When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Patrick Armstrong
Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
Patrick Armstrong and Marlee Johnston were friends growing up in a neighborhood called Lovejoy Pond in Readfield, Maine. But in 2005, the 14-year-old Patrick murdered Marlee (also 14). Marlee’s brother Alec found his sister’s body in the shallow water of the neighborhood pond.
Patrick, who lived with his parents and an older sister, was homeschooled for most of his life. Marlee was attending a public school. After the murder, police looked into a personal website of Patrick’s, where the homeschooled teen expressed sentiments like, “I hate this society and I hate most people within it,” and listed “serial killers and Columbine” as his interests. Indeed, in Patrick’s list of heroes, Eric Harris — one of the Columbine gunmen — is mentioned.
Faith Soria, a neighbor of the Armstrongs, seemed shocked that Patrick would have done such a thing. She told media that “he was always polite and did not cause problems in the neighborhood.” Concerning the Armstrong family, she said, “They are wonderful neighbors and friends to us.”
When the news of Patrick murdering Marlee broke in December of 2005, it shook up the homeschooling community, to the point that Alex Harris wrote a blog post about it for The Rebelution, a Christian ministry directed at youth. Alex said it was “the second time in less than a month a homeschool teen has been arrested for murder.” This led Alex to consider how “homeschooling, by itself, is not enough to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” calling the tragedy “a wake-up call to the homeschool community.”
Patrick pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December 2006 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
View the case index here.