What are you supposed to do with kids who murder? This has got to be one of the creepiest questions throughout history. In fact, it only creates more questions. Do these kids fully understand what death is? Either way, it’s obvious that something must be done about it. You can’t give a spanking, restriction, or time-out in exchange for a life, can you? So, what do you do with children like 10-year-old Mary Bell? Back in May of 1968, she strangled 4-year-old Martin Brown. Just two months later, she and a friend strangled 3-year-old Brian Howe. So, what needs to be done? The idea of a kid committing a brutal murder is creepy enough for us to try and grasp, let alone how to handle it. This is where the controversy begins. If the kid is tried as a juvenile, then the law requires that he/she be released at 21 years old. If a kid has the capacity to commit such a brutal murder, then what’s in his/her future? They could be letting a monster loose...much too soon.
However, if they’re tried as an adult for first-degree murder, a kid will be sentenced to life in prison, which does seem a little harsh. Every situation is different, though. The kids either claim innocence, abuse, or that it was accidental. The creepiest kids just stoically confess with little to no remorse. In effect, it makes the system controversial because there’s no way of telling if a child is a monster or if it was truly an accident. There are prosecutors that’ll bet their lives that these children are monsters. Meanwhile, there are protesters, human rights organizations, and petitions asking for the kid’s leniency. Whose side are you on? Let’s look at some of the creepiest kids with the most controversial murder convictions.
16 Lionel Tate
Lionel Tate was described as a smart but troubled 12-year-old boy. His mother was enlisted by her neighbor/friend to watch her 6-year-old daughter, Tiffany Eunick. He loved WWE (it was still known as WWF back then). His favorite wrestler was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Lionel’s story was that he was just wrestling with Tiffany, but she hit her head on the table. The judge wasn’t buying it. Tiffany had at least 35 injuries, including a fractured skull, broken ribs, along with various cuts and bruises.
In January of 2001, Lionel Tate was convicted of first-degree murder. In May, his family sobbed as he was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment without parole. Sounds a bit intense to send a 14-year-old boy to prison for the rest of his life, doesn’t it? Try telling that to the grieving parents of Tiffany Eunick. Lionel said that Tiffany’s murder was an accident after all. Or, was it? By 2003, Lionel’s case had created so much controversy that his conviction was overturned. Within two years, Tate went on to violate his probation by leaving his home, robbing a pizza boy at gunpoint, and assaulting an occupant at the apartment the pizza was being delivered to. He is now serving a 30-year prison sentence.
15 Eric Smith
Eric Smith looks harmless enough in this photo. It’s his red hair, freckles and glasses, right? Yet, it’s that cold, creepy stare that’s bound to send chills up your spine. The same cold, creepy gaze has followed him into his adult years. Eric was only 14 in this trial photo, although he’s 37 now. He grew up in prison and will most likely die there. He’s already been up for parole 8 times since 2002, but the parole board hasn’t set him free yet. Not as of 2016, anyway. Hold on! Don’t go feeling sorry for him just yet.
It was back in 1993 that Eric confessed to the murder of four-year-old Derrick Robie. Eric had strangled him first, before dropping 2 large rocks on his head. He finished by inserting a tree limb into Derrick’s rectum to ensure that he was dead. He also poured Kool Aide into his wounds. Eric was convicted and sentenced to 9 years to life in prison. His apologies have been just as emotionless and cold, as his face is in that trial photo above. He has told the parole board that he looks forward to counseling bullied youths following his release. Guess we’ll see what happens in 2018.
14 Jordan Brown
This creepy 11-year-old killer is Jordan Brown. He looks awfully happy in this photo, especially for someone who recently shot his dad’s pregnant fianceé, Kenzie Houk. It appears that the photo was taken from jail or juvenile. He was sent there after his attorney won a motion that the jail wasn’t equipped to house an 11-year-old. That was the first of several wins for Jordan. The case was incredibly controversial. Why wouldn’t it be? An 11-year-old murderer who might get sentenced to life in prison.
