Not 24 hours after hearing that two teen boys killed 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale, another teen was arrested in another child abduction and murder case. A 17-year-old boy was charged this afternoon with murdering 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, whose body was found in a field "not intact." These are far from the only two teen killings/crimes in recent days. Do teens really kill other kids all the time or is it just in our faces now because of the timing of these similar but totally unrelated cases? That teens can kidnap, rape, and murder is not unprecedented, but with two incidents so similar and happening so close together, you can't help wonder what the hell is causing this teen killer frenzy and is something in the cheeseburgers?
I can think of no other explanation for these crimes because all the teens I know or who have ever babysat for my children are absolute sweethearts who would never, ever, in a million years, ever come near something even slightly close to this. lt's going to give teens an even worse name than they already have, and make parents afraid of trusting them with little kids. But I guess we should?
I want to think that the teens accused of killing Pasquale and Ridgeway are just psychopaths that slipped through the cracks of society, leading to these very horrible, very rare, very random crimes. Just like the teen boy in Texas who allegedly shot his mother and sister in cold blood and calmly called 9-1-1. Just like the 19-year-old who was arrested today for murdering a mom and two toddlers in California. They just snapped, end of story, nothing more to be said about them. I'd like to think.
But I'm not so sure that's true in all these cases. The 17-year-old charged in the Ridgeway murder is a college student who allegedly tried to abduct a 22-year-old jogger, too, by using a rag soaked with chemicals over her mouth. Autumn Pasquale's accused killers supposedly lured her into their home on the pretense of exchanging "bicycle parts." They were 15 and 13 -- both children themselves!
In another strange coincidence, it was the mothers in both the Pasquale and Ridgeway cases that turned their sons into police. So they all had mothers. Mothers who clearly knew right from wrong and who did the right thing. Qualities you would think would be modeled and instilled in their children.
Something more far-reaching is going on, and it's a larger societal issue than we could even begin to tackle in a little blog post. Is it a lack of morals? Fewer teens going to church? The education system letting them down? Poverty? Too much TV? Vaccines? Broken homes? Violent video games? Global warming?
Nothing is certain except that in all the "stranger danger" talks I've had with my children, I've always used the terms "man," "guy," or another term that referred to the threat as an adult. Clearly I'll need to reframe that to include a much broader group of predators -- including their own kind.
What is causing this teen killing epidemic?
Image via connor.vick/Flickr