November 10th, 2017

Heart of darkness: the baby killers

What state of mind allows a person to purposely target babies for killing, up close and personal?

I ask the question because of reports that the Texas church attacker did exactly that:

The gunman who killed 26 people at a small-town Texas church went aisle to aisle looking for victims and shot crying babies at point-blank range, a couple who survived the attack said…

…he entered the church yelling “Everybody die!” and resumed “shooting hard” at helpless families, Solis said.

The gunman checked each aisle for more victims, including babies who cried out amid the noise and smoke, Ramirez said.

There is really no “why” here, nothing rational except a psychopath who wants to do evil and to be known for performing actions he considers most repellent to ordinary sensibilities.

There were two especially dangerous signs that indicated this gunman was fully capable of such actions, although he’d never killed anyone before. One was the fact that while in the Air Force he had assaulted not only his then-wife, but her son, the latter badly enough to fracture his skull. And yet he only received a penalty of one year (the lightness of that sentence puzzles me, but I’ve not seen any explanation).

The other extreme danger sign for this man was the fact that he had apparently been cruel to an animal:

Kelley was cited for animal cruelty in El Paso County on August 1, 2014, according to The Denver Post. Numerous witnesses saw him in a yard, jumping on top of a husky and beating it in the head and neck.

According to the report, Kelley called for the brown and white dog to come. When it didn’t, he ran over to it, tackled it, held it down with his knees, and punched it four to five times. The dog got up to run away, and when Kelley caught up with it, he picked it up, threw it to the ground and dragged it by its neck.

Authorities came and found the dog undernourished and took it to a vet. Kelley claimed that he was trying to restrain the dog from acting aggressively. Kelley received a deferred probationary sentence, paid fines totaling $448.50, and the charges were dismissed.

Abusing animals is often like a gateway drug for violent criminals. Of course, not all animal abusers go on to be violent to humans, and not all people violent to humans precede it with animal abuse, but the connection is very strong nonetheless and psychopaths in particular are very partial to abusing helpless creatures.

Babies are especially helpless creatures, as well.

What to do with a person like the Texas shooter before he goes on his rampage? There are two problems, of course. The first is that we cannot predict who will do this; we can only say who is more likely than others to do it. And the second is that until someone actually acts, we cannot detain that person preventively because that would be depriving them of liberty without cause.

My only suggestion would be that, after a crime (even a relatively minor one), it is necessary to look at the entire history of the perpetrator, and that a history of things such as violence against children and/or animals should weigh very heavily during the sentencing portion of the legal proceedings. But even then there’s a limit to how long such a person can be held, and that limit would be the maximum possible penalty for the offense.

When that person gets out of prison, watch out.

And if you know someone who has been violent towards animals or children, run the other way. Do not get into a relationship with this person, and advise your loved ones to do the same.

I have a philosophical and religious question about the nature of evil. I believe that we have free will, but I also believe that psychopaths are at least partly born and partly made. I am fairly sure (and have done a bit of research on this, but found nothing definitive enough to link) that most Western religions would say that despite the fact that psychopaths may have some inborn tendencies in that direction and that they may have suffered abuse in childhood that exacerbated those tendencies, they are nevertheless responsible for their actions. I tend to agree with this. But there is something so “other” about psychopaths’ makeup, so Bad-Seedish, that it remains hard to see them as people like other people with the same choices as other people.

I suppose that’s the nature of evil.

The Texas church shooter seems to be pure evil when we look at his actions during the attack (and at many times earlier in his life), but obviously some people loved him: his wives (at least initially), and perhaps the father he called in his last moments to say goodbye:

Based on evidence at the scene, investigators believe Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by Willeford and another man and crashed his car.

The 26-year-old shooter also used his cellphone to tell his father he had been shot and did not think he would survive, authorities said.

I wonder if we’ll ever hear much about the contents of that call, or the characteristics of their relationship. Was it a bad relationship? What was the emotional tone of the call? Was the shooter capable of some sort of love? And does any of that matter in deciding whether that means he freely and voluntarily chose to do evil?

