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Who’s killing our children? A profile of child killers and the kids they prey on

October 23, 2009
note: this is a long read, but contains valuable information. 

Another child was abducted  in Florida this week.  The little girl, Somer Thompson, was murdered, tossed in the trash like yesterday’s garbage, and was found in what I’m sure her killer hoped would be her final resting place—a landfill.

Somer was doing what millions of American kids do every day–walking home from school.  She wasn’t alone.  She was with her siblings and several of her friends.  I’m sure her mother felt confident that her children were not in danger as they walked the mile it took to reach their house–after all there was safety in numbers wasn’t there?  But, kids are unpredictable, and apparently Somer had a spat with one of the other children and ran ahead.  Suddenly, she was walking alone,  and just as suddenly, she was gone.  Just like that.  Just that fast.

I’ve been following other murdered and missing children through this blog.  I cried when Caylee Anthony was found,(also tossed out like trash), and I’ve prayed that Haleigh Cummings will come home alive, but this little girl’s story hit me in a way the others couldn’t. It hit me right between the eyes because Somer could have just as easily been my little girl. I’ve been a parent that let her children walk home from school. I never worried,  because I knew my kids were with other kids from our neighborhood and were never alone–or so I thought.  It literally made my blood run cold when I read about Somer, because that could have been my child that impulsively ran ahead of her friends.  That could have been your child.

How does something like this happen?  Had someone been watching Somer– just waiting for the perfect opportunity to snatch her, or was that person casually trolling for a victim–any victim– near the school she attended?   Did this person know Somer?  Had he/she spoken to her, threatened her, tried to lure her before?  Or was it completely random,  and she was zeroed in on simply because she had the bad luck to be caught walking alone?

Though it was, sadly, too late to save her—thanks to the diligence of law enforcement and the grace of God, Somer’s body was found quickly, and her parents were spared the agony of not knowing–and maybe never knowing what happened to their precious little girl. Now,  the search for her murderer is the #1 priority for her family and police.


What kind of animal could look into the eyes of an innocent child, purposefully hurt and kill her,  then toss her away like garbage?   Who are these sick people who prey on our children?   Is there something we can do to make our babies safer?

The criminal Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and the US Justice Department wanted to know the answers to those questions, too. They wanted to find out if child predators had anything in common in order to provide a profile to aid law enforcement; they wanted to target what group of children might be more susceptible to being abducted; and they wanted to give parents the knowledge they needed to help ensure their kids weren’t the next victims.

The resulting study consisted of more than 600 solved cases of child abduction murders where the killers were caught and convicted.  The initial study was published in 1997, and a follow-up study that included 175 additional solved cases was published in 2006.  Those 883 cases occurred between 1968 and 2002 and were from all across the US.   The research has provided valuable insight to law enforcement, and we can learn a lot from their findings as well.  A profile of a child killer was compiled, as well as a profile of the victim.  A preventive guideline was also created.

I thought the study’s conclusions were fascinating and insightful. I’ve included what I felt were the most important points, and the full report can be accessed through the link posted at the end of this post.

The single most important thing I learned from this study!


In 88.5% of the cases studied, the child was dead within 24 hours of being taken, and in 76% of those cases, the child was dead within 3 hours of the kidnapping.

In 60% of the 883 cases studied, over 2 hours passed between the time the child was discovered to be missing and the time the police were called. This is shocking to me in light of the fact that in the majority of cases the child was dead within 3 hours.  The window of opportunity for saving an abducted child is small, and because parents are reluctant to call police before searching thoroughly themselves, that window shrinks to nearly zero.



From a study of 883 cases where the murderer was caught and convicted. Percentages based strictly on the cases researched in this study

He lives on the edge of society, and is socially retarded. “Social marginals” is the term used for him.

I say “him” because child killers are almost 100%  male.

His average age is 27.8  years old.

69.8% are white,  19.1 black,

He is usually unmarried and unattached at the time of the murder.

17.1% of child killers live alone, and 33.2% live with their parents.

He usually either lives in the neighborhood where the abduction takes place or frequents that area during his everyday activities.

1/2 of child killers are unemployed or work in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs.

