Why Kids Kill Parents: Child Abuse and Adolescent Homicide


Kathleen M. Heide

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    This book is dedicated to my family:

    Especially to my parents, Eleanor and Victor Heide, who gave me life, love, opportunity, and the encouragement to strive for excellence; to my brother, Thomas, whose outlook on life and accomplishments and whose pride in me empowered me to take a stand and be counted; to my Aunt Therese and Uncle Vinny and “the boys,” whose love and willingness to lend a hand were always apparent.

    And to my mentors at Vassar College and the School of Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Albany:

    Jane Ranzoni and Marguerite Q. Warren, whose ways of thinking about issues and living life changed my worldview.


    HansToch Distinguished Professor, State University of New York, University at Albany

    THIS BOOK is a humane, intelligent, and caring book about families that breed violence. The author, Kathleen Heide, has the rare ability to research a problem while feeling for those who are enmeshed in the situation and have no one to speak for them. The book shows what can happen when good science and advocacy go hand in hand.

    Kathleen Heide tells the story of a group of youngsters who do not customarily evoke empathy. Her subject is adolescent parricide offenders, mainly children who have violated a universal and basic taboo (vested in two biblical commandments! by killing their mother or father. Heide summarizes what we know about such young murderers and about the parents they kill. She caps her summary with beautifully written case studies, which sound stranger than fiction but are representative of horrifying realities.

    Such is the core of this book, but the content transcends its subject by discussing problems of good and bad parenting, dysfunctional families, child abuse, and social reform. Clinical practitioners will prize a section on therapy, which highlights the process of reparenting. Clinicians will also find the book useful as a primer of differential diagnosis, especially of murderers.

    Unlike other reformers, Kathleen Heide does not buttress her case by inflating victimization statistics. She relies instead on the inter-connectedness of social problems, which makes parricide the tip of a very ugly iceberg. Parricide is a very rare event which occurs in families whose members feel threatened, cornered, engulfed, desperate, and lost. Escalating conflict, bickering, and cruelty (including unspeakably sadistic cruelty), punctuated by the child's unsuccessful efforts to escape, are only part of the picture. Alcoholism is endemic in such families, as are other forms of substance abuse. Psychopathology or pathology is routine, and family members feed off pathology with mutually destructive results. In parricide constellations one factor is especially horrifying: the omnipresence and availability of firearms with which the murders are committed. Ironically, most of the families are among those law-abiding citizens whose right to bear arms is proclaimed by gun lobbyists.

    Violent acts committed by members of dysfunctional families pose a dilemma to courts and a challenge to society. Knowledge of events preceding the act often invites compassion for the offender. But violence is not a solution to problems society can tolerate. Do-it-yourself justice is unacceptable in civilized communities because institutions have been created that temper and sublimate revenge. Resources should in theory be available to victims to make it unnecessary for them to help themselves by destroying their victimizers.

    But what if societal resources fail? What if victims are reluctant (or afraid) to draw on them? What if problems fall between the cracks of the system or are lost in red tape? The rules obviously hold, no matter what: Thou shalt not kill a tormentor. Call the cops. Or run if you have to—then call the cops.

    There are exceptions to these rules: If your life is in jeopardy and you cannot escape, the system recognizes it by exonerating you. But what if you feel you are in danger and others disagree? And if you could escape but feel you cannot do so? And if the danger is less tangible than loss of limb? These are the sorts of questions legal dilemmas are made of.

    Other questions have to do with states of mind and incapacities. To be responsible you have to know what you do when you do it, and you must be able to refrain from doing it. But reconstructing an offender's state of mind is difficult. Those who do such reconstructing disagree in their conclusions. Worse, they may disagree depending on who retains their services.

    Controversy may also surround the facts. Take a casual parricide by a teenager whose driving privilege has been curtailed. Faced with disproportionate penalties, the teenager recalls a history of brutal incest. The father's ex-spouse testifies that the teenager's story is consonant with her view of the man. Would one doubt the testimony or believe it? Is it sufficiently corroborative? Juries must decide such questions, and judges must face them in arriving at verdicts and sentences.

    A special highlight of the book is the outcome of each of the stories. One of the three case studies has a happy ending. The boy pleads to second-degree murder, receives and serves prison time, and uses this time constructively. His comportment has been exemplary. He lives with his mother, and (aside from difficulties in coping with school) has made an adequate adjustment.

    The other stories have ended less well. One parricide offender is acquitted by reason of insanity. After three months, he has committed four armed robberies because (he says) he “needed the money to give to his mother.” One of the reasons for the mother's financial problems is that her son—who has no driver's license—has had a serious traffic accident. The judge who presided over the original trial adjudicates the boy's new “self-help” offense and finds mitigating circumstances. The boy serves time, is left adrift, and absconds. A warrant is outstanding for his arrest.

    The third case is that of a girl who receives a long sentence in prison. At first she thrives in confinement, participating in programs and social life. After some time, however, she becomes bitter and self-isolating, sulking, neglecting her appearance, and living the life of a hermit. In this state of mind she faces ten more years as a self-styled Victim of Injustice.

    Is there room for happier endings to such stories? Heide makes a convincing case for the proposition that happier endings require attention to offenders’ problems. It is irrelevant in this connection whether the problems are products of victimization or not. It does matter whether the problems make the offenders dangerous or simply unhappy, disturbed, and self-destructive. The point is that if we do nothing, or not enough, we can expect more unhappy endings, including more dysfunctional families and violence.

    We would like to see imprisonment more sparingly used, but in the short run there is little chance that this will happen. An alternative is to improve the experience of confinement, to make it more regenerative. If society cannot afford years of residential treatment (Kathleen Heide's prescription), we must try to approximate this ideal in custodial settings. We could do a great deal for inmates if persons willing to assist the offender in the community would work in the prison instead. In the long run, imprisonment will decrease in proportion as self-help solutions result in acquittals, convictions on reduced charges, or mitigation of sentences. Such a trend is most likely to eventuate if victim advocates can produce testimony that is accepted and attended to by courts. This book contains examples of such testimony.

    The book also discusses programs in the schools and in the community that are designed to sensitize citizens and service providers to the problems of dysfunctional families. Need is most critical, according to Heide, where alcohol and drug use by parents breeds not only violence but habitual child abuse or neglect. With wholesale implementation of programs, unsuitable parents can expect to see more children removed from their homes for purposes of protection. They will see more allegations of abuse investigated and more services mandated.

    The trend is beneficent, but carries some risks. At extremes, a modern witch hunt can be sparked if vengeful adolescents (as in Salem) raise fashionable charges. But Salems are less of a danger where science and due process prevail, moderating gullibility and zealotry.

    Advocacy is also a competitive game in a society like ours. When we respond to one group at the expense of another, humane observers call us to task. Experts contend because they have different values, sensitivities and perceptions. Balanced accounts (such as this one exemplifies) will, one hopes, prevail.

    The resolution of such questions as “What is a just response to a parricide by an abused child?” is a societal one. Our society permits divergent ideas (and data) to surface and to compete for adoption. In such a system a scientist and clinician such as Kathleen Heide can play a precious role. The work summarized in Why Kids Kill Parents is a testament to this role. It is also a credit to its author, who cares about ameliorating suffering and reducing despair.


    TERRY ADAMS and his two older sisters had long been physically and emotionally abused by their parents, both alcoholics. When Terry's sisters reached 18, they left home. Once they were gone, Terry became the sole target of the abuse. At the age of 16, he decided there was no alternative but to leave as well and make it on his own.

    Terry had to go through his parents’ bedroom to get out of the house. While he was attempting to escape this way during the early morning hours, Mr. Adams woke up and confronted his son. Terry told his dad that he was tired of the way he was living, that he was old enough to make it on his own, and that he knew what he was doing. Terry asserted that he could quit school legally. Maybe he could not leave home legally, Terry told his dad, but he didn't care: he was leaving anyway. Mr. Adams slugged his son, knocking him down. When the youth got back up, his father pushed him over, and he fell into a closet where several guns were kept—including a .22 caliber rifle. Terry grabbed the rifle and fired at his father. He remembered his father screaming, “Oh, my God!”

