Children are meant to be the picture of innocence. Unmarred by the cruelties of life, we’re used to seeing them being sweet, silly, and adorable. We feel a natural instinct to protect children, which is why it can be so chilling when a child turns on us…or each other.
Occasionally the result of a difficult upbringing but sometimes owing to a severe disturbance in their brain and personality, children who kill are a freakish part of reality. To commit such an atrocity to family members, strangers, or other children is in itself incomprehensible, because we think that they don’t understand the consequences and gravity of their actions. And if they do, it’s that much creepier. Children who enjoy killing or who develop serial-killing tendencies from a young age are terrifying, to say the least. Plus, everyone knows that creepy kids are the scariest part of a horror movie! The only difference here is that these 15 cases actually happened. And far from these children being the victims of the crimes, they were the perpetrators. Some have since walked free. Some are still kept behind bars. And others are long since gone, but they will always be remembered as the creepiest killer children the world has ever known.
15. Jordan Brown
While a lot of killer children target other children, often younger and weaker than them, that was not the case for Jordan Brown. In 2009, 11-year-old Brown was charged with shooting and killing his father’s fiancée, Kenzie Houk, who was eight months pregnant at the time. Brown simply walked up to the sleeping Kenzie and shot her in the back of the head, using the youth-model shotgun Brown had been given as a gift for Easter.
The case made headlines not only for Brown’s young age, but for the fact that Brown was going to be tried as an adult, until Amnesty International intervened, saying that to try the child would be a human rights violation. Many could not determine any clear motive for Brown killing his soon-to-be stepmother and unborn stepbrother, but some cited jealousy. Brown, a spoiled child by most accounts, did not want to share his family, let alone his bedroom, with a baby brother. He will likely be set free when he turns 21.
14. Sean Richard Sellers
Most of the killer kids on this list are either behind bars or have been released and are living under assumed names. Unfortunately, for Sean Sellers, he was not so lucky as he was executed in 1999 for crimes he committed while under the age of 17.
In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, fears about Satanism in the United States were growing and people began to fight against those who were thought to be practicing dark arts. Claiming to be a practicing Satanist at the time of the murders, 16-year-old Sellers first killed his stepfather, then turned the gun on his mother and shot her in the face. To disguise his actions, Sellers arranged the scene to look like an intruder had committed the murders.
While Sellers tried to claim that the Devil made him do it, the jury didn’t believe him nor did they believe his eventual conversion to Christianity while in prison. After his execution, Sellers became (and still remains) the first and only person to be executed in the U.S. for crimes committed under the age of 17 since the reinstatement of the death penalty.
13. Lionel Tate
Lots of children get involved in roughhousing when they’re playing. Sometimes the play-fighting gets out of hand, someone gets hurt, and there’s a time-out for all involved. Unfortunately for Lionel Tate, his “play fight” with six-year-old Tiffany Eunick, ended in a much more fatal fashion.
In 1999, Tate was only 13 when he was convicted of first-degree murder in the battering death of Tiffany, who was being babysat by his mother at the time. While his mother was downstairs, Tate was downstairs with Tiffany, wrestling and imitating the moves he had seen on TV. He put her in a headlock and slammed her head into the table, which he alleged caused her to stop breathing. However, an autopsy revealed that Tiffany’s other injuries killed her, and that Tate had stomped on her so forcefully that her liver was lacerated. Her injuries, which included a fractured skull and rib and a swollen brain, were similar to that of being dropped from a three-story building. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the youngest in American history.
12. Graham Young
Poison is usually attributed to being a woman’s choice of murder tool, but young murderer Graham Young, had the method down to a science. Known as the “Teacup Poisoner,” Young developed a fascination with toxic substances early in life and would test them on his family, making them violently ill. In February of 1962, when Young was only 14, his stepmother began to feel ill and even hallucinated while on the train. It was found that she had been slipped the deadly poison belladonna. By April of the same year, she was dead. Young was immediately considered a suspect and sent to Broadmoor Hospital until 1970, when he convinced the doctors that he had been cured.
The doctors should have been more careful because shortly after his release, Young went on a rampage, poisoning 70 people, two of whom died. After no one figured out what the cause for these mysterious illnesses was, Young let slip that it was likely thallium poisoning, incriminating himself. He was imprisoned until the age of 42, when he allegedly took his own life through the means that had made him famous.
11. David Brom
Acting out as a teenager is a normal thing to do, and arguments about clothing, friends, grades, and music are all par for the course. With that being said, few children take the route 16-year-old David Brom did, which was murder his entire family after he and his father disagreed over one of the tapes he was listening to.
