SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Many are asking how Josh Powell could intentionally take the lives of his own children. Psychologists say that type of murder suicide is rare.
The only clues left behind by Josh Powell were the messages saying he couldn't live without his children. Chuck Cox says Josh was desperate. "He's disturbed. The act that he did was cowardly. He murdered two innocent grandchildren."
Research into familicide shows that when someone kills their children before committing suicide, it is more likely to be motivated by their intent to kill themselves, than it is about killing their children.
Dr. Donald Strassberg, from the University of Utah Clinical Psychology Department, says many feel they are doing their children a favor by not leaving them behind. "Of those that do it, many of them, they actually believe that their kids will be better off, that their kids being in heaven, or out of the troubles of this world does bring thoughts that they are doing their kids some kind of favor.”
Several studies confirm a majority of parents who murdered their children did so out of the belief their children's suffering would end if they died. Men are more likely to kill their children in a murder suicide than women, and most of the offenders exhibited emotional problems, depression, and difficulty coping with everyday activities. They were also more likely to exhibit possessive, obsessive, or jealous behavior.
Josh Powell was at the heart of the investigation into the disappearance of his wife, the courts appeared to be in the process of taking his children away, and questionable images were found on his computer. He was ordered to undergo a psychosexual evaluation that included a lie detector test.
Strassberg says the pressure on Josh was building. “I could imagine somebody being that overwhelmed by all of this attention, and everything happening to him to decide that he didn't want to deal with it anymore. Unfortunately, we will never know the answer to what triggered this, but obviously it is terribly sad that he decided to take not only his own life, but the lives of his children as well.”