JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. – An 11-year-old boy, whose mother shot him in the head, has died.
His name was Sam Schweitzer, but he was best known as ‘Sammy.’ His family told 5 On Your Side that Schweitzer died at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Monday morning around 5 a.m.
Police said his mom, 49-year-old Tara Kelleher, shot him Friday night before shooting herself at their home in Barnhart. Police are checking her phones, electronic devices and social media accounts to try to determine a motive.
The network medical director at SSM Health Behavioral Medicine, Dr. Lawrence Kuhn, does not know the family or the specifics of the case but said there is research that can help answer some of our questions.
Dr. Kuhn said his first thought when he read about this case was whether mental illness was involved.
He said there are several reasons a parent could choose to commit a murder-suicide.
“The most common is an altruistic reason,” Dr. Kuhn explained. “Where the parent feels that it’s better for the child to no longer live and then they also kill themselves because they feel the world could be a cruel place."
In these cases, many mothers or fathers could be suffering from depression. But, one would have to go back through their medical history to know for sure.
A study out of Chicago found that a filicide, a parent killing their child, is only 2% of all homicides and just 7.6% of all murder-suicides.
"It's not a common question that is asked by mental health professionals because it happens so rarely,” said Dr. Kuhn.
He told 5 On Your Side that the person or parent rarely reaches out for help and many times these decisions are not planned long in advance.
“So, it makes it very difficult to predict,” Dr. Kuhn explained. “And it makes it very difficult to prevent, in a sense, because there's no real commonality among many of these."
Here is a study that has more information: ‘Filicide-Suicide: Common Factors in Parents Who Kill Their Children and Themselves:’