Kids who kill their parents – Is it ever justified?

Kids certainly don’t always get along with their parents. But we hope the tension never turns ugly enough for the kids to haul off and kill them.

Kevin Black/submitted photo

Kevin Black/submitted photo

Such was allegedly the case earlier this week when 50-year old Kevin Black reportedly shot and killed his stepfather, Kenneth Phipps, 76.

Mom was in the house at the time of the shooting, although she is bedridden and suffers from dementia, police said. Black’s half-sister, age 47, was also there; she’s the one who ran outside yelling for help.

Police said the fatal shooting came during an argument between stepfather and son about Black walking around the house wearing a gun belt. Black had also been on the police’s radar in the past for stealing things from his family to feed his drug habit.

Kids who kill off their parents or stepparents usually do so a tad earlier than the age of 50 – since the younger kids can’t just pick up and leave as an adult can – but no matter what the age, the outcome is just as tragic.

Some of the most recent statistics, which are already 20 years old, determined more than 300 parents were killed by their children each year between 1977 and 1986. That’s about 25 dead moms or pops each month. Compared to other murders, that’s also very rare.

Parent-killing children generally fall into three types, according to parricide expert Kathleen Heide.

Sidewalk art anonymous/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Sidewalk art anonymous/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

We have the kids who were cruelly abused; those who are suffering from mental illness; and the most dangerous of the bunch – the uncaring and selfish children afflicted with an antisocial personality disorder. This disorder is marked with, among other things, a blatant disregard of pretty much everyone’s rights but their own.

Never mind the commandment about honoring thy father and mother, kids who murder their parents are already breaking an even bigger rule.

Lizzie Borden was perhaps the most notorious of suspected parent killers, although she was acquitted of the 1892 crime.

Tensions were high in the Borden household when Lizzie purportedly hacked her dad and stepmother to death with an axe, some say after poisoning them didn’t work. One theory is it had something to do with seizures she was having during her menstrual cycle.

The Menendez brothers, who were convicted of gunning down their parents in 1989, are also up there on the notoriety list. Although they were brought up in a mansion and both college students when the crime went down, there are claims their dad was too tough on them.

By all means, then, shoot him.

It was later learned the double murder may have been all about the money.

My current true crime read, Cold Kill, is in the midst of outlining another slain parents tale of woe in 1982.

Adult child Cindy Ray Campbell spun skeins of delusional lies about how horribly her parents had treated her growing up. She was chained to the toilet. She was repeatedly raped.

Her boyfriend David West believed the lies. He also believed he’d get half her inheritance if he helped out his gal. So she finally convinced him to blow them away as they slept.

While we may not know every detail in these crimes, like what the heck goes through a child’s head when he pulls the trigger or she wields that ax, we do know that society’s view of parricide has gotten softer.

What once was totally and horrendously unthinkable is now, well, perhaps in some cases nearly justifiable.

A case in point is Billie Joe Powell, 16, who reportedly shot and killed her dad after he had allegedly abused her. Her Ohio community banned together with petitions and support to attempt to get her tried as a juvenile rather than an adult so she’d get a more lenient sentence.

How nice of them.

The judge was nice about it, too, not sentencing Powell to any prison term. Her 1993 plea agreement had her pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter in exchange for 88 days in jail, five years probation and four years of psychological counseling.

So does the abuse of a child condone the murder of a father? We have to wonder if anything is horrific enough for a kid to take his parent’s life, the same life that brought him into the world in the first place.


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who wants to stay at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Mass. It’s supposed to be haunted. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at E-mail

logoWhat do you think?

Is there anything that would justify a child killing his or her parents?

Do you like Lizzie Borden?

Have you heard any other horror stories? Do tell.


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
This entry was posted in Crime, danger, death, gross stuff, life, Police/fire/law, Rynski Column and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Kids who kill their parents – Is it ever justified?

  1. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski. Of course parricide is justified in self defense or some cases of continued abuse, depending on the kind and degree of cruelty.(need more options on your poll)
    PS- I liked Liz Montgomery in the Lizzy B. TV movie, not Lizzie herself. We do have an elementary school down the street from where I work honoring her in name. 🙂 (think it’s spelled differently)

    • Rynski says:

      mornin’ radmax –
      you have a lizzie borden school? that’s kind of creepy. do they keep axes in the classrooms?
      i hope to check out the TV lizzie b movie. never saw it. i think the tale, if not the outcome, is fascinating.
      as far as parricide goes – that’s a tough one. i want to say there are options other than murder but it would have to be looked at on a case by case basis.

