The Making of a Murderer Pt 1: About Max

How is it that I, a 66-year-old successful professional woman living in New York City, have come to have acquaintance with a young man who has lived his 18 years in New Orleans, daring to be difficult, provoking those in authority positions to institutionalize him for his misdeeds, thievery and disturbed behaviors, and living out his plan, as he himself said of “ruining (his) life”? It is only through unforeseen circumstances of the most morbid kind that this young man, Max Hoppens, has arrived in my life, destined to stay for a good long time.

If ever there was a true-life rendition of The Truman Story, the life of Maxim Hoppens would count as such. Since his adoption from Russia, with his sister, at the age of five into a devoted and loving New Orleans family, Max has been evaluated, studied, tested, treated and medicated — and each of these for both physical and psychological conditions.

According to his mother’s own words, Max is a contradiction of severe proportions:

“To most people he is attractive, charming, polite, respectful, helpful and passive. He has many talents the best of which is his artwork. He draws excellent pencil and ink sketches of people, cars, crosses and symbols. He is a fairly good athlete, plays the trumpet, and writes poetry and short novels. He currently gets along with almost everyone if he desires to do that.

To those who get to know him he is cunning, manipulative, deceitful, and an accomplished liar and thief. He has little if any remorse about the things he has done wrong and will not accept responsibility for his actions but instead blames others because they caused it. He has learned to skillfully debate why his choices are correct and others are wrong. He cannot be trusted around money or objects that he may want because he will steal them. He has rarely accepted rules and consistently breaks normal social barriers as though they do not pertain to him. He does not seem to have a conscience.”

Through Max’s life, there were signs of his anti-social predilection. In his mid-teens, the most severe manifestation of his emotional disturbance was his repeated molestation of his sister. But the true danger of his disorder caught up with him when, after being ejected from his parents’ home, he murdered a man who had developed great compassion for Max, understood his unhappy life circumstances, befriended him, attempted to assist him in his life, and had given him shelter.

The victim of Max’s cold-blooded murder was my brother, David M. Goldberg, a 67-year-old gay man.

Max was arrested a week after my brother’s murder, and remains in jail as he awaits either a trial or a plea bargain.