While a murder is always shocking and tragic, there are certain circumstances under which they can become more shocking still. When it is committed by someone we least expect, murder can become the most spectacular news stories, tales that fascinate us for months and even years. Child killers are one of the most interesting and controversial sub-groups of murderers.
Kids who kill are often vilified, or treated as innocent, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes a child can kill a younger and more defenceless child by accident, or out of a belief that they were doing something good. But when a child kills on purpose, it is spine-chilling. The argument of whether they were old enough to know right from wrong always arises, and there is plenty of debate as to how a juvenile murderer should be treated.
What really seems to incense people, however, is when these kid killers get special treatment and even protection from the government. Some have their sentences reduced because of their age, some have their identities concealed, and some get new identities when they come out of prison. Others are helped by the government in other ways. While it is always important that innocent people are defended, it seems that the government often focuses on protecting the identity of a teen or child killer – but not the innocent victims whose lives they took. Here are 15 examples of killer kids who have the government’s protection on their side, whether they deserve it or not.
15 Mary Bell
She was a child murderer who shocked the world in 1968, with many questioning how someone so young could dare to commit such a horrible crime. Mary Bell was 10 years old when she killed 4-year-old Martin Brown and 3-year-old Brian Howe by strangulation. At first, police thought the boys may have died of natural causes, as her grip was so light that she did not leave marks on their necks. She was supposed to be jailed for life, but left prison aged just 23 with a brand-new identity courtesy of the British government. She also had a daughter and even a granddaughter, with her identity being changed several times over the years to protect her family. She has been outed by the community at least 5 times over her life. The cost to create a new identity is huge for the government, but this double murderess gets a new one every time she is found out.
14 Joshua Phillips
When Joshua Phillips was 14, he started playing with an 8-year-old neighbour called Maddie Clifton. She then disappeared. His mother was cleaning his room a while later when she noticed that his waterbed was leaking. When she investigated further, she found Maddie’s body hidden in the pedestal. Phillips claimed he strangled her, stabbed her, and hit her with a baseball bat because he was scared of what his father would do after he accidentally injured her. He was charged with first-degree murder and convicted to life in prison. However, now the legal system has backtracked and is trying to reduce his sentence. It was declared unconstitutional, and while in prison he was allowed to study for and gain a paralegal degree. He now helps other inmates with their appeals and his new sentencing is set for later this year. It seems odd that a state where the death sentence is applied would try to help a killer, but the government seem to have his freedom as a priority.
13 Cindy Collier and Shirley Wolf
15-year-old Cindy Collier had been abused and raped before the age of 10, and became a juvenile delinquent. 14-year-old Shirley Wolf had also been abused and raped by her father since the age of 3. When these two girls met in juvenile detention, they recognized their soul mates. Concocting a plan to run away together, they decided that they would have to kill someone to steal a car. They chose 85-year-old Anna Brackett because she allowed them to use her phone. They stabbed her to death, then ran, before being caught by police. They were given the maximum sentence: detention until the age of 25 – just 10 years of imprisonment. Collier was allowed to get a law degree, and both girls left prison to start normal family lives. Collier is now married with children and living in anonymity, though Wolf has been in and out of jail throughout her adult life.
12 JR, From Alberta
A 12-year-old girl from Alberta was the youngest person in Canada to have a conviction for multiple counts of first-degree murder, reaching 13 by the time of her sentencing. She was dating a man called Jeremy Steinke who was a shocking 23 years old – and, needless to say, her parents did not approve. She reacted violently, going on to killed both of her parents as well as her 8-year-old brother. She was sentenced to 10 years in a psychiatric hospital in 2007, but by 2011 she had been let out to live in the community. She now lives alone and takes classes all under the blanket of anonymity, since we only know her initials. She has been assessed as having a low risk to reoffend. Which makes sense: you can only murder your parents once, after all. This killer is now living in total anonymity under the protection of the Canadian government, after gaining a new identity.
