Are you raising a sociopath?

In a story that made national headlines last week, Anthony Tyrone Terrell Jr., 17, gunned down his mother, a Gwinnett County sheriff’s deputy, and his two younger sisters, one of whom, Jelani, 4, was the daughter of rap star Juvenile.

Anthony Tyrone Terrell Jr. is most likely a sociopath – a bad seed born with no conscience or empathy for others.

Experts say even in a loving home environment, a sociopath can grow up to kill his entire family, then grab a basketball and go shoot hoops with friends as if nothing happened.

Though studies suggest that most sociopathic killers were abused as children, not all abused children grow up to kill their entire families. Sociopaths can be intelligent, charming and show no outward appearance of their inner turmoil. Studies and conclusions on children who kill their families are based on observations made by the children who may perceive themselves as being neglected or abused.

So what distinguishes these children from others?

I spoke with two friends – both child psychologists who work at a local university. Neither doctor wanted to be identified. So for the purpose of this story, I will refer to them as Dr. A and Dr. B.

Both doctors agreed that most children who kill their families are difficult to identify early on because parents often ignore the signs. By the time the sociopathic child reaches school age, he is already on his way to developing into a psychopath. The children may interact well with schoolmates but signs of antisocial behavior are there.

Some will exert control over other children by bullying them on the schoolyard while portraying a different personality at home. Both docs say that identifying sociopathic children early and getting them into treatment is crucial.

So what are the warning signs?

  • An interest in fires or starting fires (a firestarter)
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Bed wetting that lasts longer than normal
  • Total lack of conscience, empathy or compassion for others
  • Truancy
  • Lying, manipulative and deceptive behavior
  • Lack of remorse or indifference
  • Avoiding intimacy such as hugs
  • Vandalism to property
  • Bizarre writings or drawings which depicts scenes of violence against women
  • Preoccupied with violence
  • Acting out in a sexually inappropriate manner
  • Seeks immediate gratification of needs

  • Dr. A cautions that just because children exhibits these characteristics, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will grow up to become killers.

    For an example of a child who demonstrates several of the symptoms, Dr. B, who is a big “Wire” fan, points to 12-year-old Kenard (pictured above). Kenard is a fictional character from “The Wire” HBO’s real-life drama about drug dealing and widespread corruption in Baltimore.

    She describes a scene in episode 8 where feared neighborhood legend Omar Little approaches a group of boys in an alley surrounding a cat that they are about to set on fire. “The boys scatter in every direction – all except Kenard who shows no fear,” says Dr. B.

    “With one hand he’s holding the cat on the ground. In the other hand he holds a container of lighter fluid,” she explains. “An adult has just interrupted him in the process of abusing an animal, yet he shows no guilt, remorse or embarrassment. A few minutes later, Kenard executes Omar with one shot to the back of the head.”

    Dr. B admits that Kenard’s rapid progression from animal cruelty to killing a man is not the norm. “But [Kenard] is a classic example of a child sociopath,” she said.

    For real life examples of sociopathic children, Dr. A points to Malcolm X’s grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, who caused the death of his grandmother at age 12 by setting fire to her home; Lionel Tate who was sentenced to life in prison at age 12 for killing his six-year-old playmate; and Anthony Tyrone Terrell (pictured right).

    “To their families, these boys seemed normal without any evidence of pathologies,” said Dr. A. “But the warning signs were there all along.”

    Dr. A said children should be assessed for signs of antisocial behavior as early as age 4. “By the time the sociopathic child reaches puberty, it’s often too late. He’s untreatable,” he said.


    41 Responses to “Are you raising a sociopath?”

    1. 1
      LAChick says:

      Sandra…a psychopath and a sociopath are two different diagnoses. Basically you can spot a sociopath, they tend to be obviously non conformist and looking for trouble all the time and a psychopath is not, tends to be more a charming con artist. So an sociopath child does not grow into a psychopath as you mentioned.

    2. 2
      Sandra Rose says:

      @ LAChick:
      I deleted my last comment because my regular readers know I’m a nurse and you may not have known. Psychopath and sociopath are terms used interchangeably to describe the same antisocial personality disorder. Please do your research. A sociopathic child can grow up to become a psychopath. Thanks for visiting.

