Sugar and Spice, and a Nasty Little Vice

How can we understand young girls who aspire to be killers.

Posted Jul 31, 2016

K. Ramsland
Source: K. Ramsland

We heard this week about the case disposition of the two “Slenderman” attackers – 12-year-old Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier who stabbed Payton Leutner 19 times in 2014 to sacrifice her to a fictional Internet character. They will face adult court. From the same state came news of a 14-year-old girl who’d aimed to commit her “first kill.”

Kali J. Bookey stated that she’s a psychopath, with aspirations to commit multiple murders. She’d designated her brother’s girlfriend as her first. Bookey has been charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder, although she is being held at a juvenile facility. In Wisconsin, juveniles over the age of 10 who are accused of first-degree homicide or attempted homicide can be tried as adults. That’s what the Slenderman girls discovered.

Bookey had formed a plan that made little sense. She told police that two men wearing ski masks and armed with a knife had assaulted her while she was riding her bike. To save herself, she'd made a deal with them. She knew where they could find a girl near her age alone at home. (That they would leave her, a girl under their control, to enter a home with unknown parameters seems far-fetched.)

Police went to this location and found a 15-year-old girl on the floor, bleeding badly from her neck and face. This girl told police that the teenager who’d sent them to her house was, in fact, her attacker. Kali Bookey was her boyfriend’s sister.

Apparently, Bookey had thought that her victim would be dead, because otherwise her lies would be exposed. The police got the victim to a hospital in time to save her.

She said that Bookey first tried to suffocate her. Then she jumped on her repeatedly. Then Bookey bludgeoned her over the head with a heavy ceramic bowl. Breaking it, Bookey asked the victim if she wanted to die quickly or “bleed out.” The victim chose the second option. Bookey used the shards to stab her.

In police custody, Bookey admitted to the deed and said she would try to kill again. She also said that she had only wanted to scare the girl and have her pass out from loss of blood. She had planned the attack for over a week, biking past the victim’s home to figure out how to achieve her goal.

Kids who kill have traditionally fallen into categories according to their personality traits, situations, and/or motivations. Some deaths are accidental, such as when kids play with their parents' guns, but many have specific intent. Experts have categorized killings by kids as:

·      Accidental

·      School-related

·      Family-related

·      The result of mental illness

·      Gang- or cult-related

·      From pressure as part of a couple

·      Infanticide

·      Hate crimes

·      Thrill killing

Yet these categories aren't adequate. Some of these girls seem to think that the need to be tough or evil means stepping over a significant moral line. Some are also just vindictive. Murder strikes them as the ultimate statement or even the most sensible thing to do.

When Skylar Neese went missing in July 2012, a neighborhood surveillance video showed a blurred image of her running toward a car. She got in, so she knew who was picking her up. Two of her closest friends, Rachel Shoef and Sheila Eddy, admitted to joy riding and dropping her off just before she disappeared. Because the girls’ stories failed to match, detectives used the surveillance footage to pressure them. One finally cracked and admitted that they had taken her into a wooded area to kill her. Why? “We didn’t like her.”

Thirteen-year-old Tiffany Van Nostrand invited a girl to a sleepover at her St. Louis home. They chatted about girl things. Then Tiffany discovered that this girl, with a friend, planned to lure her into the woods to kill her, because she had attracted the attention of one of their ex-boyfriends. The police took the perpetrators into custody and discovered from their friends that they had brought knives to school to carry out the act.

In Clearfield, PA, a gang of kids decided to run away to Florida. When Jessica Holtmeyer, 16, thought Kimberly Jo Dotts might snitch, she put a noose around her neck and hanged her from a tree. Holtmeyer then used a large rock to smash her face. Holtmeyer reportedly said that it had been fun and she wanted to do it again. She received a life sentence. (Due to a recent Supreme Court ruling about juvenile killers, Holtmeyer has a shot at parole.)

In Britain, two girls, 13 and 14, posted selfies on Snapchat of repeatedly stabbing and bludgeoning Angela Wrightson to death. She had over 100 injuries. They thought it was fun. One suspect took photos of the two killers smiling next to the injured woman. The teens made a Facebook call, in which one urged the other: "Go on. Smash her head in. Bray her. F------ kill her."

We should revise our categories about children’s motives, especially for adolescent girls. The sheer meanness expressed mirrors the culture of cruelty and "I'm a badass" that pervades social media. This is not just for kicks. There's something more flashy and punitive involved. Criminology needs to keep up with changing perceptions and influences.