Mich. Boy, 13, Accused of Point Blank Killing
Child killers are motivated by abuse, violence in home, and even TV.
Feb. 15, 2010— -- Kieshawn Mann's supporters say he is shy and someone every parent would want their child to play with.
But the Kentwood, Mich., 13-year-old has been charged with the premeditated murder of his mother's fiance -- allegedly shooting Jermelle Stokes at point-blank range as the man was using the computer.
The boy claims the Jan. 24 shooting was an accident, telling police, "the gun went off and the finger was in the trigger."
But his 12-year-old friend has told the court that Mann had brought the gun to school and told him he was planning to kill Stokes because his soon-to-be stepfather had abused his mother.
The number of young children who kill is small, but edging up after reaching an all-time high a decade ago.
The murder arrest rate in 2008 was 3.8 arrests per 100,000 juveniles ages 10 through 17. This was 17 percent more than the 2004 low of 3.3 and three-quarters less than the 1993 peak of 14.4, according the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
In the most comprehensive survey to date, "Children's Exposure to Violence," the U.S. Justice Department suggests that most U.S. children are exposed to violence in their daily lives, with more than 60 percent reporting exposure within the past year.
"These kids have been either abused or seen abuse or they have been exposed to violence somewhere in their life," said psychologist Herbert Nieburg, associate professor of justice and political studies at Mitchell College in New London, Conn. "And some are just angry kids who want to get even."
Mann initially told police that someone had called his house threatening Stokes, according to ABC's affiliate WZZM.
"We kind of seen it cause I was coming up the stairs, we kind of seen it and then it was like 'pow' and I ran back downstairs to get them and make sure they was alright and I heard somebody come out the door and I don't know," Mann told the dispatcher in tapes obtained by WZZM.
But the classmate who testified against Mann last week said the 13-year-old had brought a gun to his elementary school. The friend offered to hide the gun in his locker "to be nice."
Just last week in Chariton, Iowa, 12-year-old Jacen Paul Pearson was charged with fatally shooting his stepfather and injuring a young girl.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the body of 37-year-old Todd Peek and a wounded 5-year-old, Cheyanne Peek.
Some remembered the victim as a caring father and baseball coach. But others described an abusive man who "berated and physcially abused" his step-son, according to the Des Moines Register.
In a highly publicized case last May, 11-year-old Jordan Brown of Wampum, Pa., was charged with shooting his father's pregnant girlfriend in the back of the head with a 20-gauge shotgun while she was resting in bed.
Authorities say after the killing, Brown got on the school bus and headed off for his fifth-grade class. The victim, 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk, was 8 months pregnant, and had "experienced problems" with the victim in the past, say local reports.
"An 11-year-old kid -- what would give him the motive to shoot someone?" Houk's father, Jack, told the Associated Press. "Maybe he was just jealous of my daughter and the baby and thought he would be overpowered."
Brown and his father reportedly used to practice shooting behind their western Pennsylvania farmhouse. The 11-year-old had received a shotgun as a gift for Christmas from his father and was a good shot, winning a turkey shoot just weeks before the shooting, beating out several adults.
The alleged murder followed another incident in Arizona, when a 9-year-old boy accused of shooting his father and his father's roommate pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.
"What springs up in these cases is poor impulse control, a degree of frustration and alienation and probably a high degree of disempowerment, feeling out of control and having to do something to control the situation," said Nieburg.
These baby-faced defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but cases like these beg the question: Why do kids kill?