    Terry's mother, who was in bed when her husband was shot, woke up when the gun went off. Terry could not remember actually shooting his parents, particularly his mother. All he could remember was her face “when she sat up in bed … the agony within the terror.… The rest of it is more or less, sort of hazed out for me. I remember waking up completely. Standing there looking at two dead bodies. Two people. What have I done now, you know. Like it was a dream.”

    Both killings were the reactions of a terrified youth. Overwhelmed by stress at the moment he fired the shots that killed his parents, Terry may not have been aware of what he was doing and, hence, not have been culpable.

    Court records showed that four petitions alleging neglect, abuse, and physical abuse in the Adams home had been filed and investigated by the state social services agency. Three of the petitions named Terry as the victim and had been filed in the two years preceding the homicides. The latest referral was made when Terry was 15. At that time the state agency received a report that Terry was being physically and emotionally abused by both parents. The report followed Terry's admission to the hospital for stomach problems. Hospital authorities could find no physical reason for the problems and decided that they were caused by emotional problems related to the home situation. Terry was first placed in a foster-care home, then with his oldest sister and her husband, with whom he remained for three months. After that the boy returned to his parents under protective services supervision, which officially lasted nine months. Ten months after the state agency terminated supervision, Mr. and Mrs. Adams were dead. Terry Adams was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

    The youth was advised by his public defender to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge who sentenced Terry to life was the same judge who had presided over the dependency proceedings alleging abuse. Upon being sentenced, Terry wrote the following “Request for Freedom”:

    I cry out at night, “I'm so sorry! 1 just couldn't take the fear and pain anymore, I won't hurt anyone again!” It doesn't matter what the degree of pain and fear was on me, all that matters is what I've done. I try to tell them I [am] so very young and have a lot to do with my life, but it doesn't matter. The public just says, “You shouldn't of done it, you shouldn't of done it!” I hear them lock the bars around me and I say to myself, “I can't stay in prison all my life, I've lived in a world of bounage [bondage] before and now once again.” The world has no pity for me. They just don't understand. I couldn't take it any more, I [am] human and make mistakes, I just made a big mistake and now I'm paying for it by doing life.

    As part of an in-depth study of adolescents convicted of homicide I interviewed Terry about two years after he killed his parents, and we corresponded for several years more. Four years after the homicide Terry wrote:

    A big change has taken place in my life. It happen[ed] about eight (8) months ago while going throug the photo album. A couple of the pictures from my home town took me back to what happen[ed] in the truest since [sense]. For three years I lived in a make-believe world on what really happen[ed]. Then I realized I loved Mom and Dad. Down deep inside I loved them. That hurt when I realized it. I couldn't believe it. I began letting out all the awful things that happened and what really took place that morning.

    I couldn't believe it was happen[ing] all over again and I didn't have control…

    Almost seven years after the double homicide, Terry was released on parole. He felt emotionally stable. Two months later, on the seventh anniversary of the murders, he called me, saying that he feared for his future if he did not resolve issues stemming from his past.

    It took Terry seven years to begin the process of recovery. He made arrangements with the paroling authorities to relocate to a halfway house for men in Tampa. Within a few weeks he began therapy with a treatment team headed by Don McCann, a therapist whose expertise includes working with severely abused clients.

    Terry Adams represents the abused child who kills from desperation, the typical adolescent parricide offender (APO), who is the major focus of this book. Part 1 focuses on the relationship of child abuse, neglect, and the dysfunctional family in order to understand the motivational dynamics behind these parricides. Part 2 details clinical case studies of three adolescent parricide offenders. The case studies address pivotal issues in adolescent parricide cases, including the sanity of the accused, the relevance of the youth's perceptions and personality development, and the relationship of post–traumatic stress disorder to the homicide. The final part of the book explores treatment strategies. Because of the crucial role of abuse in these homicides, the book concludes by focusing on a number of strategies that can be developed and implemented in an effort to reduce the incidence of child maltreatment.


    I WISH TO express my deep appreciation to colleagues, professional associates, and friends who contributed to this book. Special thanks are due to my editor, Alex Holzman, of Ohio State University Press, and my literary agent, Frances Goldin, who were among the first to see the importance of adolescent parricide and whose editorial suggestions and support helped bring this project to completion. I am very grateful to my good friend and editorial consultant, Frances Knowles, who read every chapter of this book at least twice with enthusiasm and excitement and provided astute comments. Nancy R. Woodington deserves special mention for doing an outstanding job of copyediting and also for making excellent editorial suggestions.

    I want to thank my colleagues at the University of Sout Florida who helped and supported me as I launched and developed this project: Travis J. Northcutt, Jr., Ph.D., Dean Emeritus, Department of Social Work; Susan M. Stoudinger-Northcutt, Ph.D., Department of International Studies; Edward M. Silbert, Ph.D., Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences; Julia M. Davis, Ph.D., Associate Provost; Judith Ochshorn, Ph.D., Department of Women's Studies; William G. Emener, Jr., Ph.D., Department of Rehabilitation Counseling; and William R. Blount, Ph.D., Ira J. Silverman, Ph.D., Mitchell Silverman, Ph.D., Leonard Territo, Ed.D., Harold J. Vetter, Ph.D., and Magdalene C. Deutsch, Administrative Secretary, Department of Criminology. I also thank my graduate and undergraduate students for their interest and enthusiastic participation in discussions of adolescent homicide in lecture classes, seminars, and directed research. Their contributions to and excitement at my work and its application have been very inspiring to me. I especially thank Joseph Kuhns III, M.A., G.S.E. (Graduate Student Extraordinaire), Cindy Boyles, M.A., G.S.E., and Debbie Haggag, B.A., U.S.E. (Undergraduate Student Extraordinaire) for their help, good cheer, and laughter. Special thanks are also due to Media Relations and Publications staff, particularly graphic designer Richard Scott for his ideas and input, which were instrumental in designing the book cover.

    I also want to thank Don McCann, M.A., licensed mental health counselor, and Roy Persons, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, for helping me to understand treatment issues especially pertinent to abuse victims and for teaching me effective intervention strategies.

    I am grateful for the efforts of Robert Kriegner of the Florida Department of Corrections, Bureau of Planning, Research and Statistics, and his staff in Tallahassee, Florida, in identifying the population of adolescents committed for homicide in Florida and in helping me to obtain data about them. I thank the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Report staff for providing the Supplementary Homicide Report data on which the national analyses of parricide contained in this book are based. Special thanks are due to Ronald D. Hickman, Southern Illinois University, Computing Center Services; Richard Dembo, Ph.D., University of South Florida, Department of Criminology; and Suzanne Shealy, Ph.D., for help in preparing the FBI data for analysis.

    A number of people devoted their time and talents to reviewing one or more chapters of this book to ensure its accuracy and relevance for professionals in the law, social services, and education. I am grateful to the following individuals for sharing their experience and expertise with me.

