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A Unique Perspective on a 'Game-Related' Tragedy 378

Posted by Zonk
from the for-low-values-of-related dept.
Megnatron writes "Penny Arcade has a letter from the stepmother of one of the kids who was recently charged with killing a homeless man. Her article is an extremely sobering tale of the problems dealing with troubled teen. She explains how, in this situation, the parents did everything they possibly could. And, in a refreshing twist, she absolves the games industry of any blame for the tragedy these kids perpetrated. From her missive: 'Video games DID NOT make this kid who he was, and it's unfortunate that the correlation is there. The thing that really gets me with this whole thing is that the kid knows full well that by equating what he's done to a video game, that he will generate controversy and media coverage. It makes me sick that the media is jumping all over this, because that is exactly the result that he wants. The only good thing (if there is such a thing) that has come out of this whole ordeal is that the kid is behind bars. That is exactly where he needs to be.'" Her letter is a passionate, troubling story, but well worth reading.
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A Unique Perspective on a 'Game-Related' Tragedy

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  • Scarily familiar... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RogueyWon (735973) * on Thursday February 22, 2007 @03:57PM (#18112678) Journal
    My word.

    It's quite impressive really, how a web-comic that deliberately sets out to be juvenile and offensive so often ends up involved in a reasonably respectable way in some pretty big news stories.

    I know this probably isn't the most appropriate comment, but I this whole thing really does remind me strongly of this book [amazon.com]. In fact, the echos are bordering on being uncanny. I guess it all boils down to the question of whether somebody can just be "born bad".

    The evidence both from this case (if the account here is to be believed) and my own experiences is "yes, they can". I'm not sure anybody in the political or academic estabishments really want to face up to the implications of this, though.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:06PM (#18112826) Homepage Journal

      I guess it all boils down to the question of whether somebody can just be "born bad".

      Frankly, all of science points to the answer being "yes". In fact there are numerous examples of people becoming downright evil from head trauma. And just like the ending of fight club, there is at least one case where the opposite is true. (Truth is stranger than fiction, after all.)

      In fact a fairly recent study also stated that those people who are just happy all the time no matter what haven't made a decision to be that way. It is not an exercise of will. Those people are actually physiologically different.

      The simple truth is that some people simply are born bad. I'm torn on whether we should be curing them, or implementing George Carlin's idea and turning the four corner states into a gigantic prison, and just throw them in there.

      • "Born Bad"... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Moryath (553296) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:07PM (#18113820)
        Some people are not psychologically designed to respond to stimulus the same way; some are visual learners, some are auditory, some learn better from example and demonstration, some more from reading, some from fidgeting around with things till they understand how it operates.

        Some are born completely without the ability to discern cause and effect, and some are born with a complete psychological immunity to corrective tactics.

        Some are pathological liars.

        Yes, you can be "born bad." I've seen it many times. There are schoolteachers who think "no kid is really a bully" and try to "understand" everyone: these schoolteachers are retarded fucktards who let bullying happen.

        The same goes for the retarded fucktards who took the kid's word over the parents who were screaming for protection and help in trying to discipline him.

        Word to the cops: if the PARENTS are begging you to put him in jail and prosecute, WHAT THE FUCK do you think you're doing handing him back off?

        Those cops should be fired for laziness and incompetence.
        • Re:"Born Bad"... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:23PM (#18114060) Homepage Journal

          Yes, you can be "born bad." I've seen it many times. There are schoolteachers who think "no kid is really a bully" and try to "understand" everyone: these schoolteachers are retarded fucktards who let bullying happen.

          This is not an example of what I am talking about. That particular issue can happen from either nature or nurture. Letting the kids get away with their shit is rewarding that behavior because it places them above other children for whom there is zero tolerance. Like me, for example. I was a mama's boy up until I was about 21, no joke. Total pussy pushover. I used to get attacked at school literally every day. If they weren't hitting me they were destroying my bicycle, that kind of shit. So one day a kid attacks me without any backup and keeps it up until I get pissed off - all 5'11" of me or so at that time. I've been pretty huge since about the end of sixth grade, that was the year I started getting the nonstop growing pains. So I beat the living crap out of him and got expelled.

          The same goes for the retarded fucktards who took the kid's word over the parents who were screaming for protection and help in trying to discipline him. Word to the cops: if the PARENTS are begging you to put him in jail and prosecute, WHAT THE FUCK do you think you're doing handing him back off? Those cops should be fired for laziness and incompetence.

          Yeah, I have to agree completely with that.

          The real problem there is that the system isn't interested in helping people anyway, or rehabilitating anyone. If they were, the prison system wouldn't be allowed to remain a mass of murder and rape that only begets additional violence and not only provides opportunities for people to learn to commit more serious crimes, but also provides them with incentive to do so because we continue to punish people after they have ostensibly served their debt to society. They cannot get many types of jobs, they cannot vote, et cetera. The only reason to disenfranchise ANYONE is so that you don't have to fix the problems that affect them. Disenfranchising felons means you don't have to fix the problems that create felons, because those people can't vote you out anyway.

          No, if you stop that kid from being a bully now, you can't make money on him by placing him in prison.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Moryath (553296)
            The teachers who let the kids screw with your stuff? They're to blame. They're the retarded fucktards I was talking about.

