Amario Dominguez III was only 6 months old when he was shot in the head in Oklahoma City in August. The infant was the youngest victim of a mass killing this year. The oldest: Dottie and Bob Pape, both 84, of Fernley, Nevada, shot during an apparent robbery.
Amario and the Papes are three of the 137 people who died in 30 mass killings in 2013.
In the year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School horrified the world and prompted calls for laws that would prevent mass killings, little has changed. The violence and victims in 2013 are in line with the average since 2006 — 29 mass killings and 147 victims a year,according to an exclusive USA TODAY database.
"Everyone is always asking 'Why are these mass killings increasing?' '' says criminologist James Alan Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University. "They are not.''
The perception of a dramatic increase is understandable given the attention killings receive, says Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University and co-author of Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.In an effort to look behind the bloodshed, USA TODAY examined FBI data and hundreds of media reports and police documents and compiled a database of mass killings — four or more people killed, not including the killer — from 2006 to date. The numbers tell a chilling story. Beyond the numbers, the horror and pain of the sudden and senseless loss of 137 souls resonates among family, friends, communities and, in some cases, the nation.
The USA TODAY analysis shows the killings fall into three main categories: Public massacres, family violence and deaths that are linked to other crimes — robbery, burglary, drug deals.
HIGH PROFILE BUT RARE
It is the public killings that attract the most attention.
Mass violence carried out in broad view, often with a deranged gunman bent on sending some sort of message, horrifies the public and draws intense media coverage that far exceeds the violence with smaller numbers of victims or in homes or other private places.
Yet mass killings account for just 1% of all murders nationally. Public massacres, such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last Dec. 14 or the rampage at a movie multiplex in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012, account for one in six deaths by mass killing,
Five mass killings in public places this year left 31 people dead. The deadliest day in 2013 was Sept. 16, when 12 people were gunned down in the Washington Navy Yard. Aaron Alexis, 34, a Navy subcontractor, also injured eight people before police killed him.
"A public shooting, it could happen at any place, any time, to anyone – even you,'' Fox says. "Much more common are family annihilations, where a guy kills his wife, children and himself.''
The Richard family had no warning of the two pressure-cooker bombs that would go off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing 8-year-old Martin and tearing apart their family.
"An hour doesn't go by that we don't feel the agony of Martin's death and the senseless way it came about," the Richard family said on their blog in August, the most recent entry. "The pain is constant and even the sweetest moments can become heartbreaking when we are struck by the realization that "Martin would have loved this.' "
In addition to Martin, two other people died in the bombings, and 264 were injured. Three days later, a police officer was shot. Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed by police; his brother, Dzhokhar, is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction.
FAMILY MEMBERS TARGETED
The most common mass violence is within families.
Family killings make up just over half the mass murders in the USA, on average. This year, there have been 13 mass killings within families, leaving 56 people dead.
The most likely killers are husbands and fathers, followed by sons in their late teens or early 20s, says Jack Levin, a criminology and sociology professor at Northeastern.
"When people think of mass murder, they think of shopping malls, cinemas and schools, and yet the largest number of mass killings are in families,'' he says. "We don't think a family member would turn on his own relatives. It scares people too much.''
Often the killer has experienced long-term, chronic depression and frustration, Levin says, and there may be a triggering event such as a divorce, a child custody battle, loss of a job or worries about money. In their twisted thinking, they may conclude their family is better off dead.
"They are thinking that life is miserable in this cruel, cruel world, and they don't want their children to have the same life,'' says Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Sons who kill often have severe mental illness, display a lack of empathy or were abused or neglected, Duwe says.
The massacre in Oklahoma City in August fit that pattern. Daniel Green, 40, was charged with using a semiautomatic handgun to kill four family members, including his mother, sister, a niece and Amario, his nephew. Green's father, Raymond Green, 65, says his son was a schizophrenic and killed the very people who tried to get him help during a 20-year battle with mental illness.
Raymond Green says he was unable to get his son committed to a mental health facility. "He is still oblivious that he did anything wrong at all,'' he says.
Green has pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder and is being held on a mental health floor of the local jail.
"Jails are the new inpatient mental health facility,'' says Gina Walker, Daniel Green's public defender.
Family killings claimed another victim not yet 1. Donavan Duell was 13 days short of his first birthday when he died in a house fire in Schenectady, N.Y., with his father, brother and sister. Federal authorities have charged Robert Butler, 27, in the arson killings of David Terry, 32, and the children. The fire left another child, Safyre Terry, 5, severely burned. Prosecutors allege that Butler used gasoline to torch the home where he had lived before Terry kicked him out.
About one-third of mass killings are linked to robberies, drug deals or other crimes.
Robbery appears to have been the motive in the deaths of Bob and Dottie Pape, who had been married 60 years. They were among five people killed in a crime spree on Mother's Day weekend in northern Nevada. Jeremiah Bean, 25, is accused of killing the Papes in their home in Fernley, Nev., setting it on fire and stealing their car, and killing a second couple a half-block away. Authorities accuse him of killing a fifth person and stealing a truck when the Pages' car broke down near Reno, 30 miles away.
Bob, an Army veteran and avid outdoorsman, and Dottie, a scavenger for a good deal on Christmas décor at a garage sale, were well-loved members of their community.
Daughter in-law Terry Pape, told KOLO-TV that Dottie will be remembered for "the way she treated people and the forgiveness she would have even for that man sitting in jail."
In late July, a shooting in Clarksburg, W.Va., left four people dead, two of them bystanders who happened along during a drug dispute, police say.
Sidney Muller, 27, a former Marine who saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, is charged with killing four people in and outside a wood-frame home on Locust Avenue in Clarksburg, W.Va.
Police Det. Sgt. Jason Webber says police believe Muller shot and killed two friends in a disagreement over a drug debt. He says they had trafficked in Percocet, which contains the narcotic oxycodone.
As he left the home in pre-dawn darkness, Muller encountered a father and son delivering newspapers and shot both in the head, execution-style, on the spot, police allege. Killed were Fred Swiger, 70, and his son Freddie, 47.
"Unfortunately, two people who were in the wrong place got killed,'' Webber says.
The Rev. Jim Dittmar, who presided over the funeral, says it wasn't the Swigers who were in the wrong place. They were faithfully on their route, just like they were every morning — a staple of the community and more than just deliverymen.
"They were willing to lend a hand or share or just talk. They were willing to shovel a walk of those who could not. They were willing to report suspicious activity or unsavory characters in the neighborhood," Dittmar says. "They were acting as concerned citizens when they were executed in cold blood."
Contributing: Yamiche Alcindor, Natalie DiBlasio, Paul Overberg