Why Do ‘Ordinary’ People Annihilate Their Families?


Newsweek.com considers an “unfathomable” crime: What makes seemingly ordinary people murder their families? Last month, Mark Meeks, 51 from Whitehall, Ohio killed his wife and two children after he lost his job. That case came just one week after Ervin and Ana Elizabeth Lupoe of Los Angeles committed suicide after killing their five children. The Lupoes wrote in their suicide note, “Why leave our children in someone else’s hands?…We have no job and five children under eight years with no place to go. So here we are.”

Known as ‘family annihilators,’ these people, most always men, have a profound need for control that drives them to destroy their family when they can no longer provide for them financially or when the family has been divided by divorce. With men who commit murder-suicides there tends to be a catalyst such as a financial or personal defeat that they view as catastrophic, while women who kill loved ones are more likely to have a history of mental-health conditions like postpartum psychosis, experts say. The Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., estimates there were 1,108 murder-suicides in the United States in 2007, the overwhelming majority of them carried out by men.

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