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Murderous Children: 10-Year-Old Joseph McVay Shot and Killed His Mother

Shot By Her Own Son

46-year-old Deborah McVay had argued just weeks before her death with her husband over the guns, once belonging to the child's grandfather, that he had given to their son.

46-year-old Deborah McVay had argued just weeks before her death with her husband over the guns, once belonging to the child's grandfather, that he had given to their son.

Why Guns and Children Don't Mix

On January 2nd, 2011, at around 6pm, near Big Prairie in Holmes County, Ohio, an argument between a woman and her 10-year-old son over a chore would turn deadly, and change both of their lives forever.

When police arrived at the McVay house that evening, after a 911 call by a neighbor, they found Deborah McVay, age 46, inside, lying face down on her living room floor with a single gunshot wound to the head. Deborah was already dead by the time they arrived. Her youngest child, Joseph McVay, would confess to, be arrested, and charged with his mother's gruesome murder. Joseph's 15-year-old sister, Shawna, witness her brother shoot her mother.

What could make a 10-year-old boy shoot his own mother in the head? Believe it or not, police believe he turned violent over an argument with his mother about firewood; his mother wanted him to bring some in the house, and apparently he didn't want to.

News Story About Deborah McVay's Murder (includes Joseph McVay's 911 call)

The Scene of the Murder

The McVay Family home, where Deborah McVay was shot to death by her 10 year old son Joseph, on the outskirts of Big Prairie, Ohio.

The McVay Family home, where Deborah McVay was shot to death by her 10 year old son Joseph, on the outskirts of Big Prairie, Ohio.

What Happened and Why?

Was Joseph McVay's motive, as a child, really just to avoid doing a chore, without fully comprehending the consequences of his actions? or was there something more going on behind the scenes in the days that lead up to the tragic shooting of Deborah McVay?

Many details of the case, including any other possible theories of motive, have not been released to the public. Some very important details about the days before Deborah's death that can give a glimpse into what was going on in the McVay family prior to the murder have came out.

According to interviews with family members, including Joseph's father and sister, as well as school administrators, it has been established that Joseph was exposed to episodes of domestic abuse between and perpetrated by both of his parents. It is alleged that his mother was also emotionally and verbally abusive to him. The McVay home, a trailer in rural Ohio, was described by police as cluttered, unkempt, and dirty. Joseph had also shown some previous signs of anger and aggression.

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In 2006, he reportedly was unruly on the bus, and had an altercation with the bus driver. In September of 2007, when Joseph was just 6 years old, after a disturbance in the classroom, he reportedly used a dustpan to swat at a school administrator. In addition, during interviews with school officials, Joseph was described as "polite" and "nice", but it was remarked that he experienced episodes where he would strike out at others in anger when provoked.

Deborah and her husband, Michael McVay, had separated only a few weeks prior to the shooting. At the time, he had an outstanding warrant for failure to pay child support. It is said that their separation intensified Joseph's angry outbursts, and he started displaying more behavioural problems.

On that January evening, when Deborah asked Joseph to bring in some firewood from outside, and that evolved into an intense argument, stated his sister, 15 year old Shawna McVay, who witnessed the murder. It apparently set him off, he told his sister he was tired of fighting with their mom, and he went to his bedroom and grabbed one of his guns. He then returned the living room and shot her. His sister then begged him not shoot her, and watched as he left the residence. He then went next door to the neighbour's house, and told them he had shot his mother and he needed an ambulance and the police. Joseph can be heard in the background of the 911 call yelling "I shot my mom!".

The gun Joseph used to shoot his mother was a 22 calibre rifle, one of 6 guns that the boy had been given by his father. The guns used to belong to his paternal grandfather, and he had inherited them. One of his parents recent and largest disagreements was over the guns. Deborah apparently did not approve of 10 year old Joseph having them in his room, but his father, Michael, disagreed. Joseph's older brother, Joshua McVay, says that the family is a country family, and that owning guns has always been a part of the family.

Joseph McVay and his lawyer at a hearing.

Joseph McVay and his lawyer at a hearing.

Video Clip About Joseph McVay's Competency Hearing

Trial and Sentencing

Joseph McVay has been charged with murder as a juvenile (or "delinquency by virtue of committing murder") in the shooting death of his mother, Deborah McVay. He has entered a "denial" of the charge, which is the juvenile equivalent to a plea of not-guilty. If convicted, he faces detention until he turns 21.

As of August 2011, Joseph McVay has been deemed not competent to stand trial, because he does not fit the legal definition of competence. Now 11 years old, Joseph was evaluated by two psychologists who have stated he is mentally unfit to stand trial for his mother's murder at this time. They said Joseph suffers from anxiety and depression, also has a learning disability, and he has trouble talking about his mother's death, which impairs his ability to communicate with his lawyers for his defense. Both of the psychologists agreed that Joseph will benefit from counseling. No new trial date has been set, and only one of the psychologist's believe that he will be deemed competent within a year's time, but they both agree that with counseling, he will eventually be deemed fit, and the trial against him for the murder of Deborah McVay will then proceed.

Since the night of the shooting, Joseph had been staying in the Richland County Juvenile Detention center. He remained there until sometime in October of 2011, after the court ruled on the appropriate course of counseling that Joseph should receive. He has since been staying in an undisclosed treatment facility, where he will remain until he is competent to stand trial.

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