            I went through a system where if there was anything going on, each kid got punished equally. Why? Because the school organizers were retarded fucktards who couldn't be bothered to get to the bottom of what was going on, who started what, and thought "no kid is a bully."

            What was the end result? Half the kids in 'detention' were otherwise honor students who were there because the bullies w
        • by Bryansix (761547) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @08:40PM (#18116706) Homepage
          I'm really tired and I read the last line wrong. I read it as "Those cops should be tied up and fired at with Tazers". I guess that would work too.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LKM (227954)

          There are schoolteachers who think "no kid is really a bully" and try to "understand" everyone: these schoolteachers are retarded fucktards who let bullying happen.

          The fact that people are born with certain personal traits does not imply that there isn't also a learning factor involved.

      • by sckeener (137243)
        The simple truth is that some people simply are born bad. I'm torn on whether we should be curing them, or implementing George Carlin's idea and turning the four corner states into a gigantic prison, and just throw them in there.

        Mars or the Moon...or even Africa (after AIDS)

        we just need some place to ship them.
    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:09PM (#18112870) Journal
      I don't think there is any question that people can be born bad. It's called anti-social personality disorder, and in its more extreme forms, sociopathic or psychopathic. There is an acronym for remembering the diagnostic criteria: corrupt.
              * C - cannot follow law
              * O - obligations ignored
              * R - remorselessness
              * R - recklessness
              * U - underhandedness
              * P - planning deficit
              * T - temper

      Here's the checklist for a psychopath
            1. Glibness/superficial charm
            2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
            3. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
            4. Pathological lying
            5. Cunning/manipulative
            6. Lack of remorse or guilt
            7. Shallow affect
            8. Callous/lack of empathy
            9. Parasitic lifestyle
          10. Poor behavioral controls
          11. Promiscuous sexual behavior
          12. Early behavioral problems
          13. Lack of realistic, long-term goals
          14. Impulsivity
          15. Irresponsibility
          16. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
          17. Many short-term marital relationships
          18. Juvenile delinquency
          19. Revocation of conditional release
          20. Criminal versatility

      That's a pretty clear definition of "bad."
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Jeez, I think you just described half the members of my WoW Guild.

        -Eric

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by rkanodia (211354)
          You're on slashdot? The raid started half an hour ago; that's a minus fifty dee kay pee!
      • by Xaroth (67516) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:42PM (#18114344) Homepage
        There's an easy acronym for that one, too; just remember "GGNPCLSCPPPELIIFMJRC". Simple!
      • by xero314 (722674) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @08:33PM (#18116636)

        I don't think there is any question that people can be born bad. It's called anti-social personality disorder, and in its more extreme forms, sociopathic or psychopathic*.
        *(note: neither the DSM-IV or the ICD 10 list either sociopath or psychopath as accepted disorders, and are usually accepted to be synonymous with anti-social personality disorder)
        Before you can answer the question you have to define "bad." Most psychologist and psychiatrist would not define "bad", but if they had to it would include a need for conscious understanding of consequence. The disorders you mentioned, along with all other personality disorders, cause a block in the psyche that causes the personality disordered to not be able to comprehend the effects of their actions.

        Assuming you define "bad" differently and base it solely on action and effect of action regardless of intent, then you still have to accept that this is still a mater of perspective, as can be seen clearly in both the debate over capital punishment as well as Darwin's natural selection. This can be seen clearly in the high number of Sociopathic and Narcissistic CEOs in the world as it shows that sociopathic, narcissistic and to a lesser extent anti-social behavior is favored by natural selection. Even the list you mentioned contained very few things that people generalize perceive as unforgivably "bad".

        You also seem to imply that their is scientific consensus that personality disorders are genetically hereditary, though this is neither accepted nor supported by and peer reviewed and accepted studies. THE DSM-IV states "The cause of [anti-social personality disorder] is unknown, but biological or genetic factors may play a role." This is believed because "The incidence of antisocial personality is higher in people who have an antisocial biological parents." The studies so far have had difficulty separating environmental effects of having afflicted parents from the biological ones. Even when the child is separated from the afflicted parent the environmental effect of parental abandonment is still their which is known to be a major factor in the formation of Personality Disorders. So far there has been no prove physical cause for Personality disorders, which is part of what actually qualifies a disorder as being a personality disorder.Treatment of most personality disorders has been shown to allow a person to live a productive and non-distructive life, though admittedly treatment is almost always required for the rest of the afflicted persons life

        Beside all of that you do realize that the founding fathers of the United States, and I would assume many other countries, would qualify as anti-social, among other possible disorders, by the law makers and psychoanalyst (if there were any) of the country it had separated from.

        From the DSM - IV only three of the following need to be met to qualify as anti-social.
        • Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
        • Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
        • Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
        • Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
        • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
    • I... I have no words. None. Poor woman. I hope this man spends a great deal longer in jail than he can stand.
    • Ultimately, humans have free will and choose their own actions. Saying someone is "born bad" is equivilant to saying that they have been possessed by Satan. It's not a valid argument.

      I'll will admit that people can be born with violent temperaments. They can be born with harsh attitudes or a lack of empathy. However all but the most severely mentally disabled are born with free will and the ability to reason. People may not intuatively understand right from wrong, but they still know what is acceptable and what is not.

