• Jack Graves

Why Do We Kill?

Think of the mind as a house with rooms and corridors, doors, and windows. Where do our thoughts reside? Where do we keep our deepest and darkest secrets? And where do we hide our impulse to kill? Because it was inside a home, a typical family dwelling where murders so disturbing occurred, their true motives remain a mystery. The vicious crimes of a boy whose impulse to kill have yet to be explained. What lurks in this land of pleasant living, where the American dream achieves perfection? Are these prefabricated pastures as peaceful as they look?

Or does the mind unburdened turn in upon itself? Is our capacity for murder simply hidden? Or has a life of ease? Bread, a different sort of sociopath who preys upon their own and kills without motive?

When does the question of why do we kill become? Why can’t we kill?

The human mind a source of beauty and violence. And yet it is violence that makes us unique, an impulse that we cannot control. But why does it persist so natural? And yet not a question that lies at the root of many crimes? A question we ignore at our peril? Why do we kill? May 3rd, 2008, Cockeysville Marilyn, a 15-year-old boy named Nicholas Browning sends a text to friends. An invitation to party to celebrate being young. The plan, to gather at the home of the popular lacrosse star.

An ordinary celebration of extraordinary privilege, but also a ruse, a scheme hatched in the mind of a boy. To cover up an unspeakable crime.

Because as his friends arrived that evening, they were greeted not by him but by police. Dozens of cop’s swarm rounding residence. Inside the house lay four bodies. Two adults and two children. All shot in a sleep. A scene so disturbing even experienced detection found it hard to digest.

Sometime the person would kill a family member in a rage. But with this crime, there’s no mortal to explain it. To kill a whole family or a party is ridiculous indeed.
- Kelvin Sewell
Former. Baltimore City Homicide Detective

Inside the Browning residence, found in their beds and on a couch, the bloodied bodies of an entire family, a mother, a father, and their two young sons, all dead, murdered in cold blood. What police found was hard to explain. John Browning dead on the couch, his wife, Tamara, shot in the head. There are two sons, Gregory, and Benjamin, murdered in their beds. But why? And by whom? Who would slay an entire family? There were no signs of forced entry nothing stolen from the home, just a stack of video game cartridges blessed by the door.

There wasn’t a single fact that caused police to focus on Nicholas, but he had a shaky alibi, and the gun used to murder the family belonged Mr Brown. So the truth is, all of the evidence pointed to him.
- Luke Broadwater
Investigative Reporter

Nicholas told police he had spent the night with friends. But those same friends said he disappeared, then returned. So he was transported to County police headquarters for questioning. In another nondescript room, a 15-year-old boy and a seasoned homicide detective squared off. A conversation that would last for eight hours. That would reveal a mystery in the form of a question that, to this day, remains unanswered.

The philosopher Alfonzo Link has called killing an absolute act. His point, murder cannot be undone. In a sense, it represents the most profound of human choices. Do I permanently wipe somebody off the face of the Earth? So invariably, the act of murder prompts us to ask these kinds of questions because its consequences are so profound.

One of the first questions that the detective asked had nothing to do with the crime but was, was Nicholas hungry? He replied in the affirmative and that he’d like a double bacon cheese. So as his entire family lay in the morgue, he devoured a cheeseburger with fries with an inexplicable appetite, apparently unmoved or unconcerned with the vicious murder that had just occurred.

And as the interview began, a different side of the popular teen began to emerge. Did the golden child, sports star, and honor student show remorse or fear? Not even close.

You haven’t shed one tear for your family. You are totally unemotional about this. You walk into a house; your whole family is murdered, was one of the statements made by the detective to Nicholas during the questioning.

For hours, Browning remained poised, offering an unflinching defence based on twisted logic, that he was set for life, that he was a good son, that he was innocent. A boy without reason to kill. Simply incapable of the crime.

I didn’t do it. There’s no reason to didn’t kill my family. They’re strict to me. So what? They don’t ground him when they find with alcohol? Yes, they’re harsh, but they’re not that harsh. Let me do what I want. There’s no reason. Was the defence offered up by Browning.

But was Browning’s story true? Was he really incapable of murder, or was the golden child of Baltimore County actually a monster?

His classmates said he was a bully. And I reported that his friends claimed he joked about killing his parents. But like most kids, there were two sides to him, the successful honor student and the cruel teen, the feet of his brothers. Still, nothing indicated the kid was capable of murder.
- Luke Broadwater

But after nearly 12 hours of questioning, Browning broke down, confessing to police an unspeakable crime.

And so a disinterested teen with a spotless past admits an inconceivable crime. He tells police of how he methodically murdered every single member of his faith. Why would a child with everything to live for choose to kill?

I guess the question sociopathic killers raise. Are they simply a result of bad brain chemistry or a product of the environment? Have we created a world that breeds a different kind of murderer people so immersed in technologies and detached from reality that extreme acts seem inconsequential. French philosopher Pierre Bouguer described this as simulacra; an artificial world created by technology totally divorced from reality, like a map that depicts the topography that no longer matters. So the question is, do the simulacra map a new form of morality?

Does the mind unfettered simply misbehave because it can? We are still a long way away from understanding the inner workings of the mind, and why sometimes a completely normal person from the outside, simply snaps.

What became of Nicholas Browning you ask? Well, under a plea agreement he pleaded guilty to four 1st degree murder charges and is serving two of those consecutively. He might be eligible for parole in 2031.

He was a good kid, an honor student. They were a happy family. So I think there was this uncomfortable sense. How could this guy really kill his whole family!?

This is the question that still haunts the residents of Cockeysville, Maryland. The town that the Browning family once called home.


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