Sadly, murders committed at schools aren’t uncommon, and according to the statistics, cases of extreme school violence are on the rise. A lot of the time, these murders are committed by students for a whole host of reasons. Rarely are these horrible crimes committed by teachers.
After all, teachers are people who chose a career path that is dedicated to helping people learn and grow. But sadly, there are a few terrible acts of violence committed by teachers against the very pupils they were meant to guide.
10 Nathaniel Mellerson
Nathaniel Mellerson was a 29-year-old computer teacher at the Miami Dade Community College in Florida, and he also gave private lessons. One of his students was 36-year-old Cathy Essery. Mellerson had feelings for Cathy, and according to his mother, they even dated for two months.
The problem was that Essery had a husband, and according to her family, she cut off the private lessons with Mellerson because he became “a problem person.” Whereas Mellerson’s mother said the two had dated, Cathy’s family did not know if they were involved in anything more than a teacher-student relationship.
Regardless of whether they’d dated or if it was all in his head, Mellerson was upset over the fact that Cathy was married. So on January 14, 1997, Mellerson went to Cathy’s parents’ home, where she lived with her husband, Geoffry. Cathy’s parents let Mellerson into the house while Cathy and Geoffry were out. When the couple came home, Geoffry and Mellerson got into a fight . . . and then Mellerson shot Geoffry, killing him.
Mellerson then took aim at his student, shooting Cathy to death. Finally, he turned the gun on himself. Cathy’s parents witnessed the murders of their daughter and son-in-law, but they were able to escape without injury.
9 The Death Of Sithembiso Gcwenya
In May 1999, students at the Zithokozise High School in Durban, South Africa, were planning on going on a field trip, and they were told that the cost was $1.60. Later, they found out that it only cost $1.30, so they demanded the extra 30 cents be returned.
When the refund wasn’t given to them, a group of students started throwing rocks at the principal’s car. Fearing for their safety, the teachers and the principal locked themselves in the library. When the students started throwing rocks through the library windows, the principal and a teacher opened fire on them.
Sithembiso Gcwenya, 19, was killed, while Sibusiso Mbutho, 19, and Bheki Mnyandu, 18, were both injured. The teacher and the principal were arrested, but they were eventually released on a $160 bail. A spokesperson for the education department said it was clearly self-defense, but they can’t condone the actions of the teacher and the principal.
8 Nezma Khatoon
Late one night in February 2016, the badly beaten body of Vinay Mahto, 12, was found on the steps of his hostel at the Sapphire International School in Ranchi, India. He was taken to the hospital, where he died from severe injuries to the head, chest, and liver. During the police investigation, they found CCTV footage of Mahto leaving the hostel after midnight and heading toward the teachers’ quarters, which was only a short distance away.
Teachers and other staff were interviewed, and they determined that Mahto went to the home of teacher Nezma Khatoon. Khatoon’s son had invited Mahto over to eat, and when Mahto arrived, he was confronted by the son. It turns out that Mahto was “in love” with Khatoon’s 11-year-old daughter, and the son wanted the relationship to end. Mahto refused, and Khatoon’s son pummeled him.
The assault awoke both Khatoon and her daughter, and when they came downstairs, they found Mahto badly beaten. They said that they panicked and dragged Mahto to the second story of the house and then threw him out the window.
Khatoon was arrested on February 10, and she is currently awaiting trial.
7 Yu Hagino
Yu Hagino was a 23-year-old part-time teacher at a private school in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. In early December 2005, Hagino found out he would no longer be teaching 12-year-old Sayano Horimoto after her parents complained about him. Hagino did not get along with the sixth grader, and she had mocked him. Upon hearing the news, Hagino became angry and bought two kitchen knives and a hammer from a hardware store.
On December 10, just a week after Hagino was told that he would not be teaching Horimoto, both he and Horimoto showed up for a Saturday exam session. Hagino then got Horimoto alone in a room and locked the door. First, he tried to hit her with the hammer. When that failed, he used a knife that was 30 centimeters (1 ft) long to stab the schoolgirl 13 times in the chest, neck, and face. After the murder, he called his father and admitted killing the girl.
Originally, Hagino was given 18 years in prison, but that was reduced to just 15 in 2009 because Hagino was at diminished capacity at the time of the murder.
6 Chen Peiquan
For six years, Chen Peiquan of Suixi County, Guangdong province, China, struggled with mental illness. At times, he would stay in the hospital for months. His employer, the Yang Gan Middle School, wouldn’t pay for the hospital stays or his medication. They only paid him to work.
The last time he returned from the hospital, Peiquan had a certificate that said he was healthy, so he was able to begin teaching English again. But in early 2003, Peiquan was running out of money to pay for his medication.
Things came to a head on January 25, 2003. Peiquan went to the teachers’ dormitory, armed with a vegetable knife. He attacked the person who answered the door and then indiscriminately stabbed and slashed anyone he found. He ended up killing four students and injuring two other students and a fellow teacher.
5 Raymond Dale Payne
One night in August 1975, 16-year-old Debbie Gama got into an argument with her mother and stormed out of their Erie, Pennsylvania, house. Sadly, that was the last time her family saw her alive. Her partially decomposed body was discovered floating in the Cussewago Creek four days later. Her neck, wrists, and legs had been bound with copper-covered wire, and she had been strangled with the wire. She also had sexual intercourse sometime before she died.
