When Children Kill, Who Do We Blame?

Via Tara Lemieux
on Feb 14, 2013
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Jeffrey and Joseph Hall.

I read the most disturbing article this morning—and one that has physically turned my stomach, and left me feeling most certainly drained.

It’s not often that I have this type of gut wrenching reaction to things. Even less frequent, is when this type of ‘breaking news’ has the capacity to ‘break’ me.

With my illness, I suppose I have become just a bit more patient with this world, and all of the things within it. And, I suppose, through this—I have learned the true meaning of faith and understanding, as well.

As a Mother, my instinct is to protect—to be that proverbial ‘Mama Bear,”  stepping in where needed and in order to ensure that all of the children of this world are cared for…loved…and protected.

As a Buddhist, I try to view this world through a lens of gentle loving kindness and ‘oneness’—to recognize, each day, that we are all part of the same cloth of inter-connectedness, beautifully spun into the rich fabric of this Universe. And, with each passing moment, I try to infuse just a bit more of myself…of my spirit…and, of my understanding into this great big beautiful Earth that surrounds me…that surrounds us all.

But this, I simply can not understand.

And, yet, perhaps this is that one story that most needs our understanding.

But, sadly, understanding escapes me now—as my mind is flooded with the very many ways this story should have ended.

And, as my eyes fill with tears, I realize that not all stories can be blessed with a happy ending—for some, there can never be a ‘happily ever after.’

But, that doesn’t change my longing for ‘that which might have been.’

And, as I read further, this story pulls my heart deeper still.

On the morning of May 1, 2011, Police were called to the residence of a modest two-story home in Riverside, California. They were called there to investigate a murder.

In the living room, and laying slumped over in a chair, was the body of Jeffrey Hall—a father of five, and Southwest Regional Director of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a neo-Nazi organization responsible for the promotion of racism and violence in these, our ‘United’ States. His body, ironically, lay lifeless under this organization’s banner and flag.

The killer?

A young boy named Joseph, just barely 10 years old, and the eldest son of this now dead man.

He had crept from the ‘comfort’ of his small bed in the earliest hours of this May morning, holding in his hand a loaded .357 magnum. And, as he made his way through the piled-high filth of the ‘night before’—this young boy, with just 10 short years of life and living under his belt, had just one thought on his mind…

He wanted ‘it’ to end.

And so, on the morning of May 1, 2011—Joseph did the only thing he knew he could do—he pulled the trigger, and shot his father in the head.

Joseph: “It’s all my fault.”

Officer: “No it’s not.”

Joseph: “Then whose fault is it?”

In an article filled with statistics and facts and psychological ponderings on…these were the words that leapt most from the page.

I guess, that is the bigger question to this story here. Whose fault is it?

For, as with any story just as tragic as this—I know there must be a much earlier beginning. And, as the detectives began their process of ‘unfolding’ these facts, and just as I had assumed, a much more gruesome picture emerged.

The conditions of this home, though appalling, were simply masking a much more disturbing history.

With just a little digging, these detectives learned, that Child Protective Services (CPS) had investigated this family not once…not twice…and not even several times in these past few years…but rather, and more shockingly, they learned that CPS had investigated this family on at least 23 separate occasions.

These investigations began when Joseph was just 3-months old, when he was taken to the ER for treatment of an eye infection. A hospital worker watched as Joseph’s father brutally shoved the mother and infant son into a waiting room wall.

But that was just the beginning.

In the years to come these reports would become filled with horrifying details of neglect and abuse, of toddlers wandering the streets alone at night, and maggot-filled diapers…of bruises, and bumps, and busted lips…and of sexual abuse and gross neglect.

But what was ever done? As, with each investigation, CPS would continue to record these details—and yet, in each and every single one of these cases, CPS failed to substantiate the claims.

I believe Deputy District Attorney Mike Soccio summed it up rather cleanly when he said,

“Joseph didn’t fall through the cracks; there was no crack that fit Joseph.”

But, the signs were still there. In retrospect, it seems the signs are always there…when it is that we are finally able to take a moment to pause, to look and to finally see this suffering as it really is.

So, whose fault is it when all the signs are there but missed, and cries for help fall to a system overburdened by ‘deaf’ ears?

And more importantly, how do we find a way to make the cracks ‘fit’ so that something like this may not ever happen again? So that each and every single one of the young hearts of this world may always and forever have a voice which may be heard?

Sadly, on January 14, 2013, Superior Court Judge Jean P. Leonard ruled that young Joseph was indeed ‘responsible’ for his actions, and therefore, convicted him of second-degree murder. And on February 15th, Joseph will be sentenced for a crime I am still struggling to understand.

