In late October, two young girls from central Florida, one 11 and the other 12, plotted to kill at least 15 of their smaller schoolmates. Their plans were foiled when one girl’s mother responded to the school’s automated notification of her daughter’s absence. At that point, the principal of Bartow Middle School found both girls in the restroom where they were lying in wait for unsuspecting victims.
Claiming to be Satan worshippers, the girls were found in possession of four knives, scissors, a pizza cutter, and a goblet for drinking the blood of their intended victims. A later search of their homes produced a school map with the bathroom marked, several notes, social media messages, and disturbing song lyrics.
Investigators reported the girls had spent the weekend together and binge-watched horror movies. It was also determined the girls planned to kill themselves after completing their murder plot.
A few days later and less than 100 miles away, in Volusia County, Florida, 15-year-old Gregory Ramos was accused of killing his mother Gail Cleavenger after an argument over his grades. Police investigators believe that Ramos tried to hide his mother’s body and cover up his crime by enlisting two friends to help him stage a burglary of their home.
After strangling his mother in her sleep, Ramos buried her under a fire pit at River City Church in the early morning hours of Friday, November 1, using a family van and a wheelbarrow. He waited till he got home from school that afternoon to call 911 and report his mother was missing and their home had been robbed.
Amazingly, Ramos boasted to a friend that when the cops arrived to take his statement he gave “an award-winning performance.”
His performance must not have been that convincing because investigators immediately suspected the teenager who had tell-tale scratches on his face. The police also found a shovel and a broom that Ramos used in his crime. His mother’s body was found early Saturday, and his friends confessed to helping the teen stage the home burglary.
Volusia County Sherriff Mike Chitwood believes Ramos should be tried for his mother’s murder as an adult. He described the teen as one of the “top three sociopaths” he had ever dealt with. Chitwood also called Ramos a “soulless individual.”
If Sheriff Chitwood is correct in his evaluation of Ramos, then America has more than her share of such soulless, sociopathic children within our homes and schools. It is no longer a rarity or a shock to turn on the television and hear of American teens killing their parents, their siblings, their friends, or their classmates and teachers.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice and its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 730 murders were committed in 2016 by one or more juvenile offenders under the age of 16. And preliminary 2017 statistics for murders committed by the same age group of offenders are equally frightening.
But those statistics are more than numbers. They represent children who are responsible for the heinous and senseless deaths of mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, and other precious members of our communities. Their deaths are an immeasurable loss for our society, having an impact that will be felt for generations upon generations of Americans. Likewise, the ruined lives of child murderers such as Gregory Ramos are an equally tragic reality.
But let me venture to say that even though Sheriff Chitwood has seen more of this modern American tragedy than the average U.S citizen, I still think he is wrong in his assessment of Ramos.
He is not soulless. Neither are the two Bartow Middle School girls, and neither are the other 700 child murderers such as DeShonn Hayes, Scott Kologi, and Daejona Holmes. They are not soulless, and neither were their victims.
In fact, each has a soul that will live eternally. Therein lies the real tragedy of their stories, and therein lies the tragedy of America’s story as well.
We should have heeded God’s warning when He began the Ten Commandments by saying, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
In our failure to put God first in our own lives, we ultimately failed to teach our children this most necessary truth: He alone is God. As a nation, we totally failed these innocent murder victims when we failed to teach our children that human beings, both born and pre-born, are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.
We taught American children, instead, to put self above all else. Subsequently, there is no accountability or compassion for others in a society when “self” rules. By our own selfish actions, we have raised a generation of children who easily justify selfish needs, wants, desires, and motivations. So it is no wonder we are currently reaping a whirlwind of heinous crimes committed by self-centered, self-absorbed children.
No, our children are not soulless; they are simply God-less. And we have only our “selves” to blame.