WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
On April 23, 2006, a mother, father and son were murdered at the hands of their 12-year-old daughter and sister, and her 23-year-old boyfriend. The murders took place in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
Both the daughter, Jasmine Richardson, and the boyfriend, Jeremy Steinke, were convicted on 3 counts of first-degree murder. Richardson is thought to be the youngest Canadian to ever be convicted of multiple counts of first-degree murder.
JASMINE & JEREMY (2)
12-year-old Jasmine met 23-year-old Jeremy Steinke at a punk rock show. Described by friends and family as happy and social, everything changed once she started a relationship with a man 11 years her senior. She adapted a goth lifestyle, joined a website called VampireFreaks.com, and wore dark makeup to make herself appear much older than she was. (To toss this into age-by-school-year, she would be in middle school and he would have been old enough to have been 1 year removed from college.)
And, surprise, the 23-year-old man who started dating a child who was just learning basic algebra, did not have an excellent track record leading up to this relationship. His mother was an alcoholic and her parented abused him. He was bullied throughout his childhood and had attempted suicide.
Starting at age 13, Steinke began claiming he was a 300-year-old werewolf and wore a vial of blood around his neck. Obviously, once Jasmine's family learned of this relationship, they prohibited her from seeing him.
A PLAN TO KILL (2)
But despite the fact that Jasmine was barely out of elementary school and Jeremy was old enough to have a full-time career, they were so in love and felt her parents were being totally unreasonable. On April 3, 2006, Jeremy wrote on his blog: "My Lover's rents are totally unfair; they say that they really care; they don't know what is going on they just assume... Their throats I want to slit...Finally, there shall be silence. Their blood shall be payment!"
Beyond Jeremy's clear stated motive on his blog, it was actually Jasmine who originally cooked up the plan. She wrote in an email to him, "it begins with me killing them and ends with me living with you". Which is kind of bananas, because when you send your plans to murder your family via email and write weird rhyming blog posts about the impending murder, it seems like your plan is not to live together, but to end up in jail.
When Steinke read his child bride's email, he was immediately receptive, saying they needed to get creative and come up with details. Jasmine told her friends about her plan, but they all thought she was joking.
To get in the mood to slaughter her entire family, the couple watched Natural Born Killers. Then, on April 23, 2006, Jasmine and Jeremy went to her parents house to act out their plan. 2 hours after, they were seen happily eating together at a restaurant.
THE DISCOVERY, INVESTIGATION AND TRIALS
The day after the murders, a neighbor went to the Richardson house for a play date with Jasmine's 8-year-old brother Jacob. But upon seeing what they thought was a body through the window, the police were called. (3)
What they found inside was a grisly scene. Jasmine's parents, Debra and Marc, had been brought to the basement and stabbed to death. In his bedroom, 8-year-old Jacob's throat was slit open. (3)
They pieced together the order of events. They determined that Debra had been killed first, dead from over a dozen stab wounds. Marc tried to fight back with a screwdriver, but was stabbed to death, as well. They had killed her brother last, in his bed. (3)
Right away, police assumed Jasmine was a victim, too. (After all, she was 12 years old. Who would immediately think she was a suspect?) Police released a statement and an AMBER alert for Jasmine, believing she was a victim too and had been kidnapped from the scene. (2)
But when police looked in her room and school locker, they quickly realized she wasn't a victim. She was the suspect. (2)
It didn't take long to find out who was involved, and to find them. A trail of emails and blog posts lead investigators to Jeremy, as well, where they had planned out the murders through email. They were quickly apprehended, found in Steinke's truck. Investigators believed that Steinke killed the parents in the basement while Jasmine went upstairs and murdered her little brother, but neither of them ever admitted to killing Jacob. (2)
Because Jasmine was a minor, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, her name could no longer be published after she became a suspect. The same act stated that 12 is the youngest possible age to be charged with a crime. Additionally, since she was under 14, she could not be charged as an adult, and could only receive a maximum of 10 years. (1)
On July 9, 2007, Jasmine was found guilty of 3 counts of first degree murder, making her the youngest person ever convicted of multiple murders in Canada. She was sentenced to the maximum 10-year sentence. She received credit for the 18 months she spent in custody awaiting trial, and her sentence included 4 years in a psychiatric institution, and 4 and a half years under conditional supervision. (1)
Jasmine Richardson completed her sentence and freed of any other court-ordered conditions on May 6, 2016. Though it is reported that she responded well to rehabilitation and felt remorse for her crimes, she did regularly communicate with Jeremy while in prison, professing their love to one another. It is not known whether she is still in contact with Jeremy, but she is now living under a new identity in an unknown location. (2)
Jeremy admitted to the murders in a conversation with an undercover cop while in custody. (Despite this confession, he tried to defend himself in court by saying he was an immature man in love and was under the influence of Jasmine. WHO WAS 12!) Because he categorically was not a minor, he was tried as an adult, because he was one, and was sentenced to 3 life sentences, one for each first-degree murder count. He will be eligible for parole after 25 years. (1)
When asked why he had murdered his girlfriend's family, he said: "When you find your soulmate, you do anything for them. I did anything." Yeah, except you aren't together and you are serving life in prison. So I'd say it didn't go too well for you, Jeremy. (3)
There is just about nothing creepier to me than a child killer, especially a child who kills her parents and family. Especially when that kid was brought up in a relatively normal home. A normal, happy-go-lucky middle school kid met a 23-year-old creep and decided to slaughter her entire family.
There is also a lot of contention around her release. On one hand, it is probably good that kids under the age of 14 can only be in jail for 10 years, because when a kid under 14 commits a crime, you have to assume it was partially because of their brain not yet being developed, among other reasons, and putting a child in prison for life is unethical. On the other hand, the 10-year maximum sentence was created, they probably didn't have a 12-year-old committing 3 pre-meditated, remorseless murders with her adult boyfriend.
So there are really 2 camps of thought here: One is that a person who is able to slit her younger brother's throat and slaughter her parents should never walk free again, regardless of how old they were. The other is that a person should not have to atone for the rest of their life for a decision they made when they were a minor.
To me, this case is far more complex than any black and white explanations. Do I think the actions of a 12-year-old are indicative of their actions later on in life? Heaven's no. Do I think the cold-blooded murderous actions of a 12-year-old are indicative of their actions later on in life? Yeah, maybe. Do I think someone who committed a crime before they even became a teenager should be held accountable for that crime for the rest of their life? Absolutely not. Would I personally feel comfortable living in a community with an adult woman who I knew had helped slaughter her family as a child? No, not really. It is a really, really complex thing to think about. None of us would want to be judged for our entire lives on the person we were when we were 12, but then again, none of us slashed an 8-year-old's throat.
But, regardless of your thoughts, the Canadian government made a decision and now, Jasmine Richardson is 4 years into her freedom and Jeremy Steinke is 8 years into his life sentence for the crime they committed 14 years ago today.