At a time when our Nation is most focused on this topic of gun violence and control, I’m just curious to know what the other elephant readers might think? Perhaps, it might help me to better understand.

As, I guess, in this story I am left most wondering—what does ‘responsible’ mean?

And, who is it that is really to blame?

Because, as a Buddhist and practicing ‘Mama Bear’—it seems, I don’t yet quite know how this story should end.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Tara Lemieux

Tara Lemieux is a mindful wanderer, and faithful stargazer. She is an ardent explorer and lover of finding things previously undiscovered (or, at the very least, mostly not-uncovered.) When she’s not writing, you can find her walking in the woods and sometimes changing the way we look at things, one simple moment at a time. You can contact her at via her website Mindfully Musing or, take one second to "LIKE" her on Facebook at Tara's Facebook Page. Or email her directly at [email protected]. All roads will lead to one home, and rest assured she (and Nudnick, the wonder dog) would LOVE to hear from you.


36 Responses to “When Children Kill, Who Do We Blame?”

  1. LLabon says:

    Wow. Certainly an overwhelming story. It seems to me this child did what needed to be done for his own (and siblings) survival. I hope someone reaches out to him and helps him heal from the abuse and trauma he clearly endured…as well as the burden of having had to kill his own father. Thank you for your heartfelt contribution.

  2. Kim says:

    This saddens me as well. When children rely on their parents to protect, love and provide for them and are instead harmed by their guardians, “”authorities” are expected to care for them. If the authorities don’t and the child decides to take his fate into his own hands and free himself of abuse the only way he knew possible, should he be punished for taking a life, no matter who’s life it was? The court claims to be fair and just, but I hardly see how this is fair. We are humans and cannot forsake judgement altogether when it comes to the killing of someone who has committed horrible crimes against another living being.

  3. tairui says:

    It *is* very overwhelming.. I'm very much struggling to understand how this story even began. We *are* here for our children…. as a Mother, I can even comprehend how this might happen. – Tara Lemieux

  4. tairui says:

    Great points, Kim.. and I agree. – Tara Lemieux

  5. tairui says:

    Beautifully stated, Kate…

  6. tairui says:

    This story just makes me cry.

  7. Me too. And then it makes me want to do something about it.

  8. SaraCrolick says:

    Thank you for writing this, Tara. As a mother my heart breaks for that child. As a member of society, I'm full of disgust. This young life is damaged forever, regardless of the sentencing, all because no one pushed on when there were signs of a problem. Joseph did a horrible thing, but for a child neglected like that, (as much as I hate to say it) it was a very brave action. How can a young child be subjected to enough to make him act out like this?

    I'll keep him in my heart and send him healing thoughts.


  9. He may be responsible for his actions, but we are responsible for failing to protect him. Every time we look the other way and say that hate and abuse are none of our business, we fail children like Joseph. Every time we turn the page and look at celebrity gossip instead of looking at these difficult things and allowing them to wake us up and inspire us to create change, we fail them.

    The one good thing that may come out of this horrendous tragedy is that it may wake people up. I do not believe in censorship, even for (especially for) speech I hate, such as Neo-nazism. But when we allow such speech, we, the voices that would stand up against hate need to get a whole lot louder.

  10. tairui says:

    It felt odd to write this on Valentine's Day… but perhaps, it is a reminder of how we might at least try to become a more aware and loving society as a whole..

  11. tairui says:

    Yep, and make all of our voices be heard.

  12. laetatio says:

    There always is, as you say, a much earlier beginning to the story. As much as these stories sicken us I believe doing the best we can to provide love, support and respect for those we affect daily is sooo important and it can be overwhelming to try to help everyone. Segments of our society breed this hatred still and our system is often too over loaded to work effectively. My husband is a volunteer Guardian Ad Litem and sees CPI's and case managers regularly. While there are always good people out there working for us, the bad drop the ball OFTEN, pull children away from good conditions and leave children in bad conditions. All because they only see one side or a partial story or they have their own agenda and want to move cases through fast. He has spoken up and tries not to just express his opinion but mainly to fight for the state workers to simply do their job.

  13. tairui says:

    Excellent points ~

  14. Tara Lemieux says:

    Awesome new article, Kate ~ and yay to you for 'doing something' 🙂 xo

  15. edie says:

    Well Tara you continue to amaze me, with your insight and craft and heart. Sadly I have known of many who were abused physically and sexually as children. It seems inconceivable. It happens all too often, in homes we'd label as "good" for there is means and church and often all the outside things that never make anyone look inside. It's very sad. I am troubled this boy was sentenced to anything but a psychiatric facility to get help. I did not read the article of though.
    Faith is put to test often and I am often caught between believing in the goodness of the world and people and reckoning with that which is not. I wonder if integrity can be taught. I know self respect can be found and learned and grown like tender ailing plant. Your children are lucky to have you and am so grateful that friend of yours encouraged you to write. We are all the better for it.