This wasn’t just some random gun accident either. There was plenty of evidence. The gun was Jordan’s (a present from dad). He and his dad were hunters. His shooting skills were great from practice. His family and friends spoke of him being a good, happy kid. His smile lit up a room (obviously). Then, there was his age. He was only 11, after all. The judge ruled that he was to be tried as an adult. Meanwhile, his attorney insisted that his case should be handled in juvenile court. If so, his sentence couldn’t go past his 21st birthday. I bet you guessed who won. He was released last year at only 18. Kenzie Houk’s family felt robbed. Jordan was even given a new identity to start over. He could be your kid’s friend in college.
13 Brendan Dassey
You must have heard about Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey and the frequent updates on his release. It’s all over the place. He’s Steven Avery’s 16-year-old nephew. It is Brendan’s confession in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach that has made this case globally controversial, let alone the s*xual assault and mutilation of her corpse. Now, Brendan’s conviction is likely going to be overturned. Thanks in part to Netflix and their hit docuseries, Making a Murderer.
In it, the docuseries notes that Brendan was questioned alone at 16 years old. His IQ was only 70 at the time. It also appears that Brendan was fed key information to the case and coerced into repeating it or making some of it up; sort of like a guessing game. However, the series leaves out plenty of facts. For instance, only audio was used in the first school interview where Brendan could identify what color Teresa’s clothes were. There’s really no way of knowing if he’s innocent or if a killer is being set loose.
12 Curtis & Catherine Jones
It’s not likely that you missed seeing details of this case unfold if you lived in Port St. John, Florida, in 1999. The kids you see above were accused of killing their father’s girlfriend, Sonya Speights, in a murder plot built upon jealousy. They’re not even really accused but actually confessed killers. The girl, 13-years-old Catherine Jones, came up with the idea. The plot was supposed to include their father and another family member. However, Catherine and her 12-year-old brother, Curtis Jones, admitted to shooting Sonya. The case was open and shut. No controversy, no big deal; convicted of second-degree murder for an 18-year plea deal.
However, things aren’t always as they seem. Catherine did an interview from prison 10 years later. In it, she admitted that the other family member living in the home was both s*xually and physically abusive towards her and Curtis. The paper that did the interview, Florida Today, did their research too. Records showed that child welfare had found signs supporting the abuse claims, but had done nothing. They had suggested that the relative should be removed from the home because he was a convicted pedophile, but that didn’t help. Catherine and Curtis were both released in 2015. Catherine married a guy from the Navy before her release. Curtis became a minister.
11 Nathaniel Abraham
The state of Michigan passed a law in 1996. It was considered the harshest of its kind, allowing children of any age to be tried as adults. It was in 1997 that 11-year-old Nathaniel Abraham went outside and shot a rifle towards a store, fatally shooting 17-year-old Ronnie Greene. The prosecution called the murder premeditated. Nate had stolen the rifle and practiced shooting. Plus, he told his girlfriend, “I’m gonna shoot someone,” just days before the shooting. By the time his trial concluded in 1999, he was convicted of second-degree murder as an adult.
The judge had the option of sentencing 64-pound Nate as an adult, a juvenile, or a combination of both. The prosecution was hoping for the blended sentence. He would’ve been sentenced to juvenile detention, but it would’ve left the option for a prison sentence, following a review at 21. However, Judge Moore opted to sentence him as just a juvenile. Nate was sent to a maximum-security juvenile detention center. In 2007, Nate was set free at 20. By 2012, he was serving a 20-year sentence for drug-related charges and awaiting a new trial for assaulting two prison guards.
10 Jamie Silvonek
That blubbering mess above is 14-year-old Jamie Silvonek. Don’t let those crocodile tears fool you. That was how Jamie looked when she was facing 35 years to life in prison. In 2015, she was happily in love with her 20-year-old boyfriend, Caleb Barnes. Jamie’s mother, Cheryl Silvonek, caught the couple in bed together. She threatened to report Caleb (an army cadet) for sleeping with a minor. Jamie and Caleb set Cheryl up, agreeing to cut ties, but only if they could go to a concert together first. Cheryl agreed, but drove the couple there and back.
