Social Question

Blackberry's avatar

What happens to a 5 year old if they murder someone?

Asked by Blackberry (31921points) June 10th, 2011

A 5 year old drowned an even younger child because she was annoyed by the crying. Does she go to jail or what?

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69 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Standard procedure now-a-days is to take their X-box away for a week.

Coloma's avatar

I have no idea. Sad. But..a child that young is barely forming the concepts of right and wrong, I’d imagine they would be ‘sentenced’ to some serious, ongoing counseling for a very loooong time!

OpryLeigh's avatar

Is this even murder? I would imagine that a five year old is too young to really understand just how horrendous her actions were. I would imagine that this is more like manslaughter because of her age and mental capabilities. I don’t know though, just my thoughts on the situation. Her mental state will probably be analysed for years to come to see if she is a danger to society or just a 5 year old throwing a tantrum that,sadly, went very wrong.

Coloma's avatar

At least 50% of sociopathic behavior is genetic and it has been proven these peoples brains work very differently.

She may just be an ‘innocent’ child that was not fully conscious of her actions, or, she may be the worlds youngest budding sociopath.

Jellie's avatar

They’ll be tried as a juvenile I assume and be given rehabilitation or some sort of therapy that they need. The point of the sentence won’t be punishment but something positive. Of course the younger the child the lesser the responsibility on them.

But yea someone that young doesn’t even know what they’re doing, even if they do it intentionally and out of anger. They don’t understand the full consequences of their actions.

Blackberry's avatar

Oh, the therapy thing makes more sense.

Coloma's avatar

And WHY was a 5 year old left alone with an 18 month old in the bathtub?


Yes, it is creepy. We are surrounded by sociopaths, probably many, many more than we could ever imagine.
Not every one of them becomes a killer, but they are without remorse or conscience and have no issue with exploiting anyone for their personal gain.

bkcunningham's avatar

There are alot of things that don’t make sense in that story. I’ve looked at the Kansas City newspaper and couldn’t find anything about it in the local newspaper. So all I have to go on are the little snippets of stories the AP or Reuters picked up on. If anyone can find an archived local story, I’d appreciate a link.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Coloma Apparently the 16 year old that was supposed to be looking after them fell asleep.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I feel like the 16 year old should be charged with negligence here…

JLeslie's avatar

Not much will happen to the 5 year old most likely. He is 5. Do you want him punished? He does not really understand the consequences of his actions. Although, I would get him some counseling, and be watching him for other violent behavior.

Several years ago an 11 year (I think 11?) old killed a friend. He was much larger than her, and he was rough housing, and she wound up dead. I can’t remember what the courts decided in the situation. I did not think he should go to jail.

Blackberry's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t care what happens, I’ve just never seen something like this before and I was wondering what the protocol is.

Blackberry's avatar

As long as something is done, I mean. I didn’t mean that I don’t care at all about the whole situation lol. @JLeslie

zenvelo's avatar

A 5 year old is too young for criminal prosecution, and in many states (like California) too young for juvenile detention of any sort. But society needs to protect itself from the potential danger, so the child would be ordered appropriate therapy.

Therapy would determine if the child is even aware of the consequences of the act, and if there are any underlying factors.

ucme's avatar

They sit on the naughty step for the longest time!
It’s a stark choice between that, or Mickey Mouse comes round & beats the shite outta the little bastard!

El_Cadejo's avatar

I found this funny
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 20 years and it’s the youngest suspect I can remember,” Snapp said.
He said it like there is possibly a younger one that he cant remember… Like this isnt the sort of thing that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I’d say it wasn’t intentional murder but still…what would make a 5 year old even think to do something like that? Most of the things five year olds do are learned behaviors….

wundayatta's avatar

I think this kid will be seriously scarred with guilt for the rest of her life. It might not kick in yet, but as she grows older, no one will ever let her forget what she did. I predict serious problems ahead for this child. With or without therapy, although I hardly think therapy is likely.