    3. 3
      free says:

      i know there is lots of science about these types of things but i just believe there is something biblical about how all of this is coming about. there is nothing new under the sun but we are beginning to see these behaviors more frequently. they are also more violent, not race or gender or culture-specific, and are geared toward previously “taboo” persons, such as school children, family members, babies, etc.

      sometimes i want to blame it on the proliferation of violence on television and video games. but we saw some of same things growing up and were able to separate them. i then look at the family structure. i know we may think some of these kids are growing up in decent environments but we never know what is happening behind closed doors. my boyfriend used to work at a residential clinic that catered to child sexual predators. all of those kids had the common thread of sexual abuse. every last one of them was abused by someone and then turned around and either abused themselves or someone else. they were doing some CRAZY stuff in there. when they turned 18, they were forced to leave the center and some of them would commit suicide rather than go out into the world. they also exhibited the behaviors you listed.

      something was going on with that young man in georgia that we just don’t know about. the wire also shows us how the breakdown of a family environment as well as a neighborhood (because neighbors used to look out for one another) can contribute to a breeding environment for felonious behavior. i guess i just refuse to believe that so many people are born this way.

    4. 4
      Bubbles says:

      I wonder if there were any drugs involved in this particular case.People can do the most evil things when they are hooked on drugs.

    5. 5
      2thick4u says:

      This situation is very sad. I don’t know that circumstances that lead up to this young man killing his family but whatever it was I hope that his conscious beats him down. May GOD bless their souls!!!

    6. 6
      2thick4u says:

      *the…typo error (second sentence)

    7. 7
      alana says:

      Black people shy away from the fact of mental illness in the our community. It is viewed as a bad thing and you are looked upon as a bad person if you are seeing a therapist. I’m sure there were signs from this young boy early on that went ignored or were just considered “typical teenage behavior”. I see these issues everyday at work (Im a HS teacher). When a teacher feels that the child has some type of emotional/psychological disorder and refer them to the school social worker alot of times the parents get upset at US!!! They feel we are calling their child crazy. It’s sad, and mental illness needs to be explained more to these parents.

    8. 8
      NYCUTIE says:

      Good Morning All!
      Please take into consideration that this young boy’s mother was fairly young when she had him so he might have been exposed to a lot if his mother wasn’t in a stable home herself. This woman had 3 children with 3 different men. This young man watched his mom hop from man to man and who knows what else. Maybe he had to babysit and couldn’t really do anything and he put the blame on his mom and sisters.. Who knows but it still doesn’t justify his actions! This is a very sad story!

    9. 9
      milly says:

      This story is so heart wrenching! R.I.P
      My heart goes out the loved ones.

    10. 10
      NyNy says:

      It is sad for people to make judgment about this woman and her family if you did not know the situation or knew her personally. H*ll I knew people that grew up in some unstable situations and they turned out just fine. There is no excuse for what this young man did to his family.

    11. 11
      mrsgibbs620 says:


    12. 12
      Bird says:

      I don’t recall Sandra or any of her readers claiming to be mental health experts so this is a topic that is over all our heads. After reading LAChick and Sandra’s comments I just quickly did a google search with the words “psychopath and sociopath” and clicked on a link that said, “What is the differance between a psychopath and sociopath?” According to that site LAChick’s description is accurate. Still, no amount of internet research or even nursing training is going to make us experts on the topic so all we can do is toss around uninformed opinions on the topic.

      Kenard is a fictional character and none of us has interviewed or even met any of the real people Sandra mentions in this post so how can we have an intelligent discussion about this medical issue?

    13. 13
      AreUForReal says:

      @ NYCUTIE

      Your comment sounds very accusatory and unsympathetic. I pray that you never have to experience the lost of a loved one in the manner.

      My heart goes out to everyone involved in this situation. My prayers and thoughts are with you.

    14. 14
      kenyanhottie says:

      Ahhh, the age old debate of nature or nuture.

    15. 15
      Bsoul says:

      Sandra, who is the child in the first picture?

    16. 16
      mizzdallas says:

      Re: Bsoul
      The child in that picture is sociopath Kernard from HBO “The Wire” played by Thuliso Dingwall, He was that little kid that killed Omar.

    17. 17
      Brookiebaby0506 says:

      Has anyone heard why he said he did this? I am so very glad that my son has not shown any of the signs listed above.

    18. 18
      Sandra Rose says:

      Brookiebaby0506 Says:

      Has anyone heard why he said he did this?

      Sociopaths don’t know why they kill. There probably won’t be a motive.