Cheryl was punched, strangled, and stabbed in the neck in her own driveway. Caleb took the blame initially, but Jamie was still arrested as a solicitor to Cheryl’s murder. She also tried to accuse her boyfriend of r*ping her and forcing her to participate. It wasn’t until later that the text messages were found. In one message, Jamie texted, “She needs to go, Caleb, right now.” The messages proved that Jamie was more than just an accomplice. In 2016, Jamie took a plea for second-degree murder and a sentence of 35 years to life in prison. Her dad, Dave Silvonek, is currently working with her attorneys on appeals. He’s hoping to get Jamie a second chance through juvenile court. Unfortunately, that’s more than her mother will ever get.
9 Wendy Gardner
This creepy kid participated in the brutal yet controversial murder of her grandmother. Wendy Gardner was only 13 when she and her 15-year-old boyfriend, James Evans, plotted to kill her grandmother, Betty Gardner, in 1994. Wendy and her younger sister, Kathy (11), went to live with her grandmother as little girls. Her mother was a drug addict who had died from AIDS the year before Betty’s murder. Wendy, who was a straight-A student, before meeting James, accused her grandmother of both physical and mental abuse. Many people believed her story despite her famous last words to her grandmother of “Just Do It!” as James choked her and strangled her grandmother to death with a kite string.
It was 11-year-old Kathy who testified that Wendy forced her to watch. The couple went on to have s*x in the room that she was killed in. This was followed by a spending spree. Meanwhile, Betty Gardner’s body was in the trunk of the car. Both were tried as adults, but their ages were considered in sentencing. James Evans was convicted of second-degree murder in 1996. He was sentenced to 9 years to life in prison, but is considered a sociopath and hasn’t been released yet. Wendy Gardner was convicted of second-degree murder in 1997 too, but was sentenced to 7 years to life. She was released in 2004.
8 Christian Fernandez
Back in 2013, 13-year-old Christian Hernandez’ first-degree murder charges were nationally controversial. Christian had led a neglectful, abusive life already when his 25-year-old mother, Biannela Susana, left him to watch his 2-year-old brother, David Galarraga. She did this even though he had recently broken the tot’s leg while doing wrestling moves. By the time she returned, David was unconscious. Christian confessed that he had pushed David into a bookshelf twice. Biannela went on to spend four hours surfing online before taking David to the hospital. Medical examiners claimed that the timing contributed to David’s death, which came four days later.
Both Biannela and Christian were arrested and charged. Although, it was Christian that took the brunt of the charges for his mother’s negligence. She pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter and was released immediately. Meanwhile, there were petitions fighting for Christian’s behalf. He was facing life in prison. In 2013, Christian took a plea bargain and was convicted of juvenile charges of aggravated battery and manslaughter. Despite this, he was still sentenced to 7 years in juvenile detention. He won’t be released until he turns 19 years old, which will be in 2018. That’s more than twice the time his mother served.
7 Kelly Ellard
This creepy kid is just as cold as her expression in this photo. You might not recognize her, but Kelly Ellard (15) was convicted in the 1997 murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk. The murder shocked British Columbia, Canada. Although, it has been the lenient handling of her killer, Kelly Ellard, that has been most controversial. Reena was invited to a party by a bridge, where she was first beaten by a group of six “friends” who became known as the Shoreline Six. In this beating, Reena was burned with cigarettes and an attempt was made to set her hair on fire, before one of the girls finally urged the others to stop.
