Last week another violent horror story made national news, and once again, there’s a marijuana connection. Dakota Theriot, a 21-year-old from Louisiana, allegedly killed his parents, his girlfriend and her father and brother. A sheriff called the Dakota Theriot case an “extremely horrific example of failed mental health system.” Five people died, but the violent outbreak follows a pattern of family murders linked to pot use and mental illness.
Authorities tracked Theriot to his grandmother’s home in Virginia. It didn’t take one journalist long to find out that Theriot had used cannabis for many years.
“Cory Flannery, a friend of Theriot’s from his time in Warsaw, a small town of about 1,500 in the Northern Neck of Virginia, said he remembers Theriot sitting on his couch eating cereal and smoking marijuana with him. While Flannery said Theriot had a temper, the shooting rampage on Saturday was still out of character for the person he knew.
“Flannery said Theriot had smoked weed for years and was addicted to cigarettes as a middle-schooler but didn’t know him to use hard drugs at the time. Though he was often in trouble, Flannery said, Theriot didn’t seem violent or dangerous.”
When Keith Theriot, Dakota’s deceased father, called police in 2017, the home was in a cloud of marijuana smoke used by both father and son. He said that his son was diagnosed with “substance-induced mood swings.” However, Dakota’s ex-wife, who witnessed his violence and hallucinations, said he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Mental illness does not dictate homicidal violence, but it’s more likely to occur when enhanced by drugs like marijuana.
Colorado Springs Tragedy in November 2017
In October, 2017, Malik Murphy, aged 20, murdered his brother, Noah, 7 and his sister, Sophia, 5, as the family was sleeping. Murphy and his father Vinnie then got into a fight. As Malik tried to stab his father, another brother called 911.
According to one of the first reports of his erratic behavior: “The parents pinpoint a specific day at school when Malik was 16. Melissa (the mother) says he found a cell phone and instead of returning it to the lost and found, he destroyed it. School authorities eventually caught wind.
“Melissa and Vinnie say when school officials searched his backpack they found a kitchen steak knife, a little bit of marijuana, and a Bic writing pen he had taken to use to smoke the marijuana out of it.
“That’s when years of intensive therapy, mental hospital visits and a trial of medications started. The parents say he admitted that he had killed animals and that he had thoughts of killing his family. Malik even went as far as calling police on himself last summer.”
Pro-legalization advocates continually like to say that the legalization of marijuana in Colorado did not increase youth usage. The criminal evidence coming out of Colorado paints a different picture
Murders in two Polish Immigrant Families
The examples go on and on. In a Chicago suburb, 17-year-old John Granat and three friends murdered his parents back in 2011. Reports said that his parents grounded him after they found him growing marijuana in his room. The murder shocked everyone, including a neighbor who called them “the sweetest, most perfect family.”
“[John] was just the sweetest, nicest kid in the world. Never, ever in a million years would I have thought that John could do something like that. They were like the role-model family of the area. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“He was a pretty nice kid and I never would’ve expected that and I feel bad for him,” said a classmate. Appearances were deceiving, as trial and investigation showed much more trouble between father and son.
In Great Britain, Kamil Dantes, the 29-year-old son of Polish immigrants also murdered his parents with a knife in 2015. At the sentencing, Justice Charles Haddon-Cave said: “Your deteriorating mental health had much to do with your history of drug use and in particular your cannabis habit.
“This is another example of the danger of cannabis use and its ability to induce psychotic behaviour in young men.” He said that Dantes had “an abnormality of mental functioning.” More information on the murders can be found here.
Ashton Sacks drove from Seattle to Orange County, California
Although cases above described working families of modest means, other murders describe the outcome of wealth and privilege. Some may think of these perpetrators as “spoiled,” but spoiled doesn’t explain being murderous or psychotic.
A stunning example was Ashton Sacks, who appeared to have everything and a family willing and ready to give him more. A heavy marijuana user, he had made previous suicide attempts, but blamed his parents for messing up his life. He was supposed to be attending community college in Seattle. Instead of going to class, he smoked pot and played video games.
Sacks, 19, drove from Seattle to southern California to murder his parents and succeeded. He tried to kill his 8-year-old brother, but left him badly injured and paralyzed. He fired a gun at a 17-year-old sister, but missed her.
