Understanding Teen Killer's Mind: Your Questions Answered

PHOTO: Jovan Collier was able to keep a dark secret: he murdered his adoptive parents and younger brother when he was just 15 years old.
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Jovan Collier was able to keep a dark secret: He had killed his adoptive parents and younger brother when he was 14 years old. For years, he lived under another name and led a seemingly normal life, until his deep-seated rage was awakened. Collier began to aggressively stalk his ex-fiancee -- vandalizing her home, allegedly threatening her, even sending her a dead piglet. Collier is now serving time in a Florida prison for aggravated stalking.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, who has not treated Collier, offers an expert perspective on the case, and answered viewers' questions about Collier's strange behavior.

Man's Past as Teen Killer Surfaces

Dr. Michael Welner

Welner, M.D., Chairman of The Forensic Panel, is an ABC News Consultant. He is an associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and has worked in some of the most sensitive cases in America in recent years. Click here for more on Welner.

Romance Morphs Into Horror Story
Romance Morphs Into Horror Story

Cal asked: Based on his reported behavior, would you say that Jovan Collier aka Peter Zimmer is clinically a psychopath? Do you believe his claimed "abandonment issues" from childhood had any profound influence on the way he turned out, or is he exaggerating those issues to excuse his behavior?

Dr. Welner answered: You cannot tell Collier's diagnosis from the murder alone. Still, the brazenness of his sense of entitlement to the estate of the family he murdered, and the schemes of setting her up with unsuspecting sex website partners makes it realistic to ponder whether he actually is a psychopath. Brazenness is an exceptional "quality." When in the quality of lying or and having two wives unbeknownst to one another, when brazen in action, should inspire greater scrutiny.

Man Hides Grisly 1983 Triple Murder
Man Hides Grisly 1983 Triple Murder

Adolescents who kill have conflicts at home. Some have been abused; some are merely destructive characters who will not tolerate limits being set. Abandonment issues plague many, including those from intact homes. The choice of violence relates to how someone deals with abandonment or other life priorities and stressors, not adoption per se.

Emotional abandonment is not a trigger to familicide as much as material abandonment is, although issues ranging from abuse and threats to antisocial explosiveness to substance intoxication are all realistic possibilities.

When adolescent killers return to the community, it should surprise no one that they conceal their past as best they can. For every person willing to give them a second chance, there are many who are horrified at the notion that they, as killers, can be free to enjoy the simple pleasures their victims cannot.

Teen Killer Turns Stalker
Teen Killer Turns Stalker

When questions come from those who discover the frightening truth, and those questions are inevitable, killers often have rationalizations for explanations to put their behavior in a more understandable light. Not just for the rest of us – but if they have a conscience, sometimes for themselves.

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