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Mass Murder: All In the Family?

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Some say it’s the summer heat, others blame the total eclipse of the sun the other day. Some hypothesize that it’s the economy. But lately, the news is filled with articles of deaths of family members by another family member.


For example, A Tennessee woman, her sixteen-year-old son and a teenage neighbor were allegedly shot to death by her estranged husband, The woman’s father and brother were also found murdered.


Criminal psychologists see these murderers as perceiving themselves as victims of some injustice, such as the end of a marriage, or the loss of a job. And although mass murderers of families and co-workers often make the headlines, they are rarer than random mass murders.


But what makes a person kill a member of a family, especially a child? The case of Caylee Anthony held the attention of the nation in 2008. Apparently, her mother, never mentioned that the nearly three year old was missing for a month prior to being questioned by police after the child’s grandmother reported her missing. That was in July. In August, a Florida Power and Light Worker found the child’s body only half a mile from the family’s home. Caylee’s mother, apparently spent the time working at her job, partying with her friends, even moving in with her boyfriend. The mother was subsequently arrested for, among other offenses, first-degree murder.


A forensic psychologist was quoted as saying that the mother had a “dark damsel” personality, when someone wants something to go away (or someone) and just moves on with life. It’s no wonder that people say we need licenses to drive cars but not to become a parent.

On July 7, 2009, Patrick Burris was charged with killing five people during a spree killing.

And a 2008 case, a live-in boyfriend beat a toddler to death with a video game controller. No reason was given. Perhaps she interrupted a good game. We may never know.

We may never know why family members kill one another. I’ve said I’ve wanted to kill my husband or son more than once. We all have. Having a gun or other weapon in the house doesn’t help those with poor impulse control or anger issues. We should all be aware of the warning signs of impending violence; depression, increased anger outbursts, distancing oneself from the family. And both men and women are capable of murdering each other. Women just do it more often in a gentler way then shooting her husband’s head off.   

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