I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
It would seem a single week doesn’t pass without a headline story of a killer kid. Although we’ve become more immune to stories of homicide thanks to widespread media coverage and crime-based television, crimes by youth murderers still seem to captivate and shock us.
And the younger the offender, the greater our obsession. Add the pretty (or sometimes not so much) face of a little girl and the television views, newspaper sales, and website hits will soar to record numbers.
Here’s my contribution to society’s fascination with little girls who kill.
1. Mary Bell of Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Mary Bell had the sad misfortune of being born to a sexually promiscuous mother who frequently left her infant daughter in the care of relatives and friends. Although they begged the young mother to let them keep Mary, she always returned to get her.
Why Betty Bell always came back will remain a question for many. It’s obvious Mary was a burden to her Mum and her lifestyle, yet instead of allowing them to raise the baby, Betty opted to keep Mary and, in the end, created a monster.
At barely a year old, Mary suffered numerous “accidental overdoses.” On a few occasions, Mary was subjected to the horrendous treatment of having her stomach pumped clear of the lethal doses of prescription medications.
Betty Bell was a drama queen and loved playing the role of martyr. These events would garner her much attention and sympathy. With the medical sciences of today, Betty Bell would likely be sitting in prison as a result of Munchhausen by proxy syndrome-related crimes.
But this was not the case in 1968 and, as a likely result of this abuse, Mary did not develop the proper attachment to her mother as needed for personality development. Instead, Mary felt subconsciously rejected and her primal instincts developed into a cold, cruel personality that survived by destruction rather than one of cognitive reasoning which could determine good from bad.
In other words, Mary saw everyone as an enemy.
This outlook on mankind is understandable, considering the abuse Mary suffered at the hands of her mother. In her young years, Mary was forced to have oral sex with several of her mother’s “friends.” And as Mary grew toward her prepubescent years, Betty forced her daughter into prostitution.
By the time Mary had reached the age of 10, she was a serial killer in the making— complete with the "homicidal triad" of bedwetting, animal torture, and fire-setting.
Then Mary made friends with a young girl who was willing to whatever Mary instructed her to do. Her name was Norma Bell, although she was no relation to Mary.
In the latter part of May 1968, Martin Brown was found dead inside a boarded-up home by three young boys scrounging for scrap wood. As construction workers were attempting to revive Martin, Mary came up the walk with Norma but they were told to go away.
The girls then ran to Martin’s aunt’s home and told her Martin was dead. Although the police didn’t suspect Mary of killing Martin, his family certainly considered it based on Mary’s strange behavior, such as asking to see Martin’s body in his coffin and asking odd questions like, “Do you miss Martin?” and “Do you cry for Martin?”
The day after Martin’s death, Mary Bell celebrated her 11th birthday by attempting to strangle Norma’s younger sister. Fortunately, the father witnessed the event and forcibly removed Mary’s hands and dismissed her from the home.
On this same day, the Day School on Whitehouse Road was vandalized with messages written in a child’s hand about murder. A week later, a boy on the playground where Mary played with Norma overheard Mary shout, “I am a murderer!” while pointing in the direction of the house where Martin Brown was found.
The boy, however, just laughed it off because Mary was known to be a liar and a showoff.
Toward the end of July, Mary visited the home of three-year-old Brian Howe. During her visit, she declared she “knew something about Norma that would put her straight away,” then told the Howe family she had witnessed Norma put her hands around Martin’s throat until he died.
Three days later, on July 31, 1968, Brian Howe would die in the same manner. Mary’s strange confession would prove her undoing and she and Norma were arrested and charged with murder.
The trial proved to garner much sympathy for Norma Bell and she was found not guilty, although she was sentenced to three years probation for vandalism of the Woodlands Crescent Nursery school. Mary, however, was found “guilty of Manslaughter because of Diminished Responsibility” and sentenced to life in prison.
Mary was released from prison on May 14, 1980, and gave birth to her first child in 1984. Allowed to keep the child following the birth, Mary’s daughter was considered a ward of the Courts until 1992. Mary says she had an awakening about her crimes following the birth of her child and she was happy her baby girl appeared to have no genetic predisposition to violence.
In 2003, England’s high court granted Mary Bell’s request that she and her daughter be allowed to live anonymously, and both now live under assumed names. However, it was reported Mary became a grandmother on January 8, 2009.
