Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fathers Who Kill

Malignant Needs

Familicide is the wiping out of an entire family. Filicide is the murder of children by parents. The following represent a sampling of cases in which fathers either killed or tried to kill their children.

In Chesapeake, Va., Tom Bonny shot his 19-year-old daughter, Kathy, twenty-seven times and dumped her nude body in a canal in 1987. When a psychologist came forward to prove that Bonney was ill with dissociative identity disorder, coaching him to either manifest the disorder or face going to prison, Bonney managed to convince authorities that he was indeed too ill to have known what he was doing. Although a jury initially found Bonney guilty, the conviction was overturned based on the assessment of Bonney by another psychiatrist, and the case remains in limbo. Kathy's friends believe that Bonney argued with his daughter over a sexually explicit letter from a boyfriend and then had killed her.

On January 22, 2004, in Atlanta, Georgia, a 6-year-old girl was found beaten and strangled to death and covered with pages torn from a Bible. The parents, who claimed they were "undemonizing her," were charged in her murder. They were found in the nude, dancing around in freezing weather.

The stepfather of a 10-year-old boy attempted to induce him to kill his four-year-old brother—the man's biological son—by playing a hypnotic audiotape to him while he was napping. The boy's mother found the tape and turned him in.

Jerry William Jones
Jerry William Jones

Jerry William Jones, a jealous ex-husband, shot three former in-laws to death and strangled his infant daughter before kidnapping his two daughters and a former step-daughter from Georgia in January 2004. He was stopped in his flight before they were endangered. Just prior to that, he had called his ex-wife to tell her that if she alerted the authorities, he would kill the girls, one by one. His suspected motive was jealousy over his ex-wife visiting her new boyfriend.

In 1983, Charles Rothenberg was enraged at his wife, who wanted a divorce. He gave his 6-year-old son sleeping pills, poured kerosene on him, and lit a match. Someone rescued the boy and he survived, but more than 90% of his body was burned and he needed countless surgeries to be healed.

Andras Pandy
Andras Pandy

A father/daughter team in Brussels, Belgium, were convicted of multiple counts of murder in 2002. Andras Pandy brutalized his daughter, Agnes, and had been raping her since she was 13. Out of fear, she went along with him for three years, helping him to kill and get rid of five bodies. Turning him in, Agnes mentioned six relatives who were victims—Pandy's first two wives and four of his children and step-children, but found body parts and several sets of teeth proved to belong to other people. In the end, authorities suspected Pandy in the deaths of 13 people, some of them children. Several had been shot, Agnes reported, and some bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer. A few were dumped outside the home, while others were immersed in an acidic drain cleaner. Pandy claimed that the missing relatives were still alive. He was in touch with them "through angels."

On Christmas Day in 2003, Shahab Behzadpour had his young son and daughter in the car with him. He was to turn them over to his estranged wife in Altamonte Spring, Florida. Instead, he drove his car straight at his in-laws' house, killing himself and both children in a deadly explosion and fire.

Ronald Clark O'Bryan killed his 8-year-old son in 1974 with Halloween candy treated with potassium cyanide in order to claim the benefits of a life insurance police. He also gave the poisoned candy to other neighborhood children in the hope that with multiple deaths (which did not occur), the murder of his son would not be linked to him.

A man in Wales called his estranged wife to make her listen as he killed himself and four children by running a gasoline-driven lawnmower in the back of the car. He did it, he said, because she was pregnant by another man.

Phlebotomist Brian Stewart injected his infant son with HIV-tainted blood in 1992, for which he was convicted of first-degree assault. That will change to murder if his son, who developed a full-blown case of AIDS four years later, dies as a direct result. Stewart, who was not married to the boy's mother, did not wish to burden himself with child support payments. He thought the boy would die quickly, but that has not been the case. Instead, the child suffers from ADD and AIDS-related problems that prevent him from having a normal life.

John Battaglia with daughters
John Battaglia with daughters

In Texas, John Battaglia wanted revenge on his wife. He had abused her for years while they were married and she finally had left him. He had unsupervised visitation with his two daughters, Mary Faith, 9, and Liberty, 6. In May 2001, the girls were with their father for dinner. Some two hours after they joined him, the girls' mother, Mary Jean Pearle, learned that Battaglia urgently needed to reach her. She called his apartment, and he put Mary Faith on the line. The little girl asked why her mother was trying to put their father in jail (for an incident of harassment). Just then, Mary Faith cried out, "No, Daddy, don't!" Pearle heard several gunshots, so she hung up and called 911, sending police to the apartment. They found both children dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Both had been shot at close range in the back of the head as well. Battaglia was down the street in a tattoo parlor, getting a rose for each of his daughters etched onto his arm. His defense was bipolar disorder, but he was convicted and sentenced to death.

John Battaglia prison photo
John Battaglia prison photo

In 2001, Timothy Rumsey was abusing his wife, so she called the police to complain. Rumsey reacted by killing their three children and himself.

Perhaps the most common reason found among those men who eliminate their children is just the feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated, with no apparent way out except through someone's death. When three familicides occurred in Oregon within a year, a lot of questions were asked about what drove men to do this and what could be done to prevent such tragedies again.

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