the killer at thurston high
Join the Discussion: What are your thoughts on this story? Are there any  answers or lessons that can be drawn from it?

home
who is kinkel?
the sentencing
school shooters
placing blame

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am 13 years old. Please make this one just as important as any other thought on the story. Okay i will share my opinion.

Well, I really was touched by this story and really never knew about it until I watched it where my dad taped it.

I really felt sympathy, not just for the victims ,but Kip. He had real saddness and I kind of really got into what he wrote even though he was dazed. He expressed his opinion influencely and it just made me wonder this 1 question....Why? He just was a kid having a real hard time with life. I have had a hard time too, but really he seems real sad and depressed. I know some people think movies, music, and other people at school make you this way, but I feel it is sometimes in your head what comes out. Like people can call you names or something and all that pressure builds up until you just can't take it.

I came to this website for more information about him really. Even though, when they aired the tape I didn't feel that he was really different like other people. I really would like to talk to him and i know that will never happen I could, but i wouldn't even ask him 'Why?' because i know it hurts inside asking why. Because I have asked that a lot too, but sometimes there is no answer to that question.
]
Well when i grow up I am gonna be a children psycologist. I just thought that maybe my opnion would count like all the adult people. Please post this and thank you if you do.

Brittany barbee

Dear FRONTLINE,

Seeing footage Iíd not seen before prompts me to write. It was shocking to see the video these children were shown in the name of education. Thank you for this information.

I was amazed that no one seems to pick up on what seemed a most bizarre key to the sickness creeping into our kids minds and behavior. So much so that I feel compelled to write.

While prayer is banned, our educators are free to abuse our children with sick interpetations of classical art that violently distorts objects of personal prayer. The very day that Kinkel went on the shooting rampage killing his parents heíd sat in his English class and in the name of education was shown a bloody Hollywood interpretation of ìRomeo and Julietî . How anyone could say these children were studying Shakespeare shows perhaps even the bigger sickness. To teach our children through public education that this interpretation of what they saw was the great classic written by Shakespeare is itself criminal.

My question is why? Why does a teacher have license to show this complete distortion of a classic and call it literature? In her classroom where religion is forbidden, she can show a crazed actor wearing a vest depicting one of the most sacred images of the Catholic Church, that of The Sacred Heart of Jesus, with His Heart pierced and open bleeding for humanity and surrounded by golden rays, and shown in this most horrible and demeaning way as blood spurts amidst jerking fast paced motions, flashes of guns, bullets ripping flesh, oozing blood, while on a nearby table lays a handgun with the image of a woman, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, pictured in the sacred devotion of The Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced for manís indifference to sin in a deliberate attempt to mock devotion of the Catholic Church and of prayer for the desperate such as Kip. What abuse of authority! All purposely shown in ways to shock and violate the senses. Why?

Yet no one, not one investigator mentioned this as we watch Shakespeareís characters reduced to blood and guts as they spatter the images of Jesus and Mary. Nor did the educators who discussed it following the program. One wonders about our educators!!

How can it be that paid professionals have not been able to put 2 and 2 together? Does anyone see that something is wrong here? Are our school officials as sick as Kinkel or spiritually sicker? What kind of educator shows this trash instead of teaching her class? She did not seem to grasp the difference. Why? And why are we not asking Why?


Theresa Duringer
Camas, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have been following all the thoughts people have been sending in on the Kip Kinkel documentary. I was so saddened to read the one from Mike Nickolausen. I never realized that his son's hand was shown on your show. Shame on you! Did you not think any of the people from Springfield were watching? I wrote a thought to you the day after it previewed. I didn't realize how one-sided it was. Why didn't you interview any of the victim's families? I realize that Kip was himself a victim too, but out of respect for the other families, you should have made them part of it. ...
My heart goes out to the parents and families of the victims and wounded. The sense of loss must be horribly painful. In a way Kip's parents suffered a loss long before they died...their son. Obvioulsy he was slipping away right before their eyes...it's a shame they were to blind to see it.

