Brian Draper, Documentary, Jacob Ind, Joshua Rofé, Josiah Ivy, Juvenile killers, Life sentences, Murder, Review, Sean Taylor, teenkillers.org, Torey Adamcik
D: Joshua Rofé / 75m
A candid, often unsettling look at juvenile killers, Lost for Life looks at four cases where teenagers have committed murder and are currently serving life sentences in US prisons.
The first case is that of Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik, a couple of sixteen year olds who convinced each other it would be a good idea to kill their classmate, Cassie Stoddart. One night they went to her home and stabbed her to death. The second case involves Jacob Ind, who at fifteen, killed his mother and stepfather by shooting them. Third is the case of Josiah Ivy, who at sixteen killed two strangers, Stacy Dahl and Gary Alflen, at their home. And lastly, there’s Sean Taylor, who at seventeen killed a rival gang member in a drive-by shooting.
Each case features the juvenile killers several years on from when they committed their crimes, and explores their reasons for killing and how they’ve dealt with the repercussions of their actions, and how – or if – they’ve come to terms with what they did. There’s also input from their families as well as some of the relatives of the victims, and the movie also takes in the recent Supreme Court decision relating to whether or not minors who commit murder should be sentenced to life without parole.
All four stories are potent in their own way, and initially it’s hard to understand just how any one of these murders could have come about, but thanks to the involvement of the perpetrators, it becomes clearer and clearer as the movie goes on that there’s never just one factor that sets things in motion, and that the reasons for these dreadful acts are often complex and unpredictable. What makes these cases all the more interesting is the distance in time and attitude that these “teen killers” have travelled in their own efforts to recognise and grasp both the enormity of what they’ve down, and how their deeds have affected others.
Brian is perhaps the most balanced – if that word can be applied to someone who deliberately set out to kill a girl he was attracted to – of the group, and despite an intermittent stutter, is quite articulate as he talks about what he did and how he’s come to terms with his guilt and how “broken” he was as a teenager. By contrast, his accomplice in the crime, Torey, is shown evincing an almost complete denial of his actions, and he’s supported by his parents who in one uncomfortable moment – both for Torey and the viewer – state his innocence as if it was the most obvious thing imaginable. (And this in spite of the fact that the pair filmed themselves planning the murder, and then again after they’d committed it.)
Jacob is equally articulate but there’s something not quite right about his responses and the moments when he closes his eyes – which happen quite a lot – it’s as if he’s reliving the memories of killing his mother and stepfather. It’s an unnerving possibility, and he’s almost casual about the effect killing them has had on him. He’s aware of the wickedness of his crime, but it all comes across as if it had happened to someone else, and he talks dispassionately about the events that led up to the crime, including his persuasion of a friend to carry out the murders first of all, and his equally worrying admission that he shot both parents almost as if it was a fait accompli (his friend having failed to do the “job” properly).
The saddest case is that of Josiah, abused as a child and seen as a withdrawn adult, his emotions and his ability to talk about the random killings that will see him spend the rest of his life in prison so suppressed that his lawyer has to instruct him in how to respond from off camera. To compensate, the movie spends more time with his sister Amber. She proves to be an eloquent interviewee, but even she struggles to completely understand how her brother could have killed two complete strangers “just to see what it felt like”. From this we meet Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, who founded the website www.teenkillers.org following the deaths of her sister and brother-in-law and their unborn baby, and Sharletta Evans who has forgiven the killers of her three year old son and thinks other teen “lifers” should be given a “first chance”. Seeing the two women together is inspiring – albeit for different reasons – and adds a layer of emotion that helps show the effect that these crimes have on the victims’ families.
Sean’s story shows how redemption can be achieved. In prison he became interested in Islam and eventually became a Muslim, changing not only his religion but his approach to life, rejecting his gang background and lifestyle, and forging a new life for himself. His moving account of his rehabilitation offers hope for all those teenagers who have killed without giving due consideration of the effect their actions will have on others, and the way in which self-respect can be regained. Without him the movie would have been painfully pessimistic, but thanks to Rofé’s considered approach to the material and the careful assembly of the various interviews, Lost for Life is a captivating, intriguing, and necessarily thought-provoking documentary that wisely avoids looking for definitive answers as to why these terrible crimes happened, but asks if we can ever forgive the people who commit them. It’s a difficult question, and as mentioned before, the candour the movie invokes goes some way to increasing the difficulty in deciding, but without this challenge, the movie would not be as rewarding or as stimulating as it is.
Rating: 8/10 – a tough subject given fair treatment, and very pertinent in terms of what’s happened recently in US law, Lost for Life paints a terrifying portrait of youth gone awry; by shying away from a more sensationalist approach, this is an impressive, often haunting documentary that is both horrific and uplifting.