    • Eldra P. Solomon, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, Tampa, Florida
    • Marguerite Q. Warren, Ph.D., Professor (retired), State University of New York at Albany, School of Criminal Justice
    • Anne H. Cohen-Donnelly, D.P.H., Executive Director, National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse
    • B. Wesley Pardue, J.D., HRS District Legal Counsel, State of Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, District 6 Legal Office
    • Craig Alldredge, J.D., Assistant Public Defender, Office of the Public Defender, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Florida); Chairman of the Mental Health Committee, Florida Public Defenders’ Association
    • The Hon. Barbara Fleischer, Circuit Court Judge, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Florida)
    • Lee William Atkinson, J.D., Executive Assistant to the State Attorney, Office of the State Attorney, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Florida)
    • Lorette McNeill-Enochs, J.D., Office of the Chief Counsel, U.S. Department of Energy
    • Gerald S. Myers, former executive director of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics
    • Nancy Wilson, M.S.W., social worker, De Jarnette Treatment Center, Adolescent Unit, Staunton, Virginia
    • Lerea Goldthwaite, former director of the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center, Hillsborough County Crisis Center, Tampa, Florida
    • Kris Marsh, M. A., Visiting Assistant Professor, University of South Florida and Florida Mental Health Institute, Professional Development Center, Department of Law and Mental Health
    • Phyllis Weislo, Trainee Specialist, University of South Florida and Florida Mental Health Institute, Professional Development Center, Department of Law and Mental Health
    • Mady Flemal-Sidwell, former circuit director, Guardian ad Litem Program, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Florida)
    • Richard Dembo, Ph.D., Professor, University of South Florida, Department of Criminology
    • James B. Halsted, J.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Sout Florida, Department of Criminology
    • Lisa Day, computer education instructor, Tampa Palms Elementary School, Tampa, Florida
    • Jane “Happy” Silverman, M.A., kindergarten instructor, Temple Terrace Elementary School, Tampa, Florida
    • Gina Boland, R.N., addiction specialist, Tampa, Florida
    • Elinor Le Boss, past president of the Board of Directors, Hillsborough County Sexual Abuse Treatment Center, Tampa, Florida
    • Debbie Haggag, former undergraduate directed research studies student

    I wish to thank my good friends, especially Eldra Solomon, Elinor LeBoss, Jack and Gina Boland, Frances Knowles, Lerea Goldthwaite, Marsha Vanderford, Diane Bernardi, William Stockinger, Michael Zmistowski, Lisa Day, Frank Ranzoni, Mark Totta, Craig Darlak, and Lorette McNeill-Enochs, who believed in me and in this book, and brought enormous joy, laughter, peace, and purpose into my life.

    Last but not least by any means, I thank “Terry Adams,” “Peter Jones,” “Scott Anders,” and “Patty Smith”—my pseudonymous adolescent parricide offenders—for trusting me with the most intimate details of their lives and giving me permission to tell their stories. I join with these young adults in hoping that this book's message will be received by those empowered to make changes in our social service, educational, and legal systems so that other adolescents in situations similar to theirs can receive the help that was denied to them.


    SINCE THE initial publication of Why Kids Kill Parents, adolescent parricide offenders have continued to make front-page news. In my roles as a criminologist and psychotherapist, I have continued to conduct clinical assessments of some of these adolescents who recently have stood accused of murdering their parents. As a researcher who has systematically studied adolescent homicide and family violence for more than 10 years, I have examined these cases closely to look for patterns, to test hypotheses, and to verify previous findings.

    As a clinician frequently appointed by the Court or retained by defense counsel, my interest in parricide cases, as in other types of murder cases, has been to unravel the motivational dynamics that propel defendants to kill others. At this level of analysis, the individual is my primary focus of inquiry. Corroboration of facts is critical in determining the credibility of the defendant's statements. Accordingly, in addition to clinical interviews with the youth, I routinely conduct clinical interviews with family members, study pertinent materials, including existing school, medical, social services, and psychological records, and examine law enforcement reports, autopsies, and depositions of key witnesses.

    My task as a clinician is to understand the defendant and his or her role in the killing. When subpoened to testify at trial, my responsibility becomes one of helping judges and jurors to comprehend how the defendant makes sense of the world and to identify what events led this individual to kill. At the sentencing hearing, I am typically asked questions regarding the defendant's risk to the community, what treatment would benefit the defendant, and what is the prognosis, that is, the likelihood that this individual can, at some point in time, be returned to the community.

    My role as a scientist who has conducted clinical assessments of more than 100 adolescent homicide offenders is broader than my role as a psychotherapist. Every adolescent parricide case since the publication of Why Kids Kill Parents has allowed me, in varying degrees depending upon the nature of my involvement, to assess to what extent findings presented and conclusions drawn appear valid in other cases.

    This situation has been particularly gratifying. The 12 characteristics, synthesized from my review of the literature and my own cases, delineated in Chapter 3 have typically been readily apparent in cases that I have personally examined or that have been reported in the media. The five factors discussed in Chapter 4 as targeting youths at higher risk of killing an abusive parent have also been identified in subsequent cases. In addition, the devastating effects of being a victim and a witness to violence, as described in Chapters 2 and 6 and illustrated in the three detailed case studies, have been reported in cases that I and other mental health professionals have examined since the book's publication.

    Several adolescent parricide offenders whom I evaluated since the publication of Why Kids Kill Parents have been textbook cases. Such cases are encouraging because they provide additional evidence that the findings previously reported are genuine.

    Publication of a book such as this one presents certain risks. A defendant on trial for killing a parent might read it and adjust his or her statements and testimony to correspond with the life experiences of severely abused children in an effort to escape responsibility for premeditated murder. Accordingly, I explore in the clinical interview what materials these youths have read about kids who kill parents. Prior to finalizing my conclusions, I verify that they had not had access to my book.

    Why Kids Kill Parents is to be distinguished from books and articles that have recently appeared in the popular press on adolescent parricide offenders. This book, unlike others, does not start with the premise that adolescents who kill parents have killed because they have been abused and saw no other way out of an intolerable situation. Although these dynamics seem to be the most typically encountered among adolescent parricide offenders, this determination is a scientific one. It can be made only after careful examination by a mental health professional who has extensive experience and expertise in evaluating child abuse, family violence, homicide, and adolescent homicide.

    This book presents a typology of parricide offenders in chapter 1. The three types of individuals who kill parents include the severely abused child, the severely mentally ill child, and the dangerouslyantisocial child. When adolescents kill their mothers and fathers, severe mental illness is typically ruled out. The question frequently becomes “Was the adolescent a severely abused child, or was he or she ‘a psychopath’?”

    This question was the one that appeared to polarize the nation, including the two juries, in the recent trial of Lyle and Eric Menendez, who at the ages of 21 and 18, respectively, allegedly killed their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez. The defense argued that “the boys” were abused by both parents. Defense attorneys contended that the brothers killed their mother and father because they feared that their parents were going to kill them for threatening to reveal the sexual abuse within the family. The prosecution argued that the abuse was a fiction. The State maintained that the “young men” plotted to kill to inherit their parents’ $14 million estate because they feared that they were going to be disinherited.

    I did not evaluate Lyle or Eric Menendez. Accordingly, I have no direct knowledge of this case and cannot evaluate the veracity of Eric and Lyle's statements about the nature and extent of the alleged child maltreatment. However, my opinion on the case has been repeatedly sought by mental health professionals, lawyers, the media, students, and the general public. The question was almost always framed like this: “Do you think those guys were really abused, or do you think that they did it for the money?”

    Evidence was presented at the Menendez trial that, if true, would indicate that Lyle and Eric Menendez were victims of several different types of abuse and neglect defined in chapter 2 of Why Kids Kill Parents. Trial testimony suggested that Eric and Lyle Menendez were overtly sexually abused and raped by their father and covertly and overtly sexually abused by their mother. Reported accounts suggested that they had, in addition, been physically, verbally, and psychologically abused by both parents. Statements made at trial further suggested that the Menendez boys had been emotionally neglected by both parents. Testimony further suggested that they had been physically neglected by their mother, who allegedly failed to protect them from their father's alleged sexual abuse and rape.

    However, even if these statements were in fact true, the verification of child maltreatment does not necessarily uncover the underlying motivation for the double homicides. The Menendez brothers could have been both “battered children” and “sociopathic.” The two categories are not, as the opposing lawyers in the Menendez case seemed to argue, mutually exclusive. Some children raised in abusive homes become “conduct disordered.” In fact, the development of “antisocial personality disorder” is typically rooted in early and pervasive childhood maltreatment. Put another way, the Menendez brothers could have been abused AND still have killed their parents for the money.