Your_Majesty's avatar

I wish she would be punished (with different kind of punishment suitable for her current age). Murder is still murder no matter who they are or what they are (even for self-defense).

People could have animals sentenced to death when those animals killed humans while they were wandering into animals territory. Animals don’t murder someone they just doing what they’ve been doing million years ago and…A child will be able to get away just because of her age. How unfair…

I suggest that she’ll get extra ‘detention’ after all those counselings, etc and after she’s old and legally enough to receive punishment for homicide.

Coloma's avatar


I find your reasoning atrocious!

To ‘suspend’ any real punishment till this child is old enough to face the consequences of her actions?


Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

So what, this kid lives with knowing that someday when she is 16 she will go to prison for the rest of her youth or what?


Therapy and proper evaluation is in order, but, if there is any hope of this kid, ( short of her being diagnosed as a sociopath, which would NOT EVEN be CONSIDERED until she was 18 years old ) the way to proceed is not to delay sentencing for years after the fact. That’s just ‘crazy.’

Boy, the hangman is alive and well, don;t we just all LOVE to slap the hangmans horse on the ass! Bah!

Cruiser's avatar

I think the real tragedy is how people think an event like this has to have a form of punishment as if living with this horrible event in their lives won’t already be enough?? My heart goes out to all of them including the parents.

Coloma's avatar


Agreed 100%. One tragedy does not make a murderer out of a child.
IF the child continues to exhibt anti-social tendencies as she matures, well, that’s a different story.

Hibernate's avatar

I don’t think so though she’ll do a lot of counseling in the next few years.

Dutchess_III's avatar

that word in @Hibernate‘s answer gave me a major flash back!!

Your_Majesty's avatar

@Coloma Whether you like it or not she has killed someone and that is wrong. What wrong is wrong, When you violate the law you get consequences from it, no excuses, period.

I was saying this according to own rationality. I agree with whatever written in the law if she’s free from legal punishment, and counseling and such education is required but I will still insist she get ‘proper’ punishment.

She’ll feel awful (or don’t care) when she’s old enough to recognize that, and that probably will haunt her during her teen lifespan but as I said murder is murder. I can’t tolerate any excuses for ethical and sentiment reasons.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Who says murder is wrong? Just wonderin’

Coloma's avatar


A 5 year old is not a 15 year old, or a 25 year old.

I don’t call this ‘murder’, in the strictest sense of the word.

I call it an unfortunate situation that merits a lot of examination.

‘Murder’ implies knowing the consequences of ones actions, something that a child of 5 is not capable of, by sheer immaturity.

She acted on impulse and the outcome was the death of a smaller child, but, I stand firm on HELPING her overcome this tragedy, not a life sentence for a 5 year old.

@Dutchess lll

That’s a whole nother can o’ worms…lol

Dutchess_III's avatar

I know. That’s why I made myself teeny when I said it!

zenvelo's avatar

This wasn’t “murder”. It was a homicide, but the child’s age and immaturity means it doesn’t even reach the level of manslaughter. Society’s intervention should be to make sure it doesn’t happen again, not to “punish.”

Your_Majesty's avatar

@Coloma I was using this “murder” word according to the OP’s question (also because I’m a bit lack of vocabulary).

I hope you understand what I was saying. You said it yourself:

“She acted on impulse and the outcome was the death of a smaller child”

When in my version I’ll call her acting according to her instinct (to instantly eliminate the source of annoyance). What she did and what animals in that situation did is not different at all, yet only animals get punished because we’re so ‘humanized’.

I didn’t say she should be legally punished while she’s 5 (and who said “life sentence”? is that how the law in America works? I prefer she get temporary suspension in juvenile crime facility when she’s old enough). She should be, when she’s old enough for that.

We all have sympathy (or empathy) but we must also do must must be done. Law is law, and we act according to it whether you like it or not.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Your_Majesty No. You can’t be punished 13 years later for something you did as a little child. What POSSIBLE good could it do?