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I think you should verify Draper’s first name, or at least the name he goes by in several other documents and tv programs. I believe it is Brian.
Hi there –
Thanks for the heads up – can’t believe I put Keith instead of Brian!
Torey Adamcik and his parents are monster and pieces of crap. . While watching the show he states he is in jail for someone else mistakes and his parents sit there agreement. He refuses to accept his responsibility and his parents. He got up Sept 22, 2006 dressed, went to school with a camera filming the victim knowing he was going to kill her that night.
Him and his parents are blaming Brian. The videotape clearly shows he planned and wanted to murder Cassie since early that morning. Brian didn’t influence him he wanted to. It is hard to believe that him and his fucked up parents are saying he was influenced and its not his fault.
He stabbed a person that is the most personal violation one could do to another human being.
Brian and his parents out of all of this seem to be most remorseful.
These kids need to be in prison and pay for the crimes. They are not 2 and 3 they know when you kill someone they are not coming back.
This crap of they don’t have the mind of an adult IS BS. For a teenager to have the initial thought of murder then plan it out and go through with it shows they have sense. They are doing the exact same thing if a adult decides to do the same path of murder.
We are so focused on these teenagers what about the people laying in a cold grave? What about them. The trauma and the fear the victims went through knowing.
For a teenager to think about murder at that age do you think as a adult they will not have the same thought process?
Torey and his parents actually really pissed me off anytime they were on the screen. Torey looked like he was trying not to full-out smile while denying his involvement in the crime, and his parents — especially his mother — kept butting in to talk about what a great kid he is and how he isn’t Brian. All the other inmates had to speak for themselves. Why did Torey get to have his parents there?
Torey and his parents need to accept the reality: he was involved in the entire crime. From planning it and talking about it on camera to driving to Cassie’s house to committing the crime to leaving the scene. No parent wants to admit that her child did something so vile, but to sit there and baby him and continuously blame the other suspect? Torey didn’t even know what to say for himself — he seemed so bored and like he couldn’t be bothered. Good thing mommy dearest was there to feed him his lines, huh?
I might be wrong, but I think the reason Torey’s parents were there was to show – perhaps – that not all teen killers accept that their actions were wrong, and if you have parents or loved ones who behave as Torey’s parents did, that their son couldn’t have been a part of Cassie Jo’s murder, then it’s unsurprising that they’ll hide behind those assertions. In the end, nobody in Torey’s family is able to deal with what he did, and in a sense, that’s another tragedy.
I just hope he NEVER gets out, in spite of their insane crusade. That “kid” is a young Ted Bundy and if he’s released, I would stake my entire life savings on him killing again. You can’t fix someone like that. He is absolutely a sociopath and was clearly the brains behind the crime. Brian needs extreme counseling and I don’t know that he should ever be released, but he does seem truly remorseful and his parents love him while still accepting what he’s done.
If either of them could be rehabilitated it would be Brian. He seems to have a conscience, awareness of and regret for what he did, and good, loving parents who are honest about what happened. Torey’s parents just make me sick. They were constantly speaking for him like he was an innocent baby, and refuse to admit that he has any responsibility for anything. They are the worst sort of enablers. Even Torey was constantly looking startled by HOW innocent they claim he is. You know that’s bad when the killer is looking confused and saying “uh…yeah, I…guess” when they’re saying he’s innocent. It would be funny if it wasn’t such a serious, sick crime.
I thought this was a great review and agreed with everything you pointed on except about Jacob. I hope you will consider updating to include additional information.
Jacob Ind and his brothers suffered sexual and physical abuse most of their childhoods by their stepfather and mother. The woman who gave birth to him (I don’t feel right calling her his mother again) would actually administer enemas to the boys before sexually assaulted by their step father. I think that more than clarifies what seemed “off” about him. He most likely was reliving it with pleasure. If you look up his interviews, he declares prison a great life in contrast than to his childhood so I can guarantee you that he has no regrets.
Hi Amy –
Thanks for the kind words. It’s been over a year since I saw Lost for Life, but it has stuck with me. Of the five, Jacob seemed to me to be the least affected by what he’d done, as if it was of no consequence, or something that just had to be done like cleaning dishes or putting out the garbage. I think it’s always a good idea to “revisit” documentaries, just to find out what’s going on since the filming, and an update is a really good idea. I’m not sure when it’ll happen, but I’ll definitely give you a heads up. Thanks again –
Yeah, Jacob should be permanently in a psych home but not prison. Based on what I’ve heard about the abuse he suffered, he did the world a service by killing his “caregivers” off. They did deserve it and I think his actions were completely understandable. That said, his childhood clearly left him extremely damaged and I don’t think that he’s capable of functioning as a normal, healthy member of society. So again, I would vote for him to be in a comfortable asylum somewhere, with as many freedoms as possible, but not released into the world.
