No one in the small Canadian city of Medicine Hat could have predicted what would happen to the Richardson family on April 22, 2006. The internet and social media were still in their early stages, and internet safety wasn’t yet a prominent concern. Teenagers everywhere suddenly had the ability to connect with people who seemingly understood them, largely through forums based on a shared interest.
Though 12-year-old Jasmine Richardson initially met 23-year-old Jeremy Steinke at a punk rock show, the two kept in touch over online forums. How did this connection end with three members of the Richardson family dead and a child on trial, and what can we learn from Jeremy Steinke’s mental health?
Developing an Identity
The Richardsons were a family of four: Debra, the mother; Marc, the father; Jacob, the younger son; and Jasmine, the daughter. Jasmine grew up as a good student and an all-around average girl. At around age 11, she adopted a new style, dressing in dark clothes and applying thick black eyeliner. She immersed herself in the early goth subculture online, signing up for websites like VampireFreaks.com and MySpace and expressing interest in morbid topics.
At first, the Richardsons thought she was simply finding herself and forming her own identity, as is normal for a teenager. But when Jasmine started going to local rock shows and befriending older members of the scene, her parents decided to apply stricter rules for her safety.
Jasmine Richardson’s mental health suffered drastically. In her eyes, this was unfair and wrong, and she attempted multiple times to have herself placed in a foster home — to no avail.
Jeremy Steinke’s Mental Health
It was at one of those rock shows that Jasmine, age 12, met Jeremy Steinke. Jeremy was 23 at the time. Having moved around a lot as a child and been through several physically abusive stepfathers, he didn’t have it easy.
Though this was never confirmed, it was suspected that Jeremy was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which affects about one in 1,000 people. He dealt with ADHD and struggled with bullying at school, often referred to by classmates as “Jeremy Stinky.”
Jeremy was also an avid participant in goth culture. He frequently claimed that he was a 300-year-old werewolf with the ability to eat people, and even went so far as to wear a vial of blood around his neck.
A Concerning Turn
After Jasmine and Jeremy hit it off at a show, they exchanged online usernames and agreed to stay in touch, starting a secret relationship. After Jasmine’s parents discovered messages from Jeremy asking Jasmine if they could “kill people together,” they took away her computer and tried to prevent her from seeing him.
The Richardson family’s mental health issues led Debra and Marc to seek family therapy, which helped until Jasmine began sneaking out to see Jeremy. Jasmine grew increasingly frustrated and angry that her parents were keeping her away from him. She expressed this freely to Jeremy, even expressing a desire to kill her parents — a desire he supported. And so two of them began to make a plan.
Jeremy posted messages to his blog railing against Jasmine’s parents. The posts got into how Jasmine was being treated and Jeremy’s desire to “help” her by killing her parents. “She is slowly going insane,” reads one entry. “She continues to think that I came into her life to help her out.” He also reportedly told a friend that the movie Natural Born Killers, in which a couple kills the girlfriend’s family, was “the best love story of all time.”
Jeremy’s third stepfather was physically abusive, not only to Jeremy and his siblings but to their mother as well. On at least one occasion, Jeremy stepped between the man and his mother, suffering a brutal beating as a result.
Having this experience at a young age may have instilled some sort of protective desire in Jeremy, especially after being teased relentlessly by his peers. It’s possible that despite his low self-worth, Jeremy saw the opportunity to “protect” Jasmine from her “abusive” parents as a chance to be a hero.
April 22, 2006
Jeremy showed up at Jasmine’s house late at night after consuming a large amount of drugs and alcohol, ready to carry out their plan. When Marc asked why this was happening, Jeremy responded, “It’s what your daughter wanted,” before killing him and his wife. Jasmine took on the task of killing her 8-year-old brother Jacob.
When the grisly scene was discovered and Jasmine was nowhere to be found, officials feared she had been kidnapped. Only when a guidance counselor discovered a hand-drawn comic in her locker did officials realize they were dealing with something different. The comic depicted a girl setting a house on fire with her family inside, then fleeing the scene with her boyfriend.
Jasmine Richardson’s Mental Health: What Happened?
While Jeremy Steinke confessed to an undercover police officer and was later sentenced to three life terms in prison without having to be declared mentally fit for trial, Jasmine Richardson’s mental health is slightly more mysterious.
As she was 12 years old at the time of the murders, Canadian privacy law protects Jasmine’s psychological evaluations and other information collected by investigators. She was, however, found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to 10 years. Four were to be served in a youth psychiatric facility.
In 2016, Jasmine was freed after the successful completion of her sentence. During trial, she claimed that Jeremy ordered her to kill her brother after he finished killing her parents. Jeremy, on the other hand, had previously claimed that Jasmine killed her brother of her own volition.
Jasmine was 12 with a developing brain, and it’s possible she didn’t truly want to go through with the murder. When an older individual grooms a child the way Jeremy had, it can lead to psychological dependence. Adding in that Jasmine’s prefrontal cortex was years away from fully developing, it’s plausible that Jasmine could have become so attached to Jeremy that she was willing to eliminate anything that stood between them.