Your_Majesty's avatar

@Dutchess_III Hey I said I’m OK with that if it’s according to the law. I only mentioned my own perspective (and hoping there would be a more ‘modified’ law for children in the future).

I can’t make myself saying this repeatedly but I can only say that:

“Those who touch the fire will feel the pain”

A child who touch the fire will still feel the pain. Who wouldn’t? No matter who or what they are. The same thing applies to the reality.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Fine. But answer the question “What possible good would it do to lock her up THIRTEEN YEARS LATER?” What good would it do? Teach her not to do that again??

DominicX's avatar

I guess this just goes to show that it’s never too early to ruin your life.

Jellie's avatar

@Your_Majesty Say you go to a country you’ve never been before and you’re wearing a red shirt not knowing that it is against the law and the consequence/punishment is imprisonment. Will you think that is fair???

Jellie's avatar

@Your_Majesty I hope you realize that children are born a blank slate.They learn what we teach them and what they see around them… although I think this particular case was an accident, but if anyone is to blame it is the parent/guardian of the child from whom he’s learned that violence is a way of dealing with things.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Guys…we are so off base. The person who should go to jail is the freaking 16 year old who was supposed to be watching them….but left them in the bathtub and went to sleep. Further more, I can’t help but wonder how long the baby was CRYING before the old child did what she did. Where the hell was the babysitter? There is a REASON we don’t leave little kids alone in certain circumstances. They don’t make good decisions.

Your_Majesty's avatar

@Dutchess_III It doesn’t do any good nor any bad. Punishment is just a result of consequences taken from an action of violating a law. If you’ve done something’s bad you deserve something’s bad. That’s just how it works.

Why you insist punishment must have any good in it? Could you imagine one who’s sentenced to death as a punishment will get any good from it? No, It’s a consequence from action.

@sarahhhhh There’s a big different between taking one’s precious life and other aesthetic law.

Even though I find your example against the reality I’ll try to comprehend it.
So what if it’s against the law? I’ll just accept the punishment then. It’s how the system and society work there, and there’s nothing I could do about it. But the good news is that I’ve learned my mistake and I won’t do that or ever come to that place again. Why should I disagree with the law just because I feel I don’t like it. The law and system were made for some purposes (and it’s ridiculous for this example) that keep the society on it’s good side.

Many people were against life sentence and think it’s inappropriate, unethical, etc but it keeps the criminals at bay.

I was never against constructive laws but I can’t stand unequal laws. If they feel it’s necessary to spare the life of underage ‘innocent criminals’ then they too should spare the life of ‘innocent predators’. I think human’s right and animal’s right are the same. If they treat animals is such unfair procedure then human too should be treated that way. I based my perspective on this view.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Did you read my post? I maintain that the child is not responsible. The baby sitter was.

Your_Majesty's avatar

My response goes to your response before this one if your post is pointed to me. moreover, I just finished my writing and post mine when yours appears. Anyway, What’s done it’s done there’s nothing they could do about it. I doubt that the 16 Yo would be punished. I believe carelessness and being ignorant isn’t against the law. If it was the babysitter then there would be legal punishment due to job’s responsibility.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Of course it’s against the law. It’s called child neglect and child endangerment. SHE put them in a dangerous situation, then walked away.

Dutchess_III's avatar

According to your argument, if a person is ignorant then they are innocent? If a parent forces their baby to ingest illegal party drugs, they’re just ignorant so it’s OK?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Before anyone points at any of the people involved in this case, do a bit more research. Here is another link to a report.

Jermaine [the baby], who lived in the St. Louis area, had been staying with a relative in Kansas City. Police said he, the 5-year-old and other children were left in the care of a mentally disabled 16-year-old girl while an adult went to pick someone up at the bus.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Shit. Then the adult who left the girl in charge are the ones at fault. Stupid, stupid.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Dutchess_III We still love and adore you. Now offer up some apologies. :)

Jellie's avatar

@Your_Majesty My point was… its unfair to punish someone for something they do accidentally or without full knowledge/understanding of their actions. The actual facts of my hypothesis were irrelevant.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow…from your link @Pied_Pfeffer The child “admitted” to the killing? And “the 5-year-old girl later admitted to a social worker she killed Jermaine, saying she did not like the toddler and found him “too noisy.” I do NOT see how a five year old could understand what death is, much less trying to kill someone. Gotta love them social workers, huh.