      • radmax says:

        I don’t think there is anything worse than the betrayal of a child’s love and trust.
        As far as the Borden case, very strange and fascinating. I have a tendency to believe she was psychologically pushed over the edge by her stern, overprotective parents. Odd family.  I still don’t believe her actions were warranted. In that day and age psychological help was in it’s infancy, not much help forthcoming there. She could have used some…and maybe a parenting class for her mom and dad. 🙂

  2. leftfield says:

    I voted other.  In most cases I’m against it; killing is horrible.  But, if your name happened to be Liz (Cheney) or Ron Jr. and you knew your parents were mass murderers, then it would have been OK.

  3. Jennatoolz says:

    This is a tough one Ryn! No one should be murdered…but if it was in self defense, then it should be handled differently than a cold blooded killing. If I was in a situation where my parents came after me in a way that I felt my life was threatened, then I would do whatever it took to survive…even if it meant killing. I would take responsibility for my actions, of course, but I would only hope that I get some leniency.

    • Rynski says:

      i agree, jennatoolz – a tough question indeed.
      your example of plain old survival is a good argument. your life or theirs kind of thing.
      i thought of another good argument with the movie AN AMERICAN CRIME, based on true story of horrific child abuse where a kid was locked in the basement in the 1960s. i won’t wreck the ending – but i will warn everyone it’s NOT for the sqeamish.

      • azmouse says:

        That’s a great movie. They did justice to the original story. The book, of course got into much more graphic detail.

      • Rynski says:

        never read the book….but now i must. although i must also say the movie had me turning away and cringing, with my gut all twisted in disgust…
        makes a great date movie.

      • azmouse says:

        The book goes into greater detail of the hell that went on, plus there were lots of pictures of all the people involved.
        She was a beautiful little girl, which is one of the reasons what happened, happened. (I’m trying not to give anything away for those unfamiliar with it, but want to see or read it)

    • Rynski says:

      p.s. like your new avatar!

  4. Carolyn Classen says:

    Self-defense may be justifiable killing in some cases, but you bring up the larger issue of any killing at all which some people oppose, even the death penalty.

    • Rynski says:

      hi carolyn –
      good point.
      …and it also brings up is it OK for a kid to kill a parent in self defense? BUT is it then NOT OK for that same parent to be sentenced to death if they did succeed in killing the child and the child’s self defense did not succeed?

  5. leftfield says:

    Seriously though, as a child would have limited options and is not held to the same standards as an adult, I can understand abused children doing what is needed to escape abuse and being forgiven by the courts.  Even if organizations such as CPS were given financial parity with the police (who, ostensibly, are there to protect adults and children) and were omnipresent, we collectively have an unsolved philosophical conundrum where non-interference with parents vs a child’s right to safety and proper care is concerned.

    • Rynski says:

      as always, interesting points, leftfield.
      and the ohio courts def. forgave 16-yr-old billie joe powell with the meager sentence of 88 days in jail (with credit for time served) and probation.

      • leftfield says:

        I could agree that any body who has killed, whatever the circumstances, needs to be watched for a little while.  If I were in charge, I’d be watching Little GW very closely. 

        While I make fun, whenever this subject comes up, i.e., is killing ever justified, I always think back to Chaplin’s famous line, “Kill one person and you’re just a murderer.  But, kill thousands, and you’re a hero”.

      • Rynski says:

        the chaplin line is so horribly true!

  6. azmouse says:

    Now THIS is an interesting topic.
    I agree that murder is never justified but we all know far to many parents should never have become parents. Most abused children grow up to lead stable, productive lives. A few continue the abuse on to their kids and maybe other kids, and even fewer become killers.
    There is currently a case in Missouri, I believe, where a 77 year old father and his four adult sons have been arrested for molesting a bunch of children. They are digging up the property to see if there are any bodies of children.
    I’m going to assume, although who knows, that this father molested his boys when they were kids and now they all molest together. What if one of those boys would have killed him years ago? Maybe all these kids and adults coming forward now wouldn’t have happened. Some of these kids were molested for many years by these guys (one got pregnant at 11 years old) I have to admit, it wouldn’t break my heart if one of the molested kids killed the dad, or all of them for molesting them.

    I also love the Lizzie Borden movie with Elizabeth Montgomery. It was such a paradox to know her as Bewitched then to see her in a more sinister role…and ya gotta love the Lizzie Borden song!

    • azmouse says:

      Oh, an adult drug addict walking around the house with a gun…never good.

