Juvenile justice policy expert weighs in on Thursday night’s fatal stabbing between young siblings

TULSA, Okla. — The stabbing that left a 9-year-old boy dead allegedly at the hands of his 12-year-old sister has neighbors and mothers shocked and heartbroken.

Savannah, who declined to give her last name, lives at the same complex as the killing. She told FOX23 she is rethinking mental healthcare when it comes to her children, and she said she wants to be more aware of situations like this.

“I have a 5-year-old daughter, and sometimes it’s hard to teach kids to regulate their emotions, or healthily express their anger or sadness,” Savannah said. “You don’t hear about that happening often.”

Dr. Brett Fitzgerald is an associate professor of Juvenile Justice Policy at Northeastern State University. While there are very few details available to the public about this specific case, he gave FOX23 some insight after working 10 years in youth services.

“This is a 12-year-old girl we’re talking about,” he said. “It’s shocking. It’s morally reprehensible, but at the same time, we’ve lost the 9-year-old. There’s noting we can do with that 9-year-old, but we have a 12-year-old. What do we do with that [girl] in society?”

He explained a child does not usually possess the mental development to pre-mediate murder or want to kill. However, when children have violent tendencies, he said there can be warning signs.

“Self isolation, fascination with weapons,” he said. “Depression [or] any type of interest in violent entertainment.”

Many things — including home life, neglect, abuse, violence in the media or bullying — can serve as factors for a child to become violent, according to Fitzgerald. Making threats, no matter how playful they seem, can also be a warning sign.

“Not telling your child you love them enough can sometimes be sufficient enough to create this hostility,” he explained.

Fitzgerald added that the girl will likely be psychologically evaluated, and the justice system will take into account the mental development of someone so young.

“We do consider that in the system,” he said. “And the criminal justice system takes full consideration of that biological development.”

FOX23 also reached out to Youth Service Tulsa, a nonprofit that provides mental healthcare to Green Country children, about the case.

“We are saddened and shocked to learn about this tragic incident,” said David Grewe, executive director of Youth Services of Tulsa. “Adolescents living in Tulsa County who are struggling with their mental health are encouraged to turn to Youth Services or other healthcare providers for help through individual and family counseling.”

Youth Service Tulsa also said no one is turned away for inability to pay, and after-school appointments are available in Tulsa, Owasso and Broken Arrow.

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin also commented on the case. Friday morning, he took to Twitter to address the incident.

FOX23 compiled data on Tulsa homicides in 2022,

In 2022, 10 out of the 69 homicide cases included a victim under the age of 20. Five of those 10 cases included a suspect under the age of 20.

This 9-year-old victim is the youngest victim is the youngest since a 3-year-old was killed in 2021. The 12-year-old girl in this case is the youngest suspect in our records.

“We’ve lost one, do we lose the other on in the system?” Fitzgerald asked. “How do we go from here with the 12-year-old?”