Your_Majesty's avatar

@Dutchess_III When you’re not constrained with a whole bunch of duty and responsibility you’re free to choose whether you want to do what they ‘told’ you to do or simply being ignorant. The girl (I assume she’s not mentally-disabled in this context) was told to look after the kids, she’s not a babysitter that have job consequences and responsibility toward the law. There’s no law to control how one should act to other people’s request thus there’s no consequences.

@sarahhhhh What you feel as unfair is not certainly wrong. As I said, duh! again, Law is law. Whether you like it or not it will still work toward whoever violate it (except you got certain immunity). Accident is also accident but accidents cause damage and it’s against the law. A good citizen is the one who obey the law.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Children at the age of five are capable of filling up a tub. They know that submersing themselves under water will silence the sound and their ability to talk (cry). They don’t necessarily know how long one can hold their breath under water, or that it will be instinctual.

The five year old admitted to being the person to hold the baby under the water. The article is written in the words of a reporter. While it may be true, it also makes it sensational. Let’s see how this all pans out. No matter who is to blame, if anyone, it is a sad, sad story.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
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Dutchess_III's avatar

Read the article. The people who are legally responsible for the children left them in the care of an unfit person. The 16 year old was mentally challenged.. Therefore, the people who were legally in charge of the kids made a decision that resulted in a child dying. That is neglect and endangerment.

Do you think it would have been OK to leave the kids home alone while they ran their errand?

Coloma's avatar

Sounds like one huge enchilada of dysfunction going on in the matrix of that family. Bummer!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Where did it say they were Mexican @Coloma? : )

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Dutchess_III It doesn’t seem clear if the legal guardians left the baby in the care of the babysitter. He was left in the care of relatives, who then left him in the care of the so-called babysitter.

@Coloma Yes, it is a ‘bummer’. There are many people involved that will have to live with this guilt hanging over their heads for a lifetime based upon a domino effect of circumstances. I feel sorry for all of them.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was just trying to to get it through @Your_Majesty‘s head that SOMEONE, some adult, was responsible for the children, and some one fd-up. Whose idea was it to give them a bath? Did the baby sitter stick them in the bath? Did the guardians instruct her to give them a bath? You NEVER walk away from a bathtub with a baby in it. Never. Never, never, never, never because something like this WILL happen if you do.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

One report says that the children were bathed, and the tub was not emptied. The 5 year-old later dragged the toddler to the tub and put him in it.

bkcunningham's avatar

The baby’s father’s Facebook page. The one thing that struck me the hardest was a comment from the father about being asked something he didn’t think anybody should ever hear…what kind of coffin do you want for your baby. So sad.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Coloma I saw your statement to @Your_Majesty regarding postponing trial to a time where they can be tried as an adult and then skipped to the bottom for this. The Judicial System has done it and will continue to do so. One that immediately comes to mind was a trial that I sat in on where the perpetrators shot and killed someone they knew and neither of them were over the age of 18. The law system apparently shoved them into juvenile detention for 2 years before returning to the case and then actually prosecuting them. I believe that one may have gotten the death sentence, the other a life sentence, and their case brought to light accomplices who were given anything ranging from 2 months to 10 years.

Now, I know this is dealing with a younger child so I presume that this will probably be more similar to maybe Christopher Pittman’s case who was 12 years old when he committed double homicide (his grandparents) and arson (burned their house down after shooting them with a shotgun in their sleep) and I believe was sentenced when he was 15 (not absolutely sure) to 30 years in prison. This mean he will not be able to interact with society until he is in his mid forties. As sad as it may be, which I don’t think it is, many “killer” children do receive some sort of time in jail/prison/mental health facility which takes affect asap and prevents them from ever having healthy interactions with society (then again, when is interacting with society, at least here in the US, ever really healthy?) until their late 20’s at the least.

