Adopted child syndrome (ACS) is a real condition that plagues children who’ve been placed with adoptive families. It’s a common condition, according to Dr. Tracy L Carlis, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in adoption. She asserts that adoptees are “over-represented” in American prisons, detention centers, and rehab facilities, which is odd because they’re a relatively small demographic. Only 2 to 3 percent of the population is adopted — that’s roughly 5 to 10 million people. According to Dr. Carlis, “They are most often the individuals who are serial killers, mass murderers, and those who commit parricides. The FBI estimates that of the 500 serial killers in the U.S., most are American born and adopted.” Dr. Carlis acted as an expert witness in two cases of parricide. She noted that neither of the murderers’ respective families discussed adoption with their children. This fueled dissociative behavior and feelings of rejection and abandonment.
Don’t let statistics alarm you though. Plenty of adoptees grow up to be healthy and successful, but a percentage don’t. If you consider that many adoptees aren’t placed in the perfect family situation and grow up feeling unwanted (or worse abused), it becomes clearer why so many have self-destructive tendencies. If you’re considering adoption, don’t let ACS deter you from making a brave and thoughtful choice. Chances are high that when provided a loving, healthy, and affectionate family home, adoptive kids will turn out just fine. Besides, all children deserve a safe space in which to grow up. However, the following adopted kids didn’t have it that bad and still went on to murder the family that took them in. These kids show the darker side of ACS.
15. Carl Edward Brewer – Stuffed Mom In Trash Can
In what police called a “family disturbance gone wrong,” 17-year-old Carl Edward Brewer murdered both his adopted parents. Carl was adopted from Russia, along with his two brothers, but his brothers were living outside the home when their parents were killed by their biological brother. Carl had issues. He was once expelled from school for bad behavior by a man named CB Glidden. Glidden said that Carl and his brothers “did have outbursts from time to time” stemming from abuses they endured before they were adopted. Little is known about that time, but Carl certainly was troubled. Police were dispatched to the Brewer’s home on at least 16 occasions for family disturbances. Although few details are known about how Carl carried out the murders, police did report that Carl’s father was discovered in the master bedroom, and his mother was stuffed into a trash receptacle. After a lengthy standoff, Carl surrendered. He’s being held on $200,000 bail and has been charged with two counts of murder.
14. Tucker Cipriano – Used A Baseball Bat
Bob and Rose Cipriano were devoted parents who loved their children, including their adopted son Tucker Cipriano. Tucker was troubled, but the family did what they could to help him. He was offered therapy, a comforting home, and money when he really needed it. None of this helped. Tucker went down a bad path. While smoking synthetic marijuana at just 19 years old, he and two friends hatched a plan to kill his family. They wanted money for more marijuana, but one of the friends backed out of the crimes. That friend was a key witness in the preliminary trial and told the courts that Tucker was supposed to kill both his parents, while Mitchell Young killed his younger brother and sister (Tanner and Isabella). Tucker savagely beat his father to death with a baseball bat and seriously injured his mother. The children survived unharmed only because Tanner was able to hide in a closet and phone the police. Initially, Tucker and Mitchell turned on each other, and each blamed the other for the murder, but ultimately Tucker confessed. Both boys were sentenced to life in prison.
13. Johnnie Jordan – Voice Told Him To Kill
15-year-old Johnnie Jordan had been severely mistreated before coming to reside with his foster mother, 62-year-old Jeanette Johnson. Jeanette was known for her kindness and sympathy toward troubled youths, including teenaged Johnnie, whose background included abusive drug-addict parents who lived in hoarder conditions. Johnnie was removed from his parents’ home and placed in multiple foster homes before coming to reside with Jeanette. In taped interviews, Johnnie detailed years and years of abuse from foster families and others, which marked a failure within the child welfare system. In 1995, when he was placed with the Johnsons, it was already too late for Johnnie. He’d been hearing voices and they told him to kill. While Mr. Johnson was away, he used a hatchet to crush Jeanette’s head and then set her body on fire. The Johnsons had no idea that Johnnie had a history of violence toward his foster parents, and because of that, social services were forced to change their policies and now disclose when a youth has violent tendencies.
12. Sabrina Zunich – Killed Her Foster Mom To Be With Her Father
Sabrina Zunich had a troubled upbringing and was placed with her foster parents as a teenager. The new situation was supposed to offer her some reprieve, a chance at a better life; suffice to say, it didn’t. Her foster father, 43-year-old Kevin Knoefel, felt an immediate attraction to her. He hated his wife, Sabrina’s foster mother, 41-year-old Lisa Knoefel. Sabrina testified that her intimate relationship with her foster father started when he wanted a massage. “I was massaging his inner thighs because of him being a truck driver and having pain there,” she told the jury. She was only 17 years old when the affair started. Lisa Knoefel had her suspicions, and Sabrina began to feel unwanted in the home. Kevin wanted his wife dead and began discussing the possibility of having a hitman take her life. She had approximately $785,000 in insurance policies, and he wanted the money and the freedom to continue his affair. Allegedly, he convinced Sabrina to commit murder. She used a 10-inch serrated kitchen knife to stab her foster mother 12 times and cut her 166 times. The court took little pity on her despite her remorse and the obvious abusive nature of her foster father. She was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 30 years.