Philosophers and ethicists have been debating those issues (all you have to do is Google something like “are psychopaths responsible for their crimes?” and up will pop a host of viewpoints). See this, for example.

My own opinion (which happens to coincide with the legal point of view) is that psychopaths are morally responsible despite whatever deficits they’re born with, and we must treat them as such. Law only exempts people with certain very discrete and extremely serious mental illnesses from criminal responsibility, and these are illnesses that make it impossible for the person to tell right from wrong and/or to distinguish reality from fantasy. Psychopathy is not a mental illness, and psychopaths are well aware of what is right and what is wrong; they just think that the rules don’t apply to them.

[NOTE: I am leaving out of this discussion the killing of babies and children for political reasons, or in war as collateral damage (the latter of which is not the deliberate targeting of babies). These people are—or at least can be—somewhat different from the type of baby killers I’ve been discussing in this post. It’s a very big and complex topic—for example, among the Nazis you had quite a few sadistic psychopaths who enjoyed their work, but that was not everyone even among Nazis.]

15 Responses to “Heart of darkness: the baby killers”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Evidently he also escaped from a mental institution. Ultimately, why he did it is irrelevant, since that level of evil is incurable. Personally, until proven otherwise, I’ll continue to believe that he will be held accountable by a higher power.

    Given his record, that he wasn’t permanently imprisoned long ago is highly relevant as well as how he legally got his hands on the rifle he used.

    A felony charge should immediately trigger a full review of every legal item the defendant has ever been charged with and should be a mandatory condition for the judge/jury’s consideration. Given his history at that point, his escape from a mental institution should also have resulted in a life sentence. Clearly he was extremely dangerous and unwilling to seek help.

    OR… if his liberty is such a concern, castrate and lobotomize him and then employ him sweeping sidewalks.

    Mercy to the merciless is cruelty to the victims.

  2. parker Says:

    In my childhood there was a larrge family living 2 farms down the road. The parents were good and helpful neighbors. They had 3 sons and 3 daughters. The youngest son was my age and a real vicious wacko. I tried to stop from bullying and beating on other kids often at school. We had 5 or maybe 6 slug outs. I decided after the first one that two can fight dirty. I beat him down in the following fights and then he was careful to avoid p*ssing me off.

    I lost track of him after high school until our ten year reunion. Turns out he commited a string of brutal robberies in Illinois and was killed when he attacked a county deputy during a routine traffic stop on a rural road. Bad seed, all the other children were very likeable, engaging people, he was a bad seed. And I don’t care why.

    Various government agencies failed to do what they are granted the authority to do. Thus he could pass background checks and buy firearms even though his criminal record made it illegal to buy a firearm.

    And we are told government should be in charge of healthcare and will protect us by disarming us. As Charles Heston said, government can take my firearms from my cold dead hands.

  3. Gringo Says:

    What to do with a person like the Texas shooter before he goes on his rampage?

    What Parker stated.

    Various government agencies failed to do what they are granted the authority to do. Thus he could pass background checks and buy firearms even though his criminal record made it illegal to buy a firearm.

    Granted, while properly enforcing existing laws in this example would have prevented this particular shooter from access to the weapon he used to kill, this doesn’t universally apply to mass shooting cases. Each one is different.

  4. MollyNH Says:

    I see a similarity between him and Adam Lanza of sandy hook. Shootindg all those helpless elementary schoolers.
    they hate themselves and see helpless children as mirror images.

  5. parker Says:


    I agree, but if laws are not enforced in cases like this, the statists response is to call for more restrictions. There many paths to a totalitarian state. This is one.

  6. expat Says:

    Fox News has a piece up (right sidebar) about Jeffrey Dahmer’s step mother’s take on him. It sounds like his birth mother was a real nut and he suffered from early childhood neglect. Whether that is the whole answer to his violence is not clear to me, but it was obviously well hidden from his family. I don’t know what to make of these kinds of people. I doubt that the law can ever stop them.