2. Alyssa Bustamante of Jefferson City, Missouri
Did Alyssa Bustamante really ever have a chance? Her mother Michelle had along history of drug and alcohol issues. Her father Caesar was serving time in prison on assault charges. On the other hand, many say that living with her grandparents, who gained California court ordered guardianship in 2002, has offered her stability and support.
No one can say with any certainty if Alyssa was a born or bred killer, but she certainly did become a murderer. And the worst kind of murderer: a child killer.
On October 16, 2009, Jefferson City, Missouri schools had a day off. Although most teens would have spent the day sleeping in, surfing the web, or hanging out with friends, 15-year-old Alyssa spent this day digging two holes at the rear of her grandparents’ home.
Then she waited for the perfect opportunity to fill them.
That opportunity came on Wednesday, October 21, 2009, when Alyssa spotted nine-year-old neighbor Elizabeth Kay Olten walking home from a friend’s house. Despite their age differences, Alyssa and Elizabeth knew each other quite well, living in the same neighborhood and Elizabeth's older sister was a friend of Alyssa’s.
It didn’t take much effort to lure the little girl into her house where the older girl beat and stabbed her to death.
When Elizabeth failed to return home by nightfall, her family grew concerned. Elizabeth was terrified of the dark and they were certain she would have been home. As some family members began frantically searching for the young girl, another called police to report her missing.
Despite the best efforts of volunteers and law enforcement, little Elizabeth would not be found for two more days—and only then because of an anonymous letter to police naming Alyssa as a possible killer.
Alyssa confessed to the crime and led officers to Elizabeth’s makeshift grave—the exact location identified by a ping to Elizabeth’s cellphone, but she was unseen due to the heavy covering of leaves on the ground.
After Alyssa’s arrest, police learned of the teen's history of growing up in a tumultuous household with a violent father and her public postings on Facebook and YouTube in which she declared “killing people” as a hobby and frequently mentioned being curious about what it would be like to kill someone.
Presenting Alyssa’s journal entries during sentencing, wherein she details the murder and the feelings of doing the killing as “ah-mazing,” the now-18-year-old pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, allowing for the possibility of parole for Alyssa in the future.
Needless to say, Elizabeth’s family was unimpressed with Alyssa’s alleged mental disorders or her difficult childhood. Following Alyssa’s sentencing, Elizabeth’s grandmother Sandra Corn loudly proclaimed, “I think Alyssa should get out of jail the day Elizabeth gets out of the grave!”
I, for one, couldn’t agree with her more.
3. Jasmine Robinson of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
When Marc and Debra Richardson moved with their children to Medicine Hat, Alberta, in 2003, they were a nice, normal family. Neighbors say the Richardsons and their 10-year-old daughter Jasmine Richardson and five-year-old son Jacob were friendly but quiet, keeping mostly to themselves.
However, something changed when Jasmine turned 12. Once a quiet, obedient girl, she became rebellious and exhibited her new teenage persona by taking on a Goth style, with dark clothing and black nail polish and eyeliner.
It was after these changes came about that Jasmine met 23-year-old Jeremy Allan Steinke, a self-proclaimed 300-year-old werewolf, at a vampire-themed website. Jeremy told many people he enjoyed the taste of blood and always wore a vial of it around his neck. He was reputed to be violent, especially toward women, and unable to maintain a job.
When the Richardsons learned of their preteen daughter’s relationship with Jeremy, they were outraged and insisted the relationship was over. To restrict Jasmine’s contact with the much-too-old boyfriend, Marc and Debra grounded her, took away her cellphone, forbid her to wear makeup, and restricted her internet access.
Jasmine was furious with her parents and saw their restrictions as cruel. She now fought with her parents almost daily—arguments so loud that neighbors overheard them. The once quiet Richardsons were now being heard screaming and shouting at one another.
At school, Jasmine began telling her friends she wanted to kill her parents and, at other times, she wished they were dead. No one took her seriously.
That is, until April 24, 2006, when Jacob Richardson’s body was found upstairs in the Richardson home and Marc and Debra’s bodies are found in the basement. They had been stabbed to death. Repeatedly.
At first it was believed Jasmine was a victim too. Since she was not in the home, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) feared she had been taken by the intruder or intruders and began a search for the 12-year-old.
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With an investigation running simultaneously to the search, police discover Jasmine stole her mother’s bank card and withdrew cash from an ATM at a nearby convenience store before taking a taxi to Steinke’s home.
