Maternal filicide has been discussed in the medical, mental health, and child abuse fields, yet little research exists with a criminal justice/law enforcement perspective. Nevertheless, criminal justice professionals responsible for investigation and prosecution of these offenders often must give attention to unique behavioral, social, and psychological dynamics not considered in many other types of cases. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) III - Crimes Against Children identified, collected, and reviewed law enforcement case files in which a biological mother killed her child(ren). Collectively, the cases involve 213 biological mothers who killed 265 children, and are comprised of neonaticide, infanticide, and filicide cases. Data analysis revealed that the offenders ranged in age from 12-46 years, and many were unmarried, unemployed, and had a history of violence. Many of the victims were three years of age or younger, did not live with their biological fathers at the time of their deaths, and had a history of maltreatment most often perpetrated by their mothers. In addition, traditional weapons such as a firearm or knife were used less often compared to asphyxiants and blunt force instruments. The authors explore the tenets of female violence, the mother-child dynamic and mental disorders, and address the complexities associated with investigating and prosecuting maternal filicide offenders.
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Joy Lynn E. Shelton, B.A, is a Crime Analyst in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit III- Crimes Against Children. She joined the unit in 1999 and serves as the Principal Researcher for the maternal filicide study and co-researcher for the Suicide Among Child Sex Offenders and Residential Child Abduction projects. She has co-authored several academic articles and law enforcement guides on the topic of neonaticide - the killing of a child within 24 hours of birth and Child Sex Offender Suicide. In addition, she provides analytical and operational support for other crimes against children research and investigations. Mrs. Shelton presents at a wide-variety of national training venues and is a frequent presenter at the FBI's National Academy at Quantico, VA.Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Tia A. Hoffer has a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology, and prior to her work with the FBI, she conducted psychological assessments, individual, and group psychotherapy. She has been with the FBI since 1998 and is currently assigned to the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) III, which deals specifically with Crimes Against Children. SSA Hoffer provides operational support to federal, state, and local law enforcement through case consultations and on-site deployments. She has trained criminal justice and mental health professionals in matters involving child abductions, child homicides, and sexual victimization of children. She is the Principal Investigator on research projects including Suicide among Child Sex Offenders, Criminal Histories of Animal Cruelty Offenders and the General Assessment Questionnaire Validation project.Mrs. Muirhead joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a research contractor in November of 2005 where she provided statistical expertise on long-term, multi-year projects to the National Center for the Analysis Violent Crime's Behavioral Analysis Units. Projects included but were not limited to: Targeted Violence in Institutions of Higher Education; Lone Offender; Islamic Radicalization; General Assessment Questionnaire (GAQ): Personality Assessment Tool; Best Practices in Homicide Investigations; Child Abduction Homicide; False Allegation of Child Abduction; Sexual Exploitation of Children; Characteristics of Sexual Homicide; Characteristics of Serial Homicide. In February 2009, Mrs. Muirhead accepted a position as the Research Coordinator for the Behavioral Analysis Units and continues to serve as the program manager for applied social science research projects conducted by or in support of the NCAVC. Specifically, she formulates, develops and evaluates research projects pertaining to the operations of the NCAVC and its personnel. The NCAVC conducts studies on the ecology of crime and other social/behavioral areas applicable to criminology. Mrs. Yvonne Muirhead attended the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics in December 1998. In May 2004, she received a Master of Science degree in Statistics. She holds memberships with the American Statistical Association - San Antonio Chapter, Homicide Research Working Group and the Futures Research Working Group.
Introduction.- Precedent for Leniency.- General Violence.- Female Violence.- The Mother-Child Dynamic.- Mental Disorders.- Filicide Classification Systems.- Incidence & Prevalence.- Neonaticide.- Infanticide.- Filicide.- Method.- Results.- Discussion.- Conclusion.- Limitations and Strengths.
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