    The critical question in the Menendez case is, as in any parricide, what propelled the homicides? Individuals who are severely abused often have mixed feelings about their abusive parents. These feelings may include fear, anger, hatred, hurt, and a desire for revenge, as well as love. If Lyle and Eric Menendez killed Jose and Kitty Menendez out of hatred and rage stemming from years of severe abuse, that motivation is clinically significant, but it is not self-defense.

    It is interesting to note that the behavior of Lyle and Eric after the homicides was markedly different from the behavior typically shown by severely abused adolescents who kill their parents. The Menendez brothers concocted an elaborate alibi and maintained their innocence for several years. They acknowledged their involvement in the homicides only after it was determined that statements that they had made to their psychologist about their role in the killings would be admissible. Shortly before the trial it was publicly disclosed that the Menendez brothers had been abused—information that neither had at any time ever disclosed to their therapist. The psychologist testified that, when Lyle and Eric were discussing the killings with him, they did not indicate that they had been abused and feared for their lives. In contrast, adolescents who kill their parents typically are apprehended immediately after the killing and state that they killed the parent to end the abuse.

    Severely abused children who kill their parents have a number of characteristics that the Menendez brothers do not appear to share. For example, prior to the killing, these youths have typically attempted to get help from others and have tried to escape the family situation. Severely abused children who kill their parents do not report seeing psychotherapists on a regular basis, from whom they withhold information about the abuse that they have endured for years. Severely abused youths who report feeling trapped and perceive no other way out of the family situation do not have in their histories, as Lyle Menendez did in his, that they had attended a major university 3,000 miles away from their parents’ home.

    These discrepancies and others that appear in the case do not rule out that Lyle and Eric Menendez were severely abused children who killed because they believed they were about to be killed by their parents. However, they raise questions that need to be asked to understand the motivation that propelled the killings of Jose and Kitty Menendez. More important, these questions need to be addressed to advance scientific knowledge of the phenomenon of parricide.

    I have been surprised by the number of my therapy clients, university students, and others familiar with my work in parricide who have told me that, as adolescents, they had seriously entertained killing their abusive parents but did not. In a study of women who had been severely abused, my colleague, Eldra P. Solomon, Ph.D., and I found that 50 percent reported that prior to the age of 18 they had seriously considered killing their abusive parents. Parricide appears to be the tip of a very ugly iceberg. In addition to asking why some adolescents kill their parents, we need to be asking why more youths do not. It is my hope that our nation will seriously consider the recommendations made in the final chapter of Why Kids Kill Parents. These recommendations are designed to reduce the conditions that propel some youths to kill their parents and countless more to consider such action.

  • Appendix: Analysis of Parricide Offenders by Juvenile versus Adult Status

    SONS WERE RESPONSIBLE for most killings of parents and stepparents during the ten-year period under investigation, accounting for between 85 and 87 percent of homicides involving fathers, mothers, stepfathers, and stepmothers.1 The proportion of males who committed these types of parricides was approximately equal to their 87 percent representation among homicide offenders in general during this decade.2 There were no significant differences in the percentages of parents and stepparents killed by juvenile and by adult sons and daughters.3

    During the period 1977–86, Hispanics rarely killed parents and stepparents. The percentage of Hispanic offenders arrested in these types of parricides ranged from 3 percent for stepmothers to 6 percent for fathers. When the percentages of parents and stepparents slain by Hispanics were examined within juvenile versus adult age categories, the percentages remained small and no significant differences emerged.4 The involvement of Hispanics in the killings of parents and stepparents was disproportionately low in relation to their involvement in 16 percent of total homicide arrests. Among juveniles arrested for homicide during these ten years, 22 percent were Hispanic.5

    Mothers and stepmothers who were killed were significantly more likely to be white than fathers (chi square = 21.37, df = 1, p = <.01) and stepfathers (chi square = 4.24, df = 1, p = <.05). The percentage of victims who were white was as follows: stepfathers, 59 percent; fathers, 65 percent; mothers, 72 percent; and stepmothers, 74 percent. A weak relationship was found between the race of the offender and offender age category (under 18; 18 and over) among those who killed fathers (chi square = 10.03, df = 1, p = <.001) and stepfathers (chi square = 10.95, df = 1, p = <.001). Blacks under 18 were significantly less likely to kill their fathers and stepfathers than were white youths and blacks over 18. Approximately 27 percent of fathers and 30 percent of stepfathers killed by juveniles involved a black youth. In contrast, slightly more than 36 percent of fathers and almost 45 percent of stepfathers slain by adults were killed by a black offender.6 Although the proportion of blacks who killed parents and stepparents greatly exceeded their 12 percent representation in the population, it was still less than their representation among homicide arrestees. Of those arrested for homicide from 1977 to 1986, 49 percent were black. Among juveniles arrested for homicide during this time frame, 48 percent were black.7


    Chapter 1

    1. Heide 1989.

    2. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data are the only national source of homicide data in the United States; the victimization surveys conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics as part of the National Crime Survey do not measure homicide. FBI statistics compiled from data submitted voluntarily by police departments across the United States have some limitations (see Black 1970; Skogan 1977; Savitz 1978; Savitz and Johnson 1978). These limitations, however, are much less likely to be operative for homicides because of the seriousness of the crime and its higher clearance rate.

    The FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data base was used for the ten-year period 1977–86 to analyze parricide cases across the nation. Cases involving biological parents were separated from those involving stepparents. Cases with obvious errors in coding were identified in initial screening and excluded from further analysis.

    Analysis concentrated on single-victim, single-offender situations largely because of the completeness of the data and their proportionate representation in the data set. These situations were analyzed separately from homicides involving multiple victims or multiple offenders. Single-victim, single-offender situations homicides involving 1,368 fathers, 887 mothers, 562 stepfathers, and 54 stepmothers were examined over the ten-year time frame. Ninety-two percent of fathers, 86 percent of mothers, and 89 percent of stepfathers were killed in single-victim, single-offender situations. The percentage of stepmothers slain in situations of this type, 73 percent, was not as high largely due to the smaller number of stepmothers slain. For additional information see Heide 1987. In an analysis of homicides in Canada between 1974 and 1983, Daly and Wilson (1988b) also found more fathers than mothers slain.

    3. The median ages (scores at the 50th percentile) were slightly less than the mean ages: stepfathers, 45; stepmothers, 49; fathers, 52; and mothers, 57.

    4. A strong relationship was found in the analysis of SHR data between the age of the offender and rates of mother versus father victimization. Fathers were significantly more likely than mothers to be killed by offspring under 30. Conversely, mothers were significantly more likely to be killed by children 30 years of age and older (chi square = 114.34, df = 1, p <.01). Differences that emerged between adult and juvenile parricide offenders are noted in the appendix.

    5. The higher percentage of stepparents slain by adolescents is consistent with a sociobiological perspective of family homicide. See Daly and Wilson 1988a.

    6. FBI 1978–87.

    7. There is no evidence to suggest that youth involvement in the killings of fathers, mothers, or stepmothers increased over the period 1977–86. Close study of the data, however, reveals that the proportionate involvement of youth in the murders of stepfathers has steadily increased since 1982, when it was at its lowest. This suggested escalation in the involvement of juveniles in homicides of stepfathers, although not statistically significant, is worthy of note, as it stands in marked contrast to the percentage of juveniles involved in the murders of fathers. Patricides have become somewhat less common since the 1980s. This relationship, although weak, was statistically significant.

    8. This determination was possible only for parents. Figures for stepparents are not published separately in the Uniform Crime Reports. For a discussion of the difficulties of analyzing the SHR data set and the rules adopted for analysis, see Heide 1987.

