The New Sociopaths
On May 3, 2008, a star lacrosse play and honor student living in Cockeysville Maryland named Nicholas Browning made a decision that to this day remains unexplained. He took a break from playing video games at a friend’s house, walked home, picked up his father’s gun and shot his entire family as they slept.
Dead were his father Tom, mother Sylvia, and little brothers Gregory 10 years old and Benjamin eight. Worse yet, Nicholas confessed to crime but gave little explanation or motive other than the fact that his father wouldn’t let him use the family car to attend a party.
But Nicholas was not alone in his savagery.
Several weeks later just miles from the Browning residence another promising young man inexplicably turned to murder. A 17-year old star athlete Lewin Powell had been fighting with his mother over his flagging grades., But at some point in the dispute Powell picked up a bat and beat his mother to death.
But he wasn’t done.
The 17 year old Lewin Powell hid his mother’s corpse in a bedroom and waited for his father to return from work. The elder Powell fell asleep on the couch, where his son attacked him with the same bat, fracturing his father’s skull in two places before the bewildered parent could subdue his murderous son.
It’s a case that confounds the normal explanations for violent crime. Neither boys came from troubled homes or suffered from mental illness. In fact, they were leading exemplary lives.
Which is I why I decided these crimes were worth exploring in depth in our continuing televisual dialog on crime called “Why Do We Kill?” In this episode we look at the influence of the simulacra upon our psyches and its potential influence on criminality. Specifically, how our deepening immersion in a world of illusion and symbolism affects or behaviors and may limit our ability to be empathetic.
If you want to read more about the topic of why people chose to kill, click on the links below to the books written by the two former Baltimore homicide detectives who appear in this episode.
"You Can't Stop Murder: Truths about Policing in Baltimore and Beyond"
"Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore"