Spoiler Alert - Don't read if you don't want to know who the killer is in "The Bad Daughter" by Joy Fielding.
The long-running popular Dateline's signature is: The spouse did it. That spouse could be either male or female.
That's exactly why we smirked when, in Colorado, Chris Watt initially assumed the public would believe some bad guy came in and was responsible for the disappearance of his wife, along with the two young daughters. We knew it was a matter of time and skilled interrogation before he caved.
However, as a public service and to blow up America's cult of The Child as Innocent, Dateline has to feature more programming in which the pre-teen kid is the killer. And likely is a sociopath who will lie during interrogation and on the witness stand about being molested. That would provide the defense why he or she took out mom, stepdad, et al.
Every now and then, fictional crimes shows such as "Law & Order SVU" and "Criminal Minds" do finger the legal minor as the murderer. And law enforcement pushes to try that miscreant as an adult.
That scenario of pre-teen as killer plays out in the 2018 novel "The Bad Daughter." The plot line focuses on the triple shooting in a small community - Red Bluff, California. At first, a home invasion is suspected.
Soon, the mom dies of the wounds. The father lingers but things don't look good. The 12 year old daughter of the woman and stepchild of the man is the miracle who survives. The hospital staff rejoices.
Quickly, law enforcement shifts from the theory it was a random robbery gone very wrong to it's-personal. In the novel, there are interesting misleading clues planted so suspicions focus on those ranging from the in-town autistic adult stepbrother to the out-of-town stepbrother/mom's lover (she's his stepmother).
Then, saved for the end is a trick the two daughters of the man and law enforcement cook up. They get the young girl to confess, at least enough to get her arrested. She contends, however, the motivation had been the father's molestation and the failure of the mother to prevent it. All in the loop roll their eyes. They realize, though, that one sympathetic juror could get the kid off the hook.
Sure, there are therapy initiatives which, if applied early enough in child development, can embed impulse control. The young sociopath, as the saying goes, won't grow up to be a Mother Teresa. But he or she won't emerge a serial killer.
The brutal reality is that many of the very young sociopaths can't be re-wired. The legal system has to figure out how to protect society from them, on a long-term basis.
The values of middle class and upscale society tend to shield them. The naïve assumption is that they can be fixed.
However, those of us who grew up in the tenements and public housing of urban areas know well it was only a matter of time the "little kids" would unleash destruction on people and property.
Predictably that began with animal abuse. A pair of brothers on Bay Street, in downtown Jersey City, New Jersey, put a cat on fire in a paper bag. I will never forget the cat's screams. Maybe that's why I was in the front lines of animal rescue for 15 years.
Both young men wound up being thrown out of high school and, you got it, spent most of their lives in prison.
Takeaway: We have to be as wary of young children as we are of adults who demonstrate anti-social tendencies.
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