Teens Who Kill
Columbian, The (Vancouver, WA)
May 26, 1998
Section: World & Nation
INTERVIEWS WITH TEEN KILLERS SHOW PATTERN
PORTLAND (AP) Some of the nation's leading experts on crime say teen killers often follow a pattern that fits the profile of the 15-year-old boy accused of murdering his parents and two fellow students in Springfield.
The four main traits the young killers share are violence against animals, an interest in setting fires or making bombs, threats to harm other people and disregard for personal and property rights.
But none of those factors can be used to predict who will murder, warned Charles Patrick Ewing, a professor of law and psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
"I don't want people to say, 'My kid has done two or three of these things, so he's going to go out and murder someone,'" said Ewing, who is the author of two books: "When Children Kill" and "Kids Who Kill."
Still, those factors are signs of immediate danger.
"If you have a kid who has that kind of background and he says, 'I'm going to kill somebody,' that's the kind of kid you'd take 100 percent seriously," Ewing said.
He noted that Kipland Kinkel, the teen-ager charged with killing his parents and two students at Thurston High School in Springfield last Thursday, differs from the pattern because his family was intact, with both parents trying to help him.
Also, Ewing said, it's unusual for a child to have the long-standing preoccupation with killing that Kinkel's classmates described.
Stanton Samenow, a psychologist and author in Alexandria, Va., said children who kill have "a radically different view of the world from their more responsible peers" and see the world as a "chessboard, and everyone else is a pawn."
Samenow, the author of "Before It's Too Late: Why Some Kids Get Into Trouble and What Parents Can Do About It," says teen killers often are very deliberate.
"It is a choice to pick up a gun and bring it to school," he said. "It is a choice to position yourself to shoot. It's a choice to decide under what circumstances one pulls the trigger."
Shawn A. Johnston, a forensic psychologist in San Francisco, has interviewed thousands of violent children, many of them killers. He noted that there's strong evidence the nervous systems of intensely violent people are abnormal.
"There is an evolving body of research literature that very clearly suggests that by the third grade, we're able to identify kids who are at risk of going on to engage in antisocial aggression," Johnston said.
But he said mental illness or biology cannot explain some killings. "The terrible truth is that evil does exist," he said.
Ewing added that despite all the research on teen killers, no clear pattern of motivation emerges.
"I always ask every kid: What was going through your head at the time?" he said. "The answer is usually, 'Nothing.'"
In 1998 Joshua Phillips beat and stabbed his 8 year old neighbor and hid her corpse beneath his waterbed. He was tried and convicted as an adult and is serving a life sentence. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1999/...ble59184.shtml
Many wonder if he should be given a second chance at life outside of bars...
Where is Kara Kopetsky?
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