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Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

Experts link patricide, child abuse

December 1, 2001

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Gregory Scruggs used a revolver, Darryl Headbird a shotgun, Justin Trammell a crossbow. They are among scores of American adolescents convicted every year of killing their fathers.

This week, 12- and 13-year-old brothers in northern Florida were charged with the same crime again raising questions about what could provoke an act that seems so taboo.

The immediate motive in such cases can appear petty or selfish, but experts say the slaying often follows prolonged abuse or a severe family breakdown.

Authorities frequently consider more lenient sentencing and rehabilitation options for youths who kill their parents than for those convicted of slayings outside their family.

"Maybe some killed for money, or because they couldn't use the family car, but the overwhelming majority are responding to abuse and extremely dysfunctional families," said Paul Mones, a Portland, Ore., lawyer who has studied many cases of parricide.

Authorities in Florida have yet to suggest a motive that might have prompted Derek King, 13, and Alex King, 12, to kill their father. The body of 40-year-year-old Terry Lee King whose head had been battered was found Monday when firefighters responded to a blaze at the family home outside Pensacola.

Mones said there are 200 to 300 parricides the killing of a parent by a child in America each year, with about half committed by youths under 18. The most recent FBI statistics, for 1998, showed about 100 killings of parents by children under 18.

About 70 percent of the parricide cases involve boys who kill their fathers in response to some type of abuse, Mones said.

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