IS THE ANTI-DEPRESSANT ZOLOFT RESPONSIBLE FOR A 12-YEAR-OLD KILLING HIS GRANDPARENTS? "48 HOURS MYSTERY," SATURDAY, APRIL 16
Chris Pittman Gives Exclusive Interview to "48 Hours Mystery"
Chris Pittman shot his grandparents, Joe and Joy Pittman, at close range and then set their house on fire. According to family members, Chris, a well-mannered and shy 12-year-old, who lived with his grandparents, loved them more than anything. So, why would Chris kill them? Is the anti-depressant, Zoloft, which he was prescribed shortly before the murders, really to blame, as his lawyers claim? Correspondent Erin Moriarty has an exclusive interview with the now 16-year-old and reports for 48 HOURS MYSTERY: "Prescription for Murder?" to be broadcast Saturday, April 16 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
When Chester, S.C. sheriff's officers arrived at the Pittmans' destroyed home that November 2001 night, they learned young Chris was missing and so was his grandfather's truck. As state investigators took over the scene, Chris was found 35 miles away, with the truck, and had told police a man broke into the house, killed Joe and Joy and kidnapped him at gunpoint. Chris' story didn't stand up and he soon confessed that he had killed his grandparents because "they deserved it." At the time, Chris showed no remorse and no emotion. Prosecutor Barney Giese says it was a lifetime of mistreatment and neglect by other family members that caused Chris to kill after his grandfather disciplined him.
What defense could Chris possibly have? After all, he gave a complete confession to investigators who confronted him, providing step-by-step details of how he got a .410 shotgun, shot his grandparents as they slept, stole money and weapons and his grandfather's truck before setting the house on fire, and then fled into the night.
As Chris' family and lawyers searched for answers to solve what seemed to be a complete mystery, they came to an unexpected conclusion -- that the sweet, shy, gentle boy they knew had somehow been turned into a stone-cold, calculating killer by the most popularly prescribed anti-depressant in the country -- Zoloft.
The "Zoloft made him do it" defense might seem a long shot were it not for information coming from a series of hearings conducted by the Food and Drug Administration in Washington. That testimony, along with a newly released series of scientific studies, strongly indicates that for some children and adolescents, Zoloft can dramatically increase the risk of suicide. But suicide is one thing and homicide another. Can Zoloft really be the reason that young Chris turned violent and became a killer?
48 HOURS MYSTERY Correspondent Erin Moriarty obtained the only television interview with Chris. He claims he killed only because of the medicine he was taking.
CHRIS PITTMAN: "You just can't control yourself."
ERIN MORIARTY: "Were you aware you were actually going to get the rifle and loading it?"
CP: "Unh-uh. It was just like you sitting there watching TV. I mean, everything that, you know, going on. It can't be stopped. "
EM: "Had you ever felt that kind of anger before?"
EM: "What did it feel like?"
CP: "It's just like it all just exploded. I mean, just exploded."
EM: "Why do you think you did do that that night?"
CP: "Medicine. That's the only�reason that I know. That's the only reason--logical reason-- that I could see why it happened. The littlest thing would set me off. I was like a bomb that was ready to blow up."
Chris tells Moriarty his account of what it felt like right before he killed his grandparents.
CP: "I was just laying there trying to go to sleep and it was just like these voices in my head, just echoing in my head, getting louder and louder and faster."
EM: "And what were these voices saying?"
EM: "Were you aware of what you had done?"
CP: "I thought it was all a dream."
CP: "I finally got to the point after all this, got to the point where---that�I haven't forgiven myself, but I kind of felt peace with myself. And�the trial comes and then it all comes back."
Even though he was 12-years-old at the time of the killings, Chris would be tried as an adult on two counts of murder, facing a possible life sentence. Is Chris legally responsible for the brutal deaths of his grandparents? Or, did Zoloft, designed to help Chris through a bout of depression, make him unfeeling, unthinking and temporarily insane?
48 HOURS MYSTERY: "Prescription for Murder?" is produced by Peter Henderson, Cassandra Marshall and Jenna Jackson. Charlotte Fuller is associate producer. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer and Susan Zirinsky is the executive producer.