      This is why I don't accept the argument that someone is not responsible for their actions because they've had a "hard life" or were "born bad" or live in a "bad neighbourhood". I can be sympathetic, but ultimately I must insist that people take responsibilty for the decisions they have made. I don't think it's a lot to ask.

      Blaming society, or genetics, or your parents, or video games or anything else for decisions you yourself have made is an insult to everyone who does accept the consequences of their actions. It's an insult to your own dignity as you are claiming you have lost your own free will.

      There are people in this world who were born with physical and mental disabilities. People who have suffered accidents, abuse, insult, poverty and hardship of every kind. Even people who play video games. And most of these people live their lives, despite having to work that much harder at them. They overcome their problems, make an honest living and contribute to the society they live in. Often they contribute more than other more fortunate individuals. Even people with violent personalities or troubled pasts can still find a positive place in society.

      When you argue that people are "born bad" or otherwise don't have free will, you're arguing that all these people are wasting their time. That they will never overcome their difficulties and they should either give up an committ a crime, cause trouble, go insane or just kill themselves. That is a flawed assumption. We all have the power to change our own lifes, and to alter the course of our lives. That's what seperates humans from animals.

      This kid could have lead a better life. He chose not to. It had nothing to do with his mental chemistry. That was solid enough to allow him to dress himself every morning, walk without stumbling and converse with people when he needed to. He wasn't born bad. He chose to be bad. His parents didn't make that choice. Neither did his genes, or his playstation, or his neighbourhood. He did. Anything else is just an excuse.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Longfinger (568282)

        Ultimately, humans have free will and choose their own actions.

        What makes you say that? Free will is an assumption, not a scientific fact.

      • by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:21PM (#18114028) Journal
        When you argue that people are "born bad" or otherwise don't have free will, you're arguing that all these people are wasting their time. That they will never overcome their difficulties and they should either give up an committ a crime, cause trouble, go insane or just kill themselves. That is a flawed assumption. We all have the power to change our own lifes, and to alter the course of our lives. That's what seperates humans from animals.

        In a sense, that's irrelevant to society, however. Philosophically it's all well and good, and well worth debating into the long, dark hours of the night.

        Society as a whole is (or should be) unconcerned. If a human CHOOSES to act like a wild animal - in fact, worse than one if you concede free will - he should be treated as one: caged, cared for to a minimal standard of care, and ultimately if not able to behave within norms that society sets - euthanized.

        For example, I know that Alfonso Rodruiguez was someobody's little boy, once. But now (after his rape and murder of Dru Sjodin) he is simply a human-shaped dangerous nuisance that it is in the public interest to remove.

        As far as the OP's lad, he's not stupid. He knows that society will give him chance after chance after chance, in the vain hope that he will develop something analogous to a conscience. Why should we bother? Because of "Human compassion"? Pull the other one - I have more pre-emptive compassion for his next victim than I ever would for him.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shambalagoon (714768)
        I agree that he has free will and is responsible for his actions, and he should be held 100% accountable for what he's done. But I would argue that his free will is limited by his mental state due to physiological factors.

        People can be born with certain genetic deficiencies in neurotransmitters or enzymes that can lead to a pathological mental state. Think of it as a disease like any other mental disorder, akin to Tourette's syndrome, schizophrenia, autism, etc. Someone with Tourette's doesnt choose to exc
      • humans have free will and choose their own actions.

        All people do what they think will make them happy. People don't really have a choice in the matter. Of the options available to it, the human brain may opt for long-term over short-term happiness, or this happiness-causing decision over that happiness-causing decision. But that is not a true choice, it is a limited one.

        Most people have a specific physical construct in their brains that causes them to be empathetic: Making other people happy makes them happ

      • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot AT ideasmatter DOT org> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @07:36PM (#18116076) Journal

        Ultimately, humans have free will and choose their own actions. Saying someone is "born bad" is equivilant to saying that they have been possessed by Satan. It's not a valid argument.

        I challenge you to define 'choose'.

        If it means "the behaviors selected by the person's neurons", then 'choose' is meaningless: it simply means that they do whatever their brain must (as a physical object) lawfully do in the situation. In this case, it is easy to image a corrupt brain, in the sense that the neural potentials favor sadistic outcomes.

        If, however, it means "causelessly or spiritually imposing a decision upon physical matter", then you have an even bigger problem: how does anyone choose to do bad things? Is it then their spirit (or whatever) that is corrupt?

        So, stating that we "choose our own actions" is useless. Actually it's worse than useless because not only does the statement fail to convey any data, but it makes it harder for a discussion to focus on the exact locus of sadistic behaviors. These days, the word 'choose' has become the ultimate hand-wave. As your statement shows, it has come to mean "Human decisions are unconnected to reality, so abandon this line of inquiry altogether."

        I rather think that behavior is absolutely connected to my brain's content and state. And that is why me-the-person can be considered reliably good (or evil) -- because my behavior has a lawful cause.

      • Life (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mark_MF-WN (678030)
        We ARE our mental chemistry, and Humans are not different than animals any more than apples are different than fruit. Unless you posit the existence of ghosts that can manipulate the electrical fields of the brain somehow, which is just fucking stupid.