Despite all of this, Reena still managed to walk away, but was followed by Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski. Reena underwent another beating from the pair, and it was Kelly who held her face under the water. Her body was washed ashore 8 days later. Kelly was tried for second-degree murder 3 times. Her final sentence was given in 2005, which was 7 years to life in prison. She’s been up for parole, but it was denied. In 2016, Kelly got knocked up by a visiting gang member. In February of 2017, she was granted leaves from prison for visiting her baby and parenting classes. It’s believed that this was her plan to get parole. Hey, if the system is lenient enough for her to get pregnant in jail, why not, right?
6 Paula Cooper
Paula Cooper’s 1986 murder conviction and sentence were about as controversial as any could possibly get. It was the sentence handed down by the court in Gary, Indiana that sparked international outrage. In her hearing, Paula was deemed a threat to society and the ringleader to the trio of girls, aged 14 to 16, who robbed 78-year-old Ruth Pelke. The girls’ motive was Pelkes’ money and her car. The cash that they got away with equaled to $10. However, it was 15-year-old Paula who fatally stabbed Pelke 33 times in 1985. The other girls each received 25 to 60-year sentences, but it was Paula’s hand that had welded the butcher knife.
Paula’s attorney advised her to give a guilty plea. She was sentenced to death the following year, on July 11th of 1986. Despite the initial outrage, Paula was sent to Death Row at Indiana Women’s Prison. Obviously, death was much too steep of a sentence for a young girl who had so much time to change. Between the US and United Nations, there were over 3 million signatures gathered on petitions. Her story was featured on 60 Minutes. Plus, Pope John Paul II sent a personal plea on Paula’s behalf and condemned the sentence. The state was forced to commute Paula’s sentence down to 60 years. Paula was released in 2013. She spent nearly 30 years in prison only to commit suicide in 2015.
5 The Elkhart 4
These kids weren’t to terribly creepy, although they did make a tragic mistake that left one of the five dead and the rest serving life sentences for his murder. What makes their convictions so creepy is the same thing that makes the entire situation controversial. Their friend, 21-year-old Danzele Johnson, was fatally shot in a burglary scheme gone wrong. These 3 youths and one adult were all convicted of his murder, yet none of them pulled the trigger. They are now known as The Elkhart 4.
It was in 2012 that Blake Laymen (16), Levi Sparks (17), Anthony Sharp (18) (all three seen above), and Jose Quiroz (15), plus their 21-year-old friend, Danzele, planned a burglary. The boys thought the neighbor’s house was empty after knocking and broke in. The occupant, Rodney Scott, was home. However, he didn’t hear the knocks because he was asleep. That’s when he woke up and shot Danzele. All four were charged with felony murder since it was the burglary that led to their friend’s death. Three went to trial and were convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 50-55 years apiece. In 2015, their murder convictions were overturned. They were all re-sentenced to a maximum of 20 years for burglary instead. Jose wasn’t eligible for an appeal because he took a plea deal for 45 years back in 2012.
4 Joshua Phillips
Joshua Phillips is one of the more creepy kids, whose murder conviction was totally controversial. He was only 14 years old in 1998 when he killed his 8-year-old neighbor, Maddie Clifton. His abusive home life was brought up in his trial, making his conviction of first-degree murder controversial. He even had his his own 48 Hours documentary called Why Did Josh Kill? His abuse came from his violent tempered father. Maddie disappeared on November 3rd, 1998, and a huge search was underway (which included Joshua) for a week. America’s Most Wanted covered her disappearance as well.
It wasn’t until Joshua’s mother found that his waterbed was “leaking” and discovered Maddie’s body. She had died from stab wounds and due to clubbing with a baseball bat. Joshua’s story was that he was playing baseball with Maddie when the ball smacked her in the eye. Maddie’s eye was bleeding and she was screaming, so Joshua claimed that he panicked. He took her to his room, then proceeded to strangle her with a phone cord. He hit her more with the bat before stabbing her with the knife. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. In February of 2017, there was a court date set for Joshua (who’s now 37) to be re-sentenced. This is due to a new Supreme Court law that states mandatory life imprisonment is unconstitutional for juveniles. However, the date has been rescheduled for September 6, 2017.