Gretchen McAllister

Dear FRONTLINE,

My daughter was shot at Thurston High School that day. She didn't know Kip at that time, many of the kids didn't. Nothing was done to provoke Mr. Kinkel's behavior toward these students, and yet he decided he "had no choice" but to shoot and kill and maime.
There is always a choice. Kip had many choices. He chose to start and stop counseling, he chose to start and stop his medications, and he certainly chose his knives, guns and explosives with utmost care spending hours on the internet researching the best read most deadly arsenal he could accumulate.
These students were exactly where they were supposed to be - at school. Doing what they were supposed to do - getting ready to go to class. They didn't have a choice to participate in this tragedy, they were forced to give their life's blood because of the anger and choices of Kinkel.
If the parents were alive, they should share the same cell with him, but he spared them that pain by killing them his words and feelings.
But however you feel about biochemical inbalances, psychotherapy, drug influences, parent input, etc. One thing is true to be said about the Frontline show. They sure gained alot of attention using our children's blood and tragedy as their entertainment.
To add a slap to the face of every victim and family, we were never even contacted by PBS/Frontline to at least be notified of the show, much less have any input.
The show was totally about Kip. Unfortunately, there was much left out also. How about Kip's attack on a 12 year old with rebar when Kip was only 6 years old? That "encounter" left the 12 year old with scars and damage to his arm that he wears to this day.
What about his threats to blow up his middle school? What about a full 8 1/2 x 11 single spaced typed report of incidents listed by the police report?
Kip had problems. So did my daughter. But my daughter paid the price of Kip's problems, as did every other student at that school. The murdered boys, the shot kids, the ones forced to witness the shootings, and the kids at the school crouching in terror.
You owe an apology to every family involved in this tragedy by completely avoiding the full truth in your story, and instead providing the defense with a beautiful tragic video to add to Kip's "Romeo and Juliet" music.

Diana Alldredge
Springfield, Oregon

Dear FRONTLINE,

I happened to arrive in Springfield while traveling on the day of the Columbine shootings in April of 1999. Reporters descended on Thurston High to get students reactions and were met at first by shouts of "Why don't you go home!!"
This brings up the role of the press in glorifying these incidents and creating copy cat incidents. This subject is usually poo-pooed immediately by the media as they move on to tell us more than we ever wanted to know about the killers.
I'd like to not move on to another subject so quickly, if you please. I'd say that your documentary on Thurston High with it's mood music, artistic fade outs, moving boom pans and sodden announcer was a real work of sadism.
Why don't you go home!!

Dave Elbert

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was disappointed in your treatment of the Kip Kinkel story. It was disturbing to see the correspondent Peter Boyle interject himself into the story, the shots of him in the SUV looking pensive were completely unnecessary. Also gratuitous was the editorial treatment of the story. It was facetious of the report to point out how over stylized the Romeo and Juliet movie was when what was supposed to be a documentary was treated as if it were a cheap melodrama. Again and again I found myself pulled away from the story, from the facts and opinions being presented by a "re-enactment". Particularly offensive was the overdone "scene" of Kip driving to the school. Clearly, Frontline doesnít respect its audience well enough to go with a more straightforward approach and in the process you belittle the very tragedy you are reporting. Your report did a disservice to the victims and survivors by treating the story in such an overblown fashion....

Jay Lawton
Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,


I watched your coverage of the Kip Kinkel case. Everything he did to me made sense, after watching your show. In summary:Kip was born with the burden of hypersensitivity. He had an autocratic father with high expectations and concern with self image, and possibly emotional absence, and a passive mother who used denial as a coping mechanism until the very end. He felt alienation from every aspect of his life.

His feelings of inadequacy and alienation lead to depression. Kip discovered the empowerment of violence through Karate, and the internet which gave him the knowledge to build bombs. Violence alleviated his feelings of low self worth. It made him feel larger, when everything else made him feel small. Stopping antidepressents cold can lead to major symptoms of withdrawal leaving the patient feeling more depressed then before they started the medication. Apparently Kips parents weren't aware of this.

After Kip stopped the medication cold turkey he reacted to the intensified depression by losing himself in fantasies of revenge and romanticized violence. I am only guessing his father inspired in him the builtup feelings of dejection, hopelessness, and rage that exploded and lead to the calculated killing of his father. After the dreamlike world he had romanticized in the passed took form as reality, he did what he had fantasized about so many times before. Only he didn't kill himself like he had planned unfortunately for him.

