A Nevada teenager, Adrian Navarro-Canales, 16, was arrested Tuesday, suspected of killing his younger brother and his mother. The deceased were found with stab wounds Friday by officers, who were called when his mother, Elvira Canales-Gomez, did not show up for work. This case may be easily passed over with a slight shake of the head, or a chill up one’s spine, but are the right questions ever asked? Are the questions not laced in hatred or revenge ever pondered? This type of murder has become an epidemic in this country and very few ever stop to think and ask, “Why did this happen?” Some may ask that question, wanting quick answers with digestible reasoning, but few will take the time to investigate really. Few will consider that kids who kill have more beneath them than a monstrous evil.
In 1993, a lowly 13 year old child named Eric Smith, had enough of the bullying, the fighting, and the constant torment that greeted him each day in school. His aggression, later diagnosed as intermittent explosive disorder, internalized, and eventually came out in the form of murder. His victim, four-year-old Derrick Robie was no more to him than a vehicle for his aggression. Eric did not simply murder Derrick; he taunted him, ridiculed him, and then eventually suffocated the life from him. A child of 13 years does not act in this way unless an underlying dysfunction is present, and Eric is no exception. After committing unspeakable crimes to the almost five year old, Eric Smith went on with life as if the offense never happened.
In 1998, a Florida mother found the decomposing body of a missing 8-year old girl stuffed into the bottom of her son’s waterbed. Claiming it was an accident, 14 year old Josh Phillips was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. In Florida, as with many states, the focus is on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Does anyone ever stop to question the motive of an adolescent, how he or she got to the point of homicide, or if there is a way to reform? Children, adolescents in particular, are in the middle of their own crisis; brain development, emotional slow-downs, processing malfunctions, and hormonal wreckage. Kids who kill are all going through a radical neurological fallout, leaving some to wonder if rehabilitation might not be such a bad idea. As of 2004, Phillips had no counseling of any kind to help him understand his own motives. He, like the 8 year old girl whose life he stole, has had his life taken away.
14-year-old Barry Loukaitis walked into Frontier Middle School, located in Washington, with a rifle and two pistols. He entered his algebra class and devastation broke out. A hostage situation that rapidly turned into a killing spree left two students dead, a teacher dead, and one student critically injured. Barry came from a home full of grandiose delusion and maladjustment. Between his father’s affairs and his mother’s depression and beckoning suicide pact, the voices in his head came as no surprise. Stemming from her own mental issues, his mother had forced him to make a pact that on Valentine’s Day, they would take their own lives. This shooting spree occurred just 12 days before the planned arrangement.
These are not rationalizations to excuse behaviors and horrendous actions taken by these kids who kill, but a way to to take a hard look at what becomes of them once they are put behind bars as well as why they are there. As adults, we have the capacity and the ability to see what is ahead of us, and realize our consequences; at least most of the time. As a child undergoing an entire mental, emotional, and physical renovation, the same cannot always be said. Though no one knows what happened to Adrian Navarro-Canales, the other three children mentioned in this story each have a kind of predisposition for heinous behavior. Could these children, these killer kids, have been prevented from acting on their dysfunctions? Is there a way to rehabilitate them, educate them, and prepare them for a life outside of their insignificant cells? Are we, as a country, comfortable with making the call to throw away an entire life because of a childhood mistake, no matter how vicious? These questions need to be pondered as we skim past the headlines, shaking our heads; let us find an answer that is based more in truth and less in emotion. This is just my take, but an eye for an eye is a term with great impact.
“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by: Amy Magness Whatley