Can I legally kill my children

When mothers kill their children

On October 2, 2006, 31-year-old single mother Elaine Campione took her video camera and filmed her two young daughters playing in her apartment in Barrie, a town in the Canadian province of Ontario. On the picture you can see Serena (3) sitting in the living room painting and telling her mother how much she loves her. In between you can see Sophia (19 months old) splashing in the bathtub while Campione sings "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".

After turning off the camera, Campione drowned her two daughters in the bathtub. Then she dried the two girls off, put on their sheep suits and put them hand in hand on the bed. She placed a turquoise rosary and a photo album between the two deceased sisters. Then she overdosed on what she thought was clozapine (a drug used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) and went back into the living room, where she continued the recording.

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The video shows Campione sitting alone on the couch sobbing while letting go of angry tirades of hate in front of the camera that she has set up in front of her on the other side of the room. Her almost ten-minute monologue is addressed to her ex-husband Leo Campione, who is said to have beaten and abused her and her eldest daughter. At the time, the couple was in the middle of a heated custody battle. (After the divorce, Campione and her daughters moved into the women's refuge and then into assisted living.) A court hearing was planned for the end of the week.

"Are you happy now? The children are gone ... What do you say now, Leo? ", She asks into the camera." I hate you, Leo. You are the devil. You wanted to win, now you've won. Are you satisfied? How do you feel now "Because I feel miserable. I've lost everything ... I will never know what would have become of my children."

According to Campione, she turned off the camera before losing consciousness, hoping to die with her daughters. She woke up a day and a half later. Oddly enough, she turned the camera back on. You can hear the radio playing in the background. Light falls into the room through the window.

"I tried to overdose but it didn't work," she admits tearfully. "The poor girls. They were my life."

Most people find it inconceivable that a parent could deliberately murder their children.

Then Campione finally stops filming and calls the police. On the police interrogation records, she pretends not to know how her children died. Ultimately, the confession she videotaped herself led to her conviction of two murders. After nearly four years of trial, she was sent to prison.

Most people find it inconceivable that a parent would deliberately murder their children - a brutal act that is legally termed childicide (also known as filicide) or neonatalicide, depending on the age of the child killed. When such rare cases of maternal infanticide occur, the trials are usually accompanied by the morbid attention of the public, which usually does not end with the verdict.

There are several cases that have burned themselves into the public consciousness. One of them was Susan Smith, a mother from the US state of South Carolina, who pushed her car into a lake more than twenty years ago while her two young sons were buckled up in the back seat. Florida-based Casey Anthony caused the greatest public hysteria since the O.J. Simpson — mostly because Anthony was found not guilty of the murder of her young daughter Caylee in the trial. Anthony is said to have drugged her daughter with chloroform and then put electrical tape over her mouth and nose until she finally suffocated. In 2002 Andrea Yates, a mother from Texas, was in the public eye. She drowned her five children in the bathtub in a religiously motivated postpartum psychosis. Your act was planned well in advance. China Arnold microwaved her baby in 2005 and let it burn. She was reportedly afraid that her current boyfriend might not be the child's father and would leave her because of it. In the same year, Rebekah Amaya was acquitted because she was declared insane. She had recently drowned her two children after — as she says — she received the signal from a spider.

According to crime statistics from the BKA, 130 children were victims of homicides in Germany in 2015. Most of them were under six years old. Ulrike Zähringer, who examined 535 cases of children under the age of six killed in Germany, came to the conclusion that in most cases the parents are the perpetrators. A US study from 2005 estimated that 30 percent of murders of children under the age of five were committed by the mother. There are many theories as to why a mother kills her child. However, "there is no uniform approach with which the group of perpetrators could be described."

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The criminal psychologist Philip J. Resnick, one of the authors of the US study, has been dealing with infanticide since the 1960s. He has written an entire book on the subject and also coined the term neonaticide, which refers to newborns who are killed by their parents within 24 hours of birth. He also introduced the term "infanticide", which refers to cases in which children are killed by their parents within the first year of life. (In German, however, this term is used more in relation to animals than to humans.)

“Neonaticide is often influenced by relatively elusive factors, such as emotional isolation or a perceived lack of resources. Stereotypical indicators such as origin or financial situation play a rather subordinate role, "write Cheryl L. Meyer and Michelle Oberman in their book Mothers Who Kill Their Children: Understanding the Acts of Moms from Susan Smith to the Prom Mom.

As a 1995 report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests, access to legal abortion also plays an important role. According to the report, "the number of infant murders [in the US] fell in the decade following Roe vs. Wade" - a controversial US Supreme Court decision that allowed women to terminate pregnancies until the Furthermore, the report found that neonaticides were relatively more common in rural areas where abortion is less socially acceptable or less accessible. “We live in a society where abortion is legal but infanticide is an unimaginably horrific crime ", argue Meyer and Oberman in Mothers Who Kill Their Children. "In this context, it is important to emphasize the importance of access to safe, inexpensive and confidential abortions."

I wanted it to be stillborn.

In the majority of known cases of neonatalides, the mothers do not appear to have developed any connection with the fetus. For example, "Prom Mom" ​​Melissa Drexler gave birth to her child on June 6, 1997 during a dance in her high school bathroom, after which she is said to have cut her newborn's umbilical cord on the jagged edge of the toilet paper dispenser and suffocated her son She put the body in a plastic bag, knotted it, and threw it away before going back to the dance.In the spring of 1995, a devout Catholic Karen Dobrzelecki, then 20, gave birth to a child She put an Easter ribbon around the baby's neck and hanged it in her closet.Just four days earlier, the news reported that a 36- to 48-hour-old girl was found buried alive on the banks of the Los Angeles River.

