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When Teenagers Kill: Evil Mom or Bad Girls?
Just What Exactly is Matricide?
Parricide is the killing of a parent or near relative (or one's own self). Patricide is the killing of one's father. Matricide is the killing of one’s mother. In the case of teen girls, this normally happens for one of two reasons: (1) In reaction to a mother's extensive abuse or (2) they are the abusers themselves.
Troubled Teens Jasmiyah and Tasmiyah Whitehead
Warning Signs: Snapshot of a Troubled Teenager
Teens who kill their mothers tend to come from dysfunctional families. In the case of the abused teenage girl, she will usually hail from a home of violence,substance abuse, and/or other forms of abuse and neglect. Many times, she lives in a single parent home. It is not unusual for teen girls to solicit assistance from others before finally resorting to killing her mother in order to escape an unbearably abusive situation. In the case of an abusive teenage girl, a pattern of escalating violence towards the mother is usually observed. Other negative behaviors can also be present, i.e., lying, truancy, rebellion, and theft. Often, there is a pattern and record of family conflict that escalates in frequency and severity. For more information concerning this, click here.
“Teen years are fraught with angst, emotion, and questioning authority. Teenagers are basically hard-wired to butt heads with their parents,” says Stuart Goldman, MD, director of psychiatric education at Children's Hospital in Boston. "Adolescence is a time of rapid change for kids both physically and cognitively," he explains. It is normal for teenagers to fail to do their chores without 10 reminders, to put off their homework, to be emotional, to lose important things, to like music that is too loud, and to sometimes counter or question authority. What is abnormal behavior? Sudden profound changes in personality, angry outbursts of profanity, extreme disrespect for people and things, addictions, sudden failing grades, not sleeping or sleeping too much, extreme weight loss, eating disorders, self-harm, running away, or self-imposed isolation. For more information concerning signs of a troubled teen, click here. Does this mean a teen with abnormal behavior will kill a parent? Not necessarily. It does mean that the parent should seek help or intervention to determine the nature of the problem.
The Whitehead Family in Pictures
Confessions of Matricide: What Really Happened with the Whiteheads?
Jarmecca "Nikki" Whitehead, 34, was stabbed multiple times before her body was dragged into a bathtub inside her Conyers, Georgia home January 13, 2010. Her 16 year-old twins, Jasmiyah (known as "Jas") and Tasmiyah ("Tas") Whitehead, ultimately confessed to killing her and plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a court of law. Each was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
According to the twins, they did not intend to kill their mother. The entire altercation arose from them oversleeping. Upon awaking and going into the family's kitchen, they encountered a furious Jarmecca. According to the twins, Jarmecca had threatened them with a pot from the stove after they woke up late, waving the pot around, and they thought she was trying to hit them. By the twins' account, all three were yelling and they wrestled the pot away from their mother when she grabbed a kitchen knife.
The fight then moved into the living room. Jasmiyah said she smashed a vase over her mother’s head, and in response Jarmecca bit her in the chest. Jasmiyah said that she punched her mother to get her off of her. Tasmiyah said she grabbed the knife and stabbed Jarmecca. Evidence suggests that Jasmiyah tried to choke Jarmecca with a ribbon she’d won. Jasmiyah said that she, too, grabbed the knife and began stabbing her mother.
According to District Attorney Richard R. Read, at some point before the fight escalated, Jarmecca Whitehead left the house seeking help from a neighbor. When no one immediately answered the door, she returned home. He said, “Tas said Nikki came and sat down in the kitchen … she was tired. Tas said Nikki lunged at the knife. Eventually the blows necessary to bring about the death of Nikki Whitehead were given.” The girls said that they then dragged their mother to the bathtub, drowning her.
Jarmecca Whitehead was found in a pool of blood, beaten and with multiple stab wounds. According to prosecutors, she suffered significant stab wounds to her lungs, jugular, and the back of her neck, where her spinal cord was severed.
To see the twin's full confessions, click here.