11. Anthony Bluml – Killed For The Estate
Kisha Schaberg is the biological mother of Anthony and Christopher, but she was not a good mother — not by a long shot. She put her two sons up for adoption, and they were adopted by Roger and Melissa Bluml. Time passed, and the boys grew up in Valley Center, Kansas. Then, one fateful day, their mother contacted them via Facebook. For Anthony, this was an important moment. He wanted a relationship with his mother, and he shared details of his upbringing with her, including that he was likely to inherit his adoptive parents’ estate. Greedy Kisha, who already hated the Blumls, ensnared her son in a plot to kill his parents. Anthony lured them away from the home, so his mother and an accomplice could get inside. When the family returned, Kisha shot both Melissa and Roger in the head. Both Anthony and Kisha received life sentences for the murders with no possibility of parole.
10. Travis Gallo – Killed His Sister
Dr. Robert Gallo and his wife wanted a big family, so they had nine kids and adopted three more. They didn’t anticipate that their son, Travis Gallo, whom they adopted at 3 years old, would have such a strained relationship with his older sister, Teia. On a quiet Friday night, on a cul-de-sac in an affluent city, 17-year-old Travis stabbed 20-year-old Teia Gallo, multiple times. He killed her in front of their younger brother who, although panicked, notified police. Gallo washed the blood from his hands and weapon and attempted to hide the knife. This resulted in more charges for Gallo, including hindering prosecution and destroying evidence. Little has been said about Gallo’s motive other than the fact that he and his sister (who was also adopted) rarely got along, and that evening, their argument turned deadly. “My kids,” said Dr. Gallo, “they have altercations every once in a while, but we never had the sense that it would get to this.”
9. Joseph Wayne Cook Goswick – Strangled Adopted Father With A Belt
Like many adoptees, Joseph Wayne Cook Goswick had been shuffled from foster home to foster home until he was adopted at 10 years old. “He had major issues,” said Lucas Howard, a close friend of Wes Goswick, Joseph’s father. “Wes fell madly in love with him. He took him in, gave him a life better than he ever had, and supported him and took care of him.” Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to cure Joseph of his demons. At 17 years old, he dropped out of school and frequently argued with his father. These explosive arguments ended fatally when Joseph strangled his father with a belt, beat him with a blunt object, and then covered his dead body in blankets. Although investigators determined there was no underlying motive for the murder, they noted that the crime had taken place “after . . . a heated argument.” When Wes didn’t show up for a scheduled scout leader meeting, his friends began to worry. They dispatched police to the Goswick home, and they found his body and arrested his son for murder.
8. Aaron Howard – Beat His Mom With Lead Pipe
Aaron was 3 years old when he was adopted by Paul and Deborah Howard. Deborah was a leading expert on family violence and worked for Health Canada. Despite her expertise, she couldn’t stop her adoptive son from acting out. At 19 years old, he was lazy, argumentative, and a heavy drinker. On the day of her death, she’d only asked that her son clean his room. When he refused, an argument ensued, and Aaron’s rage turned physical. He beat her to death with a lead pipe. For days, she was missing and her family worried. They questioned Aaron, and he gave conflicting stories, which made them suspicious. A missing person’s report was filed, and police searched the home and discovered her body. Aaron had stashed her in a cold storage room in the basement, which was also his bedroom. Despite the savageness of his crime, the courts showed sympathy to Aaron. He was charged with second-degree murder and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
7. Joshua Jenkins – Murdered His Entire Family
Despite being adopted into a loving home, Joshua Jenkins grew up tormented. He was prone to frequent acts of violence, including once threatening to murder his dad. Armed with a combination crossbow and rifle, he threatened he would kill his father. His parents notified police and confiscated the weapons. They frequently had to call police on their son. Boarding school seemed a good place for the troubled kid, and he seemed to be doing okay attending a private school in Los Angeles for about a year. His family picked him up for a weekend visit. While they slept, Joshua armed himself with an ax, a hammer, and a kitchen knife. During the night, he crept into the adult’s bedroom. First, he murdered his parents. Then, he murdered his grandparents. He used all his weapons to violently kill them all. In the morning, his 10-year-old sister woke up to find her family slaughtered. She met the same fate when Joshua hit her over the head with an ax. He then set his grandparents’ condo on fire and then tried to escape in his parents’ Mercedes Benz. It didn’t take long for police to catch up with the boy. Despite being just 15 years old, Joshua was rightfully charged as an adult and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
6. David McCourt – 14-Year-Old Juvenile
Dawn and Bryan McKenzie were good people who wanted to help a down-and-out kid, so they became foster parents. They took in David McCourt, a troubled teenager suffering from “dissociative state,” which doctors classify as a mental disorder that didn’t allow him to “distinguish between reality and fiction.” Dawn was only trying to do right by the boy when she grounded him from using devices and confiscated his laptop. She didn’t know he would kill her for it. McCourt stabbed Dawn 10 times in both her head and her body while her husband was out of the home. Her injuries show that she had tried to defend herself. McCourt fled the home, and Dawn called authorities. Her last words were recorded by the dispatcher. She said, “Help, help… Mum, am I dying?” She died at the hospital. McCourt, a 14-year-old juvenile, was not tried as an adult. He was freed from his sentence in early 2016, less than five years after the murder.