        Choice and free will aren't even illusory -- the concepts don't even make sense to begin with. And it's ridiculous to suggest that the denial of free will implies that we can't summarily exterminate those who are destructive to the rest of us. It's no dif

    • by Avatar8 (748465)

      I guess it all boils down to the question of whether somebody can just be "born bad".

      This points to a very fundamental conflict that my friends and I have debated for years, and I'm sure it has probably surfaced or been researched before in various circles.

      My friends, like you, state that people are basically born "bad" or "evil" and must make a conscious effort to be civil to other people and in general be "good."

      My stance is that people are born "good" and they let environment and their own conscious

  • by Brigade (974884) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:04PM (#18112780)
    Link to Gabe's original post [penny-arcade.com] and her response: (In case Penny-arcade is blocked at work)

    Gabe,

    Your news post about the kids and the homeless man yesterday made me sick to my stomach, before I even read the CNN article. I knew what it was going to be about before even reading the article. It was not the article itself, or even your post that made me sick, it was the fact that I know this boy. Or, rather that I could be considered one of the "parents" of this boy.

    The boy's father and I have been together for almost seven years, and I had what I guess could be called a "stepmother" relationship with the kid. To say that living with this kid was hell would be a complete understatement.

    I don't think I have ever actively hated anyone in my entire life, but this kid just makes my blood boil.

    As I write this, my teeth are clenched, my hands are shaking, and my whole body is seething with the hatred I feel for this kid and what he has done. Seeing the article brings back all the horrible memories from when he lived with us.

    He was constantly in trouble in school, with the cops, with us, with his mother, and with anyone else who was an authority figure. Not a week went by that the school or the cops wouldn't call us for something. His attitude was basically "fuck you, I don't have to listen to you" said with a shrug.

    We tried absolutely everything we could think of to get him to behave like a normal human being... we tried groundings, negative reinforcement / punishment, positive reinforcement, counseling, and anything and everything the counselors suggested. We tried to get him interested and involved in extracurricular activities, like hockey, drama, music, art, anything, but he got himself kicked out of every group he was in with his "make me" attitude. When we would ground him, we took away everything. No TV, no computer, no phone, no leaving the house, no snacks or junk food.... Everything. When he was grounded, he was only allowed to sit in his room and read or draw. He was actually a pretty good artist, and we tried to encourage him to spend his time working with his talent. He would just sit there and take it... the groundings had absolutely no affect on him at all. Most of the time, he didn't even remember why he was being grounded. At the end of it, we would ask him if it was worth it to have everything taken away in exchange for what he did... he usually just shrugged. He could be grounded for weeks, or a month at a time, and then the very next day would do something to get back in trouble again. Most kids get grounded or punished a couple of times, and then they want to avoid having to go through it again... not this kid, nothing seemed to phase him.

    And we're not talking the usual teenager stuff, like coming home late, or refusing to do the dishes. We're talking stealing cars, setting fires, drinking, getting picked up for drugs, beating up handicapped kids at school (yes, really) stealing things out of our house... all with this "I'll do whatever the fuck I want" attitude.

    We had absolutely no idea what else we could do. We already had him in counseling, and we did everything the counselors suggested. We tried rewarding his good behavior (what little there was) to try to get him to see that when he behaves like a normal human being, things are good and people enjoy being around him. Nothing phased him at all.

    Then, things took an even worse turn when he decided that whenever he didn't get his way, or we did something he didn't like, he told his counselors and teachers that we were abusing him. (Never happened.) And for some inexplicable reason, everybody believed him. I understand that child abuse is a very serious situation, and that they have to take every possible case seriously, but this was clearly a case of him manipulating people to get what he wanted. We had people from the school, cops, and social services over at our ho

  • Reading this story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@comca ... t minus caffeine> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:07PM (#18112842) Journal
    Just reinforces my belief that people take a childs side way too often than they should, especially when the kid involved is a stain on humanity.

    A situation like this happened with a co-workers step-child which ended up in his divorce from his wife. She couldnt see the kid for what he was and it ended up tearing them apart.

    That kids now preparing to go to trial for killing his friend when in a drug haze he ran his car off the road and into a tree.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just reinforces my belief that people take a childs side way too often than they should

      Hey, the authorities do that for a very good reason: an adult can be far more articulate and persuasive than a child accuser. Believe me, the police and social workers erring on the side of caution is a GOOD thing.

      Don't think I'm making this up, either. I'm speaking as someone who was abused as a child and was NOT believed when he cried for help. It would have been great if people "took the child's view" thirty years ago -- it would have saved me decades of emotional pain.

      • Nowadays, it's often a tool used by the little shit to threaten his parents. There is a serious problem when the kid calls the shots, and has the backing of the local authorities.
      • Obviously Anonymous hasn't taken the time to actually read the article. The authorities should actually -gasp- investigate and not take either side at their word.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:32PM (#18113206) Homepage

      Just reinforces my belief that people take a childs side way too often than they should, especially when the kid involved is a stain on humanity.

      Sadly, the children know this and manipulate it. Have been doing so for a very long time -- they know you have no actual authority over them if they choose not to listen to you. You can't actually compel them in any way to listen.

