Study Probes Serial Killings by Youths

Article excerpt

Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Mental health professionals have spent years studying some of the most notorious serial killers in history, but a small segment of people who fall into this category - children - often go overlooked, says an associate professor of forensic psychiatry.

"Until now, the disturbing details of a half-dozen children's serial-killing sprees have remained well-hidden, concealed in 150 years of medical literature, true-crime tales, newspaper clippings and history books," said Dr. Wade C. Myers of the University of Florida's Health Science Center.

Dr. Myers researched what he describes as the "previously unknown psychopathic phenomenon" of "sexual serial homicides" by children and adolescents. His findings are published in a 19-page report in the summer issue of the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law.

The purpose of the research was to discover factors that may have contributed to such worst-case criminal behavior by minors.

As in so many studies that have examined causes of juvenile delinquency, the University of Florida study found that unstable and abusive family life was a major factor in the development of young serial killers.

The six children described in Dr. Myers' report - five boys and a girl - all killed before age 18, slaying at least two victims, usually other children they knew. Three were from the United States, two from Europe, and one from Central America.

Dr. Myers said he initially went to scientific textbooks and journals to learn about "kids who do these sorts of crimes ... but found there was almost nothing written about them. …