Parents of monsters: Families of mass killers struggle with pariah status

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – Not long after the mother of the Navy Yard killer, Aaron Alexis, learned her 34-year old son had been shot dead by Washington, D.C. police officers–ending his murderous rampage–the media descended on her home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.  Within 48 hours, Cathleen Alexis made the decision to read a brief statement–audio only.  Her voice revealed the pain she was feeling.  “I am so very sorry to the families of the victims,” she said, in closing. “My heart is broken.”

Cathleen Alexis’ only son fatally shot 12 innocent people in the Washington Navy Yard on Monday.

Peter Lanza’s youngest son, Adam,  slaughtered 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut last December–along with six, school administrators.  His ex-wife, Nancy, was killed before the executions at Sandy Hook Elementary.  It was Nancy who had bought the AR-15 assault rifle and taught her son how to use it. 

But Peter Lanza, living with a second wife in Stamford, was sought out by at least one family of a six year old girl who died at Sandy Hook.  The parents wanted to know Adam Lanza’s medical history and how Peter and Nancy Lanza had interacted, when they were still married.  Peter Lanza has now put his house on the market in Stamford.

The parents of mass killers suffer with more than grief over the loss of their child–who often commits suicide or gets stopped dead by law enforcement responders.  They also suffer isolation in their own community–often judged by neigbors who don’t understand how they could have raised a person responsible for such a monstrous act. 

David Kaczynski, brother of the “Unabomber”–Ted–a disturbed, serial killer who was turned in by David in 1996–often reaches out to the parents of those who commit multiple murders in a single event. 

When mentally ill Jared Lee Loughner shot up a parking lot in Tucson, Arizona in 2011–where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was doing a ‘meet and greet’–Kaczynski reached out to Loughner’s parents, Amy and Randy.  Their son was being charged with killing six people, including a young girl who was born on 9/11/01.  Giffords had survived with a serious brain injury that ended her congressional career.  “I know what it was like to be in their situation,” Kaczynski said at the time.  “Being in utter shock, disbelief, the trauma.”

Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection in June 2001 for the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people inside the federal Murrah Building.  Bill McVeigh, his father, retreated into his private pain at his home in upstate New York.  But Bud Welch, the father of a 23-year old woman who died, decided he wanted to reach out to McVeigh.  Welch said he recognized the pain in Bill McVeigh’s eyes in his own.  Welch went to McVeigh’s home and

admired his garden.  Welch recalled a single tear fell down McVeigh’s face, when he showed Welch his son’s high school graduation photo.  Timothy McVeigh was a decorated, Gulf War veteran who turned on his government. 

Bud Welch said meeting McVeigh’s father allowed him to forgive the son for his horrific crime.

Now, Cathleen Alexis is feeling the pain of losing her son and the horror of what he did.  It is not a parents’ club she would have ever asked to join.