  7. n.n Says:

    Human babies are aborted all the time in the pursuit of wealth, pleasure, leisure, and democratic leverage. This guy, if for one day, lived the female chauvinist fantasy, and denied life to those he deemed unworthy. His greatest transgression was to lift the thinly veiled lies… I mean, layers of privacy, that were established in order to normalize psychopathic behavior in liberal societies.

  8. Mr. Frank Says:

    As we say in the South, some people just need killing.

  9. AesopFan Says:

    “See this, for example.” –> this article:

    A very interesting analysis on the very narrow topic, but I particularly was struck by his insinuation that many of the power-holders in business, professions, and government are psychopaths (Weinstein might qualify; we could all come up with a list of names).
    One of the commenters called it the Pathocracy.

  10. physicsguy Says:

    The real issue to me is that most of the mental institutions have been closed in the 60’s wave of peace, love, etc, and these people who should have NO contact with regular society are now “mainstreamed”. Free to act out their paranoia, psychopathic fantasies. 60-70 years ago they would have been, properly. under lock and key. It’s really no mystery why these events are taking place now and not so much in the past with greater regularity.

  11. steve walsh Says:

    Mollie Hemmingway said this as part of a discussion following the Las Vegas shooting:

    “We’re pretending we’re having a debate about gun control,” Mollie said, “but we’re really having a debate about the nature of evil and whether a big enough government can contain it.”.

    A few commenters above make the excellent point that the government failed, on several occasions, to do what they are allowed and supposed to do with a person such as the Texas shooter. He shouldn’t have had a legal gun, but even it he had been prevented from acquiring one who’s to say he wouldn’t have gotten an illegal one or selected some other method of mass killing.

    Which brings me to this question: how do we identify potential evil doers, and what can and should we, individually and collectively, do with them in advance of committing these sorts of acts? I don’t have an answer, but it seems that if we are to prevent this sort of crime we have to come up with one.

  12. OldTexan Says:

    Some people have been wondering why there was no one in the church with a gun. Last weekend was the opening of deer season here in Texas and a lot of people were out deer hunting and perhaps those were the same people who might have been armed.

    The opening weekend is a big deal in this part of Texas where I live 60 miles from Sutherland Springs, I don’t know if the shooter was that smart but it kind of fits. I do know that this Sunday a lot of us who thought it could never happen here will be a bit more prepared.

    My heart goes out to the families of the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

  13. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I have a relation whose son alternated between normal and productive life, jail, and the mental health system. He was schizophrenic and killed himself in jail.
    She is part of a movement for some kind of treatment prior to anyone’s doing what might get them forcibly treated or institutionalized today.
    I’ve asked her about the line from eccentric to whatever it is that causes the state to forcibly mess with a guy’s head. Oh, we would never worry about “eccentric”. Are the protections as in criminal justice system? Um.
    I can see her anguish, but she and those who are on the same wavelength and those in congress who listen to them are all going down a very dangerous road.
    They are encouraged on that road by the idea the mental illness is “brain sickness” and by saying that, they presume it can be fixed like any other illness. Change the title, change the entire issue.

  14. Ymar Sakar Says:

    How much did Trum’s Democrat donations help out Planned Profit in killing babies again?

  15. Ymar Sakar Says:

    until proven otherwise, I’ll continue to believe that he will be held accountable by a higher power.

    A higher power that can’t even resurrect the families of the dead + the victims so that they can see each other for a thousand years (second chance), isn’t all that “powerful”.

    Why do humans endlessly bow down to the supernatural gods merely for some wealth and bennies in this lower order world? It’s like the USA fascination with “Obey the Police, or Else”. Or else what, they’ll let us die like they did in the cities Anti Fa’s mayors told them to Stand Down and watch Americans get killed in?

    This New World Order, Novus ordo seclorum, where you have to obey the Top Authority, or else something bad happens to you, is a pretty good way to control humans.

    I wonder when humanity will want to become free. They certainly have refused the truth’s ability to set them free.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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