In recent years, the incidence of violent crime committed by teenagers has escalated, a fact that has hardly escaped the news media. When faced with the challenge of understanding and explaining such occurences in the headlines, one is tempted to rely upon the truism: There are good kids and there are bad kids. Michael D. Kelleher, noted expert on the subject of violence, asserts in When Good Kids Kill that this belief is outdated, oversimplified, and fundamentally wrong. He states that some of the most atrocious murders are, in fact, committed by good kids who have never given a prior indication of violence. Kelleher's book is the first to focus exclusively on homicides committed by previously nonviolent teens, exploring many of the prominent criminal cases covered by the media in recent years. Although individual killings are hard to predict, Kelleher's important new work demonstrates that there are categories of crime that can be attributed to good kids who kill; his work shows for the first time that the young perpetrators of murders that fall into these categories share similar backgrounds and experience.
While such crimes as teen mothers disposing of their newborns, sons and daughters murdering their parents, members of cults slaying friends or strangers, and young people murdering the objects of their sexual obsessions are almost always surprising and baffling, Kelleher points out that the killers often exhibit warning signs before erupting into violence. By recognizing these warnings and understanding patterns of experience that can motivate these tragic crimes, the author believes that parents, counselors, and education and law enforcement professionals can begin to address the challenge of increasing teenage violence and ensure a less violent society for our children.