CNN reported yesterday that Philip Chism, fourteen-years-old, was in custody and charged with murdering a teacher. He was arraigned Wednesday and is being held without bail. At this point, there seems to be far more questions than answers regarding his motive. When children commit these horrific and senseless crimes, society as a whole begins to question their safety and the safety of their families.
"Kids Who Kill" (Ewing, 1990) takes an in-depth look into who these kids are who kill and further examines who these kids are killing. At this point, Philip Chism would fit into the category that Ewing refers to as "Senseless Killings". These are the tragic incidences in which it appears that the juvenile homicide was committed for no rational reason whatsoever. It is important to note that although these senseless killings are extremely deviant, most are committed by relatively normal juveniles acting on impulse. Some of these kids are somewhat bizarre and may appear to be sociopathic, but a very small number of them are psychotic.
Most senseless juvenile homicides fall into one or more of half a dozen categories: thrill killings; hate killings; revenge killings; murder-suicides; cult-related killings; and killings committed by mentally disturbed juveniles. Research shows that the most common impulsive homicide committed by an otherwise normal juvenile is the "thrill" or "dare" killing of a complete stranger selected at random.