The Van Breda murders in South Africa
In January of 2015 in South Africa, 20-year-old Henri Van Breda murdered his wealthy parents and brother with an axe. His 16-year-old sister survived an attack with brutal head and neck injuries. Initially, Henri, the guilty son, claimed to have been attacked, and that he was not the attacker. Investigations led to the fact that the son, a heavy drug user, was high at the time. He’s now in prison.
A drug dealer named Mark who lived near the family told police: “He started coming here a couple of months ago, sometimes by himself, and sometimes with a friend. They drove a motorbike. He would give me between R40 and R200 (2.50 and 12.50 pounds) at a time. Then I would go and get his drugs from the dealer. He bought tik, and from another dealer in Jamestown he bought dagga.” In South Africa, marijuana is called dagga, and tik refers to crystal meth.
To be fair, crystal meth is known to cause violence, but Henri Van Breda was using marijuana as frequently as he used meth.
Canadian heir killed his father and former girlfriend
Another marijuana using heir, Dellen Millard of Toronto, killed his father, Wayne Millard, in 2012. Originally authorities thought his father died by suicide. However, after authorities discovered that Millard and an accomplice killed Tim Bosma in 2013, they realized he may have killed his father. Dellen Millard and the friend had also killed his ex-girlfriend, Laura Babcock. Millard, who inherited millions, and his partner crime bonded over marijuana and video games, back in 2006. They also became drug dealers.
Drug-induced psychosis and the prodromal symptoms of psychosis may precede violent outbreaks. Some of the killers who premeditated their murders, showed little remorse. Pot use contributes to the lack of concern or caring. (Being mellow about murder may be one way to look at it.) Henri Van Breda, Dellen Millard and Ashton Sacks showed no emotion or feelings of remorse when questioned about their family deaths.
Although pot users like to say they are calm and peaceful, marijuana is the drug that is most closely linked to crime. No one denies that heavy alcohol use can lead to crime and violence, but many people deny the marijuana connections. Alcohol-related crimes are easier to predict, like when two people get into a drunken brawl and anger escalates. Marijuana-related violence can occur unexpectedly, after the peak period of inebriation which is characteristic of marijuana-related violence. Because of the latency of the effect, the accuracy of the violence can be particularly lethal. It is often triggered by psychosis, reflective of the brain damage caused by adolescent marijuana use or frequent marijuana use.
Arkansas boy and friends killed his grandparents
In August 2015, authorities charged, Justin Staton, a 14-year-old boy of killing his grandparents. The grandfather fought over finding marijuana with his grandson in January. In May, the grandfather had called police. Although there were two older accomplices and the motive for the murder appears to have been robbery, we can’t dismiss the influence of marijuana on the young brain.
In 2017, 22-year-old Orion Krause, a talented musician from Maine, killed his mom, grandparents and their caregiver with a baseball bat. Krause, a recent graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, called a professor before doing it. In a previous incident, his mother denied that her son drank or used drugs, although he showed signs mental health decline. The public should demand knowing if substance use, or a history of substance use, is involved every time there are irrational killings of innocent people.
Virginia college student killed best friend, roommate
In Virginia recently, a 21-year-old college senior stabbed and killed her best friend and college roommate. Police found evidence at the apartment: a brown chalk-like substance, grinders, pills and multiple smoking devices. (Leafly has an explanation of a marijuana grinder.) The Pretty Little Killers, also marijuana users, stabbed their friend, Skylar Neese, with knives.
Notice that these nonsensical, marijuana-crazed murderers used knives and axes as often as they used guns. While scholars from around the world admit that marijuana causes psychosis and homicide, most Americans ignore the evidence.
Vigorous education on the link between marijuana and murder may reduce homicides and bring down the murder rate in America. Ross Grainger tracks the homicides and suicides related to pot use in Great Britain on his website, attackersmokedcannabis.com. Alex Berenson’s book, Tell Your Children the Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence, explains well. Readers can find detailed scientific studies and references on the topic in Berenson’s well-researched book.
Our inadequate mental health system will continue to get worse, if we continue this unchecked expansion of marijuana.