Many news stories in December were overshadowed by the ongoing Ferguson controversy, the SONY hacking, and a terrorist siege in Sydney which left fatalities. Two, however, warrant our attention.
In Pennsylvania, Bradley Stone killed his ex-wife Nicole and five of her relatives before turning a knife on himself . Victims included Nicole’s mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law, and a 14 y.o. niece. A 17 y.o. nephew is recovering from his wounds. Thankfully, the two Stone daughters were spared.
According to the prosecutor, Stone’s attack was clearly pre-meditated. It has been attributed to a custody dispute. Since Stone was a veteran and briefly on tour in Iraq during 2008, there was speculation that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) might have played a role. The Marines who served with Stone dispute this.
In Australia, a suburban mother (also, wielding a knife) killed seven of her own children and a niece – all youngsters between the ages of 18 months and 15 years . A 20 y.o. sibling found the children. The woman unsuccessfully attempted suicide. She is now under arrest.
Researchers call men who kill this way “family annihilators”, classifying them into four categories . These are self-righteous, disappointed, anomic, and paranoid.
- Self-righteous annihilators seek revenge for some offense or perceived offense.
- Disappointed annihilators feel that their families have somehow let them down. So called honor killings may fall in this category.
- Anomic annihilators view their families as status symbols. Financial failure can prompt such individuals to murder their families.
- Paranoid annihilators are likely to suffer from mental illness. Such individuals may perceive the loss of custody as a threat.
As for women, about 200 each year kill their children . Many raise an insanity defense. Only 27% of such women are sent to prison, compared with 72% of men who kill their families.
There are no clear lessons to be drawn from these murders in the family. All we can do is bear witness to the carnage.
 BuzzFeed News, “Night of ‘Horrific Tragedy’: Pennsylvania Rampage that Left 6 Family Members Dead” by Tasneem Nashrulla, Claudia Koerner, and Jason Wells, 12/15/14, http://www.buzzfeed.com/tasneemnashrulla/at-least-five-dead-as-gunman-goes-on-rampage-in-pennsylvania#.twEkVngMX.
 Fox News (and Associated Press), “Australian Woman Arrested in Deaths of 8 Children”, 12/19/14, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/12/19/8-children-killed-in-northern-australian-city/.
 Time Magazine, “Family Annihilators: Understanding What Drives Fathers to Kill” by Kathy Steinmetz, 8/15/13, http://healthland.time.com/2013/08/15/family-annihilators-understanding-what-drives-fathers-to-kill/.
 Thought Catalog, “Moms Who Killed Their Kids” by Jim Goad, 4/20/14, http://thoughtcatalog.com/jim-goad/2014/04/20-moms-who-killed-their-kids/.
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