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I wrote a piece a few weeks ago entitled There Will Always be Monsters. In that article, I wrote about adults who exhibit sociopathic behaviors, but one of the men featured, Edmund Kemper, committed his first atrocious crime as a teenager. Kemper murdered his own grandparents and was sent to a maximum security psychiatric facility. He was released and sent back into society uncured, unrepentant and more disturbed than before.
On February 7th, two boys ages 10 and 11 were arrested at an elementary school in Washington state. A fourth grade student alerted school officials when said student noticed one of the boys playing with a knife on the school bus. Searches of the boys and their backpacks revealed a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, ammunition and notes, revealing a plan to murder other students. The majority of their rage was focused on a girl they both knew-she was to be their first victim.
Reports from numerous media outlets state the boys are being held on $100,000 each and a judge determined they are competent to stand trial in juvenile court. One of the most telling statements has come from two sides who normally do not agree: the defense psychologist and the state's psychiatrist. Both believe that these boys, a 10-year old and an 11-year old, are a danger to the community.
According to CNN, the two boys planned to kill at least 6 other students but wanted to murder the female classmate first. Court papers reveal the older boy showed no emotion or remorse during the police interview where he admitted their murder plot. The semi-automatic handgun was stolen by the younger boy from his older brother, who had stolen it from the home of their dead grandfather.
We know absolutely nothing about either of these boys. We know nothing of their home life, their medical history, any genetic testing that may have been performed. So, at this point, we need to enter the realm of speculation.
Are these two boys sociopaths? Diagnosing antisocial personality disorder in kids is extremely risky, and most clinicians will not accept information about anyone under the age of eighteen. However, with what little we are learning from the mainstream media about these two boys, it begs the question at the beginning of this paragraph-are these two boys sociopaths? If so, what can be done?
Treatment for antisocial personality disorder is difficult at best. You are looking at a person who typically has no empathy, no concept of emotion or feelings, does not understand the difference between right and wrong and in many cases, simply doesn't care. They are extremely manipulative, even charming. And they're incredibly smart. In order to navigate a world where the majority of people are nothing like you, you have to be able to "act" normal. Which takes intelligence.
In an episode of "Law and Order: SVU," a psychiatrist points out "You can't grow a conscience," speaking about a young boy who has murdered another child. Maybe, but can you teach someone to control their darkness? Jeff Lindsay, the creator of Dexter, writes about a sociopath who calls his urges the "Dark Passenger." Yes, this is fiction, but what if it's possible to teach these two boys (if they are in fact sociopaths) to control their own "Passengers?"
This story affected me as a parent. I have no idea what kind of families these kids come from, but I know that if the households are normal, their own parents are going through hell right now. Imagine looking in the mirror and realizing your child is incapable of remorse or any feeling at all. Who do you blame if not yourself?
Thank you to The Washington Post, CNN and The Mayo Clinic for information contained in this article.