2/3 of child killers have prior arrests for violent crimes. 1/2 of those violent crimes were committed against children.

The child killer’s most frequent past crime is sexual in nature, and the primary motive for a child abduction is sexual.

The use of pornography by killers as a trigger to murder has increased since the original study.

The child is usually abducted in a place very close to where he/she was last seen.

The child killer usually takes the child more than 1/4 mile  from where he was abducted,

but the distance between the murder site and where the body is later dumped is less than 199 feet in most cases.

23.7 returned to the place they dumped the body

9.7 contacted the victim’s family

10% of the child killers interjected themselves into the actual murder investigation.

In the initial study, the name of the killer was almost always in police files within the first week. When the supplemental cases were studied, that proved to no longer be the case. (does that mean the killers are getting smarter?)

Police usually have contact with the killer before he becomes a primary suspect.



From a study of 883 cases where the murderer was caught and convicted. Percentages based strictly on the cases researched in this study

44%  of the children in the cases studied were the victims of stranger abduction. 42% were the victims of friends or acquaintances.

Only 14% of the children in the cases studied were victims of their own parent.

74% of the children are female with an average age of 11. The youngest females ages 1-5 tend to be killed by friends or acquaintances, and the oldest females (16-17) are usually killed by strangers.

Most of the males abducted tend to be victims of stranger abduction.

The victims are overwhelmingly white–74.5%.  14.3% are black and the remaining 11.2% include all other races.

50% of the abductions take place within 3 city blocks of the child’s home, and 1/3 of them occurred within 1/2 block of the home.

Most of the children are victims of “opportunity” A child is rarely chosen for a specific reason such as a physical characteristic. (this is different than race)


So, what can we do as parents and grandparents to keep our precious children out of  harm’s way?  The study offered a few recommendations, but no magic pill that could guarantee a child’s safety. Most of their suggestions were just common sense preventive measures.

1) Always supervise your kids–even in your own yard and on your own street.  When you can’t be there, teach your children never to get into cars with strangers. Make sure they know not to approach a car even if they are familiar with the occupant.

2) Be aware of strangers and unusual behaviors in your neighborhood— More difficult than you might think  in this electronic world we now live in.  Our world grows smaller and smaller thanks to the internet and television. We hear the news almost before it’s made.  But, ironically, as our personal knowledge and interaction with the world grows bigger, we, as individuals live within narrower and narrower parameters.  We may have an intimate relationship with someone on the other side of the planet thanks to the WWW,  but at the same time, live for years in the same place with only a passing knowledge of our next door neighbor’s habits,  and not be aware enough to even recognize the rest of the people living on our street.

3) And if, God forbid, your child goes missing, don’t hesitate to call police.  Do it immediately. If the worst thing that happens is that a policeman appears on your doorstep just as your kid walks up the basement stairs, and you end up with a red face, SO WHAT???  Believe me, that’s not really the worst thing that can happen.

read the study:

Child_Abduction_Murder Research Case Study PDF File LINK


Washington State Office of the Attorney General Child Abduction Study LINK

Find out the location and names of any sex offenders in your own neighborhood.  There is a permanent link to this site at the right side of this blog.

Family Watchdog LINK

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Kim permalink
    October 23, 2009 7:31 pm

    Brilliant, Mystery – such good advice

    Thank you

  2. motherclucker permalink
    October 23, 2009 8:33 pm

    Hey Mystery, the story of Somer tore at my heart, too. I was sitting watching my daughter play in the yard today, and I was saddened by the fact that you cannot take your eyes off your child for even a moment. She is never out of my sight. It puts a lot on a mother when you have to be this way, but these are the terrible times that we live in. I teach my daughter these very things everyday. You have to…this is very good advice, thanks for posting, and as I’ve said before…God bless and watch over all the little children. Peace and Love, MC

  3. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 23, 2009 8:35 pm

    Thanks, Kim. It was an important study, IMO.

  4. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 23, 2009 8:45 pm

    Hi motherclucker–

    Like you said, as a parent you can no longer sit back, relax, and let your children enjoy their childhoods. You have to make them aware way to young that evil exists and there are people that would do them harm. It robs them of their innocence, and it’s not fair. It sucks for them and it sucks for us. Really REALLY depressing.

