When Children Kill By: Diane Kratz

There have been far too many headlines in the news lately on teen murderers and school shootings.

We are shocked when we hear a child has committed the abominable act of murder. It defies our minds when we learn sweet little Janie down the street whacked her parents to death as they slept.

We grieve for families who have lost a parent, child, friend, spouse, sibling, or neighbor.

And in the middle of the shocking awfulness of these seemingly senseless tragedies we ask, “How can this happen?” “What went wrong?” and “What in the world is the matter with a child or teenager who would ruthlessly murder?”

From all the research I’ve done on the subject of why kids kill, their motives are not that much different from those of adult killers.

They carry out murder for money, love, revenge, and for the thrill of committing it.

There is no profile for teen murderers. One of the things we do know about teen murders is that most are NOT well planned. Some have been caught because they left evidence like a driver’s license or prescription with their name on it.

They are divided into six types:

Jasmine Richardson

1. The Family Killer—A juvenile who kills a family member. These types usually kill for money or revenge. They feel pressured by demands, abuse, and hatred.

Jasmine Richardson was twelve when she brutally murdered her parents and younger brother in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Motive, to be with her boyfriend whom her parents didn’t approve of.

2. The School Killer—A juvenile who kills a student, teacher or administrator at school. I’ll write more on this type later because there is more information coming out from different studies. The motives of these killers differ from the usual.

School shooters are mostly male. They have typically planned the shootings for months and usually told someone else of their plans. According to the FBI publication on school shooters this is called “leakage.”

Leakage occurs when a student intentionally or unintentionally reveals clues to feelings, thoughts, fantasies, attitudes, or intentions that may signal an impending violent act. These clues can take the form of subtle threats, boasts, innuendos, predictions, or ultimatums. They may be spoken or conveyed in stories, diary entries, essays, poems, letters, songs, drawings, doodles, tattoos, or videos.

Another form of leakage involves efforts to get unwitting friends or classmates to help with preparations for a violent act. Sometimes this is accomplished through deception. For example, the student asks a friend to get ammunition for him because he is going hunting.

Leakage can be a cry for help, a sign of inner conflict, or it can be boasts that may look empty but actually express a serious threat. Leakage is considered one of the most important clues that may precede an adolescent’s violent act.

Enoch Brown Monument - East Side Inscription
Ken Shockey, Antrim-Allison Museum

Though school shootings have been highly publicized in recent years, they are not new. They have been around since 1764. The earliest known United States shooting to happen on school property was the Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre on July 26, 1764. Four Lenape American Indians entered the schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Pennsylvania, shot and killed schoolmaster Enoch Brown, and killed nine or ten children (reports vary). Only three children survived.

3. The Gang/Cult Killer—A juvenile killer motived by a street gang, hate group or cult. These crimes often begin with Satanists because it gives them the feeling of power over others.

Ricky Kasso

At age 17, while wearing an AC/DC T-shirt, he murdered fellow teen Gary Lauwers in the Aztakea Woods of Northport, Long Island. Along with two other friends—who, like Kasso and Lauwers, were high on mescaline—Kasso was in the woods to dabble in occult practices, as part of their self-dubbed “Knights of the Black Circle” cult.

Tensions had long before mounted between Kasso and Lauwers, after the latter allegedly stole 10 bags of PCP from Kasso. On June 16, 1984, in the Aztakea Woods, unsuccessful attempts to build a fire prompted Lauwers to make up for the damp driftwood by using his socks and denim jacket’s sleeves. Kasso said that they should use Lauwers’ hair instead, which led to Kasso biting him on the neck. Then, over a reported three-to-four-hour period, Kasso and his two other friends stabbed Lauwers upwards of 36 times, burned his body, gouged his eyeballs out, and stuffed rocks down his throat.

As he was killing Lauwers, Kasso ordered him to “say you love Satan,” but Lauwers said, “I love my mother.” Kasso covered the thought-to-be-dead body with branches and leaves, but, as reports tell, Lauwers rose back up, said “I love my mother” again, and prompted the assailants to continue their assault until he was confirmed dead.

On July 5, Kasso was arrested. Two days later, he hung himself in his jail cell.

Source: http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2012/11/25-craziest-real-life-american-horror-stories/ricky-kasso

Update: I originally had “The West Memphis Three” as my feature here, but I was told by a reader they were exonerated and released from prison in August 2011. After spending almost 20 years in prison, they gave a Alford plea and were released. My apologizes to Damien, Jason, Jesse and my readers for not following up on this case before posting it. Thank you Nico for bringing this to my attention!

4. The Crime Killer—A juvenile who kills while committing another crime, like burglary.

Bryton Gibbs

Bryton Gibbs was 16 when he stabbed Christopher Taylor to death with an 8-inch kitchen knife.  Gibbs called Pizza Hut and placed an order to be delivered to a vacant apartment. When Taylor, 33, arrived, Gibbs and three other male teens robbed him of $50 and killed him.

5. The Baby Killer—A juvenile who kills his or her infant or young child.

Cassidy Goodson, a teen who admitted killing her newborn baby and hiding him in a shoebox this past fall, used a Santa Claus doll to show investigators exactly how she strangled him in her bathroom shortly after giving birth.

6. The Thrill Killer—A juvenile who kills to feel what it feels like. These types are usually psychopathic. They have no empathy for their victims. The only time you will see them cry is when they are caught, and the tears are for themselves.

Child Killer Speaks Out

Eric Smith at age 13

Eric Smith murdered a four-year-old boy named Derrick Robie in 1980. He dropped large rocks on the boy’s head, strangled him, and then sodomized him with a small stick. Smith has never explained why he murdered the four-year-old. He has been denied parole five times. “I don’t doubt for a second, never have doubted, that had he not been caught, Eric Smith would have killed again,” the prosecutor in the case has said.

