Murder is one of the worst crimes a person can commit, generally speaking. There are times we understand one person killing another, but a lot of times we don’t.
From Cain and Abel to the mass murders of today, it’s something few of us want to wrap our heads around.
Sure, there are a few crimes we might consider as worse, but murder is always going to be right up there.
Yet even there, as I’ve already alluded to, we can find something of a hierarchy. The mass shooter may be beyond our understanding but the guy who kills his daughter’s rapist, while still murder, is something we can at least comprehend.
But what about a man killing his entire family? A man is supposed to protect his family, not murder them.
According to a recent report, there is what’s termed a “growing trend” of men doing precisely that.
The USA TODAY Network examined 227 “family annihilation” cases that occurred in the U.S. from Jan. 1, 2020, to April 30, 2023, and found several common threads in the tragedies that killed more than 750.
Three scenarios repeatedly jumped out from the data: Men who killed their wives or girlfriends and children; young men who killed their parents and siblings; and couples who conspired to kill their children and themselves.
In the majority of cases analyzed, neither the police, surviving family nor media reports revealed a reason for the killings or other key stressors. As a result, contributing factors are likely undercounted.
But they found patterns, reportedly.
Or did they?
For example, they cite
- 38 involved a previous history of domestic abuse
- 34 killers had previous criminal convictions
- 33 involve mental illness
- 14 involve jealousy or control
- 8 involve money issues
- 4 involve drugs or alcohol
- 13 involve serious medical issues
Now, they don’t note any overlap between the cases–some of these killings may have had multiple examples–so we’re left to assume no overlap at all.
Yet is this really a pattern?
The most prevalent cause cited here is a history of domestic abuse, yet that’s only present in about 16 percent of the killings. Obviously, the percentages drop from there.
Now, the report states that a lot of cases didn’t have a known reason for the murder. I’ll grant that all day long. A lot of times, domestic abuse isn’t reported, for example, and not everyone tells everyone else if they’re in financial trouble, either, so these may well be more prevalent than suggested.
Of course, we also don’t have any context to look at whether this is a growing trend of family killings–what they term family annihilations–or whether they’re making it a thing. Based on the hysteria around so-called ghost guns, I’m skeptical.
Yet the truth of the matter is that each of these is an awful tragedy and if we can figure out how to address the causes of these, it’s beneficial to everyone.
My problem here is that while the USA Today network thinks they’ve found trends and common threads between these killings, it remains to be seen if they’ve done any such thing or if they’re just grasping at straws here.