    19. 19
      LAChick says:

      Thanks Bird!
      Sandra, I know you have said you were formally a nurse, I got that but its just not the case that they are interchangable and in our community its important to be aware of the very real difference between the two antisocial personalities. We don’t tend to handle mental illness well. Both are very hard to diagnose however. Anyway, anyone who wants to know the facts can google it as Bird did.

    20. 20
      MZN says:

      Let me ask you (everyone)this. This is just out of curiosity.

      If you find out your kid is a sociopath, or psychopath, what do you do next? Do you hand him over to the state? Do you try to work with him/her to stop being this way? Do you try medication? (which is something I would never do because, in my eyes, medication is bad.)

      But what do you do??? Could someone answer me?

    21. 21
      Sandra Rose says:

      Bird Says:

      no amount of internet research or even nursing training is going to make us experts on the topic so all we can do is toss around uninformed opinions on the topic.
      LOL! What link did you click? I clicked this link that said, “Antisocial Personality Disorder is also known as psychopathy or sociopathy. And this link says “One of the reasons that the terms psychopath, sociopath and antisocial personality are so often used interchangeably is that the experts don’t agree.”

      So please don’t say that I’m tossing around uninformed opinions. I posted informed opinions from two doctors to help my readers recognize the symptoms in their own children. But you and LAChick want to argue about the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath?

      “LAChick said a sociopath cannot grow up to be a psychopath and I can prove that she is wrong. A sociopathic child can grow up to be a psychopath. They can be charming and adapt to society very well, i.e., Snoop from The Wire who killed a girl when she was 16.

    22. 22
      Bsoul says:

      mizzdallas Says:
      “The child in that picture is sociopath Kernard from HBO “The Wire” played by Thuliso Dingwall, He was that little kid that killed Omar.”

      THANK YOU!
      I think I’m probably the only one here who has never seen an episode of “The Wire”.

      MZN Says:

      “If you find out your kid is a sociopath, or psychopath, what do you do next?”

      I don’t have children, but if I did, I’d like to think that I’d try to get some help. I’m not sure how far that would get me since sociopaths have no conscience—something necessary to change disorderly behavior.

      I say “I’d like to think” because you never really know what you’d do unless or until you are in that position. I pray that I never face that decision.

    23. 23
      Bsoul says:

      MZN, are you a Scientologist? I ask because they are stern anti-medication advocates.

    24. 24
      Sandra Rose says:

      @ MZN:

      I am not a trained psychologist, but I used to work at Georgia Regional, so I guess that qualifies me to say something on the subject, lol.

      If your child is showing signs of antisocial behavior it’s best to reach out to a school counselor who can help refer you to a good doctor.

      Children aren’t usually diagnosed a sociopath until they are 18.

      This is the reason kids like Lionel Tate fall through the cracks because they don’t receive treatment until they harm others or themselves.

      Edit: to add that there really isn’t any effective treatment for sociopathic kids once they pass puberty.

    25. 25
      blackgyrl says:

      Sandra thanks for the information this is something that we mos def need to look into due to the high crime rate among our young black men.

    26. 26
      lovely25 says:

      @NYCUTIE…………just because this woman had 3kids by 3different men doesn’t mean she was unfit, a whore, or any other name you’re portraying her to be! Maybe she loved all these men, and things didn’t work out! Whose to say that this child had 2babysit? These people have lost their lives, and all you wanna do is try and justify what this boy did! No matter what his upbringing was, it doesn’t justify him killing his family…

    27. 27
      MZN says:


      No, I am not a scientologist. BUT I don’t believe in medication because Man could never alter the Hands of The Most High. Meaning, God put natural cures on this earth for us already to heal ourselves. I will never go back to taking any medication again because it has long term health complications and you never fully recover. The only time I suggest it,is if someone’s arm is falling off. And even then, you have to go through another deep body cleansing.

      Thank you for responding Sandra! I don’t have children yet, but when I do, I hope I never have to experience this problem!

    28. 28
      Nix says:

      Sandra, thanks for this article.

      My heart goes out to everyone left with the hurt in this situation. My heart also goes out to Terrell, I do think he should definitely be sentenced as an adult but I do pray that he regains a sound mind, this was so sad.

      Sidebar: Is that little boy under the title Terrel or someone else who has been diagnosed as one? If not, who would let their child model for such a headline? I hope whoever made the art for the article didn’t randomly use someone’s child for the picture.