In 1988, Brom took an axe to his father, mother, sister, and younger brother. It took 56 blows to kill them all. Rather than keep quite about his crimes, Brom had spoken to a female friend about what he had done, going into great detail about the events, with the witness describing, “He said he hit his dad with an axe. He kept on hitting his dad and his dad kept on getting up.” While Brom claimed not guilty by reason of insanity, the fact that he was so willing to spill the details and could clearly remember everything he had done was a strike against him. He was tried and sentenced as an adult, and will not be eligible for release until 2041.
10. Jesse Pomeroy
A record-maker when it came to murder, Jesse Pomeroy was only 11 in 1871 when he was convicted of first-degree murder and named the youngest offender in the history of Massachusetts. Pomeroy got an early start, molesting and torturing younger boys, using pins and knives to attack them. The viciousness of these attacks left some of the victims permanently scarred. Pomeroy was eventually arrested and sent to a reform school, but was let out on good behavior after a year and a half, after which the attacks turned even more brutal.
At the age of 14, Pomeroy murdered and mutilated 10-year-old Katie Curran, who had wandered into his mother’s dress shop. He carelessly concealed her body in the basement under an ash heap. Shortly afterwards, he murdered a 4-year-old boy with such violence that the child’s head was almost decapitated. His cold remorseless attitude at being questioned over these murders was what led investigators to believe that he was the culprit. Pomeroy was sentenced to death by hanging before it was altered to life in prison and solitary confinement.
9. Craig Price
When a child earns a nickname for the sheer severity and quantity of his or her crimes, then that child becomes a terrifying person. In the case of Craig Price, who was nicknamed the “Warwick Slasher,” he was only 13 when he committed his first murder by brutally stabbing a 27-year-old neighborhood woman 58 times in 1987. Two years later, he claimed three more victims—another female neighbor and her two young daughters, aged 8 and 10. The wounds were so deep that the knives broke off at the handles.
While Price had a criminal record for petty theft prior to the murders, according to investigators, he seemed nonchalant about the extent of his crimes. When describing the night he killed the family of three, he mimicked the sounds of the two dying girls and upon his arrest, bragged that he would “make history” when he was released. Seasoned police officers state that Price was a serial killer who was stopped at only four murders, and was likely to kill again if given the opportunity. For now, he’s still being kept behind bars, at least until his scheduled release date in December 2020.
8. Mary Bell
The most chilling thing about 11-year-old murderer Mary Bell, wasn’t her young age. It was the fact that, when apprehended for strangling her 4-year-old victim, she said she committed the killing “solely for the pleasure and excitement.”
This wasn’t Bell’s only murder. At the age of 13, she, along with friend Norma Joyce Bell (no relation), strangled a 3-year-old, with Bell returning later to the scene of the crime to carve a letter “M” into her young victim’s stomach. She also used a pair of scissors to cut off some of the young boy’s hair, scratch at his legs, and mutilate his genitals. Bell was a boastful child, who claimed that her history of being s*xually assaulted as a child was the cause of her crimes. However, she seemed quite content to proclaim that she was the culprit in both cases, even breaking into a nursery with her friend Norma to write that she was the murderer in the first case. Convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility owing to her age, Bell served 12 years and was released in 1980 under a new name.
7. Eric Smith
Diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, 13-year-old Eric Smith was known to act out violently and unpredictably throughout his childhood. Regularly bullied for his red hair, low-set ears, and thick glasses, Smith was filling up with rage, only for it to unleash itself on 4-year-old Derrick Robie.
In August of 1993, Smith was riding his bike home when he lured Derrick into the woods nearby. There, he strangled him, dropped a large rock on his head, undressed him, and sodomized his body with a stick. By all accounts, Derrick was random for Smith, an easy and innocent target to focus his rage on. After committing the murder, Smith reportedly told his father (without hinting as to the cause) that he “felt better now.”
Convicted of second-degree murder, Smith was given the maximum sentence of nine years to life in prison. He has been denied parole eight times and the prosecutor on the case has stated, “I don’t doubt for a second, never have doubted, that had he not been caught, Eric Smith would have killed again. And that’s terrifying.”
6. Alyssa Bustamante
Called a teenage “thrill killer,” Alyssa Bustamante was just 15 when she choked and stabbed her nine-year-old neighbor to death. It was 2009 and her neighbor, Elizabeth Olten, was not the intended target, as it is thought that Bustamante was actually looking to murder her two twin brothers, since she had prepared two graves. Plans changed, however, when she spotted Elizabeth walking home from a friend’s house, leading Bustamante to lure the girl into the woods where she killed her.