    9. Solomon, Schmidt, and Ardragna 1990.

    10. Bortner 1988.

    11. Ibid.; Heide and Pardue 1986.

    12. Bender and Curran 1940; Cornell 1989.

    13. Bender and Curran 1940.

    14. Bender 1959; Zenoff and Zients 1979.

    15. Sorrells 1977; Zenoff and Zients 1979; Heide 1984.

    16. E.g., Siegel 1983.

    17. Stanford v. Kentucky; Wilkins v. Missouri.

    18. Heide and Pardue 1986.

    19. Wadlington, Whitebread, and Davis 1983.

    20. Brief of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Orthopsychiatric Association as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner, William Wayne Thompson v. State of Oklahoma, October 1986.

    21. On matricide offenders, see Scwade and Geiger 1953; O'Connell 1963; Gillies 1965; McKnight et al. 1965; Chiswick 1981; Green 1981; Campion et al. 1985; Lipson 1986; on patricide offenders, Cravens et al. 1985; on offenders who killed both parents, Raizen 1960; Maas et al. 1984.

    22. My typology of adolescent parricide offenders is in some ways very similar to the typology of juvenile homicide offenders recently proposed and tested by Cornell, Benedek, and Benedek (1989). But I emphasize the motivational dynamics underlying the offense more than Cornell, Benedek, and Benedek do.

    23. Mones 1985; Morris 1985; Hull 1987; Daly and Wilson 1988b; Cornell 1989; Ewing 1990b. Severe abuse has also been found in the histories of violent adolescents and those who have killed nonfamily members (see, e.g., Sendi and Blomgren 1975; Lewis et al. 1979, 1983, 1985, 1987; and Ewing 1990b).

    24. Hull 1987.

    25. Blais 1985; Morris 1985; Rosenthal 1985; Kleiman 1987f; Hull 1987; L. E. Walker 1989.

    26. Janos 1983; Matthews 1983; Prendergast 1983.

    27. Foucault 1975; Morris 1985; Benedek and Cornell 1989a; Ewing 1990a, 1990b.

    28. APA 1980, 1987.

    29. E.g., F. Russell 1979.

    30. “A Family's Nightmare,” 1983.

    31. McGraw 1983.

    32. Townsend 1983; “Man Accused in Killing of Mother,” 1983.

    33. Callaway 1989a, 1989b.

    34. Callaway 1989b, B13.

    35. C. Alldredge (personal communication [June 22, 1989]).

    36. Ewing 1990a, 1990b.

    37. Bootzin and Acocella 1984.

    38. APA 1980, 1987. In cases where the specific criteria for diagnosis are not met (i.e., the antisocial behavior is not part of a pattern that can be attributed to either a conduct disorder or an antisocial personality or other mental disorder), two V codes in particular may be appropriate—childhood or adolescent antisocial behavior and adult antisocial behavior (APA 1987). Individuals so classified, although not diagnosed as having any mental disorder, may also be labeled fittingly as dangerously antisocial.

    39. APA 1987.

    40. Ibid.

    41. Ibid.

    42. Cleckley 1976.

    43. “The Daddy's Killer?” 1979.

    44. “Writer Murdered,” 1984.

    45. Ewing 1990b.

    46. “Muffin,” 1970.

    47. Ibid.

    48. “Who Killed Grandfather?” 1982.

    49. Alexander 1985; Coleman 1985.

    50. E.g., Bunker 1944; Freud 1961; Rubinstein 1969; Kiremidjian 1976; Roberts 1985; Daly and Wilson 1988b.

    51. Bunker 1944, 198.

    52. Ibid., 207.

    53. E.g., the Ten Commandments; Tanay 1976a; Forward 1989.

    54. Morris 1985; Ewing 1990b.

    55. “It Made Terrible Sense,” 1982.

    56. Ibid., 34.

    57. Prendergast 1986.

    58. Ibid.

    59. The reaction to youths who kill their parents has not been met consistently with sympathy, however. In times of fiscal austerity, the federal government decided that youths who had murdered their parents were no longer eligible for Social Security benefits under final rules published on September 24, 1982. Social Security officials had previously suspended such payments in January 1982, upon hearing of two cases in California where individuals adjudicated in juvenile court for the murder of their parents had collected $21,500 and $8,000 upon parole (“Benefits Frozen,” 1982).

    The Financial Times (January 19, 1982) presented the issue in a rather acidic way in an article titled “Bad Luck for Lizzie Borden.” The article indicated that parricide had become an increasingly popular activity for children in Southern California to make some fast money. In response, the federal government recently formulated a policy that effectively put an end to the lucrative game by ensuring that Social Security benefits were no longer available for adolescent parricide offenders.

    60. “For Janet Reese,” 1987.

    61. “Poet Tried,” 1986; “Woman Says,” 1986; “Witness Says,” 1987.

    62. May 1986; Kleiman 1987a, 1987b, 1987c, 1987d, 1987e, 1987f, 1987g, 1987h, 1988.

    63. “Girl Gets Jail Term,” 1987.

    64. “Goes Free,” 1988.

    65. Siegel 1983; Chambers 1986; Hull 1987; Ewing 1990a, 1990b.

    66. Cornell, Staresina, and Benedek 1989, 53.

    67. Ibid., 174.

    68. Hull 1987; Mones 1989.

    69. Chambers 1986.

    70. Siegel 1983.

    71. Ibid., 8.

    72. Hull 1987.

    73. Kaczor 1989, B1.

    74. Ibid.; P. Mones (personal communication, February 24 and July 13, 1989).

    Chapter 2

    1. Miller 1990 shares a similar viewpoint.

    2. There are similarities in the ways that abusive parents and spouses behave. The offending parent, like the battering spouse, may feel guilty and remorseful after the abusive act, ask the child's forgiveness, and promise never to assault the child again. Caution is, however, advised in generalizing from the literature on battered wives/husbands and battered children because the dynamics between victims and offenders are not identical. For further discussion of battered women, the battered-wife syndrome, and the problems these women face in protecting themselves and their children from harm by an abusive mate, see L. E. Walker 1979, 1984, 1989; Browne 1987; Ewing 1987.

    3. Gelles and Straus 1987.

    4. Rosen et al. 1983; Guandolo 1985; Jones et al. 1986; Rosen, Frost, and Glaze 1986; Rosenberg 1987.

    5. “Woman Faces Abuse Charge after Dressing Son like a Pig,” Tampa Tribune, July 6, 1988, Section A.

    6. Sargent 1962; Duncan and Duncan 1971; Tanay 1973; Corder et al. 1976; Post 1982.

    7. Lowen 1983.

    8. Middleton-Moz 1986.

    9. Burgess et al. 1978; Groth and Birnbaum 1979; Groth 1981.

    10. Bass and Davis 1988.

    11. Middleton-Moz 1986.

    12. Ibid.; Bass and Davis 1988.

    13. Bass and Davis 1988.

    14. Covert sexual abuse is a culturally relative concept. The norms operating in a particular culture and time period determine what society interprets as sexually explicit or provocative.

    15. Middleton-Moz 1986; Bass and Davis 1988; Bradshaw 1988b.

    16. Middleton-Moz 1986; Bass and Davis 1988; Forward 1989.

    17. Middleton-Moz 1986; Bass and Davis 1988; Forward 1989.

    18. Bass and Davis 1988; Forward 1989.

    19. Rotter 1966.

    20. Bass and Davis 1988; Forward 1989.

    21. P. Weislo (personal communication [July 26, 1989]).

    22. Burgess et al. 1978; Groth 1981.

    23. Bass and Davis 1988.

    24. Groth and Birnbaum 1979; Groth 1981.

    25. Assault may provide a way for the parent to project or externalize his own internalized shame. In attacking the child the parent may be attempting to free himself of his fear, helplessness, or rage by acting it out. The parent in this situation seems to be symbolically passing his pain on to the child, who now will have to deal with similar shame-based feelings arising from the victimization (Kaufman 1985).

