A Brief History
On June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates, a Texas mother of 5, former high school valedictorian and swim team captain, decided she had to save her children from Satan. Her solution to the “problem” was to drown all 5 of the unfortunate youngsters in the family bathtub. On July 26, 2006, a Texas jury in her retrial found that Yates was not guilty by reason of insanity. She was consequently committed by the court to the North Texas State Hospital, Vernon Campus, a high-security mental health facility in Vernon, where she received medical treatment and was a roommate of Dena Schlosser, another woman who committed infanticide by killing her infant daughter. We wrote about the Yates incident in our article “June 20, 2001: How Do You Save Your Children From Satan?” and today we explore 10 more cases of parents killing their own child or children. This sickening behavior is not uncommon in the world of nature amongst animals, but people are supposed to be above such depravity! Read on and see if you still think people are “special” after reading the accounts. (We are listing those incidents of particular fame, notoriety, depravity, or singularity.) (Note: As a police officer in the early 1990’s, the author experienced a crime scene in which a deranged mother stabbed her 3 children, killing one and severely injuring the other two before slicing her own throat and wrist, claiming she was protecting them against lasers beaming down from high altitude airplanes operated by the CIA. She and two of her kids lived, though she died of cancer only a few years later. The crime scene was horrible and another officer struggled to refrain from killing the murderous mom, barely controlling himself.)
Question for Students (and others): Which case of killing one’s own kids do you find most egregious? Let us know in the comments section below the article.
1. Jewish Defenders of Masada, mass suicide/murder 73 AD.
At times the parents of a child or children may prefer to kill their own kids in order to avoid an even worse fate for their offspring. In this case, during the First Jewish–Roman War (66-73 AD) the Jewish defenders of the fortress of Masada knew the siege laid to the fortress by the Romans was about to end in defeat for the Jews, a result that would in turn mean enslavement for the Jews. Instead of accepting this fate, the besieged Jews agreed to die along with their children instead of accepting slavery. Since suicide was not permitted by Jewish law, the defenders would take turns killing each other until only one man was left to commit the sin of his own suicide. The number of children included in the reported 960 deaths is unknown, but a guess would be at least half of the total number, making the event one of the biggest mass murders of children by their parents.
2. Joseph Goebbels, Berlin, murder-suicide 1945.
Goebbels was the propaganda minister for the Nazi regime known as The Third Reich before and during World War II. When the Soviets closed in on the German capital of Berlin in May of 1945, Goebbels knew he would be executed for his crimes against humanity, possibly only after being horribly tortured first. Goebbels also assumed his family would be treated harshly, perhaps with severe barbarity, a not unreasonable supposition. Goebbels and his wife, Magda, poisoned their 6 children and placed their lifeless bodies posed on a bed in a creepy angelic setting, the children dressed in their pajamas and ribbons in the girls’ hair. The criminal parents then committed suicide themselves and their bodies were burned. The Soviets that found the dead kids found that Helga, the eldest girl, age 14 at the time of her death, had suffered bruising about the face and neck indicative of a struggle while her mother and or father shoved the cyanide capsule down her throat. In fact, Helga’s jaw may have been broken in the presumed struggle. It is quite possible the elder Goebbels believed in reincarnation and thought perhaps their kids could be reborn into a better life than trying to live down the legacy of being the spawn of one of history’s great criminals.
3. Marvin Gaye, Sr. shoots his recording artist son, Los Angeles, 1984.
Unlike the youngsters that were victims in the other incidents listed here, Marvin Gaye, R&B and Soul singer, was only a day short of 45 years old when he was shot and killed by his own father in their home in 1984. Junior had intervened in an argument between his parents before the shooting, in which the elder Gaye shot his son twice, killing him. The younger Marvin had reportedly tried to shove his dad out of the bedroom where the dad was confronting his wife, then began kicking and punching the older man. Marvin senior left to retrieve a pistol that, ironically, his son had bought for him. The elder Gaye responded back to the bedroom and fatally shot Junior in the heart and shoulder. Dad was originally charged with first degree murder, but later pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter after being found to be suffering from a brain tumor. Gaye Sr. was given a suspended sentence of 6 years with 5 years of probation.
4. Debra Jenner-Tyler, South Dakota, stabbed daughter with metal toy airplane 72 times, 1987.
So we are not misleading, it is true this disturbed mom also used a kitchen knife in the frantic stabbing of her 3 year old. It is unknown how many stabs were with the knife and how many were with the airplane. Regardless, Mom had a “good excuse.” She claimed that not only had she been under a lot of stress, but the victim had precipitated her own murder by “acting finicky.” The body of the murdered girl was found by her father when he went to wake her up for church on Sunday morning.
5. Megan Huntsman, Utah, strangled 6 newborns 1996-2006.
Huntsman was a serial child murder, not killing her kids all at once, but individually strangling her babies as they came along over a decade of murder. Convicted of the crimes, Megan will not have the chance at parole until 2016 when she is 89 years old. Incredibly, 2 of Megan’s surviving daughters spoke in court on her behalf during the sentencing hearing! Huntsman killed the babies only minutes after their births, then hid the bodies in the garage. (Marybeth Tinning committed a similar run of murders of her own newborns, killing 9 of them over a 14 year stretch ending in 1985.)