5. Larry J. Swartz – Punished His Adoptive Parents For Tough Upbringing
By six years old, Larry had been moved in and out of 6 different foster homes. The Swartzes adopted him, but they were controlling and mean. They didn’t allow him to have friendships or girlfriends. Larry’s older brother, Michael, had a similar background to him. He also moved from one foster home to another before being adopted by the Swartzes. The difference between Michael and Larry was that Michael was considered a rebellious child, but this didn’t stop the boys from becoming best friends. Unfortunately for them, their parents were very critical and believed in harsh punishments for misbehavior. One night, Michael was out too late, so they locked the door and refused to ever let him in again. They abandoned him, which led to him being placed back into the foster care system. This resulted in more controlling behaviors toward Larry, including attempts to control his love life. Unable to take it any longer and in a drunken rage, Larry hit his mom over the head with a wood-splitting maul and stabbed her multiple times. When his dad walked in to check on things, Larry stabbed him multiple times too. He then staged a crime scene, going as far as to drag his mother into the backyard and strip her of clothing. The judge, although compassionate to the situation, sentenced Larry to two concurrent 20-year sentences.
4. Galen Stevenson – Killed Father For Unknown Reasons
George Stevenson was a good man. He coached youth baseball and was a mentor for young athletes. He was raised in a family that cared for lots of foster kids, and for this reason and more, he wanted to adopt a child of his own. He adopted an 8-year-old boy and renamed him Galen after his brother. It’s unknown why Galen Stevenson didn’t come to George with a name of his own or what his background was. It can be assumed that, like many foster kids, he had bounced from home to home quite a bit. What is known is that Galen had baggage. He was troubled and had to be sent away for treatment. In his teens, he acted out a great deal, but no one suspected he’d kill his adopted father. At only 16 years old, he stabbed his father repeatedly for reasons unknown, and he died as a result of his injuries.
3. Sapan Purani’s Girlfriend – While They Were Sleeping
Sapan Purani is not the name of the adoptee who killed her parents, but rather, her boyfriend’s name. He helped her commit the murders, and because of her age, the media has withheld her name. She was just 16 years old when she and her boyfriend laced her parent’s food with a sedative and then smothered them with a pillow while they slept. She and Purani tried to cover up the smell of rotting corpses with a chemical spray, but that wasn’t enough to mask the odor of two corpses. Neighbors alerted the authorities to a foul smell coming from inside the locked home. Police broke in while Purani and the girl were elsewhere. They instantly suspected the couple’s adopted daughter and her boyfriend, and after questioning, the two confessed to the murders. The adopted girl said that she killed her parents because they were abusive. She said they beat her sometimes and that they wouldn’t let her marry her boyfriend. They also forced her to study when she didn’t want to.
2. Moses Kamin – The Troubled Monster
Moses Kamin was only 15 years old when he killed both his mother and father. Susan Poff and Robert Kamin were good people, and they only wanted to do right by Moses who had been subjected to abuse and neglect before he joined their family. Emotionally scarred by his upbringing, Moses would often resort to physical violence to express himself. He frequently hit or kick his foster parents, but this didn’t deter Susan and Robert from wanting to help. They adopted him anyway and worked with psychologists. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Susan attempted to discipline her son after he was suspended from school for smoking marijuana. Moses choked her to death and then waited for his father to get home. As soon as Robert walked in, Moses attacked him from behind. He suffocated his father with a plastic bag. He confessed to the crimes and was remorseful. He told the court, “I’m sorry for the crime that I committed… I hope none of you forgive me for my crime. I know you all think of me as a monster or something else… I’m just going to fade away. I hope none of you remember me ever again…” He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 years to life.
1. Roksana Sikorski – The Only One To Fail
According to witness testimony, 15-year-old Roksana Sikorski was following the directions of her much older boyfriend when she attempted to murder her entire family. Her 23-year-old boyfriend texted her instructions, leading her first into her little sister’s room. The 11-year-old awoke to a knife at her throat and her sister staring menacingly down at her. “She said, ‘I love you,’ and she kissed me and then she left,” the little girl said during her court testimony. Next, Roksana crept to her little brother’s bedroom. She cut his throat, but he got away when his sister heard him screaming for help. She hit Roksana on the back, causing her to drop the knife. They escaped downstairs and alerted their parents. Despite serious injuries, the little brother survived. This is one case where no one died, but the intent to kill her adopted family was there. Roksana’s parents asked the courts to be lenient with her because she was being led by an abusive older man, but the courts ignored their pleas. Roksana received 10-20 years in adult prison for her crimes.