Well, another Halloween has come and gone, with partiers dressed as killers and corpses and ghoulish decorations hung from the front porch. It’s all in good fun… when it’s make-believe. But these pretend horrors are often inspired by awful, all-too-true tales. When young adolescents barely out of childhood are involved, they become all the more appalling.
Mary Bell, age 11, England
Mary Bell’s mother was a prostitute who tried more than once to kill her. The woman also forced the child, from the time she was just 4 years old, to engage in sexual acts with her johns.
On May 25, 1968, one day before she turned 11, Mary strangled 4-year-old Martin Brown. Two months later, she strangled and mutilated 3-year-old Brian Howe.
Mary was convicted of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. (Court-appointed psychiatrists said Mary displayed classic symptoms of psychopathy.) The child murderer served a 12-year sentence and was released from prison at age 23.
Upon release, Mary was granted anonymity and a new name. In 1984, she had a daughter, and in 2003, she won a High Court battle to have her and her daughter’s anonymity extended for life. Today, any court order that permanently protects the identity of a convict in Britain is known as a “Mary Bell Order.”
Christopher Pittman, age 12, South Carolina
Abused by his father and abandoned (twice) by his mother, 12-year-old Christopher Pittman began experiencing mental health problems. After the suicidal boy ran away from his dysfunctional family, he was placed in a home for troubled youth and put on Paxil.
Following his stint in the group home, Christopher was placed in the custody of his grandparents, who took the boy to a new doctor. This doctor changed Christopher’s prescription from Paxil to Zoloft—a decision that would be blamed for the crime spree that followed.
On Nov. 28, 2001, Christopher was disciplined by his grandfather for misbehaving. Later that evening, the youth shot his grandparents in their bed, stole their money, grabbed his dog, set the house on fire, and drove away in his grandfather’s car.
Unable to control the vehicle, the 12-year-old was soon picked up by the police. He confessed to the murders and told authorities that his grandparents “got what they deserved.”
Christopher’s defense team claimed the boy was overmedicated by an adult prescription. When given to someone under the age of 18, Zoloft can cause manic and paranoid reactions, hallucinations, and aggressive behavior.
Christopher Pittman was sentenced as an adult to 30 years to life in prison. He later pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received a reduced sentence of 25 years.
Eric Smith, age 13, New York
The bullying of 13-year-old Eric Smith was relentless. With freckles, shaggy red hair, thick glasses, and deformed ears (thought to be a side-effect of a medicine his mother took while pregnant), the teen presented an easy target.
On Aug. 2, 1993, Eric was riding his bicycle to a summer day camp and spotted 4-year-old Derrick Robie walking alone. Smith lured the preschooler into a nearby area. He strangled the little boy, dropped a large rock on his head, and sexually assaulted him. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head with contributing asphyxia.
A psychiatrist diagnosed Eric with intermittent explosive disorder, a condition in which a person cannot control inner rage. He was convicted of second-degree murder. Denied parole seven times, Eric has said, “You may think I’m a threat to the well-being of society. And I can understand why you would feel that way. The fact is that I’m not. I’d be an asset to society.”
Joshua Phillips, age 14, Florida
While Joshua Phillips was at school, his mother noticed a wet spot under his waterbed. Upon further inspection, Mrs. Phillips saw that the bed was held together with electrical tape. She assumed that her son had discovered the leak and didn’t want to get into trouble.
Mrs. Phillips used a flashlight to get a look at the suspected leak and discovered something far more sinister: the corpse of Maddie Clifton, an 8-year-old neighbor who had been missing for seven days.
Joshua has never revealed his motive for killing the little girl. He claimed that he had accidentally hit her in the eye with a baseball bat and then dragged her to his room where he bludgeoned and stabbed her to death. Joshua was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Because the boy was under 16, prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.
Jesse Pomeroy, age 14, Massachusetts
Jesse Harding Pomeroy was the youngest person ever convicted of first-degree murder in Massachusetts. He started young: at age 11, he trapped seven boys in a hidden location where he stripped, tied, and tortured them—stabbing at their flesh with pins and knives.
Jesse was sent to a reform school for his actions and released for good behavior just one-and-a-half years later, but his violent tendencies worsened. By age 14, he had kidnapped and murdered 10-year-old Katie Curran, and also killed and mutilated a 4-year-old boy.
Police were unable to link Jesse to the little boy’s death, but they found Katie’s body in an ash heap in the basement of Jesse’s mother’s dress shop. When Jesse, whose evil persona was enhanced by one milky white eye, was asked if he had committed the murder, he nonchalantly replied, “I suppose I did.”
He was convicted and sentenced to a life of solitary confinement in prison. At age 72, Jesse was transferred to a hospital for the criminally insane, where he spent the last three years his life.
Image of Mary Bell courtesy of vebidoo.com
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