To summarize, Kip Kinkel was a boy who slowly and gradually lost his way. Those around him failed to help him find his way back. They failed on so many levels, not so much from negligence but from ignorance. And it is the ignorance that excuses them from blame.

I can understand how people would have a difficult time figuring who was to blame. Kip was to blame because he pulled the trigger but in his own words and i am inclined to believe this :"He had no choice." I believe this because no one would choose the path he took. Absolutely no one.

Tanya Jenkins
Portland, OR

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a Registered Nurse-- the boy had a clearcut psychiatric disorder-he heard voices, yet no one ever asked him what the voices said during the program that I saw. This is crucial to determining the level of psychosis.

Unfortunately, the signs are often subtle and ignored or brushed aside by those who are not well informed on these matters. Too bad these issues of frustration about life and negative thought processes were not addressed earlier, it could have saved some lives.

I am not a big advocate of drugs for light reasonsie, the Ritalin explosion in America, but Kip Kinkel needed medication to control the voices that he was hearing. There is hope though, for those of us who have sons especially or who come in frequent contact with young teenage males there is a lesson to be learned.

Be astute and aware of the subtle signs that a young man might be disturbedinablitiy to handle frustrations, anger, violent outbursts, elicit drug use, not caring about others or themselves, not taking care of themselves or pride in schoolwork, lack of solid friendships and healthy outlets for energy. Be open to discuss things with them, in a non-judgemental way, a way that supports self esteem.

And if something seems wrong, try and educate yourself and get appropriate help for the child.

Karen K
Bayside, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I welcome the invitation of Tera Kohus, of Springfield, to give feedback on her response to the documentary. I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Kohus. Kip isnít hopeless. But the story isnít over. There are aspects to this horror that are yet to unfold, and this tragedy may yet be compounded by a vindictive criminal and rehabilitation system.

I know people who have lost children and I thought I would never again see human beings in equal torment in any other situation. Listening to Kipís confession,I have heard its rival. It took me several attempts to listen to it in its entirety; it is that painful. I heard a child, horrified by what he had done and already in the process of building some construct to keep him from sinking even deeper into insanity and horror. I hear the voice of a child who seems not so much to be giving a statement in a police proceeding as asking the grownup in the room to do what grownups had always done before: put things right.

Knowing what we know about Mr. and Mrs. Kinkel I think a case can be made that Kip has the inner core of a decent human being. Many things I have read reinforce that opinion. He placed a white sheet over his fatherís body because it ìseemed like the right thing to do.î He pleaded guilty, taking a great risk and accepting responsibility. He wrote a moving and articulate statement to his victims. He has declared over and over his love for his parents. When his sister suggested that he tune out the voices of the victims reading their statements in his sentencing hearing, he said something in effect, ìI have to listen, I owe it to them to listen.î

The legal system has determined that Kip shall spend the remainder of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. If there is any way that his torment could be magnified, it is in the denial of hope. Kip took a great deal out of the world. What a pity that the court hasnít seemed to consider the possibility that a forty-something Kip may want very badly to put something back into it.

I donít for a moment minimize the suffering of the victims of this terrible episode but I feel a profound helplessness that I can offer nothing more than words to Kip. He was a child when everything happened, he was a child when he lost all hope of a future and he remains a child even as I write this.

I donít know how it can be accomplished but I pray that something can yet change the future written on November 11, 1999. Let him have some hope. Let him have some peace.

Donald Vandeusen
Troy, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

Some contributors to this site have questioned the need for such eerie footage, soundtracks and production values in the Frontline piece on Kip Kinkel. As one who has worked for years with juvenile offenders including murderers, and who didn't think anything could "shake" him anymore, the thought of Kip spending the night alone with the bodies of his dead parents, and of the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack playing loudly in the wilderness with no one but the animals to hear it, brought back for me a now all-too-rare realization of the sadness created by such tragedy... a sadness that I thought I had trained myself not to feel anymore. Thank you, Frontline. You've given me some of the best continuing education I can get.

