True Horror Stories
Daniel, The 7 Year Old boy who Murdered his Father
When I was young I wanted to become a psychiatrist. My college years, however, proved that I had a greater aptitude for smoking weed and playing video games than reading medical textbooks, and when I went up for medical school I couldn’t get in.
I stayed in college a few more years, racking up debt and adding another major to my degree so I wouldn’t have to go to grad school. Eventually, I ended up as a social worker. I did that job for seven years before I became a teacher, and I’ve got quite a few stories from that time in my life, some strange and some sad. This one is both.
I’ve reconstructed below an interview with Daniel ———–, a seven year old boy who shot his father to death after the father murdered Daniel’s mother. The case has stuck with me for many years, and I’d like to share it with you now.
tape clicks on
ME: It’s nice to see you again Daniel.
At this point in the interview Daniel is looking at the floor.
ME: Do you know why I’m here?
ME: I want to talk about what happened to your father. Do you remember the story you told detectives?
DANIEL: Yes sir.
I can hear rustling on the audio tape as I reach in my pocket for a candy, handing it to Daniel.
DANIEL: Thank you, sir.
ME: You’re welcome, Daniel. You’re a very polite young man.
Daniel looks up for a moment before looking at the floor again.
DANIEL: Do you think I’m good, sir?
ME: Yes, Daniel. I think you’re good.
DANIEL: I don’t think I’m good.
ME: Why’s that?
DANIEL: If I was good then dad wouldn’t have hit me.
ME: I don’t think he hit you because you’re bad, Daniel.
DANIEL: Maybe you’re right. He hit my mom too, and she wasn’t bad.
ME:Can you tell me what happened that night, Daniel?
DANIEL: My dad came home from the bar. He was yelling.
ME: How do you know he came from the bar?
DANIEL: He smelled.
I can hear scribbling as I make a note in my pad.
ME: And then what happened?
ME: It’s okay, Daniel. Just take a deep breath. This is the last time you’ll have to talk about it.
Daniel’s shoulders slump, and he digs his foot into the carpet.
DANIEL: He started hitting my mom.
ME: And then?
DANIEL: Then he stopped. My mom was crying, so I gave her Jocel.
ME: Who is Jocel?
DANIEL: He’s my teddy bear. He always makes me feel better when I’m crying. I thought he would make my mom feel better too.
ME: Did he make her feel better?
Daniel nods his head a bit.
DANIEL: I think so. She smiled, but… it was the sad kind of smile.
I can hear my pen scribbling against the notepad again. I wince as I’m listening. This is the part I don’t like to hear.
ME: What happened then, Daniel?
There’s a long pause as Daniel stares at the ground. He doesn’t want to say it, and I don’t blame him. I hear my own voice again, soft, cajoling, and I feel a twinge of guilt for making him relive those moments.
ME: It’s okay, Daniel. It’s the last time, I promise.
Daniel’s voice is small and wavering as he answers.
DANIEL: He got his gun.
ME: And then?
DANIEL: He… he shot my mom.
ME: And after that, you ran to your room?
DANIEL: I mean yes. But first I had to grab Jocel.
ME: You had to grab your teddy bear?
DANIEL: Yes. I didn’t want to leave him alone with my dad. He’d be scared.
I clear my throat.
ME: I… see. And then?
DANIEL: I ran into my room and locked my door. My dad tried to get in. He hit the door really hard. It was really loud, and Jocel was really scared.
ME: How did he get in?
DANIEL: He broke the door. It was really loud.
DANIEL: He pointed the gun at me.
DANIEL: I asked him not to shoot Jocel, but I don’t think he heard me.
ME: Why’s that?
DANIEL: Because he pulled the trigger anyway.
ME: But he didn’t shoot you.
DANIEL: No. The gun didn’t work. He threw it on the floor.
ME: Then what?
DANIEL: He tried to get me. But he fell. He smashed his nose.
I could hear clothes rustling as I leaned forward.
ME: What happened to the gun, Daniel?
DANIEL: It started floating.
ME: Are you sure?
ME: What happened then?
DANIEL: I heard my mom whisper in my ear. She told me to close my eyes.
ME: And did you?
DANIEL: The gun went off.
ME: Did you see what happened to your dad?
DANIEL: No. I kept my eyes closed.
ME:Did anything else happen?
DANIEL: No. The police came and put a blanket on my and took me somewhere. I don’t really remember that part.
ME: You’re sure that’s what happened?
ME: Thank you for your time, Daniel. I promise that’s the last time you’ll have to tell that story.
DANIEL: Thank you. I don’t like that story very much.
ME: I need to go make my report now; I’m going to leave you here with your aunt and uncle, okay?
There’s the sound of a chair being pushed back as I stand up to go.
DANIEL: Mr. Robbins?
ME: Yes, Daniel?
DANIEL: I think about it a lot. Right before I go to sleep.
ME: Well, we can arrange for a counselor to talk–
DANIEL: It’s okay. When I can’t sleep my mom whispers in my ear for me to close my eyes. I always fall asleep right after.
ME: That’s good, Daniel. Tell her I said hi.
DANIEL: I will.
The recording shuts off there. We did arrange for a counselor for Daniel, of course. As far as I know he never changed his testimony.
There was never any real question of who shot Daniel’s dad. The statements of the neighbors who heard the conflict very clearly indicated a series of shots followed by silence from the mother, a series of loud bangs as the father broke down the door, and finally three more shots, which corresponded to death of the father. No one else was in the house, and ballistics showed that the shots were fired from six feet away. Daniel was the only choice, and officially, he’s the one who shot his father.
Yet I stayed up for a long time that night, wondering if Daniel had it right. I didn’t really believe that his mother had come back as a ghost to save him. But in Daniel’s version of reality, his mother wasn’t just a battered woman who died a pointless and violent death, she was a hero who defied death to save her son. In Daniel’s version he wasn’t scared, he was protecting his teddy bear, Jocel. I think he deserved to remember the story that way.
That night, when I’d had enough of thinking and decided to get to sleeping, the sleep wouldn’t come. I had just about resigned myself to getting up early and starting the next day, when I heard a soft whisper in my ears, telling me to close my eyes.
I slept well that night.