An apple does not fall without a reason, invention is not created without a need and a crime is not committed without a motive. There is a reason for everything. Child killers are a very interesting topic when discussing why and how these children could ever harm anyone or anything. In these few pages I will discuss the reasons and theories behind why and how three boys no older than 13 were found guilty of murdering another child. The first one will be Erick Smith, who murdered 4-year-old Derrick Robbie. Second is Lionel Tate, a 12-year-old who was accused of killing his friend. And at last, Christian Fernandez, 12, sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder.
Eric Smith was known to have anger issues. His parents told an interviewer that he had to relieve his anger in some way, several times they noticed that he would beat on a punching bag, even one time they noticed he had been punching a tree so bad that his knuckles were bleeding. He simply said he felt better after punching something. Eric never really showed any emotion, other than constantly being bullied in school and in the school bus when going back home. He never spoke about what happened and why he murdered the little boy, whenever anyone asked him about that day it seems as if he blacks out.
The theory behind why he decided to kill the 4-year-old is obscure and blurry. He never talked about why, the investigators had to put all the pieces together starting at his relationship with the kids at school who bullied him, and with his anger issues to determine what was the possible cause of his range. Eric’s mother admitted that she had been taking a drug called Trimethadione for her epilepsy, which is said to cause side effects if taken in the pregnancy period.
The best theory to explain the reason behind why Eric’s range lead him to killing the toddler, is the Psychoanalytic Theory by Sigmund Freud. Freud’s theory explains how one’s personality is formed through the three structures of the human’s mind; the id, ego, and superego. According to Freud’s theory, the id is the instinctual part, the ego is the reality of how one sees him or herself, and the superego is the moral part. In Eric’s case, his id was to relieve his anger, so he found a victim. He knew the victim had to be smaller and defenseless, leading him to choose Derrick who was half his size, that would be his ego. And at last, his superego, whenever he was asked why he did it, he kind of blocked out what had happened, probably because deep down he knew he had committed something terribly wrong.
Secondly, we have Lionel Tate, in this case the reason as to why Tate killed 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick. According to Lionel, he had been going down the stairs when he stumbled and fell on top of the girl who was sitting at the bottom of the staircase. The reason behind the death of Tiffany was controversial since when Lionel reenacted what had happened the night of the incident, he showed the investigators how he had been wrestling with her, Lionel stated that he “had her in a head lock and then Tiffany’s head hit the table”, causing her to drop unconscious. However, later on Lionel had confessed to his mother that he had been going down the stairs and fell on top of Tiffany, crushing her. The autopsy revealed that she had Multiple trauma injuries, brain hemorrhages, skull and rib fractures and liver lacerations. These traumas, being severe, led to the conclusion that the incident was a homicide and not an accident.
A theory that could fit with the situation described is the theory of Self-Control created by Michal Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi. The theory of self-control has it roots in the prompt that “individuals with low self-control are more likely to commit criminal acts than those that have normal levels of self-control” According to the theory, self-control stars developing in early childhood and parental supervision plays an important role on it. Parents, specifically, can prevent the child from commit acts that will hurt others or that will affect them, setting them the importance of self-control at an early age.
In Lionel Tate’s case his parents got divorce and his mother usually was not there for him, she left him under the supervision of any other family members. Due to the absence of his mother Lionel did not have a figure that take care of teaching him what certain actions could lead to if he did not control himself. Was known that he had problems at school several times including fighting, lying and stealing, and when teachers called her mother she simply tried to justify her son actions.
At last, Christian Fernandez, a 12-year-old who was accused of aggravated child abuse at first, only to later on be sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole for first degree murder. The day of the incident he had been left alone with his 2-year-old brother, David. The kids were playing in Christian’s room when he had shoved David onto the bookshelf causing the toddler to hit his head against a wood grain surface. When their mother arrived home, she found her youngest son in an unconscious state on the floor. She picked up the baby from the floor, cleaned off the blood, changed him into clean clothes, and spent four hours browsing the internet before taking her child to the hospital. The investigators said that the mother’s search history showed that she had spent time on social media, searching about “how to wake up an unconscious toddler”, and her last search indicated she was looking for the nearest hospital.
Christian’s actions are best supported by Hans Eysenek’s Trait theory, which states that certain personalities can lead to crime. In Christian’s case, it was known that he had presented signs of aggression against his little brother before, had even broken the toddler’s leg in one occasion where he said he had only been playing with 2-year-old David. Christian’s personality was formed when growing up he was being neglected and abused by his mother and stepfather. His father disappeared when he was way too young to remember the existence of a fatherly figure. Christian’s life was like no other 12-year-old, he had to do all the chores in the house, including cooking and cleaning.
Christian’s childhood was full of traumatic experiences, including the one of having witnessed his stepfather, Luis Galarraga-Blanco, shot himself in the head dropping dead in front of the children, including one-year-old David at the time. These events left a mark on Christian’s personality, he could never be judge as a child. He had experienced and suffered much more than anyone. According to two forensic psychiatrists, Christian was “emotionally under-developed”, although they still had hope he could be reformed.
The Trait theory is based on the individual’s personality and how it’s early stages hint that the individual will eventually grow up to become a criminal. Christian had a record of being aggressive towards his younger brother, in a household where he was the responsible one to feed his three younger half-siblings. He had been hurt David before, causing him bruises and even fractured his led once. The 12-year-old witnessed many other events happen right in front of his eyes, including his stepfather who committed suicide in front of him and the three other children. Life was difficult for Christian since an early age, having to care for his siblings, and struggling to deal with his drug addict mother, and also being physically abused by Luis Galarraga, his stepfather. All these facts contributed to the lack of control over his behavior, he had no one to tell him what was good from wrong.
When he knew there was something wrong with his baby brother, Christian ran to his mother, hoping she would handle the situation, but instead, she failed to take the unconscious toddler to get medical help. However, each case is different and there is a reason behind each one. Eric Smith had been abused at home by his stepfather and stepsister and bullied at school by his peers. Eric had no one to rely on but his mother, who never imagined that her child could ever harm anyone until it was too late. Lionel Tate has no theory behind the death of his best friend, Tiffany. According to his mother, they were playing, and Lionel never meant to hurt Tiffany. And at last, Christian Fernandez who had no guardian to help him mange his anger, he was alone in a world that abused him and maltreated him since he was at such an early age.
When comparing these three cases, we could say that the lack of their parent’s supervision, 24 hours, 7 days a week could have been the reason to why the three juveniles ended up taking the life of three innocent children. The three minors did not get the chance to show that they have been rehabilitated. None of them had the chance to properly rehabilitate and grow up as a child should, instead, they are being treated like adults in an adult prison where they are treated no differently than other inmates.