The Whiteheads History
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, prosecutors said that there was an apparent history of violent family turmoil that had been brewing for years before finally exploding on the morning of Jan. 13, 2010. Prosecutors said strife between Della Frazier and Jarmecca Whitehead contributed to the conflict with the twins. When the twins became teenagers, their grades had begun to drop and they started getting into trouble. Before that time, the girls had been straight-A students and Girl Scouts.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitutional, District Attorney Richard R. Read stated the following (reading notes from a juvenile court counselor who attempted to reconcile the tumult between Jarmecca Whitehead and her girls, and had sided with their great-grandmother Della Frazier):
“This is a family that thrives in chaos. All members – mom, great-grandmother and the girls – struggle to take their own responsibility for family stress. The adults in this family have failed to guide these children properly. Nikki believed they were sexually active, using marijuana and skipping school. They believed she was a hypocrite because she was promiscuous and used marijuana.
In fact, in 2008, it was reported that a fight with the twins ended with Jarmecca Whitehead being scratched, dragged across the floor, and caused a juvenile court judge to send the twins to live with Della Frazier, Whitehead's 80 year-old grandmother and the twins' great-grandmother. Whitehead had even lived there as well until she moved to her boyfriend's home in Conyers, Georgia. In January 2010, Jarmecca Whitehead moved her twins to her and her boyfriend's home. A week after that move, she was dead.
Read said one of the twins previously threatened to kill Jarmecca Whitehead during a counseling session before they moved back to Conyers. According to him, “Jasmiyah said, ‘If I have to move back with her, I’ll kill her.’”
In interviews with the Atlanta Journal Constitutional, Jarmecca Whitehead's friends stated that they believed the twins had murdered their mother, even prior to their arrest in May, 2010. "I never thought they were capable of murder before she died," said Whitehead's friend and former boss, Michelle Temple. "Who would think that? But after she was murdered, I knew it was them." Friends recounted the rebellion and defiance and violence. "The girls wanted to do what they wanted to do," said Yucca Harris, Whitehead's best friend. She also said the girls stole money from her and their great-grandmother, causing their great-grandmother to place a deadbolt lock on her bedroom door.
"They were just defiant," Petrina Sims, owner of Simply Unique Salon where Whitehead worked, said of the twins. "They had grown so wild in just a couple of years, like they were two different people. They weren't those sweet little girls anymore." Sims had knowledge of the incident in 2008 in which the twins allegedly physically assaulted Whitehead.
By all accounts, in 2010, Jarmecca Whitehead was looking forward to having her girls with her and having a fresh start with them.
The True Victim: Abused or Abusive?
This heartrending tragedy has left many with questions. Articles since the twins' confessions of killing their mother have painted them as "monsters." To think that children would coldly and deliberately murder their mother makes everyone uncomfortable. However, in cases like this, it is important to thoroughly evaluate each and every aspect of the case to determine the true cause and there should be efforts to find solutions to prevent these types of tragedies from recurring.
Were the twins out of control abusers? Or were they victims? There are allegations and a case file that suggest that Jarmecca Whitehead had abused drugs at one time, as well as engaged in promiscuity. The Whitehead family had a publicly turbulent history. The glaring question here is what caused the Whitehead twins to become rebellious and violent? Was abuse a factor here? Nowhere has that been stated outright by anyone. Of course, Jarmecca Whitehead ended up the unfortunate victim of her own twin daughters' wrath. In American society, reverence for those who have passed prohibits denigration of the deceased. There is nothing to suggest that abuse occurred and is being concealed.
While there are suggestions of problems with the family, the facts on their face do not support justification of the death of Jarmecca Whitehead. The twins did demonstrate all of the signs of troubled teenagers that warranted further evaluation and intervention. Once problems manifested, they continued to escalate over the years. Were huge red flags ignored? Were there indicators that the twins would ultimately kill their mother? Definitely. Jasmiyah Whitehead told her counselor that if she had to go live with her mother, she may kill her. Should that have triggered a reevaluation of the twins living with their mother? Unfortunately, despite the involvement of the judicial system and counselors, this family seemingly slipped through the proverbial cracks and a horrible travesty occurred.