Family Annihilators


There is a type of killer known as a family annihilator. These are people that kill an entire family whether it’s for profit or other personal gain. Unfortunately, when I do my October blog series, I’ll be discussing several family annihilators. Most often, family annihilators are a parent. However, on rare occasions it’s someone outside the family. As I’m researching the female family annihilators, I realized I needed to do a post describing the term a little better.

Unlike serial killers, family annihilators have not been studied very well. There was a study done in the UK in the 2010s, but the results weren’t very informative. They studied 71 cases and found 59 of them were committed by men. However, the UK study eventually created 4 types of family annihilators. I say it was unhelpful, because not all US family annihilators seem to fall into these 4 types and it’s about a 50/50 split on male/female perpetrators. Scott Peterson, Chris Watts, and Chris Coleman all murdered their families in what seemed to be an attempt to wipe the slate clean so they could marry their mistresses. Furthermore, Andrea Yates wasn’t the only female family annihilator that was acquitted because of mental illness. And I found at least one case from the 1980s where a woman killed her children and husband to pave the way for her to marry her lover, with no baggage like children.

The four types are Self Righteous, Disappointed, Anomic, and Paranoid. Don’t worry, I’m going to give definitions and examples for those.

Self Righteous: This type of family annihilator blames their partner for the murders. This is the most common type of family annihilator. They blame their partners for either their failures, their children’s’ failures, or their expectations not being met. Watts, Peterson, and Coleman all fall into this type to some degree. None of them were “happily married” and all thought that if they could just get rid of their wives and family and runoff into the sunset with their mistresses, their lives would be better and they would be happy.

Disappointed: This family annihilator believes they have done everything for their family, even sacrificing his wants and needs to better his family and yet, his family is ungrateful. Often there is a bit of a cultural difference involved. The two concrete examples I found of this type were both Middle Eastern men (who were not devout Muslims) who believed their family was becoming too Westernized. For example, Yesser Said murdered his three daughters by shooting them in the back of his taxi cab after finding love notes from one of the daughter’s boyfriends. Said had a history of domestic violence against his children and his wife.

Anomic: For these killers their family is a symbol of their financial success. When something threatens that success, their family becomes a symbol of their failures and so they kill them. The best example of this is John List, who murdered his mother, wife, and children after he lost his job.

Paranoid: These killers kill their families to protect them from something. Usually from the threat of being taken away or some other imaginary threat. This delusion seems to be more common in women than men. However, John Sharpe may fall into this category. Although it’s not entirely clear what his motive was for murdering his pregnant wife and daughter Gracie. Gracie wasn’t quite 2 years old yet. She’d had a difficult life, having been born with hip dysplasia. After Gracie and Anne were murdered by John, it was discovered that John had been sexually molesting Gracie. Many think Sharpe killed them because Anne had figured out he was molesting Gracie, but there’s no proof that Anne knew. And John had told people he wasn’t looking forward to the birth of their next child (a boy) because Gracie was always in so much pain.

Unlike with other types of killers, family annihilators don’t seem to have warning signs (they aren’t killing neighborhood pets or writing manifestos about the wrongs perpetrated against them). Also, most family annihilators have no criminal record and have stable, well paying jobs/careers.

The people the pre-read my blog posts already dinged me on my including family annihilators as mass murderers if they have 3 or more victims. So the post that was my rebuttal was supposed to publish on the 10 and instead published at midnight on the 6th. I had considered changing this post, but it seemed like more work than just explaining myself in a separate post would be… My reasoning is here.

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