One of the more well-known cases is the slender man killings, Dr. Joni Johnston said, where two female teens stabbed a classmate in Wisconsin in 2014. Johnston is the author of “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Psychology.”
“It is rare for a child under the age of 14 to kill someone,” Johnston said. “Approximately 74 children a year do so in the United States. This is less than 1% of all homicides. Guns are most often the weapon of choice, 60% of the time.”
Ellis and the 13-year-old suspect are accused of using a knife to kill Moore.
Clark County deputies respond to many types of calls concerning juveniles, Sheriff Deb Burchett said, and about 55 youth have been charged with a “significant offense” over the last year and a half.
“Those charges included: assaults, domestic violence, drug abuse, criminal damaging, arson, burglary, menacing, sex offenses, using weapons while intoxicated, and vandalism,” Burchett said. “We also respond to many calls that involve children with behavioral issues such as refusing to go to school, failing to obey their parents, rude and disrespectful to teachers and law enforcement.”
While child killers are rare, Clark and Champaign County have not been immune to these cases. In October 2016, 16-year-old Nicholas Starling was charged and eventually convicted with the murder of his 14-year-old brother. Also, Champaign County teenager Donovan Nicholas was convicted of killing 40-year-old Heidi Fay Taylor in April 2017.
Taylor was Nicholas’ father’s girlfriend and surrogate mother, according to court testimony.
New Carlisle case
Ellis and the 13-year-old murder suspect are due back in court Tuesday.
The two teenage girls were arrested after an investigation by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies were called to a home on North Church Street in response to a reported stabbing.
They found three victims with stab wounds — the 13-year-old’s father, identified as 56-year-old Paul Greear, Greear’s 17-year-old son and the 13-year-old’s mother who was unresponsive, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies say interviews with the suspects determined the 13-year-old suspect initiated conversations with Ellis and both conspired to have the older girl enter the house during the night with the younger girl’s help and assault and kill the man, woman and the 17-year-old.
When teens kill they usually don’t have a plan, Johnston said. There are many more examples of teens committing violence out of anger and not knowing how to control their emotions, she said.
“There are usually a number of warning signs like threatening to kill before, they might be obsessed with violent entertainment,” Chalmers said. “They are probably posting things online or writing about it in a journal or drawings. There are things that people miss at the time but look back at and see the signs.”
Chalmers said when there are two teen killers, that usually means one of them was the leader and the other a follower.
A sheriff’s report detailing the deputies initial investigation shows one of the teens told deputies that the other told her that they were in this together.
“I went to check on (redacted) and she advised me she was confused,” the report says. “She stated (redacted) kept yelling for her and saying we are in this together and that was not true. She stated (redacted) would always tell her how she would do anything for her but she never thought it would go this far.”
Preventing teen violence
In general, providing a steady home can go a long way to preventing a child from committing a serious crime, Burchett said.
“A healthy home life definitely goes a long way,” she said. “Every child needs a positive supporter - someone they can look up to and learn how to become a productive citizen. Unfortunately, many - but not all of the juvenile offenders that we encounter come from homes that have parents or caretakers that are using drugs. Some of these parents have been in and out of jail.”
Johnston said studies show there are things parents can do to keep kids out of tough situations that can escalate. The first is not allowing children under the age of 15 to be the regular caretaker of toddlers and restricting teens’ access to firearms.
Johnston said teens attacking a parent or grandparent is one of the more common cases when it comes to teen violence. Other examples are the killing of a younger sibling, the killing of a peer during a moment of anger, a teen killing during a robbery, break-in or other crime, or a group of teens attacks a lone victim or group of victims as part of an ongoing conflict — usually this is associated with gang violence, Johnston said.
“Young teenagers often don’t have as much ability to control their actions in the heat of the moment, what might be a fistfight can wind up a fatality if he or she can grab a gun,” Johnston said.
Chalmers said in almost every case he’s investigated, there is something that triggers the violent act.
“Peer pressure can be one of the causes,” he said. “At the end of the day, there has to be a trigger. Teens don’t kill without a trigger.”
Chalmers said teen girls have been committing violent crime more often than they have in the past and it might be because of unsteady homes.
“I think because of the way they have been raised, especially with the drug epidemic interfering with families,” Chalmers said. “The lack of discipline in their lives. We are seeing an increase in violence with females.”
Clark and Champaign County cases
Clark and Champaign County boys have been suspects in the most recent violent crimes involving teens.
Nicholas Starling, 16, of Springfield was accused of stabbing and beating his 14-year-old brother with a baseball bat to death in October 2016 and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
Ely Serna was 17 years old when he brought a shotgun into school on Jan. 20, 2017 and shot fellow student Logan Cole twice. He carried out the school shooting before being apprehended in a bathroom. No one died in the incident but Serna was convicted of attempted murder.
Donovan Nicholas was 14 years old and enrolled in Graham Local Schools when he stabbed and shot his surrogate mother and then blamed an alternate personality for the crime in April 2017.
EARLIER COVERAGE: 15-year-old charged in shooting near Springfield McDonald's
Also, the Springfield Police Division responded to the McDonald’s around 5 p.m. April 17 after a teenager ran into the restaurant for help after being shot.
Police determined that a 15-year-old Clark County youth was responsible for the shooting and arrested him. He was charged with attempted murder in juvenile court, but prosecutors have said they do not intend to ask the court to move him to adult court.
The 15-year-old is due back in court on Friday. The case is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing.
Clark and Champaign County law enforcement have taken measures to prevent teens from making major mistakes. For instance, this last school year the Clark County Sheriff’s Office had school resource officers in every school. The deputies are responsible for protecting students from attacks, Burchett said, but are also a positive role model for students.
“Kids see them every day,” she said. “The SRO’s develop relationships with staff and students, learning about their needs and concerns and being able to help.”
October 2016: Nicholas Starling kills his 14-year-old brother in Springfield.
January 2017: Ely Serna opens fire at West Liberty-Salem High School.
April 2017: Donovan Nicholas kills his surrogate mother in Champaign County.
April 2019: Springfield police arrest 15-year-old in a shooting at McDonald’s.
May 2019: Two New Carlisle teens arrested on a murder charge, accused of killing one of their mothers.
The Springfield News-Sun was on scene moments after two teens were accused of killing a woman and attacking two others and have provided updates on their cases since.