    26. Kaufman 1985.

    27. Bass and Davis 1988; Bradshaw 1988b; Forward 1989. The National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse (Garbarino and Garbarino 1980) addresses emotional maltreatment of children. This concept seems to combine both psychological/emotional abuse and emotional neglect. Competence is used as a focal point to identify four types of caregiver behavior that would be considered emotional maltreatment:

    Penalizing a child for positive, normal behavior such as smiling, mobility,

    exploration, vocalization, and manipulation of objects Discouraging caregiver and infant attachment Penalizing a child for showing signs of positive self-esteem Penalizing a child for using interpersonal skills needed for adequate performance in nonfamilial contexts such as schools and peer groups.

    28. Bowlby 1969.

    29. Ellerstein 1979.

    30. Ackerman 1986.

    Chapter 3

    1. Wertham 1941, 24.

    2. Ibid., 26.

    3. Ibid., 27.

    4. A psychoanalytic orientation is associated with Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Briefly, the term refers to Freud's theory that human behavior is largely determined by deep-seated conflicts in the unconscious that stem from childhood fixations, and to the therapy that developed from it.

    5. Wertham 1941, 225.

    6. Russell 1965; Corder et al. 1976.

    7. D. H. Russell 1979; Sorrells 1981; Cornell, Benedek, and Benedek 1989.

    8. Patterson 1943; Medlicott 1955; Hellsten and Katila 1965; Reinhardt 1970; Malmquist 1971; D. H. Russell 1973, 1979; McCarthy 1978; Solway et al. 1981; Gardiner 1985; Myers and Kemph 1988; Benedek and Cornell 1989a.

    9. Duncan and Duncan 1971; Anthony and Rizzo 1973; Mack et al. 1973.

    10. A history of psychosis was rarely diagnosed in a recent empirical study of 72 juvenile murderers conducted by D. Cornell, E. Benedek, and D. Benedek (1987) using a three-group typology (psychotic, conflict, crime) and was especially unlikely to be found among youths who killed a family member. Of the 72 juveniles, only five adolescents (7 percent) were classified as psychotic and, of these, only one killed a family member. Thirteen of the fifteen family members murdered were killed by adolescents who were engaged in interpersonal conflict; an adolescent committing another crime killed the other family member. Ewing (1990b), table 2.1, has noted the relative infrequency of diagnoses of psychosis in 17 studies of juvenile homicide offenders beginning with Bender's study in 1959 and including the recent study of Cornell, Benedek, and Benedek (1987).

    11. Scherl and Mack 1966; Mohr and McKnight 1971; Sadoff 1971; Mack, Scherl, and Macht 1973; Russell 1984.

    12. Foucault 1975.

    13. Schizophrenia is a group of disorders characterized by deteriorated functioning, disordered thought and communications, distorted perceptions, blunt or flat affect, bizarre behavior, and disturbances in motor behavior. Hallucinations or delusions are typically present (APA 1987).

    In 1978 clinicians were using DSM II. The borderline nature of the diagnosis given by McCully suggests that, although there was definite deterioration in functioning prior to the appearance of characteristic psychotic symptoms, it was not clear whether the symptoms had been present for the six-month period needed for a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Had DSM III-R been available at that time, McCully might have diagnosed schizophreniform disorder. The reference to a sociopathic understructure suggests that the youth may have met the criteria for an antisocial personality described in chapter 1. DSM III and the current diagnostic system, DSM III-R, allow the diagnostician to note the coexistence of a mental disorder and a personality disorder.

    14. Suinn 1984.

    15. APA 1980.

    16. Medlicott 1955. Paranoid disorders are psychotic disorders characterized by systematized delusions in which the individual's emotional reactions and behaviors are consistent with the delusional network. Hallucinations, if present, are not prominent as in paranoid schizophrenia. The individual with a paranoid disorder, in contrast to a person suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, typically is not impaired in his daily work, intellectual functioning, and personal hygiene habits. One diagnosed as having a paranoid disorder tends to experience impairment in social relationships and marital life (APA 1987).

    17. Benedek and Cornell 1989a.

    18. McCully 1978.

    19. Scherl and Mack 1966; Russell 1984.

    20. Heide 1984.

    21. Heide 1988.

    22. In the remaining case, that of Patty Smith (chapter 9), the youth saw herself as powerless in relation to others. Her sense of being overwhelmed by life events was the result of her personality development, which was less mature than the other parricide offendersɼ, and not a gender difference.

    23. Dissociative disorders involve “a disturbance or alteration in the normally integrative functions of identity, memory, or consciousness” (APA 1987). These disorders may be sudden or gradual, transient or chronic. DSM III-R delineates four types of dissociative disorders: multiple personality disorder, psychogenic fugue, psychogenic amnesia, and depersonalization disorder. The APA has reserved a fifth category, dissociative disorder not otherwise specified, for dissociative states that do not meet the criteria for any of the first four.

    24. As discussed in chapter 6, to feel badly for one's behavior, one must see oneself as accountable for that behavior, recognize that behavioral choices are available, and have an internalized value system against which to evaluate behavior. Not all adolescents or adults have reached the level of personality development associated with these perceptions. Hence, these individuals are not truly capable of experiencing remorse.

    25. Heide 1984.

    26. Inter-rater agreement (percentage agreement between two raters evaluating the same information) in type recognition and identification exceeded 80 percent on six of the seven types. On the type remaining, the nihilistic killer, inter-rater agreement was only 60 percent, indicating that this type needs greater specification.

    To determine how valid this clinical typology is, more than 1200 items were constructed to measure 47 different content areas covered during the assessment interviews. A reliability assessment of these items provided convincing evidence that empirical analysis of these data is possible.

    27. Heide 1984, 1985.

    28. Tanay (1973) talked about the isolation of the nuclear family in society in general, rather than the isolation of families in which parricide occurred, and hence is not cited in support here.

    29. Cornell, Benedek, and Benedek (1989), in their study of 72 adolescents charged with homicide, noted significant differences in weapons used by the youths to kill particular types of victims. Although they did not report specifically on weapons used by adolescents who killed parents, they noted that “Adolescents who murdered family members most often did so with a gun, and none of them failed to use some kind of weapon” (71). Nine of 15 adolescents in their study who killed family members used firearms of some type.

    30. In studies where the focus has been on juvenile homicide offenders rather than specifically on adolescent parricide offenders, references to the slain parent having been abusive and an alcoholic or prone to episodes of heavy drinking have also been made in the brief case histories presented. These case citations provide further evidence that alcoholism/excessive alcohol consumption, particularly by an abusive parent, is often a significant factor in cases of adolescent parricide. For example, Malmquist (1971! mentioned a case of a 15-year-old boy who killed his abusive stepfather with a gun (“The boy had been a witness to a series of beatings when the father [stepfather] was intoxicated” [464]). Hellsten and Katila (1965) described a case of a 13-year-old boy who also shot to death his abusive father “who used alcohol fairly often” (59). A case described by Benedek and Cornell (1989a) of a 17-year-old boy who shot and killed his abusive alcoholic father was mentioned in chapter 1.

    Chapter 4

    1. Monahan 1981.

    2. Cork 1969 (reissued 1980); Ackerman 1979; Black 1981, 1985; Wegscheider 1981; Deutsch 1982; Woititz 1983, 1985; Gravitz and Bowden 1985; Seixas and Youcha 1985; Wegscheider-Cruse 1985; Middleton-Moz and Dwinell 1986; Kritsberg 1988; Wholey 1988.