In a conversation that Resnick recorded on video in 1977, a patient describes how she killed her child shortly after birth in 1948 (at that time abortions were still completely prohibited in the USA). "I wanted it to be a stillbirth," says the woman. "I just wanted it to be gone, so I strangled the baby. There was a hanger in the bathroom. I hung the baby over it so I couldn't I had to touch more. I was just relieved. I didn't feel anything because I didn't have the feeling that it was my child. "

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

“I didn't want this child. I couldn't develop motherhood for a child I didn't want, "she continues, adding that she would have aborted the child or put the child up for adoption if she had the opportunity. The idea of ​​raising the unwanted child, seemed more horrific to her than killing it. "That would have been worse than what I did," she says. “I would only have caused the child more suffering. I stand by what I did. "

In a report from the US National Library of Medicine, Sara G. West explains that the Infanticide Acts of 1922 and 1938 — which originated in England and were subsequently introduced in 22 other countries around the world — the nature of the prosecution of mothers in infanticide cases. The law recognized that giving birth and caring for an infant in the first year after birth can have adverse effects on the mental health of the mother and abolished the death penalty for maternal (but not paternal) infanticide. From then on, infanticide was equated with death.

“[In Canada], infanticide is punished differently [than in the US]. Canadian law [similar to Germany] is structured to take account of the severity of the guilt, "explains Dr. Neil Boyd in a telephone conversation with Broadly, who is the director of the Criminological Institute at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada "Up to the age of 6 or 7 it is more likely that the mother will kill the child and not the father. This is mainly because women at that age spend a lot more time with the children than men. They are." Children older than 6 or 7 years are more likely to kill their children. "

Resnick was the first to classify infanticide and neo-naticide into five categories: acute psychotic filicide, altruistic filicide (that is, parents believe that death is in the best interests of the child), homicide of an unwanted child, accidental filicide, and Filicide as revenge on the partner. Previous studies found that 49 percent of Resnick's patients reported altruistic motives for murdering their child.

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Andrea Yates - the Texan mother who drowned her children in the bathtub - has suffered from psychosis and depression since the birth of her first child. She was repeatedly admitted to psychiatry. (She appeared catatonic and mute to the hospital staff.) Several suicide attempts followed. A psychiatrist recommended that she and her husband Rusty not have another child after the birth of their fourth child. However, they did not take the advice. Both Andrea and Rusty were followers of a Christian sect founded by the aggressive street preacher Michael Woroneicki. The author Suzy Spencer writes in her biography of the Yates family that she was in contact with Woronecki through letters and videos and that she was completely obsessed with his teachings. One of them read, "Few will experience salvation." It is said that it was the Woroneicki poems that led Yates to believe that her children, as she later testified to the police, were "missteps." She considered herself a bad mother because Woroneicki had told her that "all women were witches by nature, like Eve" and that children whose mothers were not strict would go to hell.

“Yates developed the delusional idea that if she did not kill her children before they reached an age at which they could be held responsible for their actions, their children would go to Hell. She set this age at ten, "Resnick explained in an interview with Crime time from 2013. He gave her a psychiatric appraisal on behalf of the defense before the trial. “She thought one of her sons was going to be a serial killer and another a dumb, homosexual prostitute. She had this terrible delusion that a terrible fate would happen to all of her children. In their eyes it was better to be in heaven with God than to live a sinful life. [Yates] also assumed she would be executed [under Texas law]. That means that even if she went to Hell, she would at least have saved her children. "

There are many serious reasons a mother might kill her child, such as childhood abuse, postpartum psychosis, or other mental illnesses. The public rarely seems sympathetic to a woman who kills her child, no matter how disturbed she may be mentally. This could be partly due to the lurid, dehumanizing nicknames like "Mother of Death" or "Microwave Mother" that women get from the media. The public often lacks the foresight to get a comprehensive picture of the perpetrator.

"As a defense attorney or psychiatrist, you spend more time with the perpetrator than with the victims," ​​says Resnick. "You listen to their life stories or how they themselves may have been abused in their childhood. You don't develop the same intense anger as the public."

Most of the cases of neonatalicide are unwanted pregnancies. That the mothers want to take revenge on their partner with their act - as in the case of Elaine Campione - is less the case. Campione's motives are also unique in other respects: According to an updated study from 2015 carried out by Resnick, child murders make up only two percent of all murders, but 7.6 percent of the murders after which the perpetrator or kills the perpetrator herself, a child homicide. Only a quarter of all mothers do not kill themselves after murdering their own child.

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During the police interrogation of Elaine Campione, the desperate mother nods when asked if she understands that she will be charged with two murders. When the police officer said, "For your two children," she visibly startled. You can see her eyes fill with tears.

"It's really difficult for you," says the police officer. "I'm a father myself. There are parts that I can understand and parts that I cannot understand."

After a 15-minute press conversation, the police officer asks, “Did you put your head underwater at any point?” Campione said no, suggesting that she took her daughters to swimming lessons so they could learn that they weren't afraid of water have to.

"But at some point you took the drug, right?" The policeman continues. "You said you wanted to kill yourself. You wanted to put an end to it all."

"I would never kill my children," she cries. "My children are alive. Maybe I don't want to live anymore, but these are my children ... my parents could have taken them with them."

A sad outlook on what could have been.


Cover photo: gratisography.com | Pexels | CC0 [symbol photo]

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