11 Girl A + Girl B
Dubbed the ‘Snapchat killers’ by the press, two teen girls got into hot water when they decided to target loner Angela Wrightson. They tortured her by battering her with a shovel, coffee table, kettle, and even a stick which was studded with screws. They took pictures of themselves with their victim, filmed it on their phones, and uploaded shots to Snapchat. They even took and uploaded a selfie from inside the police van after they were caught, showing a callous lack of remorse. A neighbour was quoted as saying, “Separately they could be quite sweet girls but together they were devils.” They were both convicted of the murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but their identities were kept secret. Known only as Girl A and Girl B, they will remain that way, allowing them to leave prison with no one any the wiser as to their real names.
10 Lisa Healey
In 1998, Lisa Healey was just 15 years old. She went with a 14-year-old friend to meet a widow named Lily Lilley, an innocent and largely defenceless 71-year-old woman. The girls pretended to make friends with her before spending two days torturing her, attacking her with various implements in a vile ordeal. Finally, when Lilley died from the ongoing abuse, they dumped her body in a canal near Manchester. Healey was convicted and sent to an open prison, where she ended up meeting another criminal – marijuana grower Michael Dent. The two got into a relationship and she had his baby in prison. In 2009, she was released from prison and given a brand new identity funded by the government – despite the problematic fact that she was moving back in with her parents, not far from where she grew up and committed her crimes. If ever there was a waste of money, that sounds like it.
9 Paul Gingerich
In 2011, 12-year-old Paul Gingerich was tried as an adult for his part in the murder of a friend’s stepfather. He, along with 15-year-old Colt Lundy, shot at Phil Danner until he was dead. They had planned to run away to Arizona afterwards, but instead were caught and jailed. Both were given 25 year sentences. But the government took notice, and a new law named ‘Paul’s Law’ was brought into effect. This law affirms that minors must only be sentenced to juvenile detention until the age of 18, at which point they must be reassessed by a judge to decide whether they should go into adult prison. True to the law, Paul’s case was reassessed when he turned 18. His exemplary behaviour in detention allowed him to secure an early release, to go and live with his mother. Having a whole law created just to get you out of prison early must be a pretty special feeling.
8 Lionel Tate
The state court intervened after Lionel Tate was incarcerated, paving the way for him to go home early and start again. In 1999, he was just 13 years old when he battered 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick to death. His mother was babysitting the child when he put her into a wrestling headlock and slammed her head against the table. He claims that he was copying moves he had seen on television, but her injuries were huge – including a fractured skull, swollen brain, and fractured rib. He was given a sentence of life imprisonment, which was overturned when it was proven that he had not understood the initial plea deal he was offered. This gave him the chance to take it again: three years in a youth facility followed by 10 years of probation. He was released in 2004 on house arrest. Sadly, this was one where the government were wrong: he was further arrested for carrying a weapon, armed burglary with battery, armed robbery, and violation of his probation. He is now serving 30 years.
7 The Devil Boys
Aged just 10 and 11 when they committed their crimes, the Devil Boys were not actually murderers – but not for want of trying. They left their victims for dead, and must have been surprised when they showed up able to give witness statements against them. They kidnapped a pair of boys aged 11 and 9, took them to some waste ground in South Yorkshire, and tortured them for 90 minutes. They beat, burned, and strangled them – using broken glass, sticks, and barbed wire. One was forced to strip naked and demean himself, while the other had a broken sink dropped on his head. When the younger victim was found wandering the street with knife wounds, the two attackers were caught, and the other boy found face down on a riverbank and barely clinging on to life. Their names? Well, we don’t know – as these evil children are protected by the British government, and known only by their media moniker.
6 Robert Thompson
Robert Thompson was one of the 10-year-old boys behind the vile and vicious murder of James Bulger, who was just 2 years old when they abducted him from a shopping centre. The boys led him to a railway, where they proceeded to torture him in the evilest of ways. While they both gave limited accounts of the crime, it was generally accepted by psychologists who worked on the case that Thompson was the ringleader who encouraged Venables along and came up with the diabolical idea. After leaving prison, when he reached an adult age and his sentence was considered served, Thompson was given a whole new identity by the government. Every time his cover is blown, he is moved and given a new identity again – at considerable cost to the British taxpayer. He has not been in trouble with the law since leaving prison, and since he lost his strong Liverpool accent while in detention, there’s no telling where he is now.
