Sometimes they are victims of tragic, abusive childhoods; sometimes they are mentally ill; sometimes they might simply be evil. Whatever the potential reasons behind the callous acts of child murderers, though, their crimes shock people to the core. And few crimes are as disturbing as those committed by the following 20 young killers…
20. Mary Bell
Mary Bell made millions of Britons debate the existence of evil. Indeed, in 1968 the 11-year-old Bell strangled two boys, aged three and four, to death in Newcastle, England. The younger boy was further mutilated, with the letter “M” being razored into his stomach. For her crimes, Bell – who was the daughter of a prostitute – was sentenced to life but served just 12 years. After her release, then, she was given a new identity – although both she and her daughter were tracked down and exposed by the press in 1998.
19. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson
James Bulger was just two when he was snatched from a mall in Liverpool, England, in 1993. His mutilated body was found soon after. CCTV footage soon identified his abductors as Jon Venables and Robert Thompson – both boys themselves, for they were aged just ten. What led them to commit such a heinous act has never been determined. In 2001, however, a parole board judged the pair to no longer be a threat to society, and the killers were released with new identities.
18. Michael Hernandez
According to those who knew him, Michael Hernandez always dreamed of growing up to be a serial killer. In the end, though, he only killed fellow 14-year-old Jaime Gough, a classmate at Southwood Middle School in Florida, in 2004. Later, the court heard how Hernandez had a love of violent movies and aggressive music. And, as a result of his crime, he was given a mandatory life sentence. That ruling was upheld in 2016, too, as prosecutors successfully argued that he remains “obsessed with the macabre.”
17. Eric Smith
Few childhoods are as dark as Eric Smith’s was. Growing up in Steuben County, New York, he was relentlessly bullied by his peers. Then, according to Smith himself, the 13-year-old killed and mutilated four-year-old Derrick Robie so that he could inflict pain and not receive it for once. Smith was subsequently sentenced to a minimum of nine years under lock and key, and as of 2016 he has been denied parole on eight occasions.
16. Alyssa Bustamante
A troubled teen, Alyssa Bustamante had a history of suicide attempts. In October 2009, however, she ended up killing someone else: a nine-year-old girl. Bustamante was just 15 when she lured her neighbor Elizabeth Olten into the woods, strangling and stabbing her; chillingly, she had already dug a grave for the pre-teen. Later, when questioned on why she had committed the crime, Bustamante replied that she just “wanted to know what it felt like.” As a consequence, the teen murderer was given at least 35 years behind bars.
15. Joshua Phillips
In November 1998 Melissa Phillips noticed water dripping from the ceiling of her home in Jacksonville, Florida. She assumed that her 14-year-old son’s waterbed had sprung a leak, but when she went to check, she found the body of eight-year-old Maddie Clifton, a neighbor who’d been missing for a week. Joshua Phillips was subsequently arrested and admitted to killing Maddie. However, he claimed that he only did it to stop Clifton crying after he had accidentally struck her with a baseball bat. Because of his age at the time of the killing, he escaped the death penalty – but is still serving life with no chance of parole.
14. Kipland Kinkel
Kipland “Kip” Kinkel had long had a fascination with guns. In 1998, moreover, the 15-year-old was suspended from Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, for having a pistol in his locker. Apparently fearful of being sent to military college, he then killed his parents using his father’s rifle and went back to school to continue his spree. However, thanks to the bravery of the students who restrained him, only two more people died that day. Subsequently, Kipland pleaded guilty and is serving 111 years behind bars with no chance of parole.
13. Willie James Bosket
William James “Willie” Bosket Jr. was sentenced to five years in a youth institute for killing three people during a spate of robberies in New York City during 1978. Himself the son of a murderer, he was just 15 when he committed his crimes. Despite being given a second chance, though, he never did go straight. Indeed, after Bosket Jr. turned 16, he was tried as an adult – and the sentences got longer. As a result, he is currently serving 82 years to life and has only ever enjoyed 100 days of freedom as a grown-up.
12. Amarjeet Sada
Amarjeet Sada has the twisted honor of being the world’s youngest serial killer. Shockingly, even before his ninth birthday, he’d killed three babies, including his own cousin and sister. However, it was only when he abducted a neighbor’s child and beat her to death in fields surrounding their village of Begusarai, India, that police took action. The killings took place back in 2007, and although Sada was placed in a remand home, according to some reports he changed his name and is now back living in society.
