By now, most of you are probably aware of the tragic events that took place on February, 5th of this year when Josh Powell was granted a supervised visit with his children at his home in Utah. After his children entered his home, he closed and locked the door to prevent the social worker from following them in and then proceeded to attack his children with a hatchet and set the house on fire, killing himself and both his boys. For almost all of us (parents or not), it is impossible to imagine any circumstances that would drive an individual to commit such a heinous and violent crime toward their own children. We are all left wondering – why?
James Smithers, President and Founder of Polaris Counseling and an experienced clinician in working with the criminally insane through the Department of Corrections, says this.
“Although statistically, mothers are responsible for more deaths of children than fathers (almost exclusively due to symptoms of severe post-partum depression), fathers have a higher preponderance of killing the entire family. Parents that kill their children have many delusional motives, ranging from a belief that their children cannot live without them, to revenge on a spouse or liberation from the responsibilities that come with raising a family. However, after reading the facts that are available in this case, it is possible that Josh Powell’s motives were very different.
Josh Powell was the prime suspect in the homicide investigation surrounding the death of his wife, and after his children were removed from his custody about six months ago (due to his father being arrested for possession of child pornography and voyeurism charges while the kids were living in his house with their father) the children had made various references through drawings and comments that point toward his guilt. Since the murders, several reports have surfaced that Josh Powell was a controlling man and it appears clear that he was losing control of the situation.
It is my opinion that as he began to lose control of the family dynamics and as the flow of information became more incriminating his anger and frustration built, culminating in the premeditated, violent deaths of his children. Josh Powell panicked. He believed he was heading toward prosecution and had lost any power to control his situation. It is likely that he saw his children as possessions, or extensions of himself. His narcissistic needs could not allow his kids to survive after his death. Having a poor sense of self and looking to avoid humiliation and defeat at all costs, in addition to feeling psychologically overwhelmed and seeing no way out, he performed his last and ultimate form of control – murdering his children in cold blood, then taking his own life.”