Thus I would put my money on that this child will probably receive a punishment of the like. Though the child possibly acted upon a simple child like urge with simple child like reasoning, the consequences are going to be very harsh whichever way the law decides to go with this.

Coloma's avatar


Some amazing things happen in this world of ours, no doubt.
Still, while not a religious person, it comes to mind that it has been said that the age of 7 is the age of reason.

I’d like to think very young children, under the age of 8 or 9, might be saved from a life of criminal homicide with proper early intervention.

A 12 or 15 year old are far more competent to be held accountable for their crimes I’d say.

Even so, we all know that our penal system does nothing to rehab criminals, and if we’re talking true sociopath, then yes, society does need to segregate these peeps outta the mainstream.

I hate to say it, but, if this child was male I might be more concerned for future issues, but, far fewer females commit violent sociopathic crimes.
Given this fact and the tender age of the child I’d like to give this little girl the benefit of the doubt.

Gawd…I hope I am never called to jury for a murder trial. No thanks!

Pandora's avatar

I think most 5 year olds have a concept of really harming someone. This child intentionally meant to harm its younger sibling. This child sounds like phsyco in the making. When my son was about 3 years old and his sister was in her play pen and would start to cry, he would find all her plush toys to throw in the pen so she wouldn’t cry. If he failed to make her happy then he would run over to me frantic because he didn’t want to see her cry. When I saw all the toys he threw in I told him to always come get me first instead of throwing the toys in there. I was afraid he would throw in the hard toys and harm her. He said, he would never do that. He knew that would hurt her.
If a 3 year old could understand that, I’m sure a 5 knew as well.
He may have not understood death, but I’m sure he understood what it took to harm the other child. It wasn’t the tears. The 5 year old was probably just extremely jealous. He had 3 years in being the only child and then it was all gone with the new sibling. He wanted that kid, out of the picture, or at least to pay for his crime of being born.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Coloma I’ve always found giving something the benefit of the doubt a great way to get stabbed in the back.

Note: Chris Pittman was proven to be “unaccountable for his actions” due to the ridiculous amount of meds he was on at the time to treat several different issues. He’s still serving his 30

bkcunningham's avatar

@Coloma, in the Jewish tradition, 13 is the “age of accountability.”

Coloma's avatar


Makes sense.
So a child can reason at age 7, and then be held accountable at age 13. Works for me. ;-)

Then of course, ‘they’ say the age of wisdom is reached biblically at age 60.

Well…there’s the stepping stones of the life path. lol

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Here is another article with a few more details.

Police in Kansas City are investigating the recent death of an 18-month-old toddler allegedly killed by his five-year-old cousin because he would not stop crying.

The investigation into the case began last Friday, when authorities were called to a home in the 2600 block of Elmwood Avenue around 11:30 p.m., after the boy was found floating in the water.

The article also brings up the ‘age of reason’, including what the 5 year-old might have been thinking and what type of therapy she might need at a later point.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Pandora She may well have meant to harm him but did she mean to kill him? When my brother and I were young and he was annoying me I would throw things at him, thump him, kick him etc and he would do the same to me. We wanted to harm each other (briefly admittedly) but not kill each other. However, when I think of some of our fights, there were times when it easily could have gone horribly wrong, like the time he pushed me down the stairs, deliberately. Thankfully it didn’t and the worst case ended up in a few stitches.

Btw, that story about your son and his little sister is the sweetest!

Coloma's avatar

When I was about 6–7 a friends brothers trapped my friend and I under a big cardboard box on a 100+ degree afternoon and refused to let us out. We were practically suffocating, crying, and finally, they let us out. Had something bad happened I don’t think those boys ages 9–11 would have meant to kill us. Torment yes, kill no.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Even if they had finished bathing, you never, never, never, never, never leave a tub of water anywhere where a kid can get to it, any more than you’d leave a kid alone at a pool.

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