  16. edie says:

    Perspective is everything and there are many windows. Some of us have had the frames taken off and that can be frightening, when there's nothing to hold all you know.
    You are kind. And that can be everything. Sending hugs….

  17. Tara Lemieux says:

    Hugs received, and sent back in return… xo

  18. Tara Lemieux says:

    Dan, thank you for the link…. Tara

  19. Renata says:

    The father and the children's services, who fail too often, are to blame. I'm a Buddhist too, but too often I just have a hard time finding compassion for adults who abuse children and animals. I know their minds are deluded and so I am working on my ability to feel compassion for them, but at the same time they are responsible. Poor Joseph, may he find love and peace in his life and end to this terrible turmoil. We'll pray for him.

  20. tairui says:

    Renata – I'm *still* struggling to understand…

  21. Valerie says:

    Perhaps the practice of Ho'oponopono would be in order. It is a Hawaiian belief that we are all responsible for each other. How someone impacts you directly relates to something you have done to cause this. As we are all one in the universe, overcoming negative energy that is reflected to us is caused by something within us, making us responsible. The meditation, "I love you, I'm sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you" directed at the negative force changes the dynamic of negative energy bouncing back and forth. Perhaps if we look within ourselves to see the negative energy we put out there unknowingly, we can redirect those thoughts and feelings into love and forgiveness instead.

  22. tairui says:

    What a beautiful sentiment, Valerie – Tara Lemieux

  23. Dan Mage says:

    You're Welcome!

  24. mrchokeys says:

    1 less Nazi, tragedy aside this kid is a hero not only for defending himself but for making the world a slightly better place. There are plenty of stories in Buddhist folklore where the striking down of an oppressor or mass murderer ready to strike, is shown as an act of compassion. Yes, the "authorities" dropped the ball on this one, and its all to common a story. There should be some kind of mechanism in society where children can just walk away from situations like that, and find safe haven without setting of a absurd chain of legal and bureaucratic repercussions that usually are punitive in nature. Of course this won't happen, as all persons are commodities and children are the property, the chattel of people who are often themselves enslaved. As the slaves and property of the oppressed, they are the only thing their parents have power over. This is the source of their oppression. Nazism in America is an expression of a delusion of power, usually from relatively powerless people too. The oppressed long for nothing more than their chance to be the oppressor, and believing that one day they will have their chance, they are willing to let their own oppression continue -as long as they have someone of their own to oppress- even as we reach that point where compassion compels us to strike the oppressor down.

  25. I would consider this self-defense or defense of a third person (I suppose his siblings were being treated gruesomely too)… Therefore he should not be considered "guilty"/"responsible". Especially if the abuse was so bad that it pushed a 10 year old to take such serious action. This is awful, I hope he finds a loving home to give him all the things he lacked in his childhood and put him back on track.

  26. Tara says:

    Jessica ~ I agree.

  27. Ragnvald says:

    What if – every day you lived in abject fear, as soldiers do on a battlefront, never knowing when you will be killed. What if – each day you suffered humiliating pain from being physically assaulted and mentally abused. What if – every day you were told you were worthless and useless and a burden to others. And there is no one to protect you as those you love are treated in the same way. These are but a few of the sufferings of children in homes where there is violence by an assailant on others (`entrenched conflict' is a complete misnomer – it is a tormentor/ torturer/ persecutor and his victims). Then you would know the intense anger that wells within and without the knowledge of denial of such feelings inherent in religions. I am not saying that this is the situation with this child, but for so many it is. And for some, the only response they can make is to retaliate with the violence they have learned.

  28. barbarbara says:

    justice is truly blind

  29. Tara Lemieux says:

    And when the children are not able to walk away, it is our obligation to step in on their behalf…

  30. Tara Lemieux says:

    Ragnvald… I was in a situation where I felt frightened each day, and unable to flee.

    And then, one day… a very dear friend showed me how to believe that I could, and step out from that shadow.

    Perhaps, this is what we owe this to all the world's children…

  31. Tara Lemieux says:

    Just read that the Judge presiding over this matter has pushed off sentencing until next month, so that he may conduct more research into this matter.

  32. Tara Lemieux says:

    I just posted an update, it appears the judge will be taking another month to research this more fully before sentencing. Sounds like some of the media pressure is beginning to have an impact.

  33. AndrewPaciocco says:

    Wow, I'm late to the party but this reply is absolutely perfect. So perfect in fact I'm having trouble crafting a reply that's deserving. One thing I can say though, I do see our voices growing louder by the day. We could never eradicate hate entirely but it's grip on our culture lessens every day.