"I Think My Son Was The Shooter"

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

An essay on James Holmes and the parents of children who've killed.

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"--Yeats


“I Think my Son was the Shooter.”


These are words no parent wants to say but Jeff Williams had to when he arrived at Santana High School in Santee, CA and came across two girls who told him, “Andy did it. (Williams, 2011)”.  And now, the parents of James Eagan Holmes are facing this nightmare as well as they come to terms with the fact their child opened fire in a crowded movie theater, killing 12 people and injuring 58 (Aleccia, 2012). 


All the news coverage has focused on the victims and the seemingly dazed James Holmes’ first appearance in court but now the attention is turning towards the parents.  What is it like to be the parents of a murderer?  Jeff Williams  first  response was disbelief.  His son, Andy Williams, opened fire at his high school, killing two students and wounding 13 others.  Just the week before, they’d gone hang-gliding together and condo shopping.  He said that Andy was smiling and picking out the room he wanted.  The next week, he shot and killed two people (Williams, 2011). 


Andy was charged as an adult at the age of fifteen and pled guilty.  He was given a sentence of fifty years to life (Williams, 2011).  Jeff Williams says he isn’t angry with his son because it’s incomprehensible to him that he could have done what he did but he feels a certain sense of responsibility to the parents of those killed and injured.  He states that he did “everything he could” when it came to raising a responsible child but the guilt is still there.  He is being sued by the two victims’ parents for negligence.


Lois Robison is also thinking of James Eagan Holmes’ parents tonight.  Her son, Larry Robison, murdered five people and was executed in 2000.  Larry developed a history of mental illness and was finally diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic yet was deemed sane enough to stand trial for murder.  Lois and her husband did everything possible to help their son, trying to get him psychiatric help from the time he was 12 until he was 25 (Robison, 2011).


  After the crimes occurred, Lois went public with her plea to get help for her son in prison and better psychiatric care for prisoners overall and received a backlash of hate mail from people who were hurting as much as she was: the victims’ families.  Lois was present, outside the prison, when her son was executed.  She states that she doubts she could have withstood such a tragedy if she hadn’t done everything possible to try and get Larry help for his mental illness.

The parents of James Eagan Holmes have a long, hard road ahead of them.  Like Jeff Williams, their first response was probably disbelief.  Our son could not have done this.  And, in this situation, perhaps that’s best.  To be like Lois, trying to get help for a child you know is on the verge of self-destruction and meeting with closed doors, is a burden almost too much to bear.

The question of parenting comes into play as well.  Jeff Williams received hate mail that made him question his parenting skills and made him feel partially responsible for the Santana High tragedy.  Lois dealt with prosecutors claiming she never tried to get help for her son and threats were made on her life when she showed up for the execution of her son (Williams, 2011).


  Already, internet commentators are saying Holmes’ parents were abusive and should share in the guilt along with their son (Aleccia, 2012).  It will never cease to amaze me how people have an almost obsessive need to place blame in a tragedy such as this and that blame always seems to fall on the parents.  Many times, like Jeff Williams and his son, Andy, the parent is doing the best they can do.  It never occurs to a parent that their child may become a murderer because of decisions they made when the child was growing up.  Or, like Lois, to have done everything possible and yet to still be accused of not doing enough. 


A parent can never absolve themselves of all guilt when it comes to their child taking the life of another.  When all of the pointing fingers and media flashes are gone at the end of the day, there is always the still, quiet voice that asks, “Is this my fault? Did I do enough?”  Andy Williams and Larry Robison were baseball players, held the lead in school plays, loved skate-boarding and won honors in the Boy Scouts.  They were no different from the kids I see out my window as I sit here typing this.  So what went wrong? 


“The ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

--excerpted from The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats


Submitted: May 29, 2013

© Copyright 2021 WyldPatienz. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Christopher Bradbury

This is a nice slant to what is sadly becoming a common story. It raises moral questions and doesn't pretend to have the answers; like any good article, it stimulates conversation and further thought. It's easy to blame the parents and not so easy to sympathise with them, even empathise to a degree. Good stuff.

Tue, June 4th, 2013 8:35am


Thank you so much for your comments.--Wyld

Tue, June 4th, 2013 8:13am


I understand why people place the blame on the parents, after all everybody needs somebody to blame and perhaps they do play a part in the choices that their child makes. However, I think (and this is my personal opinion) that it comes down to the person that commited the crime. This person, regardless of how they were brought up, has several different choices to make when growing up, some pick one path whilst others pick a different one. And then there are those who walk the middle. I think it's also human nature to think 'surely, a child can't do such a thing, they must have had a reason' and that's when people look to the parents.

Fri, June 28th, 2013 9:56pm


I agree with you, it does come down to the person who commits the crime. What I find so fascinating behind tragedies like this, is how did the child reach a point where he feels the choice he makes is a viable one? How did he/she form the outlook he/she has? You can expose two children to identical long-term situations and how they respond will be as different as night and day. Something interesting I learned in one of my Psych classes is that adopted children, even those adopted at birth,will display characteristics of the biological parents and not characteristics brought about by their upbringing. It's all really interesting. Thanks for your input and comments.:)--Wyld

Fri, June 28th, 2013 3:05pm


That is actually really interesting, but I've always thought that maybe there is something within the genes. As well though, I do think it depends on the individual, for example: my great gran beat my nan and placed her in care for a while, my nan beat my mum and placed her in care for 6 weeks. My mum then gave her two first children up for adoption and then I was used as a punching bag for my nan, mum and uncle. However, as much as I had their rage growing up and their hatred for everything, I have a little girl and I would never do what they did. But that's my choice, that's down to me. Everyone can succumb to depression and darkness and almost everyone has had something bad happen to them that they can use as an excuse to do something evil. And that's a choice the individual person has to make. Does that make sense?

Mon, July 1st, 2013 12:20pm


So many thought provoking topics brought up in this piece. But overall, I do agree with you.
How are they to know? All children may commit 'unusual' acts at some time in their life but you would never see a child kick a bit of Lego and instantly go 'they're going to be a murderer'. Know one knows what goes on in people's minds.

Thu, July 4th, 2013 7:10am


It's a fascinating topic isn't it? Thank you so much for your comments.:)--Wyld

Thu, July 4th, 2013 8:21am


This was a very interesting read. You throw a new perspective on those events, and I really did feel for the parents. I've never really believed the child reflects the parents. It's the individual. Naturally some environments can bring certain characteristics to the front, but most of the time I believe they already exist and lie dormant until something flicks it into life. That was really tragic about the man that was mentally ill, refused help and then executed. D: I don't mean to offend, but America seems like a very strange place. I hope nothing like these events happens again, and that the parents don't have to burden the blame for the mistakes of their offspring for the rest of their lives. Incidentally, have you ever watched the movie, 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'? It's on this topic and is incredibly interesting, but also disturbing. Really well written. I'm glad I happened to read it. :)

Sat, July 6th, 2013 6:31pm


No,I've never seen "We Need To Talk About Kevin", I'll have to keep it in mind and see if I can't find it. Lol...yes,America IS a very strange place. We have a lot of people and nobody is quite sure of what the other person is doing at any given time.

For some reason, people always want to place blame for tragic events. Somebody has to be at fault. If the child murders, it must be the fault of the parents. Or "hindsite bias" comes into play, where people blame other people because they feel they should have "known" something tragic would occur.

I'm glad you took the time to read this and enjoyed it.:)--Wyld

Sat, July 6th, 2013 1:24pm

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