Columnist: Serial and mass murderers — too often the products of a toxic, unhappy childhood and dysfunctional family

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

Approximately 127 years ago a child was introduced into the world who, as an adult, considered himself as a God and terrorized the entire world.

This child, born into a kind of middle-class family, we now know, did not experience a pleasant childhood. His father, a government worker, was a tyrant who bullied the entire family.

From all indications, he hated his father and adored his mother. Although he was not negatively impacted by his father’s death, the death of his mother resulted in his having extended bouts of depression.

As a young man he believed he was endowed with artistic talents that were not recognizable or measurable enough to secure his admission into a major university. Sociologists and psychiatrists who have studied and researched this individual’s life now realize that his childhood experiences — void of any major family connections, love and socialization skills — were an incubator for a monster responsible for the genocide of more than 6 million Jews.

Unhappy with his own life, but with the desire for fame, Adolf Hitler took advantage of the growing anti-Semitism in Europe in the 1900s to terrorize the entire world.

Remember Charles Whitman? Whitman killed his mother and wife on Aug. 1, 1966, and traveled atop a University of Texas 300 foot tower with a cache of weapons he used to murder 16 people before he was ultimately killed by police who stormed the tower.

Whitman actually introduced Americans to the concept of mass murderer. Whitman was raised in a toxic, abusive family environment where the father essentially considered himself as king of their household.

When he turned 18, he immediately joined the military — a decision that enraged his father. This was a successful attempt at getting away from his so-called perfectionist father.

After going through court martials and suffering other kinds of ignominy while serving his country, he ultimately left the military. Killing his mother, whom he loved, was a selfish attempt aimed at sparing her the embarrassment over his actions.

It is without a doubt that Charles Whitman grew up in a household characterized by an abusive father. His father, some believed, contributed to ruining the life of his brother, Patrick, who is remembered as being the most sensitive of the children in the Whitman household. He wanted to be a priest, but instead worked in his father’s plumbing business.

He married in 1965 and later had two daughters. In 1973, however, he shocked his wife when he told her he was gay and moved to California where he later died in 1989 of complications from AIDS.

Do you remember the major news stories of 1991? In health news, AIDS turned 10 years old. On another note, the United States alone with its allies unleashed more than five weeks of thundering air strikes against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Over at the Supreme Court there was major controversy over who would succeed African-American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas were mired with accusations of his having previously sexually harassed Anita Hill. He was ultimately confirmed as Marshall’s replacement.

The most gruesome news came out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where a young man was convicted of having killed 17 males.

Dahmer, too, suffered from the consequences of having been raised in a toxic environment resulting in his being lonely and feeling unloved. He killed his first victim when he was 17 years of age.

And now comes Omar Mateen, 29, who went on a murderous rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people — an attack that was the deadliest terror on our soil since 9/11. CBS news reports that Mateen’s school records paint a picture of a troublesome, angry and inappropriate young boy who struggle both academically and behaviorally (Shannon Luibrand, CBS, June 16, 2016).

Mateen’s life was also filled with disappointments. He was unable to sustain employment and unhappy that he was not able to secure employment in the area of law enforcement. Interviews with the father after his shooting rampage appear to reveal problems within the family. The father was at a loss as to what prompted his son to commit such heinous acts.

Are you detached or estranged from your child? Are lines of communication really open in your home? It is not too late — begin to open them today.

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

Glenn Dowell, a LaGrange native, is an author and columnist. He has been a guest speaker on major college campuses and has appeared on TV programs including ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ He may be reached at