Parricide refers to the murder of one's close relatives. Although this typically refers to a person's parents, it may refer to any adult close relative, such as brothers or sisters. Offenders have a number of reasons for committing this type of crime, including mental illness and abuse. There have been several instances of parricide in literature, as well as throughout history.
Matricide refers to the act of a person killing his own mother. Though it does happen, matricide is a little less common than patricide, or a person killing his own father. Some other types of parricide include fratricide and sororicide, or the killing of one's own brother and sister, respectively. These usually refer to adult victims, since infanticide is the term used to describe the killing of young children.
Individuals who commit these types of crimes are typically adults, rather than children. Research also suggests that males are more likely than females to commit this crime. Offenders who are not mentally ill usually come from a violent home filled with abuse, including sexual abuse and physical abuse.
Throughout history, there have been several examples of parricide, particularly patricide, in famous literature. One such example is a Greek myth of Oedipus. In this story, Oedipus leaves home after an oracle foresees him killing his father and marrying his mother. Along his journey, he encounters a man who, unbeknownst to him, is his real father. After solving the riddle of the Sphinx, Oedipus is granted the queen's hand in marriage, only to discover she is actually his mother.
Tacitus, a senator and historian in ancient Rome, referred to the punishment for parricide as the parricide's doom. This punishment involved severely flogging the offender before sealing him in a leather bag filled with a snake, a rooster, a dog, and a monkey. The leather bag was then thrown into a river. Today, the punishment for parricide is not quite as creative.
One of the most famous cases of parricide occurred in Japan in 1968, and is often referred to as the Tochigi patricide case. After being repeatedly raped for years, 22-year-old Chiyo Aizawa strangled her father to death. This case was not only unusual because the offender was female, but it also forced Japan to change its severe punishment guidelines for parricide. After hearing the events leading up to the case, Aizawa received an uncommonly lenient sentence.
Another famous parricide occurred in Idaho in 2003. In September of that year, 16-year-old Sarah Marie Johnson shot and killed both of her parents. As of 2011, she was serving out her life sentence in a woman's correctional facility in Idaho. This case was so publicized for a few reasons. First, Johnson was a young female, and may individuals who commit these type of crimes are adult males. Additionally, she committed both matricide and patricide at the same time, which is also considered to be relatively rare.