It’s later learned the couple attended a party where several partygoers witnessed them giggling, kissing, and discussing the murder. The pair also talked about their plans for a Gothic wedding and living happily ever after in a castle in Germany.
On Monday, April 25, 2006, RCMP watched as a truck pulled into the local high school parking lot and, upon a search, found Jasmine and Steinke in the back covered by a sheet. Jasmine and Steinke were arrested and testimony later revealed Jasmine laughed and shouted obscenities while being placed in the back of a patrol car.
If being accused of murdering her family wasn’t shocking enough, much to everyone’s surprise, Steinke asked Jasmine to marry him shortly after their arrests and she happily accepted.
Sitting in jail while awaiting trial, Steinke bragged to anyone who would listen about the murders. Wanting to get his flippant confession on record for evidence at trial, the RCMP sent in an undercover officer to act as an inmate in hopes Steinke would share his story with his “new friend.” Steinke, of course, doesn’t disappoint and the prosecution gained a play-by-play version of the murders.
The convictions of Jasmine and her dimwitted boyfriend aren’t surprising, but their sentences leave a lot to be desired.
For planning the murder of her parents and the actual killing of her little brother, Jasmine is found guilty of three counts of first degree murder on July 9, 2007.
Due to her age, Jasmine is sentenced to the maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, which includes credit for time served of 18 months followed by four years in the Edmonton psychiatric facility, plus 4.5 years of conditional supervision within the community. Jasmine began the latter portion of her sentence after her prison release in November 2011.
On December 15, 2008, Jeremy Steinke is also found guilty on three counts of first degree murder. He is sentenced to three concurrent life sentences but will be eligible for parole in 25 years. Jeremy is also required to provide authorities with a sample of his DNA for the national database and is issued a lifetime ban on owning weapons.
4. Cindy Collier and Shirley Wolf of Auburn, California
Cindy Collier, 15, and Shirley Wolf, 14, met at the Auburn Green condominium complex swimming pool on June 14, 1983, and soon discovered they had a lot in common, including having been runaways.
The friendship having been solidified for a whole eight hours, the girls began checking out cars in the parking lot, looking for one to take on another runaway adventure, and knocked on doors matching the numbers of the cars they liked.
While most occupants either didn’t answer or shooed the girls away, 85 year-old Anna Brackett, a friendly retired seamstress with great-grandchildren the same age as Cindy and Shirley, was awaiting the arrival of her son to take her to bingo. After chatting for about an hour, Cindy asked for a drink of water and Mrs. Brackett invited her to help herself in the kitchen.
It was then that Cindy grabbed a knife, passed it to Shirley, and Mrs. Brackett was stabbed 27 times and the elderly woman died on her living room floor.
The girls then ransacked the apartment for money and the keys to Mrs. Brackett’s 1970 Dodge car. The keys failed to start the car and, in a panic, the girls rushed out to Highway 49 and began trying to hitchhike a ride.
Carl Brackett, Anna’s son, actually passed the girls on his way to his mother’s and thought the girls irresponsible to be trying to thumb a ride, but thought nothing more of it, not even when he arrived to find his mother’s brutalized body.
When officers arrived and began questioning other occupants, many of them told them about the two girls who had knocked on their doors and eagerly gave descriptions. Some of those witnesses also provided Cindy Collier’s name, having known her from the time she had lived in the complex with her grandfather.
But police were skeptical. Could a pair of teenage girls so violently kill someone? And why would they do it?
Nonetheless, investigators followed up on the lead and went to Cindy’s home. Surprisingly, Shirley Wolf confessed quickly. Cindy, when confronted with Shirley’s confession, laughed psychotically then provided her own confession.
Sending shivers down the spine of detectives, Cindy said, “To honestly tell you the truth, we didn’t feel any badness. Then after we did it, we wanted to do another one. We just wanted to kill someone. Just for fun.” Investigators also confiscated Shirley’s diary wherein, on the day of the murder, she had written, “Today, Cindy and I ran away and killed an old lady. It was lots of fun.”
Cindy and Shirley were both found guilty of first degree murder under California’s juvenile criminal laws. They were both sentenced to the maximum time allowed by state law—incarceration in a California Youth Authority facility until the age of 27, which would translate to 12 years for Cindy and 11 years for Shirley at the time of sentencing.
After serving nine years, Cindy Collier was released in 1992. At the time of her release, she had obtained a junior college degree and went on to study law at Pepperdine University School of Law. The last updates for Cindy report her as a mother of four children and living in northern California.
