbing causes of Cruz and Campbell's desperation, because there are many couples that face infertility and may need help to overcome its consequences. At the very least, maybe this bizarro tale will help someone out there realize that perhaps asking for help is a reasonable course of action (from a professional, rather than a homeless man).