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ln April, a Maryland man wrote six suicide notes expressing his love and sorrow for his family, and then shot his wife and three children, before killing himself with a shotgun.

This month, a man killed his wife and two sons in their home near Tampa, Florida. Troy Bellar chased after his teenage son with a high-powered rifle, but the 13-year-old escaped. Bellar later shot himself.

In some of this year's most disturbing cases of family violence, fathers have turned against their own flesh and blood -- asphyxiating and beating teenagers, firing shots into sleeping children tucked in bed, slaying grandparents and shooting infants in diapers.

The killings are cruel inversions of nature where a father murders his entire family in an act called familicide. After the carnage, the question lingers: Why did they do it?

For decades, psychiatrists have been studying such cases to determine what mental issues trigger this behavior. A person who kills his family could have control issues that lead him to decide the fate of the children, spouse and pets, researchers said. See a timeline of 2009 familicides Read full article »

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