When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Jonathan McMullen

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.

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Jonathan McMullen

In September 2001, 14-year-old Jonathan McMullen from Elgin, Arizona killed his adopted mother and attempted to kill his adopted father and biological brother.

In September 2001, 14-year-old Jonathan McMullen from Elgin, Arizona killed his adopted mother and attempted to kill his adopted father and biological brother.

In September 2001, 14-year-old Jonathan McMullen from Elgin, Arizona killed his adopted mother and attempted to kill his adopted father and biological brother.

Kristina and Andrew McMullen, Jonathan’s adopted parents, were a “devoutly religious family” who had “faith in God and Jesus Christ.” They moved to Elgin a few years prior to the attack on account of health problems (which the higher elevation of Elgin alleviated). They took Jonathan and his two biological brothers in as foster children in 1999 and then adopted them slightly more than a year prior to the attack. The McMullens had one biological son, 2 years older than Jonathan. 56-year-old Kristina, a professional teacher, homeschooled all the boys.

According to reports, Jonathan “was a good kid.” In his early childhood he attended Elgin Elementary School and was described as a “quiet, shy, polite” kid who “was never in [the superintendent’s] office for discipline.” But he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome (FASD), a disorder that “can cause tremendous behavioral problems.” The “distorted reasoning of the brain affected by FASD” has been blamed as a cause of Jonathan’s actions.

On the night of the murder, Jonathan and a friend of his were talking about using his mother’s car to drive to a nearby city. Jonathan was afraid they might get caught taking the car, so he decided to shoot his family.  His original plan was to kill them with knives, but he decided on a rifle instead so they “would die more quickly.” He threw something at his mother’s door to wake her and, when she came out, he shot her 5 times. Woken by the sound of the gunshots, his father and brother came into his room. Jonathan shot his brother twice and his father once. Kristina died. His 55-year-old father Andrew and 12-year-old brother Jack were airlifted to Tucson Medical Center and survived. Jonathan’s 9-year-old brother Joe was unharmed as he was spending the night at a friend’s house.

Jonathan was charged with first degree murder of his mother and attempted first degree murder of his father and brother. In December 2002, Jonathan pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter.

View the case index here.

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