Hi Amy –
Here’s that heads up I promised you. A follow-up post to my review of Lost for Life will be online in the next hour. Let me know what you think. Regards –
LJ Gilmore said:
This is the 4th time I’ve watched this and it still brings tears to my eyes! I completely agree with almost all of the comments listed. I can not believe Torey Adamcik’s parents are acting the way they are, I recently run across a video on youtube claiming how innocent Torey is LOL! The way Brian talked about what he did brought tears to my eyes only because he knows what he did and he actually takes responsibilty for what he did, I am in know way saying he should be set free though. Jacob’s story really tears at my heart and I am always looking for updates concerning him. I know what he did was wrong and I know the way he talks about the crime comes across a little cold BUT looked at how he was raised I’m not saying its an excuse or that all people that are raised in that way murder people but he is one of those cases that I truely believe should be looked at and even released! As far as Josiah I don’t know because I have yet to find anything that documents the abuse he and his sister say happened. I do wish all these people and their victims to try and make something out of the horrible tragedies that have happened to them!
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Jacob Ind presented a self-defense case at his murder trial but the jury didn’t buy it because Jacob’s lawyer wouldn’t let him testify. When kidnap victims kill their abductors we don’t expect them to feel remorse. Jacob was a captive. The stepfather was a serial pedophile who got off on raping little boys. Self-defense isn’t a crime.
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I cannot get Jacob, Brian, and Josiah (and his sister) out of my head since watching the documentary. Unless someone walks in a person’s shoes they have no clue what it’s like to be them. When you’re severely abused and/or neglected by your own parents (as was Jacob’s and Josiah’s case) you can’t understand why your parents hate you so much and it does some really awful things to one’s psyche. One has to disconnect from their heart as much as possible because the rejection and abuse is too painful.
One can only take so much before they snap and lose it in defense of themselves. Fighting back is the only way to keep one from completely disappearing inside. Standing up is to say, I DO MATTER!! And it’s NOT okay to treat me like that!! (I’m referring to Jacob now.) There’s only so many tears a kid can cry before they don’t cry anymore. Before they realize their tears don’t matter, that they don’t matter. And unless a person has felt that kind of pain they don’t need to be judging any child of severe abuse like this because they have no idea what it’s like. An abused and neglected child cannot thinking straight. It’s not as though life ever made sense to them anyway, so how could they know how to think straight.
People who judge these teens have no idea the kind of righteous rage repeated abuse can produce in a person over a long period of time.
I was raised by a father who suffered tremendously from PTSD and was extremely violent towards me and I too used to fantasize about killing him. And he was okay some of the times! But when he wasn’t….
There’s only so much someone can take before they lose it in defense of themselves. No one helped me either, even after finding out about the abuse. No one wanted to intervene back then. I ended up running away because I knew he was going to probably kill me if I didn’t leave. I, an attractive young female was on the streets at 14 years old. I moved around 53 times in 2 1/2 years never finding a safe place. I slept with a knife stuffed in my teddy bear just waiting for my first kill because so many people continuously tried to mess with me. Had I killed the wrong person for trying to rape me I’d probably be serving life w out parole because nobody seems to care about our teens. (Who are actually the next generation of tax payers, or not, so the shallows should!) Teens get such a bad rap and I can’t stand it; teens are just kids!! What kind of society doesn’t care about their teenagers!!?
Our society would rather defend absolutely heinous parents like Jacob’s mother and step-father over a severely abused 15 year old, and then on top of it locks him away for the rest of his life. I cannot wrap my head around that, it’s absolutely insane to me.
Why is it we can defend ourselves anywhere in this country when someone attacks us and it be classified as self-defense but when a child defends themselves against life-long abuse they get life in prison?? I don’t get it, our justice system is a joke.
Sher N said:
Okay. I have to say this because it’s bugging the hell out of me. I can appreciate your time and effort with what you’ve written about this film, but a lot of what you’ve wrote (your opinion ultimately) is based off face value. When we see someone who is a convicted murderer, we already have eyes of judgement the minute we see them in their bland, identical uniforms simply because of the image.
But, regarding Jacob Ind. Have you ever experienced PTSD? For any reason? If the answer is no, you have no right to say just because someone seems “cold” and “distant” to say they’re a monster because society as a whole looks at mental illness with confused faces because practically no one takes the time to look into mental illness and the trauma associated with it.
