‘Family Annihilation’ Cases Most Frequent in Texas

Police crime scene tape | Image by Gorodenkoff

A worrying trend of “family annihilation” has emerged in Texas, one report suggests.

Texas leads the nation in family annihilations, which is when a person kills multiple family members in a single event, according to an analysis by the Indianapolis Star. Since 2020, a total of 33 such incidents have been logged, with seven alone occurring in 2022. Florida comes in second with a total of 18 events over the same time period.

Of the 33 incidents, the majority involved a firearm and were committed by a male perpetrator. However, in one San Antonio case from 2020, a woman killed her two children and her mother, while in another in the same city that same year, a couple acted together to asphyxiate their four children and two cats.

There have also been several family annihilation cases in North Texas, such as the case of a man murdering his estranged wife and her son before shooting himself in Fort Worth in 2021, or another man in Carrollton who shot his sister and father before setting fire to the home and killing himself in 2022.

This past August, a murder-suicide occurred in Allen, with the bodies of Farman Sherwani, Layla Sherwani, and their sons Shaheen Sherwani, 12, and Mateen Sherwani, 2, found inside their homes, as previously covered in The Dallas Express. The Sherwani family had lost their 4-year-old daughter, Lyian, in a drowning incident, the grief of which Allen police suggested played a large part in the incident.

It was the second time since 2021 that Allen’s Muslim community was struck by apparent murder-suicides, with another incident resulting in six family members being found dead.

Mona Kafeel, CEO of a community-based Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, suggested to The Dallas Morning News that culture could play a role in family annihilation: for instance, cultural differences could make some victims reluctant to flag domestic violence concerns to the authorities or a hotline service.

“There’s a lot of misunderstandings that can happen when we’re not able to understand the cultural nuances or the language that someone is speaking,” clarified Heena Khan, a cofounder of the association.

Yet, as uncovered in the Indiana Star’s investigation, the overall leading risk factors for family annihilation include prior domestic violence, criminal history, mental illness or high stress, substance abuse, and serious health or money problems.

In Dallas, there have been 12,209 family violence crimes committed in Dallas year to date, according to the police department’s crime analytics dashboard. The vast majority of the offenses are assaults, clocking in at 11,885 incidents.

Due to significant personnel issues, the Dallas Police Department has been struggling to get crime under control in recent years. It currently fields fewer than 3,200 officers, while a City analysis advises that at least 4,000 are necessary to properly maintain public safety.

Meanwhile, the murder rate across the city continues to rise, hitting 220 this year for a 13.4% increase year over year.

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