    3. Bradshaw 1988; Bowden and Gravitz 1988; Wholey 1988.

    4. Bowden and Gravitz 1988.

    5. Middleton-Moz and Dwinell 1986; Bowden and Gravitz 1988.

    6. Mayer and Black 1977; Walker, Bonner, and Kaufman 1988; Faller 1990.

    7. Walker 1979; Gelles 1987.

    8. Browne 1987; Ewing 1987; L. E. Walker 1989.

    9. Cermak 1988, 56.

    10. Greenleaf 1981.

    11. E.g., Wegscheider 1981; Subby 1987; Cermak 1988; Wholey 1988.

    12. First National Conference on Co-Dependency, Scottsdale, Arizona, September 1989.

    13. Cermak 1988, 223.

    14. Cermak 1988.

    15. Ibid.

    16. Cork 1969.

    17. Valliant 1983.

    18. Cork 1969.

    19. Ibid.

    20. Ibid., 51. Cork identified 53 alcoholic fathers and 19 alcoholic mothers in her sample (p. 45). She noted that the proportion of male to female alcoholics in her sample was much lower than in other reports, which generally suggest that there are five male alcoholics to every female alcoholic. While acknowledging that the gender difference might have resulted from her study design, she expressed a belief that much hidden alcoholism exists among the female population.

    21. Ibid., 51.

    22. Ackerman 1979; Middleton 1984; Seixas and Youcha 1985; Forward 1989.

    23. Bradshaw 1988b, 1990.

    24. Gillespie 1988; L. E. Walker 1989.

    25. Given the small number of stepmothers slain in single-victim, single-offender situations during the decade, 54 total, it is not surprising that the differences in weapons used by juveniles and adults were not statistically significant. The likelihood of noticeable differences reaching the level of significance increases with the number of cases available for analysis.

    Chapter 5

    1. Modern statutes have followed the Model Penal Code's (1962) lead in abandoning the distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and creating a single manslaughter offense. Under this framework, manslaughter is a killing committed recklessly or one which would otherwise be murder if not committed “under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance” for which there is a reasonable excuse or explanation. In addition to describing degrees of murder and combining types of manslaughter, the Model Penal Code created the new category “negligent homicide” for deaths that resulted from negligence. For a more extensive discussion of voluntary manslaughter, the Model Penal Code's recommendations for homicide laws, derivative homicide laws, and pertinent statute and case citations, see Dix 1988, 121–27.

    2. There are other defenses that may be raised by the defendant to absolve him or her from criminal responsibility. These include, for example, infancy, involuntary intoxication, ignorance or mistake of fact, necessity, duress, entrapment, and lack of consent. Self-defense provisions may be written in terms of the justifiable use of deadly force and the justified use of nondeadly force. For a more extensive discussion of these defenses, see Dix 1988.

    3. Gillespie 1988.

    4. Ewing 1987.

    5. Browne 1987, 174.

    6. Gillespie 1988.

    7. Ewing 1987.

    8. Stone 1975, 1978.

    9. Heide 1983c; Morris 1986.

    10. E.g., Morris 1986.

    11. E.g., Pasewark 1981; Heide 1983c; Morris 1986.

    12. “Commitment Following an Insanity Acquittal,” 1981; Heide 1983c; Morris 1986.

    13. Dix 1981; Heide 1983c.

    14. Rogers 1986, 223.

    15. Rogers 1986.

    16. Shapiro 1984; Rogers 1986.

    17. Shapiro 1984.

    18. Ibid.

    19. Cirack v. State (1967).

    20. The legal elements of a crime consist of legality (no crime without a law), actus reus (forbidden conduct), mens rea (criminal intent or guilty mind), concurrence of actus reus and mens rea, resultant harm, causation (harm would not have occurred were it not for the defendant's conduct), and punishment (no crime without a legally prescribed punishment). For a discussion of these elements, see Vetter and Silverman 1986, 18–21.

    21. Intent to kill is one of the several different mental states that if present at the time of the killing are considered to constitute the “malice aforethought” required to convict a defendant who kills another human being unlawfully of (first- or second-degree) murder. In this typology, it is the presence or absence of specific intent to kill that is important because of its clinical significance. Malice aforethought is a broader concept than specific intent to kill and encompasses situations where the intent to kill is implied rather than actual under circumstances that do not otherwise excuse, justify, or mitigate the homicidal conduct to manslaughter. Mental states other than intent to kill that have been considered to constitute the malice aforethought necessary to support a murder conviction when present at the time of the killing include intent to inflict great bodily injury, intent to commit a felony, intent to resist lawful arrest, and awareness of a high risk of death—“depraved mind” or “abandoned and malignant heart” murder. For a more extensive discussion of constructs of malice aforethought, homicide laws, and pertinent statute and case citations, see Dix 1988, 112–14. Empirical verification of the utility of this taxonomy among the population of adult murderers as well as juvenile homicide offenders would also be valuable.

    22. Woolf 1977, 601.

    23. Ibid., 308.

    24. Use of this classification scheme builds upon the work of Buss (1961), who classified aggression as instrumental or expressive. By incorporating intention to kill and desire to hurt the victim into the framework of homicide, it is possible to distinguish between instrumentally and emotionally based killings. Use of the term nihilistic was suggested by Fromm (1973).

    25. A minor blow would not constitute adequate provocation because it would not be expected to provoke a reasonable person to kill. A violent and painful blow under certain conditions has been deemed to constitute sufficient provocation. Most jurisdictions have held that mere words do not constitute adequate provocation. A few jurisdictions have held, however, that words, particularly if they convey information of a fact that would constitute reasonable provocation if observed (e.g., defendant is told of spouse's adultery), may be sufficient to cause adequate provocation. For a more extensive discussion of voluntary manslaughter and pertinent statute and case citations, see Dix 1988, 121–24.

    26. Woolf 1977, 776.

    27. Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988).

    28. In The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), Fromm maintained that it was both theoretically possible and necessary to distinguish between two types of aggression. “Benign” or defensive aggression is similar to the drives of other animals who strive to preserve vital interests. “Malignant” aggression is specifically a human phenomenon. Fromm theorized that some individuals and cultures seem to be driven by a “passion” rooted in their individual or collective characters to destroy members of their own species when no rational gain, either biological or economic, exists.

    29. Morgan 1975; “The Youth Crime Plague,” 1977; Taft 1983; “Children Who Kill,” 1986.

    30. Following his arrest for scores of murders, Lucas stated that his mother was not his first homicide victim. While the veracity of Lucas’ remarks has been questioned, one fact is certain: If his mother was indeed not his first victim, she was among the first and was far from his last.

    31. Darrach and Norris 1984; Egger 1990.

    32. Cheney 1976.

    Chapter 6

    1. Those who are designated as mental health professionals vary with state law. People with advanced degrees in medicine or the social and behavioral sciences (psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, family and marriage counselors, social workers, and the like) are generally recognized as mental health professionals.

    2. Preliminary analysis of interviews with 59 adolescent murderers has suggested that the best source of data in uncovering this destructive pattern was typically not the adolescents’ descriptions of their homicidal involvements, because many youths talked about them only guardedly. Unguarded remarks made about seemingly innocuous content areas—activities, pets, girlfriends, sexual partners and fantasies, and so on, proved to be invaluable in suggesting that a few of the sample subjects really seemed to enjoy acting sadistically and destroying other living objects for reasons of which they were usually unaware. Further analysis of these data should provide more insight into the underlying dynamics involved in purely destructive behavior and suggest preventive efforts to eradicate this response pattern. For additional findings from this study, see Heide 1984.

    3. Fla. Stat. § 921.141 (6) (1991).

    4. Rosenhan and Seligman 1989.

    5. Ibid.

    6. Ibid.

    7. Kohlberg 1969.

    8. Harris 1988; Reitsma-Street and Leschied 1988.

    9. Warren 1971; Posey 1988; Van Voorhis 1988.

    10. Sullivan, Grant, and Grant 1957.

    11. Warren 1969, 1971, 1978; Harris 1979, 1988; Heide 1982, 1983a, 1983b. For a summary of I-level's development, classification methods, reliability and validity, current status, and future development, see Harris 1988.