11. Brenda Ann Spencer
In January 1979 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer locked herself into her bedroom in San Diego, California. Aiming her .22 rifle at the elementary school opposite, she opened fire, killing two people. Why? “I don’t like Mondays,” she infamously told reporters. Subsequently, Spencer was tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 years to life inside. She has since unsuccessfully applied for parole several times, with her next hearing not due until 2019.
10. Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson
Before Columbine, 11-year-old Andrew Golden and 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson killed five and injured ten people at the Westside Middle School, Arkansas. In March 1998, in fact, the pair set off the school fire alarm and chillingly waited in woods opposite for pupils and teachers to run out – before they opened fire indiscriminately. Owing to state law, both boys were tried as minors and were granted their freedom once they turned 21.
9. Lionel Tate
In 2001 Lionel Tate made legal history when, at 13 years old, he became the youngest American to be sentenced to life with no chance of parole. Why? Because he’d battered an infant girl he was supposed to be babysitting. According to the presiding judge, Tate was “cold, callous and indescribably cruel.” And although his initial sentence was overturned and he was put under house arrest, he went on to rob a pizza delivery boy – his theft of four pizzas condemning him to 30 years inside for parole violations.
8. Jordan Brown
Apparently jealous of the attention being lavished upon his dad’s heavily pregnant fiancée, 11-year-old Jordan Brown took a shotgun and blasted her in the head as she lay in bed. As a consequence, 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk and her unborn baby both died. Meanwhile, after almost eight years in juvenile detention, Brown was released in 2016 – much to the dismay of his victim’s relatives.
7. David Brom
In February 1988 a rumor swept Lourdes Catholic High School in Cascade Township, Minnesota: David Brom, aged 16, had murdered his family. And, sure enough, police discovered the bodies of his parents and younger brother and sister in the family home – all of them butchered with an axe. After being tried as a juvenile, Brom was soon sent to prison – where he is currently serving three life sentences.
6. Cindy Collier and Shirley Wolf
Californian teens Cindy Collier and Shirley Wolf both had troubled upbringings, and their paths crossed while they were both in juvenile detention. Furthermore, there they hatched a plan to escape: find an old, frail lady, kill her, and steal her car. They followed through on the plan, too, stabbing an 85-year-old to death in her own home in 1983. Infamously, Collier recalled the killing in her diary, describing it as “fun.” However, despite showing no remorse, the girls were released when they reached the age of 25.
5. Derek and Alex King
Brothers Derek and Alex King were aged just 12 and 13, respectively, when they spied their father asleep on the couch, took a baseball bat and beat him to death. Next, they set fire to the family home to try and conceal their crime. And, in a chilling twist, they then hid with convicted child abuser Ricky Chavis, aged 41. Chavis had befriended the boys, but the jury heard no evidence to prove that he had in fact encouraged their act of patricide. Despite this, however, Chavis was sentenced to life in prison, while the King brothers were jailed for between seven and eight years.
4. Edmund Kemper
Edmund Kemper started his murderous ways when he was young, killing family pets before turning a rifle on his paternal grandparents when he was just 15. Fatefully, he was released after just five years in juvenile custody, having been deemed to be no risk to society. However, he would go on to kill several women and also mutilate their bodies. Nowadays, Kemper is serving life with no parole and is, apparently, a model prisoner.
3. Paul Henry Gingerich
At the age of 12, Paul Henry Gingerich hatched a plan to leave his native Cromwell, Indiana, and run away with two friends. However, when the stepfather of his 15-year-old-friend stood in their way, the boys killed him, firing two shots each. Consequently, Gingerich was tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 years under lock and key.
2. Curtis Jones
Curtis Fairchild Jones left prison aged 29, having served time for a murder he committed when he was just 12. According to prosecutors, he and his sister – who was just 13 – were jealous of the amount of time their father was devoting to his new girlfriend; so they shot and killed her, recounting a tale of sexual abuse to justify their crime. The siblings served their time, and Curtis became ordained as a minister while he was locked up. Later investigations, meanwhile, have supported his claims of having been abused as a child.
1. Cody Posey
On the morning of July 5, 2004, Colorado ranch manager Paul Posey slapped his 14-year-old son Cody. And after a lifetime of physical and psychological abuse, the youngster snapped, grabbing a shotgun and taking the lives of his father, stepmom and step-sister. At first Cody denied the crime, but then he told the truth. Due to the circumstances, however, Judge Waylon Counts ignored calls for a whole-life tariff. As a result, when he was 21 Cody walked free from custody, ready to start a new life.