Young Killers: The Challenge of Juvenile Homicide / Edition 1

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In Young Killers, Kathleen M. Heide, a criminologist and a licensed mental health professional, blends compelling case studies with a scientific study of male adolescent murderers. This book explores more than a dozen factors that have contributed to the rise of juvenile homicide since the mid 1980s. These factors often interact with certain personality characteristics and biological influences, causing many youths to conclude that they have little or nothing to lose by engaging in reckless and destructive acts. Although this book focuses mainly on boys who kill, Dr. Heide also discusses the increasing number of girls arrested for murder and examines gender issues in juvenile homicide. Professor Heide addresses the legal response to juvenile murders, psychological assessment, treatment issues, and prevention strategies aimed at reducing the incidence of juvenile homicide.
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Editorial Reviews

Author of Why Kids Kill Parents: Child Abuse and Adolescent Homicide, Heide (criminology, U. of Southern Florida, Tampa) here synthesizes the escalating trend of murder by youths, individual differences regarding 15 possible causal ingredients, diverse interpretations of the possibility of rehabilitation, and implications for the corrections field and policymakers facing the fact that most convicted killers are eventually released. Seven chapter-length clinical portraits illustrate key points; the closing chapter urges a multi-faceted approach to prevention.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761900634
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Heide is a Full Professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida, Tampa and is an internationally recognized consultant on adolescent homicide and family violence. She is a licensed mental health counselor in the State of Florida and has been court-appointed as an expert in Florida Circuit Courts in homicide, sexual battery, juvenile, and family matters. Dr. Heide's publication record includes more than 100 publications and presentations in the areas of adolescent homicide, family violence, personality assessment, and juvenile justice, along with two books - Why Kids Kill Parents (1992) and Young Killers (1999). She received her B.A. from Vassar College in Psychology and her M.A. and Ph.D in Criminal Justice from the State University of New York at Albany.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Juvenile Homicide Encapsulated 1
1 The Phenomenon of Juvenile Homicide 5
2 Ingredients for Juvenile Murder 28
3 The Legal Response to Juvenile and Adolescent Homicide 52
4 Understanding the Juvenile Murderer 65
Pt. II Clinical Portraits 87
5 Peter Daniels 91
6 Jerry Johnson 112
7 Calvin Thomas 131
8 David Collins 148
9 Malcolm Farrell 161
10 Joel Westerlund 180
11 Brian Clark 202
Pt. III The Challenge of Juvenile Homicide 219
12 Treating Young Killers 221
13 Reducing Youth Violence in the 21st Century 239
Notes 255
References 267
Index 289
About the Author 299
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Interviews & Essays

From the Author

My interest in juvenile homicide began in the mid 1970s. I have a vivid memory of reading an article by New York Times correspondent Ted Morgan, suggesting that society might have spawned 'a new genetic strain of child murderer' who kills remorselessly, even gleefully. In the early 1980s, I secured several grants that allowed me to conduct in-depth clinical interviews with youths who had murdered someone, or attempted to do so, prior to reaching their 18th birthday. While I was engaged in my research with juvenile murderers, arrests of youths under 18 for murder in the U.S. skyrocketed.

In the last few years, arrests of juveniles for homicide have decreased. However, data presented in Young Killers provide strong evidence that the problem of youth violence has not been resolved. Now is not the time for complacency.

In Chapter 1, I discuss the 'Phenomenon of Juvenile Homicide' to help readers become better acquainted with these youngsters. Who are the youth killers? I seek to answer several questions that define the parameters of juvenile homicide. For example, how often do youths kill two or more victims in a single event? Is gang membership associated with this type of violence? What percentage of youths arrested for homicide are members of minority groups? In a culture of rising feminism, where are girls in the ranks of young killers? Are boys and girls prey to the relationship violence that kills many women and men in our society? How many of these young killers are pre-teens? Are schools really becoming dangerous places for kids? What should we make of attempted murders and accidental shootings? In this chapter, I also address mediadepiction of youth violence, the public's perception, and society's response to kids who kill.

In Chapter 2, 'Ingredients for Juvenile Homicide,' I seek to answer two questions. The first is concerned with why kids kill. The second, to me, is the more fascinating: 'Why are more kids killing today than in previous generations?' Here I discuss at length more than a dozen factors that affect young people growing up in the 1990s that put many at increased risk of engaging in violent and destructive behavior.

In Chapter 3, I examine 'The Legal Response to Juvenile and Adolescent Homicide.' Increasingly, given the current mood in the U.S., more juveniles are being tried as adults. In this chapter, I focus on juveniles in the adult criminal justice system and juveniles and the death penalty. I discuss in-depth mental status issues and defenses that can effect juveniles charged with murder.

'Understanding the Juvenile Murderer' is the topic of chapter 4. Herein, I detail the value of a comprehensive assessment and discuss multiple components of evaluations that I do. This chapter serves as the foundation for the seven clinical portraits that follow. The clinical portraits in Chapters 5-11 are examples of cases I was involved in from before trial to some years after conviction. These case studies follow a format to facilitate understanding of a particular youth and to encourage comparison across cases.

Chapter 12, 'Treating Young Killers,' provides a comprehensive model to treat youths who kill. This model is based on scientific studies that indicate that certain treatment approaches do in fact work with particular offender groups. The final chapter, 'Reducing Youth Violence in the 21st Century,' is a blueprint for action. I propose 50 specific strategies to decrease juvenile violence. These strategies are based on empirical studies, theoretical tenets, and the suggestions of young killers themselves. They are directly responsive to the factors that I proposed earlier that have contributed to the escalation in youth violence since the 1980s. There is no question in my mind, after having evaluated close to 100 juvenile murderers over 16 years, that a substantial reduction in youth violence is within our reach. The question is not, 'Can we stem the tide of juvenile destructiveness in this country?' Rather, the question is, 'When will we commit to working together to raise a healthier generation of children and to build a more peaceful society?'
— Kathleen Heide, Ph.D. (, the Author

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