Children are usually thought of as innocent, so cases of killer kids can be highly disturbing to the public. The documentary Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse, which aired on HBO in 1990, shocked viewers with its depiction of a seemingly psychopathic child. 6-year-old Beth Thomas gave troubling interviews in which she expressed a desire to harm her brother and adoptive parents.
The true story of the "Child of Rage" is a tragic story of extreme childhood abuse and neglect and their psychological consequences. Controversial intensive therapy managed to help Beth work through her Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and she now leads a healthy life. Ultimately, hers is a story of hope.
When HBO released the documentary, watching Beth speak so openly about her dark thoughts and urges shocked viewers everywhere. Most had never seen what a child with psychopathic tendencies looked like, and the damage she could have inflicted if she hadn't had such a supportive family was hard for audiences to consider.
Beth Thomas showed aggressive tendencies from an extremely young age. Tim and Julie Tennent adopted Beth and her biological brother, Jonathan, when they were 19 and 7 months old, respectively. On several occasions, Beth directed her homicidal thoughts towards her younger brother and reportedly sexually and physically harmed him.
Over time, this culminated to Beth smashing her brother’s head onto a concrete floor, and John's injuries required stitches. Her adoptive parents eventually resorted to locking Beth in her room at night for the family's safety, as she was also prone to attempt stabbings.
Beth's adoptive mother had noticed several of her kitchen knives were missing. In the 1990 documentary, Julie describes feeling "guilty" for wondering if Beth had anything to do with the disappearance. Beth later described the knives to her mother, who maintains that Beth gave her a "malicious [...] smile."
The documentary interviewer mentions the knives, asking Beth what she wanted to do with them. The girl responds with no emotional coloring: "Kill John and Mommy with them. And Daddy."
Beth reportedly displayed a variety of disturbing behaviors after she was adopted. In addition to assaulting her brother, she harmed family pets and outdoor animals - including an entire nest of baby birds. In the documentary, Beth happily describes her pets. When the interviewer asks what she does to them, she tells him: "Stick 'em with pins […] To kill them."
Julie relates how the girl also displayed sexually inappropriate behavior, such as aggressively fondling her brother and masturbating in public. Tim confessed that Beth’s behavior was detrimental to the Tennent home.
Tim and Julie Tennent wanted to know why their adoptive daughter was displaying such violent and disturbing behavior. However, when they asked the adoption agency for information, their request was denied. The agency cited confidentiality laws, making it difficult for the Tennents to determine the cause of their daughter’s rage.
It wasn’t until later that Tim and Julie discovered the abuse their adoptive children suffered prior to the intervention of child services.