9.07.2011

Why Do Children Kill Children? Part II


By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

It is difficult to explain why a ten year old child would shoot his neighbor’s friend in the chest. Accidental is generally the explanation, intentional unknown; anger caused the child to shoot; frustration that the other children were spending too much time with the gun; all conjecture and such a tragedy.

It seems that there are no winners for a situation where a child kills another child. So who can you turn to in such a time of tragedy? Justifiably the child perpetrator will be psychologically examined by the court appointed psychologists. The parents for both the child victim and child perpetrator will need someone to talk to. The pastor of their church if they are Christians is a wise decision to bring some peace to their hurt feelings, the emptiness the tragedy has placed them into. Family, friends, cohorts, neighbors, peers and so forth will try to reach out and be someone they can lean on.  There are no easy words to calm their despair or replace what they have loss.

There are no easy answers or substitutes for what they have lost and what is ahead of them. Time will somehow ease the pain, but what about this child who is now seen as a child perpetrator? It is difficult to call a ten year old child a perpetrator, but maybe that is what he is. The circumstances will determine which way law enforcement officials and the prosecuting attorneys will make a decision about what to do with this child, who at the age of ten, his life maybe over because of a violent act which took another child’s life.

There are no easy answers and when the child victim’s parents go looking for assistance they will find that assistance in these types of cases just isn’t there. The resources are minimal and the cost for the funeral and therapy will be non-existent. In some states resources from the victim’s assistance program can provide the victim’s family may receive counseling expenses, expenses associated with the death of the child and etc.

So who is this child who has taken the life of another child? What do the experts say who these child perpetrators are?

In the past children were protected by the community. The outcry was heard loud and clear that children really don’t understand what they just did and the killing of the other child was an accident. The morbidity of the act of mutilating another child cannot be answered by saying it was an accident. The child who acts out like a cold killer is rare in the United States. In 1874 Jesse Pomeroy tortured and killed several children. He was known in the Boston area as the “Boston Boy Fiend.” He was sentenced to death for his intentional acts. Instead he was given four decades of solitary confinement.

One of the interesting facts of child perpetrators is that they know they have done something bad, because if you evaluate and examine what the child perpetrator did to the child victim i.e. the method of killing the child and then hiding the child’s body. Children who know that killing is not right, followed by hiding the body and then telling authorities where the child victim is hidden, supports that the child perpetrator may have an organic mental disorder e.g. paranoid and psychotic.

When a child goes missing, the first place law enforcement officials should be looking is in the child’s own back yard. It is generally one of the relatives who initially sexually acted out with the child victim and then not to be caught, they kill the child so they cannot tell on them. Recently, there have been many reports of missing children only to find out that one of the other children killed the missing child and/or one of the adults.

Katherine Ramsland from TruTV wrote a compelling article called The Unthinkable: Children Who Kill. In her article she writes about the categories children are placed into after they kill another child. These categories seem to be helpful to the novice investigator, but the problem is each child perpetrator, who commits murder, the facts and evidence has to be weighed individually. There is no such thing as an easy answer especially when you are dealing with children who kill other children. However, it should be obvious to you that Ms. Ramsland did her due diligence in researching this subject.

Ms. Ramsland placed child killers into several categories. These categories are:

1.      Inner city/gang killers: Living in a violent environment and pushed to kill by other gang members, these child perpetrators kill to gain power and status inside the gang.
2.      Killing within a family: Killing occurs for a variety of reasons, from feeling pressured by demands, abuse, hatred, desire for gain, and even by the need of other family members.
3.      Cult killings: Associated with other members and kill to feel the power of another universe.
4.      Pathology: As I discussed above the child is born with severe depression and paranoid schizophrenia, just like adults.
5.      School killers: There are numerous reasons why children kill other children they attend school with. Retribution for the taunting, bullying and harassment create an environment where the child perpetrator says enough and reaches out and kills other children because they have had enough.
6.      Killing committed during another crime: Child perpetrators who are committing another crime and kill to keep the victim from identifying him/her.
7.      Sexual killings: Motivated by twisted sexual desires, the child perpetrator acts out violently and then upon killing the victim acts out sexually upon the victim’s body.
8.      Hate crimes: The gay and lesbian population has been targeted for years for being who they are. Child perpetrators who come from racist and bigoted families kill gays and lesbian because of whom they are.
9.      Kids who kill their babies: They commit this crime to avoid parental disapproval or just to avoid having the responsibility of a child while they were children themselves.

Tomorrow, I will continue to examine why children kill children. Years ago I conducted research on Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. These two young adults killed for the thrill of it. I will explore with you just who these two child perpetrators were and what we can learn from their personality traits and the violence they committed

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