Eric Smith denied parole

Eric Smith at age 29

According to Phil Chalmers, who has interviewed 200 adolescent killers and is a teen violence and youth culture expert, there are 10 reasons why teens kill. They are listed from most likely to least.

1. Unstable Home and Bullying at School

2. Obsession with Violent Entertainment and Porn

3. Suicidal Ideation and Depression

4. Alcohol and Drug Use

5. Cults, Gangs, and Hate Groups

6. Obsession with Guns, Bombs, and Knives

7. Peer Pressure

8. Fascination with the Criminal Lifestyle, and Poverty

9. Lack of Spiritual Guidance and Proper Discipline

10. Mental Illness

He also suggests most teen killers have at least 3 of the list of causes, and many have 6 to 8 of the 10 causes.

In conclusion, children can be capable of committing hideous acts on their fellow human beings. There have been many books and movies about bad kids. The one that comes to mind is the 1956 movie, The Bad Seed, which depicts a housewife who suspects that her seemingly perfect 8-year-old daughter is a heartless killer. It was actually a book first written by William March in 1954 and was awarded The National Book Award for Fiction in 1955.

The Bad Seed

Sound familiar?

The child, Rhoda, is portrayed as a sociopath although the term was not widely used at the time. She has no conscience and will kill if necessary to get whatever she wants. By the time Christine, her mother, puts the truth together, Rhoda has already killed two people (a neighbor in Baltimore and her classmate Claude Daigle). In time, she also kills Leroy, the apartment building’s gardener and the only adult who sees through her. An adept manipulator, she can easily charm adults while eliciting fear and revulsion from other children who can sense something wrong with her.

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

Edit by Sally Berneathy

Web Resources

International Business Times: http://www.ibtimes.com/alyssa-bustamante-gets-life-prison-8-more-teen-thrill-killers-photos-554064

ABC NEWS: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/11/new-evidence-against-fl-teen-who-admitted-killing-baby-hiding-him-in-shoebox/

Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG)
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) FBI Academy
Quantico, Virginia 22135 http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/school-shooter

When Children Kill

15 thoughts on “When Children Kill

  1. Aidee says:

    Awesome and chilling! Great post!

  2. bellwriter says:

    Diane, you always write the most interesting posts. You state that there are no profiles for teen killers, but I submit you’ve done a fantastic job in breaking it down. I just don’t know what the answer is. With social media and information at our fingertips, ideas are planted in our minds intantaneously. Informative post as usual.

  3. Misty Dietz says:

    This is just so sad and disturbing, especially when the primary cause of child murderers is abuse and bullying. That is something we have the power to prevent. Hopefully some day, on some level, we can. Well-researched and easily conveyed information as usual, Diane!

  4. C. K. Crouch says:

    Wow this is really scary how do you deal with the sociopath child? One that has everything and does it because.

    • dianekratz says:

      Most require institutionalization. RAD children break your heart. Therapy can help, but honestly there needs to be better therapies to try. Research. We need more research to figure out what helps and what doesn’t. These types will eventually end up in the prison systems after they have reeked havoc on the world. I wish I had a better answer for you.

  5. marsharwest says:

    Great post, Diane. But grim. Definitely grim. Saving this one.

  6. Sherry Isaac says:

    Diane, your mind doth play on darkened streets.

    Child psychotics aside (and I do buy psychosis as a cause), I wonder how much helplessness in a situation that would be difficult for even an adult to manage plays into resorting to murder. Bullying is one, abuse another, but this thought took root with the teen mother who murdered her newborn. Perhaps it is the mother in me, my empathy as a human being, or my stubborn unwillingness to accept children as killers without a deeper cause, but, was she, or any teen mother who resorts to murdering her baby to keep the birth hidden, psychotic? Or was she desperate for a solution to a problem too huge for her to manage, and without the skills to look for help?

    • dianekratz says:

      Could be any of those Sherry. But there are children out there who have no conscious. There has been several studies on serial killers/psychopaths and the way brian functions. They do NOT function like ours do. They are born this way. Meaning they were this way when they were children too. I can’t imagine another adult killing another human being. Throw children into the mix and your left with a sicking feeling deep inside. It is hard to imagine. But it does happen.

  7. So interesting, Diane, and deeply disturbing. Is it true that children can’t be diagnosed as sociopaths? And if not, why?

    Also, (I could be misinformed), but I’ve heard that in most of these cases, the children were on psychotropic drugs. I wonder how much of a factor that plays, or if the reasons behind medicating the children are more to blame than the drugs themselves. Either way, It’s just so terribly sad for everyone involved.

    • dianekratz says:

      Terri you ask the most insightful questions!

      Yes that is true. Neither children or adults can not be diagnosed with as sociopath. Sociopath is word commonly used by mental health professionals. Law enforcement commonly uses the word psychopath. They both mean the same thing. Neither are in the DSM. For adults its called a personality disorder. Children can’t be diagnosed with personality disorder. They have to be 18 years old. Having said this, when looking at the same child at 18, they look for antisocial behaviors in their childhood to diagnose. The reasoning behind this is labeling. The APA doesn’t want that kind of a label on a child, because diagnosis of sociopaths (antisocial personality) projects a meaning/image that would prejudicial to the child. The belief is a child mind is still in the process of changing/growing. I guess its what we all look at when we see children, the hope they can change.

      For children, the diagnosis could be RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), Oppositional Defiant Disorder or a Conduct Disorder.

      I’ve never heard this about most being on psychotropic drugs. I’d need to see the data on that. I’m sure its probably more evenly portioned. And you are right it is terribly sad. Hope this helps!

  8. Thanks, Diane. This is great info!

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