      There were enough cases of child abuse in the past that all of the agencies are now required by law to investigate all claims of abuse. Denial by the accused abusers is basically ignored as all guilty people would deny it. They basically have to presume you're guilty in order to try to protect the child's welfare (it's well meaning, but not often reliable). And, in the end, it's difficult to disprove such claims.

      (I know someone going through court now because a neighbor witnessed him hoist his child into the car, and then claimed she saw/though she saw him smacking the child around. When his wife decided to leave him for his best friend, she started coaching the 4 year old into claiming daddy was touching her in bad places -- in court, the child has admitted that mommy told her to say that. On the heels of the first erroneous claim, the second claim of now sexual abuse is very hard to dispell: basically it's compounded on him. Such things get very ugly quick.)

      I find it scary that a child who is repeatedly in trouble could fool the teachers into thinking "I didn't do it, and by the way, my parents abused me". Especially when this child was over 6 feet and over 200lbs -- a very big 14 year old indeed.

      I realize you can't suddenly start treating all accusations lightly, for fear of ignoring the problem. But, there has to be a better way of looking into these things. Unfortunately, an unfounded claim of abuse can ruin your life just as quickly and easily as a verifiable, documented case of abuse -- people will go after you with equal zeal and tar you with the same brush.

      The fact that repeatedly, police and school officials were told that this kid was way out of control is scary indeed. The fact that an apparent "thrill kill" had to take place before anyone would believe them is appalling. Hopefully at least something good comes out of this in the long run.

      Cheers
      • It's all messed up. When I was a kid, one of our Girl Scout leaders beat her daughter in front of all us, and Child Services wouldn't do anything about it, now they're harrassing innocent parents? WTF.
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          It's all messed up. When I was a kid, one of our Girl Scout leaders beat her daughter in front of all us, and Child Services wouldn't do anything about it, now they're harrassing innocent parents?

          Well, depending on your age that may have been the norm, back when I was a kid (say, late 70's), your parents were still allowed to spank you. I know one friend whose mother broke more wooden spoons over his and his siblings asses than you could possibly count (literally true, that was the weapon of choice). At t

  • proof? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I'm wondering, has PA actually verified that this person is related to the kid, or are they just another AC?
  • Love (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wrought@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:15PM (#18112944) Homepage Journal
    The amazing thing is that she has been with the kid's father for 7 years! That's a long time to be putting up with that kind of grief, counting down the days until they turn 18. At least the other son is doing well.

    I realize that most of the dot, myself included, rarely reads articles before commenting on them. This one is very much worth the read, regardless of whether you intend to comment or not.

  • Call me a cynic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Iamthefallen (523816) <Gmail name: Iamthefallen> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:15PM (#18112954) Homepage Journal
    But I'm curious how PA has verified that this person is who she claims to be.

    • by thryllkill (52874) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:46PM (#18113466) Homepage Journal
      Okay. You're a cynic.
    • by kabocox (199019)
      But I'm curious how PA has verified that this person is who she claims to be.

      Um, this got me to thinking. The second article had the kids name in it. To those that this story is local, the family whose kid this is would "know" if the person in the PA article was legit, PA making something up, or someone else conning PA. I don't know how much of their local community could easily figure out the woman's name from the description of her relation to the kid.

      What gets me is that she didn't have to stick around t
      • Re:Call me a cynic (Score:5, Informative)

        by Moryath (553296) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:28PM (#18114110)
        The kid wasn't the step-parent's problem. The step-parent should have just divorced their mate rather than be around that kid. Was the kid's parent rich or very good in bed that you could just put up with or ignore the kid until this happened? Nah, can't have been a rich parent or the kid would have been in a distant boarding school the first time the kid started getting out of hand.

        If you noticed, there's a second kid in the house - a kid who's turning out just fine.

        And I've no doubt Gabe doublechecked the story and verified the connection before publishing.
    • I'm a cynic too (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oni (41625)
      What makes me suspicious is when she claims that social workers and counselors that previously took the kid's side are now calling to apologize and say they wish they had believed the parents.

      Um, bullshit. Yeah, I'm so sure that some government worker picked up the phone to say, "oh hi, this is Frank. Remember me? I'm the guy who was investigating you for abuse? How are you guys doing? Cool. Cool. Listen, I just wanted to apologize for all that, 'almost sending you to jail' thing ok? Well, take it e
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:18PM (#18112988) Homepage

    I usually like to blame the parents, as it is often their fault. You read these stories where the parents had no idea what was going on (Colombine: pipe bomb building in the garage???). Or where the parent just defends them ("Little Johnny never would have done that. The other kids made him do it.").

    I gotta say reading that was kind of scary. If I had to take a guess I'd say he is a sociopath (literally), but that's just a guess. He is obviously very intelligent (calling people abusers). The fact they kept investigating it doesn't surprise me (what if it was true one of those times) but he knew how to get power. Kids can also act out like that if they are being abused, so that would lend "credibility".

    I'm sure the divorces and remarriages in his life didn't help, but if it really is sociopathic, that probably wouldn't matter. I can offer suggestions of things that might have helped him (if he was help-able). Military boot camp, having him sent to jail those times the police came. Making him a ward of the state. Trying to give him possession of his own life (can't remember the term, basically having him declared an independent adult).

    She said she tried "everything" so I don't know which of those were done. I'm amazed that she put up with it for so long.

