Inside the mind of a killer: What drives a parent to kill their child?

Mugshot of Amber Pasztor. (Provided Photo/Elkhart Police Dept.)
Mugshot of Amber Pasztor. (Provided Photo/Elkhart Police Dept.)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- For many, the thought is unimaginable. How could the person who gave a child life, take it away? After Amber Pasztor confessed to killing her two children, Rene Pasztor and Liliana Hernandez, many want to know what could drive someone to do it.

Dr. Stephen Ross, who’s a forensic psychologist, says we traditionally think mothers have a closer relationship with their children. It may surprise you that a mother is more likely to kill her own child than a father is. Ross said it’s a rare phenomenon that is difficult to understand.

Liliana Hernandez (L) and Rene Pasztor. (Provided Photo/WANE)
Liliana Hernandez (L) and Rene Pasztor. (Provided Photo/WANE)

“I mean you gave birth, you carried that kid for 9 months,” said Ross. “What mother would kill their kid?”

It’s called filicide or infanticide, the act of killing your own child or infant.

“It’s distorted. It’s sick. It’s psychotic. But in their mind they thought they were doing the right thing,” he said.

Ross has worked on hundreds of competency and insanity cases. He said there could be a number of reasons why a parent would kill their child. It’s usually a result of a psychotic episode. The parent may feel that the child is a burden, or it could be a revenge killing. He said sometimes a parent may do it to protect the child.

“[They think] I can bring my kids happiness, I can prevent them from being abused,” he said. “I can prevent them from further harm so lets send them to heaven.”

Oftentimes in cases of filacide the person will try to plead insanity, but Ross said there’s a slim chance that will work. He said insanity pleas only prevail about 1 percent of the time.

In 26 years of practice, Ross said he’s worked some pretty horrific cases. Still, even he can’t make sense of it.

“I can’t get it,” he said. “Maybe in my next lifetime.”