4-Year-Old Stabbed by Teen Cousin Doubles a Family Tragedy

handcuffsOomph. I think I just took a foot to the guts. A 14-year-old girl in Indiana is being held on murder charges. Police say she stabbed her 4-year-old cousin Leon Thomas III to death, then walked out of their grandparents' home, covered in blood.

Can you imagine what life is like in grandma and grandpa Bryan and Angie Shanks' house right now? I can.


The grandparents of these two kids aren't trying to figure out what family means now.

They have to be vacillating between shock, grief, and anger and then back again. It's hard enough to see a child die. It's harder still to see a child die in such a violent way. Now add on top of it the fact that police say the perpetrator of such a heinous act is your own flesh and blood. It's the kind of thing that rips families apart.

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Right now, police aren't saying much about what led up to little Leon's death, only that he was visiting his grandparents along with his 11-year-old sister. The 14-year-old suspect in his death lived with her grandparents after apparently having run away from her own home. Angie Shanks even had official custody.

From there, everything sounds like a relatively normal weekend for a family. The kids were downstairs; the grandparents upstairs. And then. Tragedy. Alleged murder. A dead child. A teenager walking the streets covered in blood. A family member in the morgue. A family member in juvenile detention.

When the victim of a crime and alleged criminal are from the same family, people don't know what to feel. Anyone can make sense of being on the side of the victim. But criminals have loved ones too. We don't just turn our backs on them, even if we disapprove of what they're doing.

Only it's a heckuva lot easier to love someone despite their faults when that fault hasn't resulted in the murder of one of your own. How do you decide who gets your support now? If this teen is indeed to blame, she's obviously mentally disturbed. But she's still a kid, and she's still family.

How do you treat a criminal who is still a member of your family?


Image via notsogoodphotography/Flickr

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