    This kid is REALLY the exception to the rule. He would have been exactly the same if this happened in 1960.

    Too bad this kid will probably be the example of what video games do to kids that the media trots out constantly.

    People like him (from her description, assuming it's true), are one of the things that make me believe in true evil.

    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MaineCoon (12585) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:36PM (#18113270) Homepage
      I almost went down a similiar path to this kid. I skipped out on school, ignored the rules. Punishments didn't phase me. I spent time in jail and in juvenile "shelter" homes, from my truancy. When I was a young child, at times my mother was actually afraid of me - I was fearless of punishment even then. Spank me, (it was legal then), and I'd just go do whatever I did again.

      It took my father's sudden death (heart failure) when I was 15 to snap me out of it. I fell into a deep depression (I already suffered from chronic depression) and ended up spending half a year at a residential treatment facility for emotionally unstable teenagers.

      I look back, and both my mother and I can agree that, my father's death inadvertantly saved my life. I was probably only a year or so off from making a big mistake. My father was already terminally ill at the time from leukemia... probably only had a year and a half left, based on the estimate from the autopsy. His death cost him and us another year or two together, but may have given me many more years to live life.

      That was about 12 years ago. My father would be proud of the person I am today. I don't think that would be the case if he had survived.

      I met a lot of kids who were like me, in the places I went. There are more exceptions to the rule than people think.
    • by Vokkyt (739289)
      Though I was skeptical at first of the woman's relation to the boy, I am going to assume that Gabe would have the know-how to verify this in someway, and that he wouldn't outright post it without verification. That being said, while what they tried to do to help the boy was commendable, there is only one real thing that I take issue with; almost everything they did was in response to what the boy had already done, and it doesn't seem like there was an active move on the parents to get additional help for t
    • by BobBoring (18422) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:15PM (#18113940) Homepage
      He would have been exactly the same if this happened in 1960.

      In 1960 life was very different. His dad wouldn't be "grounding him" he'd have taken him to the wood shed and corrected his attitude. You only have to be course corrected a few times at an early age. The mother's mention of negative reinforcement probably did not include throwing the kid out the door into the street and telling him to only come home once he appecated what he had going for him in the form of a warm bed and three square meals a day.

      School teachers in 1960 could beat you with a shaved baseball bat until you're buttocks were bruised so you couldn't sit down. His teacher's or their husbands would likely have been a WWII or Korean War veteran. Why mention that? Because if the little goblin had raised a hand to a teacher, he'd have drawn back a stump. His school Principal would have certainly been a) male and b) unsympathetic to his claim of 'abuse'. His Principal would very likely have a shaved baseball bat and two foot prints painted on the floor in front of his desk.

      If none of that registered on him, in 1960, he'd of been shipped off to someplace like "West Texas Boy's Ranch" or "The San Antonio Boy's Town" or "Father Flanagan's Boys Town" or any of the other "homes for boys". He'd have had to work 30-35 hours a week growing the food he ate, tending the stock and still ride the bus 1-2 hours each way to attend school. He'd live in a "bay barracks" style dorm with 30 other kids. He would do laundry, muck out barns, peel potatoes and stack hay. Sunday he'd go to church and get a whole 5-6 hours to reflect the error of his way.

      If he ran away and tried to 'go home' the Sheriff would run him down with dogs and drag him back to the county farm for recalcitrant youth or what ever the place was called. Then the keepers would move his bunk to the barn take his mattress and blankets way until he'd earned his spot in the dorm back.

      Believe it or not the boy would be different. If this was 1960 he'd be different or he'd be dead.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MBCook (132727)
        For reference, I only mentioned the 60s because video games didn't exist. It had nothing to do with parenting styles and some such. I simply chose that decade for the lack of video-games, and didn't think about it any further.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Goaway (82658)
        Believe it or not the boy would be different.

        After being abused and mistreated for years by people he hated and looked down on, with his strong disregard for other humans?

        Yeah, he'd probably have killed a handful of them.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:18PM (#18112998) Homepage Journal
    After reading the "stepmother's" reply I have to say yea it probably was the parent's fault. This kid seems to have been tossed back and forth between the "father" and the mother. The stepmother's language in her reply was what I would expect for a high school kid and not a parent of a child. In all the discussion of what they did and didn't do, I at no time heard the word love. I heard hate a lot but not love. Yea this kid might have had issues from the start but I have to say that didn't sound like he had much of a chance with the parents he had.
    Yes he was unmanageable at 15 but what about at two? How about at five? How much love and time did he get at seven?

    It is possible that even with the best parents in the world he might have still become a killer but it seems far from the perfect family life to me.
    Sounds like a few more wasted lives. The poor guy that was killed and the kids that did the killing.