While her violent actions are shocking, what was more shocking was her reason for wanting to do it. In her diary, Bustamante confessed that she wanted to know what it was like to kill someone. A diary entry after she murdered Olten read, “I just f***ing killed someone. I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them and now they’re dead. I don’t know how to feel ATM. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the ‘ohmygawd I can’t do this’ feeling, it’s pretty enjoyable.”
5. Joshua Phillips
In a move that is reminiscent of the grotesque trophies often kept by more seasoned serial killers, 14-year-old Joshua Phillips kept a trophy of his own—the dead body of his 8-year-old victim, stuffed under his waterbed.
Killer and victim were playing baseball in the backyard when Phillips accidentally hit Maddie Clifton in the eye with the ball. Phillips feared she would get him into trouble since the two weren’t supposed to be playing together. So, what he did was drag Maddie inside his house where he strangled her with a phone cord, hit her with a baseball bat, and stabbed her repeatedly. Out of fear of being found out, Phillips stuffed Maddie’s body under his bed, and it wasn’t until his mother was cleaning his room over a week later that she noticed it was leaking and found the decomposing corpse inside. Although there was no evidence of any s*xual activity, the victim’s body was found naked from the waist down. The autopsy showed that Maddie was still alive when she was stuffed into Phillips’ mattress.
4. Edmund Kemper
This killer kid didn’t stop at murder when he was still a youth. Instead, he went on to become one of the most notorious adult serial killers in modern history. Edmund Kemper was just 15 when he committed his first murders in 1964. A textbook psychopath and sociopath, Kemper displayed an interest in torturing animals and had a deeply troubling relationship with his abusive mother. When teased by his sister as to why he didn’t try to kiss his teacher, Kemper chillingly replied, “If I kiss her, I’d have to kill her first.”
It was in the summer of 1964 that Kemper, enraged by an argument with his grandmother, took his hunting rifle and shot both her and his grandfather. When questioned as to why he did what he did, Kemper simply said, “I just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma.”
Released at 21, Kemper waited three years before going on his murder spree in which he solely targeted women, dismembering and violating their bodies. There are just some things you just don’t grow out of.
3. Peter Woodcock
Peter Woodcock had a tough childhood. From infancy, he was shuttled to numerous foster homes and was already displaying signs of severe emotional trauma at the tender age of three, when he was placed in a permanent foster home. Physically abused and regularly terrified, Woodcock was bullied at school and often acted out.
He also hated other children.
What began as violent fantasies about hurting children soon morphed into actions. And when he was 13 in the early 1950’s, he began acting on his s*xual urges towards children. Soon, he started murdering them. From 1956 to 1957, Woodcock claimed three victims, two boys, aged seven and nine, and one girl, aged four. Almost all had the same markers. They had been strangled and bitten, their clothing had been removed and redressed, and small items were sprinkled around their remains. In the case of the girl, violent molestation was what killed her. Later, in 1991, after he had been imprisoned, Woodcock just let a day pass and then promptly killed again. He died in 2010 and was described by The Toronto Star as “the serial killer they couldn’t cure.”
2. Amarjeet Sada
Stunning international news outlets, Amarjeet (or Armadeep) Sada was only eight in 2007 when it was discovered that he had murdered three young children, including his own sister. This made him India’s youngest serial killer, and possibly the world’s. All of his victims were less than a year old, including his eight-month-old sister, six-month-old female cousin, and a random six-month-old girl who had been left in the care of a primary school while her mother attended to household chores. Sada admitted that he killed all three infants in the same way—by bashing their faces in with a brick.
Despite the stunning and gruesome nature of his crimes, Sada’s acts were known to family members and a even few villagers, but the issue was not brought to the authorities because it was considered to be a “family matter.” Apparently, when questioned by the police, Sada simply smiled a lot during the interrogation and asked for biscuits. Diagnosed with a conduct disorder and a chemical imbalance in his brain that caused him to derive satisfaction from behaving sadistically, Sada has since served his time and is a free man.
1. Jon Venables & Robert Thompson
As England’s youngest convicted murderers, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were only 10 when they committed the gruesome murder of 2-year-old James Bulger, in 1993. A video footage shows the boys in a busy shopping center looking for victims before choosing James and leading him away from his mother to some railroad tracks nearby. While there, Venables and Thompson inflicted some of the most disturbing torture possible on the toddler. They beat him with an iron bar, threw bricks at him, piled stones on his head, violated him with batteries, and finally weighted him down on the tracks so that a train could cut his poor body in half. James suffered so many injuries that pathologists couldn’t even determine his cause of death.
Both Venables and Thompson were released from prison in 2001, at the age of 18, despite public outcry and the grotesque nature of their crimes. In 2010, Venables was sentenced to two years for downloading and distributing indecent images of children. He was finally released in 2013.