Virtual Voices

Teens who kill parents

Culture

Gone are the days when parent/teen disagreements simply lead to pouting. These days, conflict often ends in murder. I would not dare offer conjecture about the recent killings of parents by upset teens, but we need to seriously discuss the way we teach conflict management. What has been most surprising to those of us who research youth culture is that these kids do not fit the expected profile: These parental murderers are middle-class, suburban "good kids" with good grades.

Last week, Lewin Carlton Powell III, 16, was arrested and charged as an adult first-degree murder with killing Donna Rosemarie Campbell-Powell, 39, the boy's mother. Powell III was "straight-forward" with police about killing his mother and, later the next morning, trying to kill his father, Lewin Powell, a police source told the Baltimore Examiner. "He was matter-of-fact" about the killing.

Powell, an honors student at McDonogh School, had argued with his mother about slipping grades, the source said. According to the Examiner the teen hid his mother's body in the garage. Powell's father came home from work around midnight and fell asleep on the couch. The next morning the father awoke when his son began beating him with the same bat used to kill his mother. "Thank God you're here," the elder Powell told police, according to the Examiner. "My son killed my wife."

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Last February, in the Baltimore area, Nicholas W. Browning, a 16-year-old sophomore, was indicted on murder and handgun charges in the deaths of his parents, John W. Browning and Tamara Browning, and younger brothers 14-year-old Gregory and 11-year-old Benjamin. All four were shot as they slept in their Cockeysville, MD home. Browning, in a dispute with his parents, murdered his entire family and then "hung out" with friends the next day, as if nothing happened.

One wonders what makes teenage boys snap like this in the first place. Does this represent the kind of demon possession that the Bible talks about? Is it simply sin? Or is something else more evil going on? Are there sociological factors, etc.?

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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