    • by MBCook (132727)
      I posted in this discussion, and I briefly touched on this (just a few words) but I am torn about it. My belief is either this, or sociopathy. I can understand acting out but a certain point (like the beating up a kid in a wheel chair) I have to wonder if he has a conscience at all. I agree with you that divorces (and shuttling, and new marriages, etc) can really mess with a kid. I'm just debating internally whether he was accidently "pushed" into this, he would have headed in this direction but a normal in
    • so would you say it was environment or genetics. Both are problems of the family and both could very well be the culprit. Or it could be a little of column 'a' and a little of column 'b'

      It has been shown though that adopted children from questionable parents to good parents don't do as well as either natural children of good parents or adopted children from good parents. At least coming from raw numbers.
    • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Thursday February 22, 2007 @04:55PM (#18113602) Homepage Journal
      After reading the "stepmother's" reply I have to say yea it probably was the parent's fault. This kid seems to have been tossed back and forth between the "father" and the mother. The stepmother's language in her reply was what I would expect for a high school kid and not a parent of a child. In all the discussion of what they did and didn't do, I at no time heard the word love. I heard hate a lot but not love. Yea this kid might have had issues from the start but I have to say that didn't sound like he had much of a chance with the parents he had.
      Yes he was unmanageable at 15 but what about at two? How about at five? How much love and time did he get at seven?


      Read a bit more closely, and you'll catch this bit:

      I am sorry this got so long. I have been reading PA since the very beginning, and I feel that both of you are very much like me. I think we are the same age (29) and I have been a lifelong gamer like the two of you.

      If she's 29, then she would have been around 14 when the kid was born -- and remember, she describes herself as a kind-of stepmother. It sounds like she didn't get involved until he was already a teenager -- too late for her to have much impact, especially if she was only in her mid-20's herself.

      So we can't draw any conclusions about her bad parenting when he was a baby. Also, note that he was living with his dad until he decided to leave -- and move in with his natural mom, who had even less control over the situation. If we must conclude that nurture had a larger role than nature, then we have to look at her role, long before the letter's author was involved.
    • So apparently you are a retard? What besides obvious love would motivate someone to stick with such a hellish child for so long? Its not like they were being paid to deal with him.

      What part of this kid was messed up in the head do you not understand? Do you believe there are no genuine bad seeds? That in each and every case its bad parenting?

      And so what that the parents are divorced? Divorce sometimes leads to troubled children, its never an explanation for MURDER.

      So are you seriously this stupid or are you
      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        "What part of this kid was messed up in the head do you not understand? Do you believe there are no genuine bad seeds? That in each and every case its bad parenting?

        And so what that the parents are divorced? Divorce sometimes leads to troubled children, its never an explanation for MURDER."
        I guess you just didn't bother to read my post.
        I said he might have done it anyway but I didn't see a single example in that post of great parenting. It wasn't just the "Stepmother" but the mother and father as well.
        I re
    • Some kids are just sociopaths from day one. They can have the best parents in the world, and they'll still end up evil pricks.

      It's nice to think we live in a reasonable world where everything makes sense and all you have to do is act responsibly and do the right thing and everything will work out the way it's supposed to. Most of the time, that's the case. But sometimes, you're fucked no matter what you do.

      I suspect that most kids in the juvenile justice system have screwed-up, neglectful, or irresponsi

    • by EasyT (749945) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:05PM (#18113780) Journal
      After reading the "stepmother's" reply I have to say yea it probably was the parent's fault. This kid seems to have been tossed back and forth between the "father" and the mother. The stepmother's language in her reply was what I would expect for a high school kid and not a parent of a child. In all the discussion of what they did and didn't do, I at no time heard the word love. I heard hate a lot but not love. Yea this kid might have had issues from the start but I have to say that didn't sound like he had much of a chance with the parents he had. Yes he was unmanageable at 15 but what about at two? How about at five? How much love and time did he get at seven?

      I really don't understand how you can blame the parents based on the information provided. Sure, the parents split up, but there are plenty of parents who divorce or separate and still have well-adjusted children. Beyond that, we simply have no idea what this kid's childhood was like. We also have no idea how long the stepmother has been on the scene, so I don't see how you can expect her to comment on how much love the child received at any specific age, much less support any conclusions based on the presence or absence of the word "love" in a letter.

      It seems like a great modern fad (and fallacy) to blame parents for every lousy thing a kid does, as if people have become desperate to take nature out of the classic "nature vs. nurture" argument. But none of us are shaped purely by our environment, as the mention of the kid's younger brother being reasonably well-adjusted supports. We all have judgement and free will, so unless some actual evidence surfaces to support the notion that the parents somehow meaningfully contributed to these horrible acts, let's place blame back on the kid who committed them, shall we?

    • The same thought occurred to me - Gabe plays the "blame the parents" card (a popular meme, sometimes even true), and here she comes along and explains how much she hated him and wanted him gone.
       
            She plays the don't blame the videogames" card -
    • (Reply entered a second time because I hit 'submit' rather than 'preview'.)

      The same thought occurred to me - Gabe plays the "blame the parents" card (a popular meme, sometimes even true), and here she comes along and explains how much she hated him and wanted him gone. Because she plays the don't blame the videogames" card (another popular meme, sometimes even true) - Gabe accepts her letter uncritically at face value.

      Huh? Why precisely should we ignore *his* statement, yet accept the statement o
    • 1. She (love her or hate her) wasn't around when the kid was 2, 5, maybe 7.

      2. If one of the kids turned out fine and one blew a screw, one can't exclusively blame the parents, maybe the 'bad' kid acted up so much to get attention from his parents and instead of ever getting solved, it turned into a personality deficiency. I don't know, but I'd hope the counselors that analyzed him would've taken all sides when dealing with him.

