A blonde, blue-eyed, suburban 16-year-old girl is in the news. What would you think brought her to the media’s attention? As a child prodigy? As someone involved in some celebrity scandal?
Or god forbid as the victim of violence by some vicious and senseless older man? None of these, it’s because she’s been accused of murder.
If you pried into her social life by scrolling down her Facebook profile – you would think while she didn’t look like she’d be voted the next prom queen because of the very few engagements her last status received, her extremely harmless selfies proved her to be normal. She might have been an introvert or an anti-social millennial in the 21st century, but not a murderer.
If you saw the same 16-year-old calling for an Uber at 1am and 2am and then at 3am – knowing that Uber does not allow people under 18 to call for uber rides themselves – you’d think she’s just a defiant teenage girl who has probably made herself a fake Uber account and run away from home to have a fun night out with some friends. But her as a murderer out hunting would not cross your mind.
If you saw her entering Walmart at 3am, you’d think that she had probably fallen prey to the temptation of underage drinking and is stopping by Walmart to buy some snacks to satiate her hunger. Or maybe that she lived right across the road and ran over to Walmart to buy some food/soda for a party she might be having at home. Because what else could a 16-year-old require at 3am from Walmart? A knife and machete? You’d never guess.
If you saw her walk in and out of Walmart without paying for anything – you’d grow suspicious. She’s probably shoplifting. Or if you’re more of an optimistic person – you might reason it out as her probably not finding the exact brand of whatever she wanted. But you’d never think she’s stealing weapons to plan a murder.
If you did catch on the fact that each of the 16-year old’s hands held one weapon – a knife and a machete, you’d be taken aback. You’d keep your distance. You’d hide from her and call 911, reporting her as a young girl who just shoplifted weapons from Walmart.
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You’d expect the police to drive up and arrest her for shoplifting, only to realize that she needed those knives for her mum for cooking and gardening or maybe for even self-harm. Since only 9% of murderers are women – you’d dismiss the thought of her being a murderer because ‘she’s only a girl and one too young to have the wrath of murder in her’.
If you had been the uber driver she called at3 am a block away from Walmart in Skokie, a quiet village in Illinois, you’d just be happy you got a ride – that too to drop off a harmless looking girl probably looking to go home. You’d be happy that you might just earn enough from that ride to call it a night and head back home to your family. You might be worried that she might be drunk at this hour and puke in your car, but relieved that at least she’s not driving herself and choosing the safer option. You’d never think that it might be the last night of your life.
Eliza later took the wheel and drove for a bit, left the car, crouched under an air conditioner vent in her bra and leggings and left a bloodstained shirt lying near her. She didn’t try to run, hide, or defend herself when the police came for her.
We know many things about the murder, but not much about what might have caused it. Psychologists are – after six months –still trying to understand why.
True, Walmart should have hired doormen who stopped her before she left, the police when called should’ve acted fast, but how many people around you expect the worst? Stamped as an unpredictable and unavoidable tragedy, this case has been researched to point to signs of a disturbed and abusive childhood and/or mental suffering.
Bipolar patient, Shreevatsa Nevatia talks about the thin line that separates mentally ill people from criminals. He questions sanity and writes about his personal experience: “Diagnosed bipolar in 2007, I have, in this last decade, been capable of a violence…I have verbally assaulted family and friends. I have invaded their space without permission, and worse still, I have considered the subjectivity of others dispensable.” He then states, “Reality and sanity are both consensual.”
Three schools of thought are used to explain Eliza’s case and cases of many other young suicide bombers/murderers that point to mental sickness as their cause.
One is that humans are inherently good and a neurotic disorder makes them forget their purpose and values making them inflict harm on themselves and others.
The other is that monsters lie within us and a well-functioning brain keeps the monster in chains and in control. However, if and when the hardwiring of the brain is messed up somewhere at birth or while growing up, you’re in perpetual fear of the monster taking over, potentially costing your’s and other people’s lives.
The third group of people don’t blame mental illness at all, believing that they’re perfectly fine and are just extraordinarily vicious requiring to suffer equal bouts of violence and brutality through severe forms of punishment.
Where do you stand? Should Eliza and criminals like herself be imprisoned for life and treated ruthlessly or should they be treated in a mental clinic that provides them the attention they need till they heal by giving them an opportunity to start anew?
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