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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Week 2 Paper - Foundations of Criminal Justice

Report on the Smithville Child Murders

The recent child killings in Smithville and surrounding areas have fueled fears of a serial killer
targeting children in our area. However, we must answer the following questions before we proceed
on the assumption that a serial killer is responsible for these crime. We must look the characteristics of
child killings, the characteristics of serial killings specifically those serial killers targeting children , the
possibility of hate as a motivation for such killing, and examine the myths and theories of serial killing,
as well as those of child victimization. We will then look at the practical steps we can take to protect
the children of Smithville, and to reassure our community.
It is not likely that these murders are the acts of a serial killer. The sad fact is that 63% of child
murder victims were killed by a parent (Cooper & Smith, 2011, p. 7). In addition, most victims are
likely to be the same race as their murderer; there is an 84 % likelihood of a white victim is killed by a
white offender, and a 93% likelihood that a black victim is killed by a black offender. (Cooper, 2011, p.
13). "Serial killers are not limited to any specific demographic group, such as their sex, age, race, or
religion. " (Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], 2005). With the Delgado case looking more like an
infanticide at this time, it reduces the chances that the other cases are the work of a serial killer.
Without knowing the population of Smithville, though, we cannot see if these crimes would be within
the normal incidence rate of filicide for community of our size. We would also need to compare the
rate of these crimes against the rate last year and the last few years.
Two possible factors which might lead to a differentiation between filicide and serial killing are
whether kidnapping is an indicator of filicide or of serial murder, and whether the act of torture as part
of the homicide is an indicator of filicide or of serial murder. We do not have statistical evidence on
these issues at this time, but we can offer sample cases for each question. Kidnapping makes up less
than 2 percent of all violent crimes against juveniles reported to police (Finkelhor & Ormrod, 2000).
Kidnapping data is difficult to correlate due to the high number of runaway cases. In addition, the FBI
warns that "...Non-custodial parents are increasingly abducting and threatening to harm their own kids
to retaliate against parents who were granted legal custody of the children." (FBI, 2013) For further
discussion of child abduction, see Detective Gato's article on the Tru TV website. However, we can
see incidences of kidnapping and of torture in both serial killing cases, and filicide cases. In a recent
case, the Daily Mail reports on a mother that tortured her 3 year old son before killing him (Daily
Mail, 2014); we can also see that serial killers will torture children before killing in some cases. The
victims of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah (aka David Brown ) were tortured in some cases (About.com, 2014).
Another factor making it unlikely that these killings are the actions of a serial killer is the
extremely low incidence of serial murder killings, and further the low incidence of child victims as a
percentage of that total. Serial homicide victims only account for .01% of homicides in America
(McCready, 2002, p.19 ). Only 4% of serial criminal victims were children of less then 5 years of age
(Aamodt, 2013, p.11 ). Comparing these numbers to the high probabilities involved in the murders being
committed by a family member reinforces the low probability there is a serial killer.
However, the myths surrounding the incidence, nature of, and law enforcement response to
serial killings will do nothing to mitigate the fear that is currently prevalent in our community. A
source of the myth-making may be due to the influence of the both the mass media and the
entertainment industry. Both venues "can take an overlooked crime story, take it out of context and
embellish upon it, hence, providing a myth. Media can also establish a myth by not updating a story,
which was later proven to be false." (McCready, 2002, p37). However, we can also see that the
media responds to a public that has a "...seemingly insatiable appetite for true crime, and [that] has
exalted many serial killers into its pantheon of infamy", according to Oleson (Oleson, 2006, p117).
Two of the specific myths regarding serial killers are that they are almost always white males and that
African-American males are underrepresented in their ranks. However, in a sample of 413 serial killers
operating in the United States from 1945 to mid-2004, it was found that 90 of the total were African
-American. Relative to the African-American proportion of the population across that time period,
African-Americans were overrepresented in the ranks of serial killers(Walsh, 2005, p271). There are
theoretical means of explaining how these myths are perpetuated. The politics model as it explains
how ideology becomes a means to emphasize one agenda over another . The social constructionist
model can also explain why these myths persist, as communities and agencies attempt to maintain
self-image on the basis of symbolic meanings attached in different ways to different situations. There
have been problems in the past when law enforcement has bought into one myth or another and
ignored possible suspects. This happened in the Beltway Sniper attacks, as investigators fixed on the
myth of the white serial killer , "We were looking for a white van with white people, and we ended up
with a blue car with black people," said Washington, D.C., Police Chief Charles Ramsey (Sun Sentinel,
2004); On the other hand, there is a lack of research on the subject of serial killing that also could
help counter myth making. Delisi and Scherer explain that criminologists have viewed serial killing as
a "low-prevalence phenomenon" and "less deserving of attention than the larger study of
homicide."(Delisi & Scherer, 2006, p 368). In addition, Hinch discusses issues with the reliability of
studies dealing withs serial killers. (Hinch 1998)
We can not discount the possibility that these killings are the result of a hate crime campaign.
Two examples of serial killers with a hate motive can be found in Joseph Paul Franklin and the
Beltway Sniper Killings committed by John Allen Muhamnmed and Lee Boyd Malvo. John Paul
Franklin targeted Jews and black people, while Muhammed and Malvo may have been motivated by
Islamic jihad (Wikipedia, 2014). Even so, racist motives are not likely, as Michael Newton states that
race is a dominant consideration in victim selection in about 2% of American serial killers (Walsh,
2005, p.275 ).
One possible theoretical explanation for crimes of this nature, assuming these crimes are of
infanticide, would be a culture of violence model. Some theorists believe that cultural differences can
lead to higher rates of violence. In the Western Criminology Review, Sun, Triplett, and Gainey (2004),
suggest that the rates of violence vary across societal categories. Two out of the three victims have
been of Filipino heritage. The World Life Expectancy website ranks the Philippines at 40th out of 192
countries for violent death rate per 100,000 with a rate of 21.5. In conjunction with the ideas noted
above that family members and acquaintances are the most likely perpetrators of child murders, and
that victims are of the same race of the offender in most cases, this might account for a higher then
average rate of infanticide.
