It happened in Houston almost exactly 5 years ago. In an article by Andrew Tilghman and Kevin Moran (Houston Chronicle 8/31/2004) we were told that "sexual abuse by his father and an increased dosage of Prozac may have helped drive a 10-year-old boy to shoot and kill his father last week, the boy's mother and attorney contend."
Thus, for quite some time, with the media titillating itself over a new sexual abuse scandal, the mood of public opinion swung swiftly against the dead father. But things are not always what they seem.
According to another attorney report in November of 2004 (http://www.helpstoppas.com), the boy's behavior was caused by "Parental Alienation Syndrome," which, he explains, occurs in the context of divorce when one parent turns the children against the other parent, filling them with as much of his or her own rage and hatred as possible. In order to keep the love of one parent, they must turn against the other.
It began to seem that the case was not really about sexual abuse, but about a very contentious divorce. According to that same report, the allegations of abuse (which had been made by the mother against the father) were proved false by two different police investigations and two lie detector tests. As a result of the false allegations, the mother was forced to settle the case out of court. The father was awarded the home and 50/50 custodial rights.
Right before the shooting, the mother independently decided to have the 10 year-old put on Prozac without notifying the father. When the father came to pick up the children to take them home, the boy slid into the back seat, took out his mother's .40 caliber, and fired three rounds through the seat, wounding his father. He went back into the house, but his mother sent him back to his father's car. He unloaded the rest of the cartridge, mortally wounding his father, and returned to his mother, who, even though a registered nurse, never went to the aid of her ex-husband.
Things can be very complicated.
Kevin Rexroad, M.D., a psychiatrist in Albuquerque, stressed that the pain of divorce should not be underestimated when considering its impact on children or whether it can be factored in as a precipitant to violence. "When under stress, especially of a prolonged nature (as are most separations and divorces), the child's fragile psyche will split into two parts: a part that feels helpless (longing to have a positive parent-child relationship) and a part that identifies with the aggressor (essentiallyStockholm Syndrome; accepting a negative parent-child relationship).What the child is attempting to avoid at all costs is having a nebulous/neutral parent-child relationship.The undeveloped psyche has no resources to tolerate nothingness. (Ital. mine.)"
As Dr. Rexroad explains it, the exploding rage is partially the result of a terror so deep it is inarticulate. And it is the terror that is at the source of their behavior, the sense of being utterly alone, toes dangling over the edge of the abyss with a wind at their backs. Nothingness" Is that what it was like for the little boy in Belen?
With insights as poignant and compelling as that, it is easy to stop right there and say, "Well, that's it. That's the answer." But is it? Does that explain it all for every kid who kills?
Can children be self-interested sociopaths? Will they shoot just because they want to? Or because of some perceived gain?
The courts thought they'd seen a true psychopath when they found Jasmine Richardson--a 12-year-old girl--guilty of brutally murdering her parents and younger brother in Alberta. She had run off with her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy, whom her parents disliked. She was given the maximum penalty for a child under 14: ten years.
And then there was 14-year-old Michael Hernandez, who was convicted of the premeditated murder of a classmate. He'd lured him into a bathroom then stabbed him and slit his throat. While he had appeared "so normal" to his friends and "so polite" to his teachers, his journals revealed a youngster fixated on violence and committed to plans of mass murder.
And there's the Bulger Boy Murder in Northern England in 1993, which I personally remember quite well. I still feel a physical revulsion in writing about it. Two otherwise ordinary 10-year-old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, abducted two-year-old James Bulger from a local shopping area, wandered with him for hours before they beat him to death and left him on railroad tracks. They covered his head with rocks. No explanation was offered. None was ever found.
And as of November 3rd, 2009, the District Attorney has formally charged the little boy in Belen with first degree murder.