“Go ballistic. Go crazy,” said one of the 12-year old female assailants, while the other stabbed the victim 19 times, screaming: “I hate you. I trusted you.” While youthful violence is all too common in American culture, the story that recently unfolded in Waukesha, Wisconsin is different. Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former FBI profiler, described the case as “very unusual -not just because it involves young females,” she said, “but the brutality of it.”
The three girls, all 12 years old, were friends and classmates. After a sleepover, two of the girls lured the third into a park, stabbed her 19 times, and left her to die. A bicyclist found the wounded girl lying on a sidewalk. While the brutality of the attempted murder is shocking, it’s the details surrounding the motive that have generated the most attention: allegedly, the two assailants were motivated by their belief in a fantasy figure called Slenderman, a fictional character and Internet meme that appears in horror stories, videos and images. Slenderman is the Internet’s spectral bogeyman, an urban legend created, spread, and improvised upon by chat-room users and online myth-makers.
The attempted murder in Wisconsin is not the first to illustrate the role that homicidal bonding can play in the lives of young women. In West Virginia in 2012, 16-year old Skylar Neese was murdered by her two best friends, Rachel Shoaf and Sheila Eddy. The trio apparently had a falling out, and the only explanation the assailants gave for their crime was that they had stopped liking their friend. These two cases illustrate that violence isn’t the exclusive domain of boys. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to imagine any child or teenager brutally killing another human being, but these types of horrific cases are more common than you might think.
7. Cindy Collier, Age 15 and Shirley Wolf, Age 14
While most thrill killers are teenage males, profile characteristics can vary. “Today, Cindy and I ran away and killed an old lady. It was lots of fun.” Dated Tuesday June 14, 1983, this is an entry from 14-year old Shirley Wolf’s journal. After only knowing one another for a few hours, Wolf and Collier began randomly knocking on doors at a condominium development in Auburn, California under the ruse that they needed directions. Anna Bracket, 85, invited them in. According to Shirley Wolf, “we decided we were going to kill her when we saw her. She was just an old lady. Just a perfect setup. We killed her because we wanted her car and we didn’t want to get caught.”
Cindy Collier found the butcher knife, and Shirley Wolf stabbed Anna Bracket 28 times while the old woman begged for her life. While the pointless brutality of the murder was shocking, what was even more shocking is that two young girls who hardly even knew each other committed it.
6. Derek and Alex King, Ages 12 and 13
According to Kathleen M. Heide, a psychologist and author of “Why Kids Kill Parents,” there are three types of children who murder their parents: the severely abused child, the severely mentally challenged child, and the dangerous antisocial child.
In 2001, Derek and Alex King bludgeoned their father to death with a baseball bat while he slept on the couch, and then set fire to the Florida home in an attempt to cover up the evidence. The murder riveted the country and featured numerous twists, turns, and reversals; from confessions and thrown out convictions to a sexual predator and possible accessory named Rick Chavis, the case was the epitome of lurid sensationalism. In the end, Derek and Alex King pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and arson. Derek was sentenced to eight years in prison and Alex to seven. The motive for the murder remains ambiguous.
5. Eric Smith, Age 13
On August 2 1993, Eric Smith rode his bike to a summer camp in a local park in Steuben County, New York. Derrick Robbie, age 4, was walking alone to the same summer camp. Smith lured Robbie into a wooded area where he strangled the boy, smashed his head with a rock, and sodomized him with a tree limb. Within hours, Robbie’s body was found and Smith was charged with murder.
When asked why he murdered Derrick Robbie, Eric Smith said he didn’t know. Reports suggest Smith was bullied for his thick glasses, freckles, long red hair, and elongated ears. A psychologist eventually diagnosed Eric Smith with “intermittent explosive disorder,” a dangerous condition in which a person loses control of their rage. Eric Smith was convicted of second-degree murder on August 16, 1994. At the time, he was sentenced to the maximum term for a juvenile murderer: nine years to life. Since 2002, Smith has been denied parole seven times, most recently in 2014.
