When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Patrick Armstrong

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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.

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Patrick Armstrong

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.

In 2005, 14-year-old Patrick Armstrong murdered a childhood friend, 14-year-old Marlee Johnston.

In 2005, 14-year-old Patrick Armstrong murdered a childhood friend, 14-year-old Marlee Johnston.

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.

3 comments

  • I’m glad Alex H. said that. Ouch.

  • I have not heard this story until now. How sad. This should be an interesting series.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    She told media that “he was always polite and did not cause problems in the neighborhood.”

    This is so similar to the serial or spree killer being described as “such a NICE boy.” I grew up with a possible sociopath in my family, and said possible sociopath was always “oh-so-POLITE” as he manipulated and abused.

    You see, successful sociopaths are masters of camouflage; if they weren’t, they’d have been exposed and caught long ago. We only hear about the ones dumb enough to get caught.

    And there’s another factor: Here on HA, you cover a LOT of control-freak homeschoolers. A Kid raised by a control freak (especially if abusive punishment is a factor) will survive by avoiding punishment. Since a lot of X-Treme homeschoolers are very into Christian outward behavior (homeschooling being sold as “a way to raise Godly children”), learning how to fake that outward behavior becomes a survival mechanism.

    “Swear alliegance to the flag;
    Whatever flag they offer;
    NEVER LET ON WHAT YOU REALLY FEEL…”
    — Mike & the Mechanics, “Silent Running”

    This teaches deceit and manipulation as survival tools. Outward behavior is what’s important, so as long as you act “acceptable & respectable”, you can do whatever you want as long as you hide it. A double life that gets sealed in over time, wearing the mask until it shapes the face beneath (like that old Twilight Zone episode). The mask of the Quiet and Polite Angel of Light, hiding whatever lies beneath.

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