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A familicide is a type of murder or murder-suicide in which at least one spouse and one or more children are killed;[1] or in which a parent or parents and possibly other relatives such as siblings and grandparents are killed.[2] In some cases all of the family members' lives are taken. If only the parents are killed, the case may also be referred to as a parricide.

Of 909 cases of mass murder (defined as 4 victims within a 24-hour period) in the US from 1900 to 2000, more than half occurred within an immediate family. Although the total number of familicide cases are relatively rare, they are the most common form of mass killings. However, statistical data is difficult to establish due to reporting discrepancies.[3]

Familicide differs from other forms of mass murder in that the murderer kills family members or loved ones rather than anonymous people. This has a different psychodynamic and psychiatric significance, but the distinction is not always made. [4]

A study of 30 cases in Ohio found that most of the killings were motivated by a parent's desire to stop their children's suffering.[3]

In Australia, a study was done of seven cases of filicide followed by suicide in which marital separation followed by custody and access disputes were identified as an issue. Some common factors such as marital discord, unhappiness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, threats of harm to self or others were found in varying degrees. It was not clear what could be done in terms of prevention.[5]

Notable familicides

  • Ted Michael Keith, September 1, 1985, killed his wife (Deborah Lynn Keith), their 8yr old son Michael, and himself. Ted also shot his 5yr old (Christopher Lee Keith) in the back of the head. Christopher was pronounced dead on the scene but later found as the only survivor of this family murder/suicide. [6]
  • Troy Ryan Bellar, May 04, 2009, killed his wife, two sons, and himself.
  • Chris Benoit, June 22-24, 2007, killed his wife, son, and himself.
  • Bradford Bishop murdered his three children, mother, and his wife in 1976.
  • Ronald DeFeo, Jr., November 13, 1974, killed his father, mother, two brothers and two sisters.
  • Neil Entwistle, January 20, 2006, killed his wife and infant daughter
  • George Forster murdered his wife and child by drowning them in Paddington Canal, London: he was hanged at Newgate on 18 January 1803.
  • Kip Kinkel, May 20, 1998, killed his parents before school shooting spree, two additional dead and 25 wounded.
  • John List, November 9, 1971, killed his mother, wife and three teenage children.
  • Ervin Lupoe, January 26, 2009, killed his wife (Ana Lupoe), two sons, three daughters, and himself.
  • Jeffrey MacDonald, February 17, 1970, killed his wife and two pre-school daughters.
  • William Parente, April 19-20, 2009, killed his wife, two daughters, and himself.
  • Scott Peterson, December 24, 2002, killed his eight months pregnant wife
  • Karthik Rajaram, October 7, 2008, killed his wife, mother-in-law, three sons, and himself.[7]
  • Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah, June 1, 2001, allegedly killed the royal family of Nepal at a family dinner, he died later from a self-inflicted gunshot to the side of the head.
  • Charles Stuart, October 23, 1989, killed pregnant wife and blamed it on imaginary black hijacker; seven-month fetus delivered alive but died in 17 days; committed suicide less than three months after murders.
  • Steven Sueppel, March 23-24, 2008, killed his wife, four children, and himself.
  • Marcus Delon Wesson, (March 12, 2004) Kill nine of his children/wives that he fathered through his legal wife and his polygamist wives who were also his daughters and nieces.
  • Christopher Alan Wood, April 18, 2009, killed his wife (Francis Billotti-Wood), two sons, daughter, and himself.[8]

Related terms

  • Infanticide - The killing of one's child (or children) up to 12 months of age.
  • Filicide - A parent or parents killing their own child or children.
  • Mariticide - The killing of one spouse by the other, most used to refer to wives killing husbands.
  • Uxoricide - The killing of a wife by a husband, almost always used rather than "mariticide."

References

  1. Familicide : The Killing of Spouse and Children http://web.archive.org/web/20051124074128/http://psych.mcmaster.ca/dalywilson/FamilicideSpouseChildren.pdf
  2. Familicide at Wiktionary.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Berton, Justin. Familicide: Experts say family murder-suicides, though rare, are most common mass killing. San Francisco Examiner, June 20, 2007
  4. Malmquist, Carl P., MD. Homicide: A Psychiatric Perspective. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 1996, ISBN 978-0880486903
  5. Johnson, Carolyn. Familicide and Custody Disputes - Dispelling The Myths. University of Western Australia, FamilicideAbstract_CarolynJohnson.pdf
  6. Against All Odds, [1], Tulsa World, 13 June 2009
  7. Richard Winton, Evelyn Larrubia and Kimi Yoshino, Jobless man kills family, self, Los Angeles Times, 7 October 2008
  8. Nicole Fuller and Hanah Cho, Frederick County family of 5 found dead, Baltimore Sun, 19 April 2009

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