“This Mass Killing Was Predictable: It Was Escalating Domestic Violence”

Article ID: 684713

Released: 6-Nov-2017 6:05 PM EST

Source Newsroom: Northwestern University

Expert Pitch

Newswise — CHICAGO --- Northwestern University experts are available to give perspective on the deadly Nov. 5 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Lori Post is a violence researcher who has looked at domestic violence in the military, the problems with media reports on domestic violence and collateral killing whereby the intended victim remains alive and others are killed in an effort to exert maximum control. She also has published on how the media reports these crimes. Post is the director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She is also a professor of emergency medicine and medical social sciences.

"Everything we know about domestic violence predicted this could happen. This is not mental illness. He has a personality disorder, and that disorder is consistent with psychopathy, given prior charges of domestic violence, animal abuse and sexual predatory behavior, e.g. he had sex with a 13-year-old when he was 18. He planned and organized this and knew exactly what he was going to do. He had to investigate the church time, transportation to and from the massacre, weapons and ammunition. This was escalating domestic violence after he lost control of his wife. The most dangerous time is when victims leave their perpetrators. He had a second wife who had left him. A lot of time they leave the focal victim alive. He went after her parents and commenced killing congregation members even though the parents were not there. This was a collateral domestic violence.” 

Post also looks at the problems with how the media reports domestic violence.

"Their reporting normalizes violence by explaining it as a crazy guy who lost it or enters the USAF, gets PTSD, blows a gasket and kills a church full of people. That’s not what happened. This is domestic violence. Since his previous violence was so severe and involved multiple victims, he is one of the most dangerous types of batterers.”

Dr. Robert Hanlon, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and neurology at Feinberg School of Medicine, was the lead author on a recent study that found people who murder children and adults together tend to have more normal intelligence but exhibit antisocial traits and abuse substances.

The study of the neuropsychological profiles of murderers who kill children was published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior.

Hanlon said warning signs like classic antisocial attitudes and behaviors may be more critical to address in individuals who killed both children and adults and executed premeditated, planned murders. 

Hanlon, a Northwestern Medicine neuropsychologist, can be reached at r-hanlon@northwestern.edu.

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