3 George Stinney
This is the oldest case in this article, but it’s also the creepiest and most controversial. It was 1944 when 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. was taken into custody for the murder of two little white girls, Betty Binnicker (11) and Mary Thames (8). The girls had apparently asked George and his sister Amie, if they knew where some “maypops” were. The little girls were killed picking wildflowers. They had been beaten over the head with a railroad spike and dumped in a ditch.
George was arrested and interrogated without a parent or attorney. The law requiring that defendants have access to counsel wasn’t in effect until 20 years later. George went to trial. The entire event only lasted 2 hours. There was little to no evidence, and the defense called slim to no witnesses. The jury only deliberated for 10 minutes before finding him guilty and sentenced to death by execution. On June 29th of 1944, George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person in modern America to ever be convicted and executed for murder. His exoneration didn’t come until 70 years, following his death in 2014. He was said to have asked another inmate once, “Why would they kill me for something I didn’t do?”
2 Jon Venables & Robert Thompson
Robert Thompson and Jon Venables are the creepiest convicted murderers you’ll ever see. Although, you wouldn’t know it by their baby-faced mugshots. They abducted, tortured, and murdered 2-year-old James Bulger. James disappeared on February 12th, 1993. He was found 2 days later at a railway. His body had been mutilated and split by a train. Fortunately, his 10-year-old murderers weren’t smart enough to look for cameras at the time of his abduction or else they’d have gotten away Scott-free. The video told the tale of how James’ tragic death began.
The boys abducted him from the shopping mall. They took him on a 2-mile walk to the railway, dropping him repeatedly on his head as they walked. Then, one of them threw blue paint into his eye. Both boys kicked and stomped on him. Bricks and stones were thrown at him. The final blow came when a 22-ton iron was dropped on James’ head. James had 42 injuries in total. Robert and Jon left his body on the railroad tracks, hoping that James would be run over to cover their tracks. There were three suggestions for sentences. Most people didn’t feel that 8 was appropriate. Ten years was suggested, but 280,000 people signed a petition asking for at least 15. Robert and Jon were given 8 years and new identities upon their release. The identities were meant to protect them from vigilantes. Jon Venables has been in and out of custody ever since.
1 Melinda Loveless, Laurie Tackett, Hope Rippey, & Toni Lawrence
It’s hard to tell which of these four creepy kids’ mugshots is the creepiest. Although, the smiley-faced girls appear to be lacking the most sympathy or empathy for the murder of 12-year-old Shanda Sharer. Melinda Loveless is the first. She was the ringleader. Melinda was jealous of Shanda’s relationship with her ex-girlfriend. Yep, girlfriend. It was her and Laurie Tackett (top-right) who carried out most of the torture on Shanda. They beat her, stabbed her, and even tried to slit her throat. Hope Rippey (bottom left) played a big role in this too. The only girl who felt sickened and didn’t carry through much of the heinous acts was Toni Lawrence (bottom right). The girls carried Shanda around in the trunk as the torture went on. They eventually finished her off by burning her alive.
The girls were between the ages of 15 to 17 years old. They all bragged or (in Toni’s case) hysterically told their friends about the gruesome ordeal. Each girl was tried as an adult in the state of Indiana. Their cases picked up nationwide headlines and shows like Dr. Phil. The girls all accepted plea deals. Toni Lawrence was convicted of criminal confinement and given a lower sentence of 20 years. She was released in 2000, after only 9 years. Melinda Loveless and Laurie Tackett were convicted of murder and given a 60-year sentence. Their earliest possible parole hearing won’t be until 2020. The most recent controversy was that the original sentence of 60 years given to Hope Rippey was dropped to 35 years instead. She was released on parole in 2008, despite playing a major part in Shanda’s murder. In fact, she appears less concerned with Shanda’s murder (and her part in it) than Laurie Tackett. Plus, she lured Shanda to the other girls. How’s that for a creepy kid with a controversial murder conviction?