Following Shirley’s arrest, her family had only three conversations with her before completely cutting her off. Despite her father’s sexual abuse of her before the murder, Shirley still longed to have a family and attempted over the years of her incarceration to locate them.
In 1992, she was able to track down her father Louis Wolf and learned her mother had abandoned the family. After just a few more conversations, Louis again ceased contact with his daughter.
In June 1995, Shirley was released from CYA. Unfortunately, Shirley, struggling with alcohol and drug addictions, was arrested numerous times for crimes ranging from assault to prostitution. Her whereabouts at the time of this writing is unknown.
5. Kelly Ellard of Saanich, British Columbia
All Reena Virk ever wanted was to be accepted.
India-born Reena had immigrated with her family to Canada, but the young girl found herself ostracized by her peers because of her ethnicity, as well as her religion as a Jehovah’s Witness. Canadian reporters would later declare Reena to be a “minority within a minority.”
When Reena was invited to a party on the evening of Friday, November 14, 1997, she eagerly accepted. But instead of it being the token of acceptance she longed for, it was the first step in a cruel plan to be executed by a group of teenagers who styled their lives after Los Angeles street gangs.
After arriving at the party location of Craigflower Bridge on the outskirts of Victoria, British Columbia, Reena, along with numerous other teens, drank alcohol and smoked marijuana. In young Reena’s mind, the night probably seemed to be going well.
Suddenly, and without warning, Reena found herself surrounded by a group of teenagers, a group later dubbed The Shoreline Six, and felt the pain of a cigarette being stubbed out on her forehead as punches and kicks were directed at her over and over.
Even as Reena lay helplessly on the ground, the group continued the beating while burning her with cigarettes and trying to set her hair on fire. The cruelty came to an end when one of the girls in a group watching nearby demanded the group stop.
Reena, beaten and bruised, managed to stumble away from the group but she was followed by 15-year-old Kelly Marie Ellard and 15-year-old Warren Paul Glowatski. Catching up to Reena, the two dragged her to the other side of the bridge, then forced her to remove her coat and shoes as they began beating her for a second time.
And when Kelly tired of administering blows, she shoved Reena’s head into the Gorge Waterway and held her underwater with her foot until Reena stopped struggling.
Then the group simply walked away with promises not to “rat each other out.”
Despite their promises, however, by Monday morning the story of Reena’s beating and murder was the talk of Shoreline Secondary School where Reena was a student. Although several students and teachers heard the rumors, no one reported them to police.
A search began for Reena when her family reported her missing. Eight days later, Reena’s battered and partially-clothed body was discovered when it washed ashore from the Gorge Inlet.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police soon showed up on the doorsteps of the Shoreline Six and charged them with Reena Virk’s murder. Not long after their arrests, Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski were identified as the main perpetrators.
By February 1998, six teenage girls had pleaded guilty or been convicted of Assault Causing Bodily Harm. Their sentences ranged from 60 days conditional probation to one year in jail.
In June 1999, Glowatski, the only male involved, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum requirement of seven years. In 2006, the parole board granted Glowatski prison day passes and, after doing well for the next few years, he was granted full parole in June 2010.
For Kelly Ellard, third time was charm with a Canadian jury. She was convicted in March 2000 for second degree murder, but that conviction was later overturned. A second trial in February 2003 resulted in a mistrial, but a third trial in April 2005 again found Kelly guilty of second degree murder.
In 2008, this conviction too was overturned but the Crown appealed it to Canada’s Supreme Court and the conviction was reinstated. Kelly Ellard was sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole for seven years.
In November 2010, Kelly reached parole eligibility and applied but the application was quickly withdrawn amid public outrage. Kelly, now going by Kerry Sim, was granted "day parole" in 2017, but has had her share of ongoing legal troubles, including a suspension of her parole after a domestic abuse situation with her partner and father of her two children.
Reena’s parents, Manjit and Suman Virk, have not allowed their daughter to die in vain. Since their daughter’s murder, the couple has been active in promoting anti-bullying programs throughout Vancouver area schools and have taken part in an educational DVD created in hopes of preventing another similar tragedy.
While Warren Glowatski was in prison, he had a spiritual awakening and offered a sincere apology to the Virks for his role in taking Reena’s life. The Virks, in turn, accepted his apology wholly and even supported his parole from prison. Kelly, the spoiled little rich girl who almost got away with murder, on the other hand, continues to proclaim her innocence.
© 2016 Kim Bryan