4. Joshua Phillips, Age 14
Maddie Clifton, an 8-year old from Jacksonville, Florida, was reported missing on November 3, 1998. Seven days later, when Joshua Phillips was at school, his mother cleaned his room and noticed a strange spot underneath his waterbed. Investigating further, she discovered the body of Maddie Clifton wrapped with electrical tape and hidden inside the pedestal of the bed. Joshua Phillips, a boy with no history of violence, was one of the many neighborhood volunteers who had helped search for Maddie, and this made the murder that much more appalling for the community. Phillips confessed that he murdered Maddie, but his story is nearly as shocking at the act itself.
Joshua Phillips told police that he accidently hit Maddie in the head with a baseball. Maddie screamed and started to cry, and Josh carried her into his bedroom where he proceeded to strangle her with a phone cord, hit her with a baseball bat, and stabbed her 11 times. What was the motive? Phillips told police that he panicked; he feared what his abusive father would do when he found Maddie inside the house. Joshua was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Because he was under 16, he was not eligible for the death penalty under Florida law. The murder was the subject of the 48 Hours documentary: Why Did Josh Kill?
3. Mary Bell, Age 11
On the day before her 11th birthday, May 25, 1968, Mary Bell strangled four-year old Martin Brown in a derelict house. The British girl was quickly nicknamed “The Tyneside Strangler.” After the murder, Mary Bell and her friend, Norma Bell, vandalized a nursery in Scotswood and left notes claiming responsibility for the killing. The police believed the notes were a prank.
On July 31, 1968, Mary Bell and Norma Bell strangled three-year old Brian Howe. According to reports, Brian Howe’s hair had been cut, there were puncture marks on his thighs, and parts of him were skinned. The letter “M” had also been carved into the boy’s stomach. During the investigation, Mary Bell implicated herself by describing a pair of scissors; this detailed knowledge of confidential evidence sealed her fate. At the trial, Norma Bell was acquitted but Mary Bell was convicted of manslaughter. She served 12 years in prison and was released in 1980.
2. Edmund Kemper, Age 15
Edmund Kemper started his criminal life by murdering his grandparents on August 27, 1964. He was 15 years old. Kemper was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital. Tests showed that he had an I.Q. of 145. Demonstrating to psychologists that he was well, Kemper was released into his mother’s care in 1969, after serving fewer than 5 years. While his juvenile records were expunged, Edmund Kemper’s killing spree was just beginning.
Between 1979 and 1973, Kemper killed and dismembered six female hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz area, earning the nickname “The Co-ed Killer.” Kemper wasn’t just a serial killer; he was also a necrophile. He took the bodies back to his apartment, performed sexual acts with the bodies, and then dissected them. On Good Friday, 1973, Kemper beat his mother to death with a claw hammer. He then called his mother’s friend, Sally Hallett, over to the house and killed her too. Several hours later, Kemper called the police and confessed to the killings. Edmund Kemper plead not guilty by reason of insanity. He received life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
1. Jesse Pomeroy, Age 14
Dubbed the “The Boston Boy Fiend” and considered America’s first underage killer, Jesse Pomeroy is the youngest person convicted of first-degree murder in the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Pomeroy was arrested in 1874 for the murders of four-year old Horace Mullen and 10-year old Katie Curran. According to the April 24, 1874 New York Times, Pomeroy “stripped, gagged, tied to a telegraph pole, whipped and cut with a knife in the head” his young victim (Mullen). Katie Curran’s remains were found hidden in a pile of ashes in the basement of Pomeroy’s mother’s dress shop. However, Jesse Pomeroy’s sadistic reign of terror actually began when he was 12 years old. He was arrested for sexually torturing seven boys in Chelsea, Massachusetts and sent to reform school. While 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy was sentenced to death for the murders of Mullen and Curran, Massachusetts Governor William Gaston wouldn’t sign the death warrant because of his age. Pomeroy spent 56 years in prison for his brutal crimes.