This kid suffered abuse to THE WORST DEGREE. Even Josiah (whom you have the most sympathy for because he was abused and can clearly (on screen) experience mental issues on a day to day basis. How can you judge someone who suffered molestation from a figure who was supposed to be his father figure, and his own flesh and blood HELP and AIDE the monster doing these things to him and have the audacity to tell that kid that he’s worthless and has no placement in this world? The person who is supposed to protect you… Who brought you into this world… And you judge him because “he looked off”
I am a survivor of sexual abuse from my step parent and I STILL to this day KNOW it affects me in my everyday life. Him and his brother suffered terrible abuse day in and out and you think he’s a monster because of how he acts. He’s intelligent, and the fact that he doesn’t show remorse for what he’s done, despite he circumstances, you think he’s the monster of this whole show. The other commenter was right, that pile of shit with his parents shirking responsibility from what he was a part of and putting it on the other prisoner, Brian, was terrible.
I have sympathy mostly for Brian and definitely Jacob. Josiah I am a little hesitant with because yes he did suffer abuse (we have no idea on what terms, but it must’ve been horrific) but he killed a pregnant woman and her husband to know what it feels like to kill someone. You could say Brian did so too, but you can see the pain that haunts him for his choice and it STAYS with him. Josiah is so far gone in his head, he can’t put responsibility and moral obligation in the same court. He can’t even put his abuse into words (in layman’s terms) because of the trauma. And I think because he does that he can’t take full responsibility for what he’s done until he can confront his own demons and not be babied by parents “righting their wrong” because they abused him as a child and now that he did something bad they feel partly responsible for it. Enabling is still a factor here. They’re intentions are good, but it doesn’t necessarily means it’s what’s best for him in his state. His manner on camera shows the effect of the trauma and what’s it’s caused to his mental health, that’s clearly evident.
But, you truly have no idea what it feels like to be violated by someone who is an adult and knows better. It’s one of the most if not THE MOST terrible act you can commit to someone. It’s rape. You take away more than just bits and pieces of someone. You take away all the things that individual finds wonderful in life. The rapists and pedophiles are always the real monsters. But Jacob ins isn’t one of them. I think the fact that he was calm and collected was what gave you a bad taste in your mouth. I think he should have a chance to be rehabilitated. Because those monsters took away his life, not the other way around. Regarding Brian and all the others, no matter how much remote they show, they took away someone’s life that did NOTHING TO THEM. NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. THAT DOES NOT DESERVE LIFE OUTSIDE PRISON. EVER. no matter how badly they feel. They should feel bad. They can still do the right thing right where they are and that’s by dedicating every day they spend there thinking about those they killed because those people can’t have lives.
Jacob inds parents don’t deserve breath. They never did.
Karma Marie said:
I completely disagree with you on Jacob. I just watched the film and to me, Jacob seems to be very remorseful for hurting his Brother, family and friends. He also seemed genuine when he said that it took decades for him to realize that if he can believe himself that he committed the crime due in part to his abuse, then he should have also understood that his Mother and Step-Father did those things to him because they were abused, as well. Thing is, at the age that he committed the crime, most young minds will not think in these sorts of complex terms, especially with the absence of a loving home or any good influences to teach them. There was a case (you probably know it) where a Father shot and killed his Son’s abuser after his Son was kidnapped and sexually abused. Everyone I have ever seen comment on the case has said that if they were him, they would have done the same thing and that he doesn’t deserve to be treated like a typical murderer (he got a fairly lenient sentence but I don’t remember what it was- maybe just probation) We can put ourselves in the shoes of a parent who learns that horrific things has happened to their child but it’s not as easy to put ourselves in the shoes of the one who is actually abused. If we can garner up so much sympathy for this Father, why can’t we understand that a child of abuse is backed into a corner where there is nowhere to turn and no safe place! If his parents did to him what his Brother testified, I don’t feel sorry for them and I don’t think that he should still be in prison. He didn’t kill a random person or someone who broke up with him, he killed his abusers. Completely different to me. Plus, how can you have sympathy for Josiah- who was also abused in a religious cult, but not Jacob? I don’t think we saw very much of Josiah in the documentary and I wasn’t able to tell if he was remorseful or not- but he didn’t even kill his abusers, he killed a random couple. Just my point of view, it seems a lot of people see different things, here. Perhaps we can all agree that this was thought provoking.
Pamela J Ochsner said:
As for Josiah Seth Ivy, I hope he remains in jail forever. Lots of kids are abused and grow up and don’t kill people. I worked with juvenile delinquents and with foster kids. Some have grown up, married, had a family and still keep in touch. Josiah must be held accountable for his actions. I worked with one of his victims and knew the spouse. They were good people who didn’t deserve to be gunned down just so Josiah could find out “what it felt like”. I feel sorry for people who have been abused, but it doesn’t give them a free pass or a “get out of jail free” card. Keep him in jail or he could very possibly kill again just to see “what it feels like”.