    • Rynski says:

      hey AZMouse –
      yuck! on that current molest fest case. and very good question about what may have been had the father been eliminated early on. it’s scary when the cycle of abuse is continuously perpetuated.
      i’ll have to check that one out.
      and i’ll def. check out made-for-TV bewitched as killer chile. hope it’s on DVD somewhere.
      and yes, the drug addict walking around the house with a gun – i’ll have to agree that’s not a very good scene.

    • radmax says:

      Hi az. That was such a role reversal in that movie to see ‘Samantha’ all weirded out. Creepy as hell…

      • azmouse says:

        Creepy in a good way! LOL
        She did many cool movies later on in her career, actually. One was a true story about a single Mother who has a weird sexual relationship with her son, who she demeans and controls and it’s just all sick and twisted. (Sins of the Mother) He grows up to be a rapist, and she encourages him to do it, covers for him, etc.
        She could play creepy!
        I also loved her in her first role ever. She was a teen on The Twilight Zone who plays the only survivor of a war, until she runs into Charles Bronson ( I believe it was his first role as well) who also survived, but they were on opposite sides.
        Obviously, I’m a fan. Like Lucy, I love it when women can be really funny and beautiful at the same time.

  7. leftfield says:

    As you might suspect, I am opposed to the death penalty.  I am not trying to widen the discussion, just use this point to open the door to the self defense argument.  Most of us would agree that killing in self defense is justified.  This is one rationale that has been used to defend the death penalty; that society has a right to protect itself from potential future crimes, and, historically, this has been the justification for numerous American invasions.  Vietnam and Iraq come immediately to mind as examples.  Now, tie this in with one of the most common arguments (however specious) used to justify an increasingly armed society, that if criminals knew their intended victims were likely armed they would be less likely to act, I say the logical extension of this is that we need to arm all children.  Certainly then, parents would have to think twice before abusing children knowing that a toddler may be packing. 

  8. tiponeill says:

    Come to the Dark Side, Luke…

  9. azmouse says:

    Time and time again we as a country prove how little value our children have. Most of the time, a rapist will get twice as much prison time as a child molester. At least an adult woman has more ability to try to fend off an attack than a child does.
    There were animal shelters in the sixties but no real help for abused children till the eighties. Before that time it was nearly impossible to convict a parent of abuse or molestation because children were like property.

  10. radmax says:

    Geez Lefty, managed to squeeze RR, Liz Cheney, Charlie Chapman, GWB, American foreign policy, Vietnam and Iraq all into a child abuse topic, gotta hand it to ya… 🙂

    • leftfield says:

      Yes Rad, it’s not easy being me.  I have to get up very early and get right into the coffee to be able to tie such disparate things together and give it even a semblance of coherence.  As you know, even then, it doesn’t always make any sense.

      Time for all good commies to do the people’s work.

  11. azmouse says:


    Sorry, just wanted everyone to know it’s ‘stuff the bus’ today at Broadway and Pantano (Sam Levitz parking lot on the northeast corner) to help out our local elderly.

    New household items (blankets, kitchen stuff, etc) and personal items (toilet paper, soap, etc)

    Every little bit helps!

    Okay, back to killer kids.

  12. sean bean says:

    i have a situation in my extended family right now… where the mother and her boyfriend both deserve to die… but the children are too young…
    the state child protective services keeps returning the 4 and 9 year old to the mother… who lets her drug addled boyfriend beat them senseless…
    many parents deserve to die…

    • azmouse says:

      Hello Sean,
      Sorry about your situation, and I’m really sorry for those poor children. Drugs and parenting don’t mix. I hope you guys keep calling the police, keep dropping by and checking on the children or have the children stay with relatives as much as possible. Maybe if all of you in the extended family don’t give up, something will finally be done to permanently protect those kids.

      Maybe the men in the family need to step in and really put a good scare into the boyfriend? I’m not saying they should beat him up or anything, but……….

  13. ado1 says:

    If you remove self defense and assisted suicide from the equation, I would have to say no, never.

  14. bill lee says:

    This is an easy one. Yes it should be justified if the child Has had no run in with the cops or anything of the law. For all we know the child is actually sane and killing their father is just a way to keep their sanity. Who cares if their parents were battered children themselves, They need to learn how to respect their seeds. Most children who kill their parents are generally smart. They just don’t want to get help because they Know that in society Nobody gives a damn unless they can get something out of  it. It’s a cruel world out there…Kill ALL PARENTS!!! (That are still using their reptillian brains) We need Smart parents that actually care and want to see their chilldren happy, Not some phucked up pedophile or Abuser to use them for entertainment. Once you’ve been in the situation, maybe you’d understand how I feel.

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