Las Vegas SUN

September 24, 2003

Young children more likely to be killed by parents than others

By Mary Manning

While the mother suspected of killing her two children with a baseball bat Tuesday at an apartment on Las Vegas Boulevard North may shock many, parents who kill their children are receiving more attention in several national studies.

In fact, children under the age of 5 in the United States are more likely to be killed by their parents than anyone else, according to FBI crime statistics.

Metro homicide detectives discovered a note written by the mother inside the apartment and allege that the mother beat the children, ages 4 and 8, to death with a baseball bat before walking into the path of a tractor-trailer Tuesday morning.

Family and marriage counselor Donald Moyer of Las Vegas said the woman probably attempted to take her life after she became overcome with grief and guilt when she regained enough of her senses to realize what she had done.

"I guess she had to be out of her head to use a baseball bat on children," Moyer said. "It's very distressing."

FBI crime statistics show that in 1999 parents were responsible for 57 percent of murders of children under 5, with family friends or acquaintances accountable for another 30 percent and other family members accounting for 8 percent.

Crime statistics also reveal that of children under 5 murdered from 1976 to 1999, 30 percent were murdered by their mothers, while 31 percent were killed by the fathers.

Phillip Resnick, who in the 1960s pioneered studies of parents murdering their children, has shown that women tend to kill their own children for one or more of several reasons: a child is unwanted, out of a perceived sense of mercy, as a result of mental illness in the mother, in retaliation against a spouse, or as a result of abuse, according to his studies.

"They can get absolutely crazy," Moyer said of people who have been driven to kill their children. "If these were her children, she could be mentally ill. They (parents who kill) can be psychopathic."

The U.S. Justice Department in 1988 found that while 61 percent of all murder defendants used a gun that year, only 20 percent of parents who killed their children used one. Children were more likely to be drowned, shaken, beaten, poisoned, stabbed or suffocated. The study said that the traits of the murdering parents include a certain "craziness," intense passion and a lack of planning.




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