After a Baltimore County, Md., teenager was accused in the shooting deaths of his father, mother, and two brothers, but experts told the Associated Press such crimes often come without any obvious warning signs. Accused killer Nicholas Browning, who turns 16 on Saturday, had no history of violence, mental health problems, or drug problems. His father was a highly regarded business attorney, and the family lived in an affluent suburb.
Paul Mones, a Portland, Or., defense attorney for children accused of killing their parents, who wrote a book “When a Child Kills,” said, “This happens to kids in middle- and upper-middle-class, even upper-class homes. It happens in families that, from the outside, look like normal, typical, great families.” In the U.S., about 300 children a year are charged with killing one or both parents. Cases where a child kills the entire family, “familicide,” are less frequent. Louis Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said familicide is more commonly committed by a depressed or jealous father. Slayings of relatives by teens “are usually spontaneous sorts of things,” he said. “With the brooding, depressive male adult, it’s not spontaneous, it’s much more thought through, with obsessive rumination prior to it. With a teenager, it’s almost always impulsive, spontaneous, and there happens to be a loaded gun around.”