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A familicide is a type of murder or murder-suicide in which at least one spouse and one or more children are killed,[1] or in which a parent or parents and possibly other relatives such as siblings and grandparents are killed. In some cases all of the family members' lives are taken. If only the parents are killed, the case may also be referred to as a parricide. Where all members of a family are killed, including when the killing takes the form of a murder-suicide, the crime may be referred to as family annihilation.

Familicide of others[edit]

Familicides were used as an enhanced punishment in antiquity for example in ancient China, see Nine familial exterminations. It was also used by criminals[citation needed]. It is not incorporated formally into modern judicial systems.

Family annihilation[edit]

Definition and statistics[edit]

Of 909 victims of mass murder (defined as 4 victims within a 24-hour period) in the US from 1900 to 2000, more than half occurred within an immediate family. Although the total number of familicide cases are relatively rare, they are the most common form of mass killings. However, statistical data is difficult to establish due to reporting discrepancies.[2]

Familicide differs from other forms of mass murder in that the murderer kills family members or loved ones rather than anonymous people. This has a different psychodynamic and psychiatric significance, but the distinction is not always made.[3]

A study of 30 cases in Ohio found that most of the killings were motivated by a parent's desire to stop their children's suffering.[2]

In Australia, a study was done of seven cases of filicide followed by suicide in which marital separation followed by custody and access disputes were identified as an issue. Some common factors such as marital discord, unhappiness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, threats of harm to self or others were found in varying degrees. It was not clear what could be done in terms of prevention.[4]


The internal logic for family annihilation can stem from a number of sources.

David Wilson of Birmingham City University has divided these cases into four groups: anomic, disappointed, self-righteous and paranoid.

In this typology, the anomic killer sees his family purely as a status symbol; when his economic status collapses, he sees them as surplus to requirements. The disappointed killer seeks to punish the family for not living up to his ideals of family life. The self-righteous killer destroys the family to exact revenge upon the mother, in an act that he blames on her. Finally, the paranoid killer kills their family in what they imagine to be an attempt to protect them from something even worse.[5]

Notable familicides[edit]

See also List of familicides

  • Neal Jacobson, January 26, 2010, Wellington, Florida, killed his wife, Franki, and twin sons, age 7.
  • William Parente, April 19–20, 2009, killed his wife, two daughters, and himself.
  • Steven Sueppel, March 23–24, 2008, killed his wife, four children, and himself.
  • Chris Benoit, June 22–24, 2007, killed his wife, son, and himself.
  • Neil Entwistle, January 20, 2006, killed his wife and infant daughter
  • Marcus Delon Wesson, March 12, 2004, killed nine of his children/wives that he fathered through his legal wife and his polygamist wives who were also his daughters and nieces.
  • Scott Peterson, December 24, 2002, killed his wife Laci, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death
  • Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah, June 1, 2001, allegedly killed the royal family of Nepal at a family dinner and died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
  • Robert William Fisher, April 10, 2001, wanted for murder of his wife and their two children in Scottsdale, Arizona; has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson of an occupied structure; currently on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
  • Kip Kinkel, May 20, 1998, killed his parents before committing a school shooting, leaving two additional dead and 25 wounded.
  • Charles Stuart, October 23, 1989, killed pregnant wife and blamed it on imaginary black hijacker; seven-month-old fetus delivered alive but died in 17 days; committed suicide less than three months after murders.
  • Ronald Gene Simmons, from December 22,1987 to December 28, 1987 killed 14 family members ranging in age from 20 months to 46. Eight of the 14 were all children whose ages were 20 months, 1, 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, and 17. Mr. Simmons killed 14 of his family members as they arrived for their family Christmas gathering from December 22 to December 26 (7 family members were killed as they arrived on December 22 and another 7 were killed as they arrived on December 26). Two days later, Mr. Simmons then proceeded into his local town where he killed 2 more victims at several local businesses on December 28, 1987, bringing his total number of victims he fatally wounded to 16. He also injured 4 additional victims, who all survived, at the local businesses he targeted.
  • Bradford Bishop, 1976, killed his three children, mother, and his wife.
  • James Ruppert, March 30, 1975, Easter Sunday, killed 11 family members in his mother's house in Hamilton, Ohio.
  • Ronald DeFeo, Jr., November 13, 1974, killed his father, mother, two brothers, and two sisters.
  • John List, November 9, 1971, killed his wife, mother, and three children in their home in Westfield, New Jersey, and then disappeared. A fugitive from justice for nearly 18 years, List was finally apprehended on June 1, 1989, after the story of his murders was broadcast on the television program America's Most Wanted.
  • Jeffrey MacDonald, February 17, 1970, convicted of killing his wife and two preschool daughters.
  • Charles Whitman, August 1, 1966, killed his wife and mother before committing the University of Texas at Austin campus spree shooting, killing 16 people and wounding 32 others. He was shot and killed by Austin police officer Houston McCoy.
  • Marty Bergen, January 19, 1900, killed his wife and children with an ax, then slit his own throat.
  • George Forster, allegedly killed his wife and child by drowning them in Paddington Canal, London; later hanged at Newgate on 18 January 1803.

Artistic depiction[edit]

Family annihilation is depicted in the following media:

Related terms[edit]

  • Filicide - A parent or parents killing their own child or children.
  • Infanticide - The killing of one's child (or children) up to 12 months of age.
  • Mariticide - The killing of a husband by a wife, but commonly used for either spouse.
  • Uxoricide - The killing of a wife by a husband.


  1. ^ Wilson, M., Daly, M. & Daniele, A. (1995). "Familicide: The Killing of Spouse and Children" (PDF). Aggressive Behavior 21: 275–291. doi:10.1002/1098-2337(1995)21:4<275::aid-ab2480210404>3.0.co;2-s. 
  2. ^ a b Berton, Justin. Familicide: Experts say family murder-suicides, though rare, are most common mass killing. San Francisco Examiner, June 20, 2007
  3. ^ Malmquist, Carl P., MD. Homicide: A Psychiatric Perspective. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 1996, ISBN 978-0-88048-690-3
  4. ^ Johnson, Carolyn. Familicide and Custody Disputes - Dispelling The Myths. University of Western Australia, FamilicideAbstract_CarolynJohnson.pdf
  5. ^ Melissa Hogenboom (15 August 2013). "Criminologists identify family killer characteristics". BBC News. 

External links[edit]