    29. 29
      Bsoul says:

      Nix and I are probably the only ones who haven’t seen “The Wire”.

    30. 30
      Krysi - yes the same one says:

      Its a sad day in time when you have to read posts like this and apply it to your child’s behavior to make sure you REALLY aren’t raising a sociopath!

      GOD knows I love my son, and I know that I am raising him well, but the way stuff comes up on the news with kids shooting up elementary schools, stabbing,rapeing, beating, setting each other on fire and killing each other, u don’t know what to think.

    31. 31
      LAChick says:

      Sandra I am a grown woman…I don’t argue, I converse, I discuss, I have my opinion based on my life, my work and my experience which you know nothing about. Arguing on the net is for kids IMHO. In this instance its not about being right, it about making an informed statement. I stand by what I have posted and you are welcome to stand by yours.

    32. 32
      AllICanSay says:

      @ Salana- I do agree with you when you say the black community shy away from mental illness but we shy away from everything. It’s like if it is out of sight from public view there is no need for discussion. We need to talk about a lot of things, mental illness, sexual abuse, homosexuality, education, politics, credit and the list goes on. As it is already known these things just doesn’t happen to one family but to many. We need to talk about these things, we need to know the warning signs. These children are our future and we are failing them by not talking about it and not seeking help for them.

    33. 33
      Sandra Rose says:

      LAChick Says:

      Sandra I am a grown woman…I don’t argue, I converse, I discuss, I have my opinion based on my life, my work and my experience which you know nothing about. Arguing on the net is for kids

      My only problem with your post is you implied that I was misleading my readers with misinformation. Both diagnosis are listed under the same antisocial personality disorder with the same symptoms in the DSM-IV. You say one is more charming than the other as if that’s based on fact. Google the words “charming” and “sociopath” and you will see thousands of examples of charming sociopaths who are just as difficult to spot as psychopaths are. So I guess we agree to disagree.

    34. 34
      AreUForReal says:

      @ Sandra Rose

      I know this is off topic…………It’s great to see you posting in the comments section again. Can I ask you what prompted you to block registration?

    35. 35
      Nina says:

      Sandra, thanks for providing this information. Everyone needs to be aware of the warning signs.

    36. 36
      MZN says:

      @ Sandra Rose

      I’m with AreUForReal. Why did you block registration. Could you answer that please?

    37. 37
      Mrsdawsondn says:

      I must admit I’ve never really sat down and watched *The Wire* myself. I saw a part of it and it was a little too Gully for me.

      And MZN i’d say take your kids to an therapist ASAP as soon as you see signs or a pastor.

      Honest to God truth as a child I exemplified some of those behaviors and I believe in demonic posession. Not to be getting all ‘spiritual’ on yall or anything but it definitely has something to do with it. I had no remorse, I avoided affection alot, and I wet the bed a little longer than I was supposed to (so says family members when I ask them about it). I really don’t remember alot of my childhood but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that today I am here in my right mind and working in the ministry because of my spiritual background and beliefs. It’s been said to me by the a woman of God that I saved my own life in spiritual warfare at one point and I am of the belief that alot of these mental illnesses and things come from a demonic possesion that takes over an unsuspecting victim that can’t fight back.. such as a child.

    38. 38
      ms.peaches says:

      Man this is some scary stuff were talking about here, tp even think that your own chld could do harm to you & others is scary!! I have 2 boys & a girl & love them to death & make sure they get all the things they ask for but only ater they do what they suppose to do as far as homework, getting good grades, & helping out around the house!! But after reading all the different opinions it’s hard to say wht I would do if I was in that position I guess you can give your kids all the lve in the world but if it’s in them to act that way then like someone said how can you at least try to prevent it??

    39. 39
      ChokLitFactory says:

      This is a scary post. As soon as I saw Kedard’s face, I froze. R.I.P to those killed by that young boy (and R.I.P to Omar).

    40. 40
      SnootyPooty1 says:

      I have never seen the wire either.

    41. 41
      ms.peaches says:

      The wire is the show or well was, the last episode is on Sunday at 9:00pm so from the time its on until the last credit is rolled I do not want to be bothered!!(lol) I think Sandra posted Kenards pic up there cause he is the type of child who is just out there & shows no emotion for anything to those who has seen it, that episode when he killed Omar he was in the process of setting a cat on fire so that right there shows signs of a psychopath(I really hate that word) anyone that can do harm to animals without a 2nd thought is cruel & heartless!!

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