A second theoretical approach would be the oppressive view of crime, which views the issues
pertaining to crime against children in light of class difference and access to the power system. This
theory suggests that if a poor child is abused, the media may report it locally but the case is unlikely to
receive national attention. This theory does not apply to the Smithville series of cases, as there is 24/7
national media attention. One might also argue that the poor are more at risk to become victims due
to a host of environmental and social conditions. However, the culture of violence theory also
accounts for this risk factor.
We will now look at some immediate recommendations for Smithville on order to protect children
and temper the emotions of the public. Unfortunately, neither children nor anyone else is 100% safe
from crime. Crime is often the result of opportunity, and unless one is guarded at all times, there is
potential for being a victim. That being said, the probability of being a victim are low, as we have seen
above. There are measures that could be taken to protect the children to make these probabilities
lower. We should continue to educate children with the current "Stranger Danger" tools and by
updating these tools by educating children that abuse has to be reported, no matter who commits it.
Children should be aware that it is possible that somebody they know and love can abuse them, but
that they should not live in fear as this risk is very low, and even lower if they know how to avoid bad
situations and can feel confidant about their ability to report abuse.
There does not necessarily need new laws to protect children, but the criminal justice system
should be heavily punitive in sentencing and extremely careful in releasing potential child predators.
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah had been arrested for dressing as a policeman and beating and choking an eight-
year-old boy, for which he received only 1 year of probation . Three years later, he again kidnapped two
boys, and began strangling them. three weeks after his release attacked another boy and was arrested
on assault charges but was freed without bail. Bar-Jonah was finally was charged with Zachary
Ramsay’s murder and for kidnapping and sexually assaulting three other boys (About.com, 2014). Had
Bar-Jonah been sentenced to death after the first incident, 7 other lives would have been spared abuse,
torture, and murder. John Couey , the killer of Jessica Lunsford , had a long criminal record including
indecent exposure and burglary. During a house burglary, Couey was accused of grabbing a girl in her
bedroom, placing his hand over her mouth, and kissing her. Couey was sentenced to 10 years in prison
but only served two years. He was later arrested on a charge of fondling a five-year-old child. Couey
was again released early. He finally raped and murdered Jessica Lunsford, after 2 early releases on
child molestation sentences. (wiki). The meme of repeat offenses is borne out by statistical data. Two-
thirds of all prisoners that were convicted of rape or sexual assault had committed crime against a child
. BJS also stated 59% of offenders were previously sentenced to jail, prison, or probation (Greenfield,
The murder of Jessica Lunsford led to several states attempting to pass laws similar to a
Florida initiative, the Jessica Lunsford Act. This act would have would have required stringent
tracking of released child predators. However, this act's proposal opened areas of contoversy. The
first issue of contention lay in the definaion of sexual offenders. Some states define such crimes as
urinating in public as a sex offense, which would require tracking under this type of legislation. There
is also the question of incarceration versus treatment. These issues seem to ignore the seriousness of
mala in se crimes; a hrash initial sentence with little chance of release would limit oppitunites for
offenders o keep abusing and killing. Although serial predators represent a small percentage of child
killings, this would defintely reduce the child homicde rates in cnosiderstion of the recidivism rates.
The law enforcement community will need to build a level of understanding with the media that
sensationalization and distortion of crime can only hurt the community by feeding fear and causing
suspicion. The FBI has discussed dealing with "talking head"s (FBI, 2005). Specific recommendations
for managing media relations in a multi-jurisdictional approach have also been discussed in a review of
how agencies handled the beltway Sniper case(Murphy, Wexler, Davies, and Plotkin, 2004, p. 89).
However, such news agencies may not be cooperative. In our case, one news station has been been
asserting that the killings may be due to racial tensions, while another network is suggesting that
trafficking gone wrong could be the issue. If these stations are not willing to show more responsibility
in calming public fear, perhaps the reporters and editors involved may need to be subpoenaed, and
questioned in detail,in order to give law enforcement more clues on racial violence and drug smuggling
that would enable us to catch the killer, or killers quickly. However, as we deal with the public, we
should be careful how we discuss some of the underlying theories we are considering, such as "culture
of violence". For example, by suggesting that that a minority is violent by nature, even if that is not
how we would regard the majority of the members of that community, we could be spreading fear and
suspicion ourselves.
Parents should be aware of where their children are likely to be at any given time; parents
should be aware of the actual child victimization rates as this should make them feel safer, or in certain
cases may provide a level of awareness as to their own actions towards their children; Parents should
be aware of any people in their localities with a prior conviction of child abuse or predation. In
addition, local law enforcement should be aware of any people in their localities with a prior
conviction of child abuse or predation.
Immediate action can be taken by allowing overtime for additional uniform patrols, especially
near schools, and other areas that children congregate at, such as parks and libraries. Neighborhoods
with large populations of children should be also have additional patrols assigned . PR officers will
need to reach out to neighborhood groups and provide accurate information as discussed above. By
displaying a pronounced policing presence, as well as by giving the public more realistic information
regarding such crime, we can alleviate public fear. To solve these crimes, we should not discount
either the possibility of family/acquaintance or of serial killer culpability. We do not want to foster a
sense of blaming any part of the community, and we don't want to make the mistakes of the Beltway
Sniper investigators. We should be aware of responsible budgeting, and not use this series of tragedies
to expand our mission, or to aggrandize ourselves in the public eye, which are both potential
consequence according to the growth complex theory.
In conclusion, there is not definitive evidence that there is a serial killer operating in the
Smithville area, and there is not definitive evidence that these murders lie in the area of family or
acquaintances. Although the likelihood lies within the second area, we should not limit our
investigations thusly. We have some understanding of background issues for both types of murders, and
some examples to draw from. We have a series of recommendations to work with, and we will move
forward with the goals of solving these murders and putting the families at greater rest, of preventing
further crimes against children, and giving our city greater confidence in their ability to be safe.