Over 400 days later, the police linked the wire used to kill Gama to 39-year-old Raymond Dale Payne, Gama’s favorite English teacher. During the long search for the killer, Payne had continued to work at the school that Gama had attended. He was charged with murder in 1976 and pleaded guilty to killing Gama.
Payne said that he had tied Gama to a tree, but he did not rape or kill her. He was still found guilty of first-degree murder and given a life sentence. For decades, Payne tried to get his sentence reduced, even asking for Gama’s body to be exhumed to show he didn’t rape her. He feels that he should be guilty of a lesser crime like manslaughter. His last appeal was in late 2015, and it is still being decided.
4 Liu Hongwen
On September 30, 2004, Liu Hongwen, a 28-year-old teacher, went to his school in China’s central Hunan province. He had been working there for a year, despite the fact that he had a known history of mental illness. On that day, he entered a grade one classroom with a meat cleaver and killed four children.
Hongwen then went to another classroom where he held 64 people—including children and teachers—hostage for several hours. During this nightmare scenario, Hongwen continued his assault, attacking four teachers. The police arrived shortly after the rampage began, and after some negotiating, Hongwen gave up peacefully.
In total, four children died, and nine students and three teachers were injured. Later on, Hongwen pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he was sent to a mental institute for psychiatric help.
3 Violet John Berling
Early on the morning of October 12, 1950, the police station in Long Beach, California, received a frantic phone call. It was accordion teacher Violet John Berling, and she claimed that her 10-year-old student, Katherine Frances Erickson, wasn’t breathing. When the police arrived, they found the young girl dead . . . with her feet and hands tied to a straight-backed chair and an accordion strap around her shoulders.
Berling said that when she awoke at 6:00 AM, she heard Erickson crying. As for why she was bound to the chair, Berling said Erickson did that to herself. She was a masochist who liked to tie herself up and cut herself, too. So how had Erickson ended up in Berling’s home? Well, the young girl moved in with Berling when her parents fell on hard times, thus allowing her to practice the accordion with her teacher full-time.
Once Erickson was moved in, Berling kept her parents away by saying the girl would “lose her touch” if they showed up, and this would make Erickson incredibly sad. Berling also claimed that the girl was tied up to prevent her from hurting herself.
What was really happening was that Berling was abusing Erickson. The girl was often gagged and tied to a chair, and on the day she died, she choked on her own vomit and was dead hours before Berling called the police. The coroner also said that some of the cuts and bruises, both new ones and cuts that had scarred over, could not possibly have been made by Erickson. Berling was convicted of the murder and given a life sentence.
2 Norman Simons
Starting in 1986, the bodies of young boys were found in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town, South Africa. All in all, the police discovered 22 victims. Excluding one unidentified man, most of the victims were all younger than 15. All the children had been sodomized and strangled. They were then buried face down in shallow graves.
By 1992, the story was making national headlines, and the South African Police Service developed a profile of the killer. In 1992, the profile said that the murderer was probably about 28 years old. Chances were good that he worked as a teacher, policeman, or priest, and he was most likely raped himself before the age of 14.
The final victim, nine-year-old Elroy van Rooyen, was last seen at the train station in Mitchells Plain, a township on the Cape Flats. Thanks to eyewitness accounts from two other boys, the police tracked down 27-year-old Norman Simons, a grade five teacher in Mitchells Plain. He was also a former teacher of one of the victims, Neville Samaai, and he was known to have checked himself into a psychiatric hospital for depression after the murders were committed. The police interviewed him, and he confessed to the murder of van Rooyen. Also, in later confessions, Simons said that when he was a young boy, he had been raped by his brother. In other words, Simons had a lot of the traits that were predicted in the police profile.
Although Simons recanted his confession (and there was no physical evidence tying him to any of the murders), he was eventually convicted of murdering van Rooyen but none of the others. He was dubbed the “Station Strangler” because it is believed that he lured the children away from the train station, and authorities think he used his position as a teacher to do so. He was sentenced to 35 years and was eligible for parole in 2015.
1 Heinz Schmidt
At approximately 11:00 AM on June 20, 1913, Maria Pohl, a teacher at the Marienschule school in Bremen, Germany, put her students into two lines to go out for recess. That’s when 29-year-old Heinz Schmidt, an unemployed teacher, ran up the stairs and started shooting at the students. Two girls were immediately killed, and one girl who tried to escape over a stairway railing fell to her death.
Reacting quickly, Pohl barricaded the rest of the students in a classroom. A janitor who heard the shots jumped on Schmidt’s back just as Schmidt started to break through the door. Unfortunately, Schmidt was able to wrestle the janitor off, and he shot the man in the face. Schmidt then turned his attention to a group of boys who were running across the courtyard, injuring five of them. A teacher tried to stop Schmidt and was shot twice. Luckily, both he and the janitor survived.
By now, parents and people living near the school had become aware of the shooting, and they flocked to the scene. Finally, 15 minutes after the shooting started, a coachman got into the school and stopped Schmidt by hitting him with a pitchfork. Schmidt was arrested and had to be protected from a lynch mob. In total, 21 people were injured, and five were killed. Schmidt was sent to a mental institute and died 20 years later. Today, the Bremen school shooting is considered the first mass school murder in history.
Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or Pinterest, or visit his website.