Child psychologist gives insight on child interrogation

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Psychologist discusses how a child thinks
azfamily.com

ST JOHNS - The interview of an 8-year-old murder suspect being questioned by two law enforcement officials without a parent or guardian in sight has caught the attention of people all across the world.

Towards the end of that hour-long tape the little boy confesses to the murders of his father and another man. But that was just one of the stories the boy told police.

During the interview with investigators, the 8-year-old boy comes up with a number of different versions of what happened on that fateful day. A Valley psychiatrist 3TV spoke with says that is not unusual in cases involving children.

An 8-year-old boy is seen calmly talking to investigators about his alleged involvement in the murders of his father and a family friend.

Valley Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Wellek specializes in child traumas. He has seen the St. Johns Police interview of the little boy. Though he will not comment specifically about this case, he says it is possible for a child to make up such an elaborate story.

"They may confess to crimes they didn't do and may deny crimes they did," Dr. Wellek explains. "They're not predictable and they're not reliable. That's the problem here."

Dr. Welleck says another problem is that a child's brain is not fully developed therefore he or she cannot fully make sense of what is being asked and will feel pressured to please the adult.

Dr. Welleck also believes a child being questioned without a parent or guardian borderlines child abuse. He says, "That's as bad as punching a child because the child is pinned to a wall and forced to answer."

The boy does not appear to be scared or sorrowful during most of the hour-long interview but, according to Dr. Wellek, appearances can be deceitful.

"Is he brain damaged, mentally ill, has he been abused? Does he have a genetic disorder?"

These are things that experts look at in cases where children are accused of committing such crimes.