Mark Theberge

Dear FRONTLINE,

This is really ridiculous. We sit here and attempt to analyze and rationalize the reasons a young white male goes crazy and shoots up his school. I have an 8 year old son and he knew at 4 that you should shoot people. I believe if the killer wasn't white we wouldn't be sitting here dissecting his life looking for casual agents for his actions. Bottom line Kip knew it was wrong to kill people. Can we please stop rationalizing the actions of children who kill of any race? Can we just figuratively call it as it is. Kip did wrong and he knew it. No excuses. Do a story on the lives of the victims. Do something positive.

lowell bethel
seattle, washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

Kip is the only one here to really know what was going on with him. And in the end he took responsibility by pleading guilty. Good for him. That was the right choice.

It was not his father's fault. It was not his mother's fault. It was not his sister's fault. It was not his neighbor's fault. It was not his school's fault. It was not his English teacher's fault. It was not the fault of the movie "Romeo + Juliet".It was not the fault of the "failed romance". It was not the fault of the guns, though I must admit I have a personal bias against kids having guns at all.

It was the choice of Kip Kinkel to kill his parents and it was his choice to kill the other two students and wound numerous others at Thurston High School.

Whether he has or has not a "mental problem", and it seems from the evidence on this web site and the program that he had one, it was his choice to deal with it or not deal with it in an appropriate manner by continuing to take medication, which his parents certainly would have allowed him to do if they would supply him with guns.

Please do not keep playing this blame game. It gets us nowhere in the Juvenile justice system or in the criminal justice system.Each child MUST be allowed to take responsiblity and not excused or made a victim of, if we are ever to get a justice system that works.

Vita Witt
Prescott, Arizona

Dear FRONTLINE,

Kip was my next door neighbor for several years. He played with my daughter, he built a fort in my backyard. I remember him as an average kid, perhaps more polite than some of the other kids on the block.

It's unfortunate that the various systems which Kip became engaged with were unsuccessful in assessing his level of risk. Those systems include public schools, the police, the family and the mental health system. Everyone missed.

At this point in our country, with school shootings becoming commonplace, it is critical that we develop a more accurate approach to assessment and risk management.

Unfortunately, this is a highly technical undertaking and very few people are "experts". Even fewer are willing to accept the liabilities involved. The problem will not go away just because we procrastinate in our approach to it. Training, liability, r&d all cost money. I wonder where that money will eventually come from. Will our county governments step up with funding. Will private pay be expected. How long will it take, how many more times will our systems swing and miss?

Nanci Smith

Dear FRONTLINE,


The story of Kip Kinkel couldn't possibly hold any more sadness, pain, horror and drama.

Anyone who was watching the show surely knew how this story would end, so why do your directors and producers feel the need to further augment this tragedy with dramatic camera sequences and production work?

The car driving sequence leading up to the shootings with the soundbytes of previous interviews and hip camerawork just looked like yet another episode of "Cops" or the like. Was the police footage of the parents bodies with the eerie soundtrack of "Romeo and Juliet" on top of it really necessary to fully relay the tragedy of this story? Your show may be "cutting edge" television, but it is certainly not responsible journalism in a time when school shootings is becoming the fashion of the day for troubled teens.

Leane Tyska
madison, wi

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching the documentary and just reading the interogation of Kip by the police, I just feel so angry. This young man took the lives of his parent and fellow schoolmates because he "Had no other choice"

He was never beaten or molested. He was never starved or punished in any drastic way. This was a boy who lived in a beautiful home and had so many chances to better himself. He had loving parents who loved him enough to put him in therapy and tried to find out why he was the way he was. All parents say things as well as children in fits of anger. This young man was talked to in a manner he didn't like so he gets a gun and ends his fathers life. He sits for a few hours until his mom gets home and then ends her life. Then all night he plans and thinks about his next move. He takes the time to tape knives on his legs and bullets to his chest. This whole time it never occured to him that this was wrong. He wanted the world to pay for his anger.

This boy did have major mental problems. He was a loose cannon. It is so easy now a days to blame the parent, the teacher, the system. When will people say--blame the child who had the gun. I've heard the saying "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" That is a bunch of bull. Put a gun in a child's hand and when that child pulls the trigger...both have come together to end a person's life.

Kirsten davidsmeyer
Jacksonville, Illinois

more
home + who is kinkel? + the sentencing + school shooters + placing blame + join the discussion
links + synopsis + tapes & transcripts + press
FRONTLINE + wgbh + pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS