ost people have forgotten the teenager or never heard of him. I used to be one of them.
It was a lovely day in Los Angeles. I had just flown in from New York to visit my friend, Fern. One of our favorite pastimes was to swap stories – everything from local people to major events. Fern asked me if I knew about Joshua Jenkins.
“Joshua Jenkins. He used to live in my neighborhood.”
“You never told me that one,” I frowned.
Fern took a deep breath. “He’s the 15 year old kid who murdered his parents, grandparents, and sister.”
“He was always a strange, troubled kid,” Fern continued. “But no one saw it coming.”
One night, Joshua took a hammer and knife and killed his parents. He turned on his grandparents and killed them. The next day, he took his little sister, 10 year old Megan, who had slept through everything, to a home supplies store. He told her to pick out an ax. They returned home and he killed her.
Then he set everything on fire.
In a statement made to the police right after the murders, Joshua calmly said why he killed his family. “The world’s really messed up and I didn’t want them to live in it anymore . . . too much gangs . . . too much problems . . . too much hate.”
“Do you believe it?” Fern asked breathlessly.
I was very quiet. Too quiet.
As an author, I recognized the symptoms. Sometimes a face, a name, or a story creeps into your imagination and takes hold. It begins to grow, taking on fictional dimensions, and a new story evolves. Joshua’s story also developed through my work as a Family Therapist – I had to understand why a teenager would suddenly morph into a mass murderer.
Fern felt my silence.
“No,” she said nervously. “You’re not going to write about him?”
It was too late.
Now, well over six years and six books later, I did a lot more than write about Joshua Jenkins. I studied psychopaths, interviewed experts, explored forensic science, mentally revisited my own psychopathic patients, and viewed videos – confessions, manifestos, interrogations – trying to understand the nature and genesis of psychopaths. It became clear, through popular books, movies, newspapers, magazine articles, and online sites, that people were fascinated with these extreme killers. I even found a psychopathic in my own family tree.
The most sobering thing I discovered was that most psychopaths aren’t violent; many have psychopathic traits – they live, work, and play with us.
In an interview with psychiatrist Dr. Paul Strauss, after the murders, Joshua said matter-of-factly, “I feel sad. I miss my family, but I kind of think I did the right thing. If my aunts and uncles were there, I’d have wiped them out too.”
Clear, easy words. No feeling, no empathy. No conscience. The hallmarks of a psychopath. Totally devoid of responsibility or guilt; moving through life like human monsters who appear normal but beneath the surface lies true evil. My six books didn’t just explore the murders – they went both forward and back in time – to understand the nature and nurture of people like Joshua. I had to know why – I had to dig deep into the heart of human nature to see how people like Joshua emerge from haunted family trees.
It was a trip that changed me forever.
Today, Joshua Jenkins languishes in a California prison, living out a sentence of 112 years in prison without parole.
“There are some kids that are broken,” Jeff Reilly, Joshua’s lawyer, said. “Josh is a broken child. He didn’t choose to be broken; he didn’t break himself, but . . .”
Read the fictionalized account of Joshua, haunted family trees, psychopaths who don’t kill, and their journeys through human history.