    12. Sullivan, Grant, and Grant 1957.

    13. Warren 1971.

    14. Warren 1966.

    15. Ibid.

    16. The salient characteristics of individuals classified at the two lowest and highest I-levels are given below. For more discussion of all seven integration levels, see Sullivan, Grant, and Grant 1957.

    Integration Level 1: Initially, infants do not see themselves as separate from the world. As they try to satisfy basic needs, they learn to discriminate between themselves and the nonself.

    Integration Level 2: Most infants who recognize differences between self and nonself will move on to the next integration level, where they come to recognize that there are differences between persons and things.

    Integration Level 6: Individuals at this level are able to perceive differences between themselves and the social roles they play. They can recognize and accept role inconsistencies in themselves and others because they are able to see continuity and stability.

    Integration Level 7: Individuals at the highest stage of socioperceptual development are able to see the integrating processes in themselves and in others. Sullivan, Grant, and Grant (1957) hypothesize that it is unlikely that anyone completes this stage in our society.

    17. APA 1987, 250.

    Chapter 8

    1. Heide 1983a.

    2. Harris 1979; Heide 1982, 1983b.

    3. Warren 1966; Heide 1982.

    4. Miranda warnings consist of advising suspects who are in custody prior to questioning that they have a right to remain silent, that anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law, that they have a right to an attorney, and that, if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided (Miranda v. Arizona [1966]).

    Chapter 9

    1. Warren 1966; Heide 1982.

    2. Lowen 1983.

    3. I administered the C.A.S.T., an instrument developed by John W. Jones in 1982 to identify children of alcoholics. I read Patty 30 statements to which she was to reply yes or no. If an individual answers affirmatively to six of the 30 statements, she is, according to the test designer, probably a child of an alcoholic. Patty answered yes to 25 of the questions. For this test, see Black 1981, appendix A.

    4. Heide 1984.

    5. E.g., Bass and Davis 1988; Forward 1989.

    6. Giallombardo 1966.

    Chapter 10

    1. Benedek, Cornell, and Staresina 1989.

    2. Duncan and Duncan 1971, 78.

    3. Duncan and Duncan 1971; Tanay 1973, 1976b; Corder et al. 1976; Post 1982.

    4. Benedek, Cornell, and Staresina 1989, 243.

    5. References included Kaufman 1945; Reich 1945; Dychtwald 1950; Lowen 1958, 1976, 1983; Berne 1961; Satir 1964; Kübler-Ross 1969; Perls 1969; Janov 1970; Palmer 1975; Kurtz and Prestera 1976; Black 1981; Gil 1983; Gravitz and Bowden 1985; Keleman 1985; Magid and McKelvey 1987; Painter 1987; Whitfield 1987; Bass and Davis 1988; Bradshaw 1988a, 1988b, 1990; Oliver-Diaz and O'Gorman 1988; Forward 1989; Weiss and Weiss 1989.

    6. These treatment strategies require specialized training. Readers are advised that engaging in the therapeutic techniques described in this chapter without the requisite training and safe environment described later in the chapter can be dangerous and should not be attempted.

    7. Warren 1969, 1971; Palmer 1975; Harris 1988; Reitsma-Street and Leschied 1988; Andrews et al. 1990. The best candidates for treatment are generally those who perceive at I-level 4 or 5. Level 3 clients, whose typical behavioral response is that of the passive conformist—such as Patty Smith in chapter 9—are more amenable to treatment than the other two level 3 subtypes (see Warren 1966, 1971).

    8. Benedek, Cornell, and Staresina 1989.

    9. See, e.g., Kübler-Ross 1969.

    10. Within I-levels 4 and 5, those whose typical behavioral response pattern is “neurotic” (neurotic acting-out or neurotic anxious) would be most likely to hurt themselves (see Warren 1966, 1971).

    11. One technique to facilitate the release of explosive anger involves breathing exercises that intensify the feeling. Another has the client exaggerate the way he is holding or using his body to contain the feeling (e.g., having the client clench his jaw until muscles exhaust themselves). A third consists of directly confronting the client with what he is feeling.

    Sometimes words or expressions can be used to mobilize and facilitate the direct expression of emotion (e.g., having adolescent shout “Yes!” “No!” “Give it to me. It's mine.” “Get off my back!” or “I hate you!” Other techniques include biting or twisting a towel, stamping his feet, and having a temper tantrum.

    12. The youth needs to learn to use “I” statements that are indicative of his thoughts, needs, and feelings. In response to unfair treatment, the client might role-play the situation with the therapist and rehearse saying something like, “I feel angry when you tell me how I feel. I would appreciate it if you would let me decide how I feel about things.” The therapist might instruct the youth to consider punching a punching bag, screaming in a private place, or engaging in strenuous physical exercise when he feels consumed with anger.

    13. One technique to facilitate the release of fear includes breathing exercises that intensify the feeling of fear. Another technique involves having the client exaggerate his body's posture to the point of expressing fear or exhausting the body's ability to contain it (e.g., asking the youth to act out being frozen in fear). A third technique consists of having the APO scream “Help!” “No!” “Go away!” “Leave me alone!” or “Don't hurt me!” The APO can also scream nonsense syllables to get in touch with his fear. Other techniques require that the therapist take a more direct approach (e.g., engaging in prolonged eye contact with the client). Techniques used to facilitate the direct expression of fear include screaming, shaking, panicked running within the room, and panicked crying.

    14. Techniques used to facilitate the release of sadness encourage the client to experience his predominant feeling, which may then revert to the underlying feeling of sadness. For example, the youth may initially be expressing anger when he screams. As he becomes exhausted, his body may collapse, allowing the underlying sadness to surface. Another technique involves having the youth talk about the hurt from his childhood and homicide, express his needs to be nurtured, comforted, or forgiven, physically reach out, and call out “Mother” or “Father.” Other techniques include having the client breathe to intensify the feeling, shout nonsense syllables, or exaggerate the body's posture to express the sadness (e.g., by holding breath).

    15. Bradshaw 1988a.

    16. Gravitz and Bowden (1985, 98–100) present a “Personal Bill of Rights,” consisting of 20 rights which they maintain belong to every human being.

    Chapter 11

    1. Moore 1987.

    2. Cohn 1983.

    3. Donnelly 1991, 105.

    4. Some women who were victimized as adults by their husbands were unable to protect their children from harm by these men. See Walker 1979; Browne 1987.

    5. Leerhsen and Namuth 1988.

    6. Myers 1987.

    7. Ibid., 2.

    8. Flowers 1986.

    9. Davidson and Horowitz 1984.

    10. U.S. Department of Justice 1985.

    11. J. Wiedenhoft (personal communication [January 9, 1991]).

    12. U.S. Department of Justice 1985.

    13. Fuller 1988.

    14. Donnelly 1991, 101.

    15. Ibid., 102.

    16. Ibid., 104.

    17. See, e.g., Ewing 1987.

    18. Donnelly 1991, 102.


    1. Heide 1987.

    2. FBI 1978–87.

    3. Heide 1987.

    4. Ibid.

    5. FBI 1978–87.

    6. Heide 1987.

    7. FBI 1978–87.


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    About the Author

    KATHLEEN M. HEIDE, Ph.D., is Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida, Tampa.

    Dr. Heide received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Vassar College and her master's and doctoral degrees in criminal justice from the University at Albany, State University of New York. She is an internationally recognized consultant on homicide and family violence. Dr. Heide is a licensed mental health counselor and serves as Director of Education at the Center for Mental Health Education, Assessment and Therapy in Tampa. She is a court-appointed expert in matters relating to homicide, sexual battery, children, and families. Dr. Heide has been the recipient of several research grants and five teaching awards. She is an internationally acclaimed lecturer and has appeared as an expert on many talk shows, including Larry King Live and Geraldo. Dr. Heide has been honored by many professional and community agencies for her service to them.

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