News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 16, 2013

Parents learn about signs of teen violence

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The parents of dozens of Vigo County school children got a heavy dose of harsh reality Tuesday night at a seminar on teen violence at St. Patrick School.

The parents and grandparents were exposed to PowerPoint images of bloody, teen-created crime scenes as Phil Chalmers, an expert on teen homicide and mass killing, shared with them the warning signs that a young person might become violent.

Just looking at a teenager’s bedroom can tell a lot, Chalmers said during his 90-minute talk, showing the image of a teen killer’s bedroom. The walls of the room were covered in posters of musicians who glorify violence in their lyrics.

Another teen killer wrote the word “KILL” in a school photograph above the head of a youth he later targeted in a shooting.

Those things are typical of teen killers, Chalmers said, adding they are usually obsessed with violent entertainment, weapons and death.

“You won’t find Hanna Montana or Justin Bieber” posters on the walls of teen killers’ rooms, said Chalmers, who trains law enforcement officers about teen violence and who has authored several books on the subject. He has also interviewed more than 200 teen killers, school shooters and serial killers in 25 years, he said.

Chalmers also showed several photographs of kids who have gone on killing sprees.

“They don’t look like killers,” Chalmers noted, showing the image of a completely ordinary looking teenager who killed his parents and many fellow students.

Many of the parents who attended the presentation have children attending St. Patrick School, which hosted the talk as part of its Family Resource Series. Chalmers gave a presentation to the school’s students earlier in the day.

The youngest school shooter was age 6, Chalmers said. The shooter was a first-grader who shot a little girl in his class 13 years ago.

“My youngest is 4, so that hit home pretty hard,” one young mother, who did not want to be named, said after the presentation. Chalmers’ presentation was troubling and frightening, but something parents need to see, she said.

Ever since the mass shootings last month in Newtown, Conn. “I’ve been paranoid,” said another young mother at the presentation. She agreed the information presented was disturbing but important.

Chalmers recommended families obtain security systems, large dogs or other methods of self-defense, including guns, for their homes. That advice didn’t sit well with some in attendance, including one mother who said she is unfamiliar with guns and would fear their potential misuse.

Chalmers said young people need structure in their lives — daily, weekly or annual family events. Family communication, spiritual guidance and stable homes are also critical,

he said.

“Get to know your kids,” Chalmers said, adding that “bad parents” don’t attend his talks, but good parents can sometimes put too much pressure on kids, driving them into depression.

According to his website,, Chalmers speaks all across the United States to parents, students and law enforcement professionals. He has appeared on several television and cable programs, including “Killer Teens,” a program on the Biography Channel. His books include “Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer” and “True Lies,” a book geared for teens.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or