6. Melissa Drexler, infamous New Jersey “Prom Mom” murderer of her newborn, 1997.
On June 6, 1997, Melissa Drexler gave birth to her baby in a bathroom stall, threw it in the trash, and went right back to the prom! This Lacey Township High School (New Jersey) student was over 18 years old at the time and so faced charges as an adult. Convicted of manslaughter, she was sentenced to 15 years in jail, of which she served only 37 months. The case was national news and sparked a terrific amount of debate over whether or not the murderous mom deserved the invective she received over her heinous act. Numerous cases of mothers throwing newborns away happen all the time, but this particular case captured more than the usual attention.
7. Christina Miracle, Miami Township, Ohio, beat and suffocated son in religious ritual, 2004.
With a last name of “Miracle,” should we be surprised that Christina thought she could resurrect her dead brother by conducting a religious ceremony in which she beat and suffocated her 6 year old son during a pseudo baptism ceremony? By all known accounts, the ritual was unsuccessful in resurrecting the dead guy. Not surprising is the fact Christina had already been under psychiatric care prior to the incident but had reportedly stopped taking her medications due to “side effects.” (Note: What is it with the name, “Christina Miracle?” In 2009, in a totally unrelated case, a 35 year old Kentucky woman with that name was convicted of raping a 15 year old boy repeatedly.)
8. Dena Schlosser, Texas, amputated arms of 11 month old, 2004.
Dena did not let a college degree in Psychology from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York prevent her from being a religious nut, diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features. Dena had suffered the cruelty of other kids as a child when she underwent several surgeries for hydrocephaly, resulting in her head being shaved. Dena married a college classmate before moving to Texas. Her husband refused to allow his wife to work, and the couple had 3 children. Dena’s psychiatric troubles got the attention of the local child protective people, and for a while she was forbidden from being with her children. Dena’s delusions included he belief in a pending apocalypse, and that her sister was destined to marry their local pastor. When Dena told her husband that she wanted to give their newest child to their pastor, the husband allegedly spanked Dena with a wooden spoon in front of the children. The next day Dena cut off her baby’s arms, killing the poor child. She was found singing hymns while covered in blood. It seems the pastor had counseled Dena’s husband to avoid regularly giving his wife her anti-psychotic medicines, as the problem experienced by Dena was “demonic” rather than psychological. Found not guilty by reason of insanity, Dena was sent to a mental hospital where she was a roommate of another child killer, Andrea Yates, who had drowned her 5 children in a bathtub, another celebrated sensational case.
9. China Arnold, Dayton, Ohio, microwaved her baby, 2005.
This sick mother has to win some sort of prize for depravity by using the bizarre method of murdering her 28 day old baby. An argument with China’s boyfriend over the paternity of the baby led the supposedly intoxicated mother to nuke her child in the microwave as an angry response to the argument. The depraved mother took the still living baby to the hospital the next day, but the child died of her injuries. China Arnold was a career criminal with a rap sheet that included abduction and forgery, and received a sentence of life in prison for the murder of her baby. China had microwaved the unfortunate child for 2 minutes, severely raising the baby’s temperature and causing burns. During the first trial for China, the son of her boyfriend was used as a scapegoat that allegedly had microwaved the baby, but other testimony during the second trial proved the boy was not even present during the horrendous event. The guilty verdict in the second trial was overturned on appeal, and a third trial took place in 2011, also resulting in conviction and a life sentence. China apparently continues to seek yet another trial.
10. Latarsha Sanders, Brockton, Massachusetts, stabbed boys in Voodoo ritual, 2018.
Religious nuttiness seems to be a trend when it comes to murdering children, including this case in which Voodoo was the precipitating excuse. Sanders stabbed her 8 year old son 50 times before deciding his death did not meet the ritual’s required sacrifice, so she turned the knife on her 5 year old! What was the goal of the “ritual?” We do not know, but Sanders apparently was a practitioner of Voodoo.
Breaking News Bonus: On June 23, 2019, CNN reported a Texas mom ran over her own 3 year old child with her 5600 pound Lincoln Navigator SUV in an idiotic game of “Chicken!” The Mother of the Year candidate, Lexus Stagg, age 26, was seen on her apartment’s surveillance video playing chicken with her 3 kids, driving the huge SUV at them and forcing them to dive out of the way. Unfortunately, the 3 year old was not fast enough and was run over by the goofy mom, killing the toddler instantly. Stagg has been arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide for the horrific killing. The “accident” occurred on June 11 of this year. Stagg had previously had children removed from her care by child protective services officials.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Parker, RJ. Parents Who Killed Their Children. RJ Parker Publishing, 2014.
Ritz, David. Divided Soul: The Life Of Marvin Gaye. Da Capo Press, 2003.
Spencer, Suzy. Breaking Point. Diversion Books, 2015.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Nicolas Henderson from Coppell, Texas of North Texas State Hospital, Wichita Falls, Texas, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. This image was originally posted to Flickr by TexasExplorer98 at https://flickr.com/photos/76792851@N07/45223693585. It was reviewed on by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.