      3. The "This kid seems to have been tossed back and forth between the "father" an
  • That line blaming video games stuck out like a sore thumb. For one, there is no game that is nearly as sick as these kids. Not even in GTA can you smash a homeless man's face in with a brick, rub your shit in his face, destroy his camp, beat him with his grill, and finally shove his head in the grill you beat him with earlier. Secondly, even if could do such a thing in a game, it's still an effing game! It's not the game's fault they have no concept of right vs. wrong or reality vs. fantasy.

    • not in GTA, but you can do something similar in postal 2. you can beat them up with a shovel, urinate on them, pour gasoline on them and set them on fire, and so on, and so forth.

      and you're right: its still just a game. any idiot can tell the difference, this kid is just a psychopath.
  • On the gripping hand - I saw an interview where the teen stated quite clearly "when it all started it was just like we were playing a video game". Thus, in his mind at least, there was some connection.
     
    Now, I'm not going to lay all the blame on video games - but to pretend that they have no influence at all is ludicrous.
    • Or he wanted to say that to get media attention and lay the blame on something other than himself. I have heard that you can't always trust killers 100%, but that could just be an urban-myth.
      • That claim was made by the stepmother - but reading her writing she seems more concerned with distancing herself from him and forcing him to be the scapegoat. I don't trust the relatives of killers any more than I do killers.
        • Forcing him to be the scapegoat? Strange to call someone who committed a crime a scapegoat. Scapegoat (n) "One that is made to bear the blame of others", seems to me he is bearing his own blame, not the blame of others at all. If anything, I would say HE is trying to make a scapegoat of video games.

          You seemed to indicate in your comment that you were inclined to believe the killer more than the step-mother's email. You are free to make your own conclusions of course, but I would generally put more trust in
          • Forcing him to be the scapegoat? Strange to call someone who committed a crime a scapegoat. Scapegoat (n) "One that is made to bear the blame of others",

            Indeed - she is shifting all the blame for his behavior onto him, and absolving herself of all blame. Read her letter, where she describes the discipline imposed on him at great length, but scarcely mentions positive reinforcement or interaction - and mentions love and caring not at all.

            You seemed to indicate in your comment that you were inclined

    • by ADRA (37398)
      All said being true... unless he was lying.

      You're point is as moot as mine since we have no context to base our opinions except for the media which most of the people on Slashdot will say auto-vilify games, or we can believe the anon-post by the step-mother who may or may not have her reasons to stretch the truth to make her point had.

      I hope the letter was legit and I hope people do take notice to it because it would be a beacon of resistance to the constant onslaught of media villainy towards promiscuity,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SydShamino (547793)
      He could have said "it was like I was disconnected from my body, watching someone else do the things I was doing."

      I've heard that plenty of times from people doing wrong and right in a variety of situations - committing a crime, being a victim of crime, serving as a soldier in combat, dealing with an emergency situation.

      I saw an interview where the teen stated quite clearly "when it all started it was just like we were playing a video game". Thus, in his mind at least, there was some connection.

      Sure, he see
  • by nuggz (69912) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:01PM (#18113722) Homepage
    Well I read the letter and it seems a bit interesting for a late teen.

    Most of the time, he didn't even remember why he was being grounded

    We're talking stealing cars, setting fires, drinking, getting picked up for drugs, beating up handicapped kids at school (yes, really)

    I see two important things, #1 he has trouble comprehending his actions in some way. #2 This person claims he has a long record of criminal offenses, but hasn't had any real punishment.

    He likely just thought he could get away with it, like he had with everything else for YEARS. At some point the government should help out a bit, maybe put him in jail. Teaching him he can get away with this type of behaviour is a fatal mistake.
    • The moment he started telling people they were "abusing" him, it stopped them from doing ANYTHING to try to punish him, because he'd claim it was "part of the abuse" and they would have to admit to doing it.

      And the refusal to believe the parents on the part of government officials - especially the COPS who kept returning him after this shit - shows me an entire police dept that ought to be fired for incompetence.

      Yeah, he probably did think he could get away with it. After all, the only people who tried to d
  • the kid probably watched "A Clockwork Orange" too often. Time to sue Kubrick and Burgess.
  • Genetic factor? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SysKoll (48967) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @08:59PM (#18116912)
    I know of at least two families of decent, considerate people who raised their kids normally. In both these families, the kids are bright, honest people, except for one sibling (in both cases) who stands out like a sore thumb for his antisocial attitude. Both did time in youth correction then in jail, repeatedly. The parents can hardly be blamed, they tried everything. I think that at least one of the kids has the same psychopathic attitude as the murderer mentioned in TFA.

    I really suspect a genetic disorder in these cases. I don't know which one, but I fail to see how the same household could produce such wildly dissimilar siblings. Same parents, same environment, same education... It's got to be genomes.

    This is not to absolve the little perps. Except in the most extreme cases, most people with psychopathic tendencies can exercise will power to keep themselves out of trouble. That's why I didn't take a gun in my car, for example. Yet, most of these bastards hogging the freeway during my commute would amply deserve a few high-caliber bursts, let me tell ya. But did I do it? Nope. Sheer will power at work. So I *know* it can be done. You always have a choice unless you are desperately screwed up.

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