In the Headlines

Teen-age Killer Joshua Jenkins May 23, 1997

By David B. Chamberlain, Editor

In Vista, CA lawyers for both sides wrapped up four weeks of testimony today in the case of teen-age killer Joshua Jenkins. On February 2 and 3, 1996, the sixteen year old boy used a hammer, knife, and ax to kill his parents, his grandparents, and his ten year old sister. After cleaning the instruments, taking a shower and changing into clean clothes, the boy set the condominium on fire and fled. Joshua Jenkins was adopted and always wanted to know about his birth parents, but was never told. His adopting parents said they had a letter from his birth mother but refused to show it to him. This was just one source of continuing anger. For years, he had been aggressive with his parents, teachers, and others. In the summer of 1995 he was arrested after a fight with his father. Subsequently, his parents placed him in a school for troubled youths in Los Angeles. He said he thought his parents had abandoned him. The trial cost over $40,000 in fees for just one of the four psychiatrists who argued over the boy's sanity at the time of the killing. Three defense psychiatrists claimed he was schizophrenic and was acting out a delusion of "saving" his family from a dangerous world. The prosecution presented a noted forensic psychiatrist who disputed the diagnosis but acknowledged that the boy certainly suffered from mental illness. All agreed that the boy suffered from chronic depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, and severe learning disability. Although it was not a matter of interest to the court, the boy's spread of illnesses and disabilities point directly to the prenatal period when his brain was constructed. His equipment for living was shaped in the womb of a mother who did not plan to keep him. This circumstance does not automatically mean there was preconceptual thoughtlessness and injury, negligence during construction of the embryo, or nutritional poverty throughout pregnancy, but all these possibilities should be checked out by any parent seriously considering adoption of an unwanted child. Although schizophrenia has long defied explanation in psychiatry, and its typical blossoming in adolescence obscures its connection to events before birth, the latest understandings of this ubiquitous mental illness are coming from hi-tech studies which reveal structural deficiencies in schizophrenic brains. The schizophrenic brain does not work as it should to separate fantasy from reality or rationality from emotion. Impulsivity typically overwhelms patience and judgment. All these deficits in normal brain power are consistently discovered in clinical assessments of incarcerated criminals, especially those found guilty of heinous crimes of violence. Prisons are full of persons who cannot give normal attention, do not learn from experience, cannot control their extreme moods, do not discern between right and wrong, who act out their paranoid suspicions, and self-medicate chronic depression with street drugs and alcohol. The real foundation of their problematic lives is a poorly built brain constructed in the bellies of their mothers. If what follows after birth is also done poorly, we have the makings of the familiar trail of sorrows that ends in rage and death. Can we really believe that longer prison terms will dissuade these persons from committing a crime?

Excerpt from a story in the San Diego Union Tribune 8-17-96 Joe Hughes and Maria Hunt:

Graduate Student Shoots Three Professors

San Diego State engineering student, Frederick Martin Davidson hid a handgun in a classroom first-aid kit hours before he methodically killed three professors--chasing two of them down, police said yesterday. Davidson, 36, a loner, who spent most of his time toiling in a research lab, was apparently upset over the progress of his master's thesis. The police chief said Davidson had made careful plans by hiding a .9mm Taurus handgun and five spare clips in the metal first-aid kit box on the wall of the third-floor classroom in the Engineering Building where he was to defend his thesis. Investigators have determined that he slipped into the room about 10 a.m.and hid the gun and ammunition. Whe he returned to the room about 2 p.m. the three professors were seated at a table and three student monitors were standing behind them. His faculty advisor rose, walked over and greeted Davidson and stated the purpose of the meeting. At that time, without saying a word, Davidson turned around, walked a few steps to the first-aid box, retrieved the gun and opened fire, killing his advisor. As the students and other faculty ran for cover, Davidson hunted them down, ignoring the students, firing 23 rounds during the four-minute frenzy. Campus police found Davidson pacing back and forth in the hall, holding a gun to his side. Twice he told officers to shoot him, dropping his gun, and was led away sobbing. Charles Brashear, a retired professor of English who rented a room to Davidson for two years said he saw nothing that foreshadowed such an outburst, although Davidson had snapped at him for prying into his personal business a few months ago asking whether he would be graduating. He reported that Davidson had revealed his ambivalence toward his faculty advisor referring to him as a close colleague and friend, but at other times as an "enemy." He was both "grateful" and "resentful." They had collaborated on research, publishing two articles together. According to the landlord, Davidson was extremely neat, nervously straightening papers that were out of allignment on his desk. His room was Spartan, with only a framed undergraduate diploma and a nature calendar on the wall. Davidson had few close friends and no romantic attachments. He sometimes went to Las Vegas for gambling and shows. Acquaintances said that his parents had divorced when he was young...

Excerpt from "The Lost Children" James O. Jackson, TIME, 3-25-96

A Monster Goes On A Rampage

For those who stood, bewildered, on the streets of Dunblane that terrible day, the sight of the anguished woman is one they can never forget, a defining vision of the Scottish town's moment of horror. "Victoria!" she cried, as a convoy of ambulances sped past, sirens screaming and lights flashing. Victoria was one of the names read out in mournful voice by the police chief: Emma, Melissa, Megan...They are the names of the dead and maimed of Dunblane's little primary-school gymnasium where a man with a pocketful of pistols and a mind filled with hatred massacred children. In all, 16 five- and six-year-old first-graders and their teacher died when a failed youth leader named Thomas Hamilton, 43, unmarried, barged into the school and emptied four handguns into them as they screamed and cowered in the gym. Two other teachers and 12 children were wounded, three critically, before Hamilton put one of the guns to his head and blew part of it away. "Evil visited us yesterday," said the school's headmaster, "we don't know why, we don't understand it..." So far, authorities can only put together the sequence of events that led to the evil of Dunblane. The start might be traced back as far as 1974, when Boy Scout officials dismissed Hamilton, then 21, for "inappropriate behavior" as leader of a local troop, and to subsequent incidents involving his attempt to organize boys' sport clubs. Or it might have arisen with his fascination with hand guns, which he obtained as long as 20 years ago and owned legally despite strict British laws. Around 9 a.m. on the morning of the slaughter, Hamilton left his bachelor apartment and headed for school. A 71-year-old neighbor woman said he waved to her as he stepped into the car. "He seemed cheerful and perfectly happy" she said. He was not. In the pockets of a black coat he carried four handguns plus a packet of bitterly angry letters to British news organizations detailing his grievances against the town for treating him as a "pervert." He apparently stopped to mail the letters, which reached their destinations two days later. He started shooting in the playground, then down a corridor as he made his way to the gymnasium. Firing from a corner of the room, Hamilton hit a teacher as she tried to shield the 29 children she had taken there for phys. ed. She died on the spot. Then he moved around the room, methodically shooting the screaming children, chasing some as they ran and pumping at least one and sometimes three or more bullets into the little bodies. Then he retreated to a corner and fired the final bullet into his own brain. By all accounts, Hamilton was odd. The woman he always believed was his sister was, in reality, his mother. His father, now 65, abandoned the family when Hamilton was 18 months old. He never took an interest in him again until he learned, with shock, of the killings. The killer had been obsessed with boys and their bodies. Members of a sports club he organized said he would make them take off their shirts all the time. Parents pulled their children out and thought of him as a pedophile. He was called a "sicko" and a "loner."