5 Jon Venables
Jon Venables is the other half of the Jamie Bulger murder duo, but his story since leaving prison is bad enough to merit his own entry. This evil child turned out to be an evil adult, too. He has been arrested numerous times since his release, due to parole violations, drug use, and even assaults. The worst news came years later, when he was arrested once again and put in prison for a longer term. His parole officer became suspicious when he found Venables trying to destroy his computer. It turned out that it was full of indecent images of children. Venables may have grown up since his encounter with tragic Bulger, but he certainly hasn’t moved on or changed his ways. This is one case where a man was given chance after chance and still turned out to be pure scum. The worst part? The British government are still protecting his identity in prison, and will continue to do so next time he is released.
4 Elizabeth Edwards’ Murderers
They have been dubbed the ‘Twilight Killers’ by the media, and after hearing their story, you will know why. A boy and girl, both aged 14, were involved in a sick relationship which saw them repeatedly run away together, concoct a murderous plan, and even discuss a double suicide. Their unfortunate victims were Elizabeth Edwards, a 49-year-old dinner lady at their school, and her 13-year-old daughter, Katie. They stabbed both victims to death in a vicious and horrific attack in their own home, then ate ice cream and tea cakes while watching the Twilight films. They even got intimate after bathing in the now-empty family home to remove the blood from their skin. Despite this horrendous attack, and the fact that it was fully pre-meditated, their identities are protected under the law. When they leave prison, they will be able to start again with no one any the wiser about their real identities. They each received at least 20 years in jail.
3 Arun Kumar’s Killer
In West Auckland, Arun Kumar was a shopkeeper who was minding his business, the Railside Dairy in Henderson, in 2014. A 14-year-old boy came into the shop, brandished a knife, and stabbed him in the neck. The teen was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder, and jailed for just 6 years. The government has also decided to suppress his name, allowing him to keep his anonymity. This means that when he gets out in 2020 (or earlier) he will be able to return to normal life without anyone knowing who he is – and what he has done. Sadly, this boy didn’t seem to have much of a chance in life from the beginning. His mother was a heavy drinker and he was born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, and he was struck by a vehicle at age 8 in an incident that left him with a serious brain injury. These are red flags for future violent behaviour.
2 Bernadette Protti
Bernadette Protti was 15 when she killed her classmate, Kristen Marina Costas, in 1984. They met at Miramonte High School in Orinda, California, where Costas was a cheerleader and a member of the varsity swim team. Protti called Costas and invited her to dinner with the Bob-o-Links, a kind of sorority at the school. The invitation was fake, and Costas ran from Protti to a nearby home. Alex Arnold, the man who owned the house, allowed Costas to call her parents, but they didn’t answer. Arnold decided to drive her home, noticing that a Pinto followed them all the way. As soon as Costas got out of the car, Protti got out of the Pinto and attacked her, stabbing her five times with a butcher knife. Though an ambulance was called immediately, she died in hospital from the wounds. Protti left prison in 1992 after serving 7 years, and changed her name, living in another state in anonymity.
1 James St. James
James Wolcott was a 15-year-old Texan boy who shot both of his parents and his 17-year-old sister to death in August 1967. Mental instability and a period of huffing airplane glue led Wolcott to make the fatal decision, dispatching them all with a rifle over the course of one night. James St. James was a psychology professor at Millikin University in Illinois. The twist? Both of those people were one and the same. Wolcott spent 6 years in a mental institution after he committed the crimes, being ruled not guilty by reason of insanity. The news came out when a reporter from a newspaper uncovered his new identity and chose to out him. Wolcott had been living for over 40 years without anyone any the wiser of who he really was. The oddest part of the story came when the university and students spoke out in his support. He was allowed to keep his teaching position with no repercussions.