    I need to post in the garden……

  5. niecey456 permalink
    October 23, 2009 9:44 pm

    Hey Mystery! Thank you so much for sharing this info. We live in perilous times, and every case I run across, sadly almost daily now, it just breaks my heart. Knowledge is power, and I pray that this info gets in the right hands to make that difference. Whether it’s by the hands of a parent or loved one, or by the hands of a stranger, the world loses every time it loses a child. God Bless You My Friend.

  6. October 23, 2009 10:09 pm

    Hi Mystery good blog. I am so upset with all the murdered children in Florida.. I think we should all write to the Governor an LE in all counties there…..I do not watch any reality shows, but I can think of one I would like to see…… about “Death Of A Child Killer” I would like to see them strap one on the table and give him the needle. And maybe just maybe it will send a message to the other child killers….that we will all watch them die too…….chit I would even pop the popcorn and maybe have a glass of wine…..But this has to stop…..they should not be let out of jail ever…

  7. Heather permalink
    October 24, 2009 7:07 am

    Thank you for this information! I am going to send a link to all my friends so they can read it too. I went to the Family Watchdog site and did a search on my address. It came up with 360 offenders within a 2 mile radius of my home! That’s incredible! I realize that not all of them are child offenders, some are rapists, some violent offenders, but regardless of their crimes, that is a lot of offenders to have living nearby! How do I show this to my 13 year old daughter without making her paranoid!?

  8. Hadley permalink
    October 24, 2009 7:28 am

    Mystery: Thank you so much for this information! Two of my friends are elementary school teachers, and I just forwarded the info. to them. I’m sure that they will make sure that parents get copies of this. I was stunned to read that the child is usually killed within THREE HRS.!
    It would terrify me to be a parent nowadays! Where are children safe? Certainly not in there homes. Remember Polly Klass and Elizabeth Smart!Maybe buying a Rottwheiler or German Shepard might help at home. Good heaavens! It’s almost like little children are being held prisoners in the sad, scary world we now live it!

    My heart breaks for little Somer. It’s almost unbearable to watch her parents on television. I pray that God will hold them up, and give them the strength to endure this horrible pain. Please God, let Somer’s killer be found quickly.

  9. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 24, 2009 7:32 am


    Yes, it’s getting worse and finding a stranger abducted child alive is, sadly, not likely. Parents can’t relax and just enjoy their children anymore. There are just too many things to worry about. Even living in a rural area doesn’t offer you protection anymore. There is evil everywhere.

  10. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 24, 2009 8:09 am


    That’s a great idea for a show! Someone write the networks! We could have a party! You provide the refreshments and I’ll bring the snacks over from ‘the garden’.

    Seriously though, I admit that I am an advocate of the death penalty in some cases. Our penal system is so screwed up that criminals rarely serve out their full punishments. Why would anyone be deterred from committing a crime if they knew all it would mean is they get to sit in prison and have their meals delivered to them for a few years? A life sentence could mean nothing more than a 15 year stint in some instances. (Maybe less–I don’t know the data) I do know that dangerous people get out of jail that should never have been released and they go right out and commit the same crimes or worse. Look at the profile of a child killer! Most have previous records that include the abuse of a child. Why are they back on the streets in the first place? Because, punishments that involve children, in particular, are just not severe enough.

    Some crimes are so heinous that the animal that commits them should never see the light of day again. The only thing that could ensure that is the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole. (that would be ok, too) You wouldn’t put a rabid dog back on the streets–he would be put down. I equate these animals to rabid dogs.

  11. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 24, 2009 8:24 am

    Heather–You’re welcome and thank you for sharing this information. I had to really search for those statistics–They aren’t plastered all over the internet, but they should be. I am going to post a permanent link to this post and those links on the right side of my blog.

    I don’t know what the right way or wrong way to talk to your kids are–I don’t envy you having to do that. I think some parents just assume their kids know what not to do, but I don’t think most kids even think about the fact that a situation they find themselves in might make them more vulnerable. (At a party or the movies or deciding to walk home from a friend’s house that live nearby. They just don’t think about it.)

