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The term family annihilator has been thrust into the spotlight lately with the high-profile Chris Watts case.
Watts notoriously murdered his entire family in 2018, a family annihilation that shocked the nation. For those unfamiliar with the tragic story, Chris strangled his pregnant wife, Shanann, before suffocating his two young daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3 in an attempt to leave his family for his mistress.
From the outside, the family appeared picture-perfect. They lived in a large and pristine Colorado house and their social media presence was filled with happy, wholesome pictures and videos. As a result, the murders captured headlines and led to several documentaries and films.
Despite the shock it inspired, the case is far from an isolated one. Take the Chris Benoit case, for example. The famous WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) wrestler killed his wife, Nancy Benoit, and their 7-year-old son, Daniel, before hanging himself over a three-day period in 2007. There’s also the infamous Josh Powell case. In 2012, he killed himself and two sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, in a fiery explosion. Shortly before their deaths, Josh lost custody of the two sons and they were sent to live with the parents of Susan Cox Powell, his wife who vanished in 2009. Josh was a person of interest in her suspicious disappearance.
All these cases are ones that thrust the term “family annihilator” into the spotlight, a term often used interchangeably with familicide. It “refers to the killing of multiple family members, most commonly the homicide of an intimate partner and at least one child,” according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Family Violence. Such killings can often include the suicide of the killer as well.
These types of murders are explored in the new Oxygen series "Family Massacre," premiering Friday, December 3 at 9/8c.
But are there ever any female family annihilators?
The short answer is yes — but not very often.
One infamous example is the Andrea Yates case. The mother of five drowned all her children in her home's bathtub in 2001. The children ranged in age from 6 months to 7 years. In 2002, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
More recently, Pennsylvania woman Lisa Snyder has been accused of killing her kids, Conner Snyder, 8, and Brinley Snyder, 4, in 2019 and covering up their deaths to look like a suicide. She had called 911, claiming she found the children unresponsive and hanging by a single dog leash from the basement rafters of their home. That case has yet to go to trial.
For more on cases like this, watch "Family Massacre," premiering Friday, December 3 at 9/8c on Oxygen.
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