Juvenile Sex Offenders as Sexual Murderers
As noted in Chapter 1, one of the goals of this book is to dispel myths about sex offenders and present findings from empirical, research-based studies. As previously indicated, media attention is often focused on extraordinary cases, which often leads to the perception, or rather misperception, that such cases are frequent. Thus, a moral panic is created (Jenkins, 1998). Albeit rare, a few juvenile sex offenders develop severe pathologies and escalate from minor paraphilic behaviors to sex crimes, and subsequently commit a sexual murder.
A recent study that examined juveniles who committed sexual murders found the actual numbers are extremely low (Chan, Heide, & Myers, 2013; Myers, 2002; Myers & Chan, 2012). It has been well documented that sexual murder committed by juveniles account for less than 1% of all murders by juveniles (Chan & Heide, 2008). Juvenile sexual murders occur only 10 to 15 times a year in the U.S. (Myers, Chan, Vo, & Lazarou, 2010). Given the small number, very few studies have examined this group of offenders. One study assessed 22 juveniles who committed sexual murder and were released from prison. All of the offenders were tried in adult court, and 59% received at least one life sentence (Myers et al., 2010). The average IQ was 103, which is slightly above average (100). It was common for these offenders to have been diagnosed with conduct disorder, personality disorder, and sexual sadism disorder. A large number had psychopathic traits. Post-release information was available for 11 of the 22 offenders. Only five did not commit another offense over a follow-up period of an average of 8.9 years. Six recidivated, and on average, it took them approximately 4.5 years to commit another offense. Three did not recidivate until 5.3 years later, and interestingly, those three committed an additional sexual murder. Therefore, of those who were followed up (half of the original sample), approximately one-third (27%) escalated to serial sexual murders.