Aamodt, M. G. (2013). Serial killer statistics. Retrieved January 23, 2013 from http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/serial killer information center/project description.htm
About.com. (2014). Nathaniel Bar-Jonah. Retrieved January 25, 2014 from http://crime.about.com/od/murder/p/db_barjonah.htm

Beaten with a broom handle, burned with a lighter and thrown into a table: 3-year-old boy 'tortured' to death by his own mother. (2014 , 23 January) Mail Online. Retrieved January 25, 2014 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2544829/Beaten-broom-handle-burned-lighter-thrown-table-3-year-old-boy-tortured-death-mother.html

Child Abductions When Custody Issues Lead to Violence .(2013). Stories. FBI. Retrieved January 24, 2014 from http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2013/june/child-abductions-when-custody-issues-lead-to-violence/child-abductions-when-custody-issues-lead-to-violence

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Finkelhor, D. & Ormrod, R. (2000). Kidnaping of Juveniles: Patterns. Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved January 25, 2014 from http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/kidnaping_of_juveniles.pdf

Gado, M. Child Abduction, analysis of this crime and major cases Crime Library on truTV.com. Retrieved January 25, 2014 from http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/child_abduction/index.html

Greenfeld, L. A. (1996). Child victimizers: Violent offenders and their victims. In Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved Janurary 21, 2012, from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cvvoatvx.pdf
Hinch , R. (1998). Researching Serial Murder:Methodologial and Definitional Problems. Electronic Journal of Sociology Retrieved January 23, 2013 from http://www.sociology.org/content/vol003.002/hinch.html
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Oleson, J. (2006). The Devil Made Me Do It: The Criminological Theories of Hannibal Lecter, Part Three . Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture , 13 (2), 117-133. Retrieved January 24, 2014 from http://www.albany.edu/scj/jcjpc/vol13is2/Oleson.pdf
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Walsh, A. (2005). African Americans and Serial Killing in the Media: The Myth and the Reality. Homicide Studies 2005; 9; 271. DOI: 10.1177/1088767905280080
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Wikipedia (2014). Joseph Paul Franklin. Retrieved Janurary 23, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Paul_Franklin
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