    Your daughter is in a susceptible age group. She needs to be aware–not scared to death but aware. I guess I would start by telling her about Somer Thompson if she doesn’t know the details. The sad moral of that story is never go off by yourself when you’re out –even in broad daylight.

  12. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 24, 2009 8:30 am


    Very well said, and I’m glad you are sharing the info. My daughter-in-law is a kindergarten teacher, and my future daughter-in-law is doing her practice teaching in an elementary school. I will follow your lead and pass this information on to her to pass out to other teachers. Knowledge is power.

    It is very sad that our children don’t have the freedom we had as children. Halloween is a prime example. Our neighborhoods were full of laughing children when I was growing up. Every porch light was lit and the trick or treat bags were so full we could hardly carry them. Now, at least in my town, no one lets their kids go free-range. Only to people they know well, and the churches and other public places provide treats. Still fun, but not the same…..

  13. anon permalink
    October 24, 2009 4:28 pm

    Great piece but can you clarify these figures please?

    ‘74% of child killers live alone, and 33.2% live with their parents’
    74% +33.2%=107.2%

  14. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 24, 2009 6:54 pm

    Sorry, anon

    too many tables! I corrected it and double and triple checked the figures. Thanks for catching my error.

  15. Hadley permalink
    October 24, 2009 8:16 pm

    Mystery, I am just numb. I just read on AOL news that another little girl has been found dead. 9 yr. old Elizabeth Olten. They are saying that a 15 yr. old teenager killed her. I am just stunned. What is happening that is causing this?? It has got to stop…

    I can only pray for little Elizabeth. May she rest in peace.” Dear God, please give her parents and loved ones Your Divine Strength to endure this unbearable pain and suffering. Amen”

  16. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 24, 2009 10:19 pm


    I read about Elizabeth Olten today, too. It’s just heartbreaking. I can only add my prayers to yours. Her family as well as the family of the 15 year old that did this must be devastated. What a tragedy.

  17. October 25, 2009 2:15 pm

    hi everyone, as a parent and grandparent, i am just sick over what is happening to our precious children. my son, who is now 40 went missing on a beach in San Diego when he was 5. it is a very long story, my ex-husband made what could of been a deadly mistake. our story turned out ok, my son was looking for sea shells and wandered off down the beach, walked 9 miles and by the Grace of God was found by the police. they had a helicopter going up and down the beach with his description and a house to house search. the pain, fear and hopeless you experience is unbelieveable. we thought he drown, or was taken and it was the worst feeling of my life. i can’t imagine how all the parents feel when they are told the worst possible news. from then on after going through that, i was overprotective and still worry about my four grandchildren all the time. thank you so much for all the hard work itsamysterytome. God Bless You!!!!!!!! i too agree that if a sexual assult has been commited, there should be life in prison end of story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! love reading your blog!!!!!

  18. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 25, 2009 4:22 pm


    Nice to hear from you. Wow. What a terrifying moment that must have been for you, and what a blessing that your son was found okay. As you said, it could have turned out differently.

    I had a similar experience when my youngest son was only 2 1/2. We were lucky as well. I agree it’s a frightening experience beyond anything anyone can imagine.

  19. T-L-I-O-T-G permalink
    October 27, 2009 10:02 am

    OK,now as someone who has been thru the CLUB FED system!!Here in Canada,these child molesters,get minimal sentences[some deterrent]and all the while sitting in CF scheming on there plan as to what they are going to do once out.
    Quickly,my wife works at a HALFWAY HOUSE here,this CM is out on day parole!!no contact with children,no go zone play ground,schools.and absolutely nothing to do with SEX.
    Was not out less then a month and get pinched with a pocket full of CONDOMS,and he was not making poodles!OH and he new his rites,as far as I’m concerned he ain’t got no rites,I wanted to run em over,oooops did not see him!!
    there is no reform for these kind what so ever……..

  20. itsamysterytome permalink*
    October 28, 2009 7:42 pm


    I agree with you 100% and then some. Child molesters can not be rehabilitated. So what is the answer? I don’t see one other than putting them so far away that they never see the light of day again.

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