Can Violence Be Genetic and Inherited? Consider My Family’s Tales of Grisly Murder

Read Philip Jett's interesting guest post about his family's experiences with murder, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win Jett's true crime novel, The Death of an Heir: Adolph Coors III and the Murder That Rocked an American Brewing Dynasty!

Scientists around the world have been researching whether there is a link between a person’s genetic makeup and the commission of crime. The so-called “warrior gene,” first identified in 1993, is a variant of the X chromosome that supposedly interferes with the inhibition of impulsive aggressive behavior. The theory has gained so much attention that a murderer’s defense attorneys in Tennessee sent his blood sample to Vanderbilt University for analysis. The presence of the gene saved the convicted man from the death penalty.

Interestingly, I had the opportunity to consider an inherited murder gene when I was only 12 years old, long before recent scientific study. For on Friday afternoon, June 1, 1973, the body of Patricia Williams was tragically discovered lying in a pool of blood on her family’s living room floor. The coroner determined that she had been stabbed 51 times. She was only 13; a year older than me. She rode my school bus. The last day of school had only been days earlier.

My mother made us stay inside that weekend. She then participated in a telephone marathon with family and neighbors to discuss who could have done such a horrible thing. The investigative eye quickly focused on Patricia’s household and her 19-year-old brother-in-law, James Daniel “Danny” Bramlett. He had attended school with my sister. Danny initially denied being at the home until a witness came forward and placed him nearby.

James Daniel
After further questioning, a crying Danny told authorities that he’d been drinking earlier that morning and fell asleep on the living room couch where Patricia sat playing cards. “When it came clear to me [that Patricia was dead], I was standing over her [with a knife] and I had done it,” he said in a signed confession. No motive was given. Five months later, Danny received a sentence of ten to fifteen years in state prison for second-degree murder.

If the frenzied stabbing of a 13-year-old schoolmate wasn’t enough to scare me stupid, my mother felt compelled to share another vicious murder with me that occurred when she was a little girl: a stabbing murder committed by Danny’s great-uncle.

On December 19, 1940, Cecil Jourdan had gone into town with my great-grand uncle and others to do some Christmas shopping for his wife and three young sons. On the return trip, the driver dropped Jourdan at a side road with fellow traveler, Paul Bramlett, who offered to help Jourdan carry his packages. Fewer than 500 yards from Jourdan’s home, Bramlett and Jourdan got into a drunken argument. Bramlett slit Jourdan’s throat “from ear to ear” four times and stabbed him repeatedly until his clothes were nearly ripped away. He then dragged Jourdan’s blood-drenched body into a ditch.

Newspaper headline of Cecil Jourdan’s murder.

After brutally slaying Jourdan, the 25-year-old Bramlett washed his bloody hands in a neighbor’s sink before having dinner with them. He visited other neighbors that same night, including my great-aunt and uncle, before confessing his terrible crime to a brother-in-law three hours later. “I did it with my knife,” he said. Paul Bramlett received 99 years in a Nashville prison for first-degree murder. Both men’s children attended school with my mother.

See also: Phillip Jett discusses his family's role in what are rumored to be the last words of John Wilkes Booth.

Bookended between the Paul and Danny Bramlett murders were two other slayings involving their kinfolk—not so frequently recounted or as horrific perhaps, but murders nonetheless. On August 7, 1956, Paul Bramlett’s nephew, Robert, shot a man and then turned the gun on himself after his wife narrowly escaped through an open window. Five days later, in an unrelated incident, Paul’s brother, C. L. Bramlett, was the murder victim when his father-in-law delivered a shotgun blast during an argument between the two men.

The Bramlett murders frightened several generations of my family and others in the community. We still talk about the grisly murders, often focusing on the kinship of the perpetrators. At age 12, I may have considered a mean gene or an FU chromosome to explain such horrible crimes. Today, however, I realize that’s it not that simple, particularly when you consider that one-third of the world’s population is said to possess the warrior gene. I think violent crime has more to do with a combination of maltreatment, circumstance, and emotion—particularly when alcohol or drugs act as a catalyst—than the presence of a warrior gene. But then again, I’m not a scientist; perhaps continued research may shed more light on this dark subject one day.

Are you aware of any murders committed by related individuals? Are there any murders that frightened you as a child that you’d like to share? If so, I’d be very interested to read your comments.

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Philip Jett is a former corporate attorney who has represented multinational corporations, CEOs, and celebrities from the music, television, and sports industries. He is the author of The Death of an Heir: Adolph Coors III and the Murder that Rocked an American Brewing Dynasty. Jett now lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Comments

  1. MaryC

    No to both questions. Interesting post.

  2. John Smith

    If this were England, these crimes would be fodder for that old “History’s Crimes” show, with its quaint and horrific old-time murders. Very interesting! I’ll have to keep a look out on the Coors book.

  3. Jennifer Hodges

    Fascinating topic. My brother told me the Texas Chainsaw guy was never caught, on the loose and whereabouts unknown. Spooked me considering I lived on a farm with big cornfields in my back yard! (I peeked around the corner, was not supposed to be watching the movie…egads!!!)

  4. CathyZ

    I can’t wait to read Philip’s book. Interesting topic.

  5. Mindy Thomas

    Terrific read!! This really makes one wonder if violent behavior can be linked genetically. It will be interesting to see what scientific studies come out regarding this topic in the future.
    I really like the writers style and will be anxious to get his new book.

  6. Karen Munyon

    Can’t wait to read this book, the article sucked me in!!

  7. lasvegasnv

    scary

  8. Nicole Bailey

    Thought Provoking! Looking forward to reading the book!

  9. Nicole Bailey

    Thought Provoking! Looking forward to reading the book!

  10. Gordon Bingham

    During my career as a probation officer I woked on several pre-sentnence investigations dealing with similar murders.

  11. David Thornock

    I’ve been looking through family history records for “interesting” characters because I want to learn their stories. Never thought that some of their behaviours could be genetically driven. Interesting thought to ponder on.

  12. David Thornock

    I’ve been looking through family history records for “interesting” characters because I want to learn their stories. Never thought that some of their behaviours could be genetically driven. Interesting thought to ponder on.

  13. Bob Streiter

    Very interesting read and well written. I don’t believe people’s behavior is genetically driven, at least not in the sense of commiting crimes or murder. I am so opposite of what my father was like, thank G-d. Can’t wait to read Mr. Jets book regarding Adolph Coors. Should be very interesting.

  14. SHeryl Gordon

    Fascinating topic and well written! Looking forward to reading “Death of an Heir”. Well done, Philip!

  15. Meg Fortney

    No murder in my family tree that I’m aware of, nor do I personally feel a Killer instinct (except when it comes to insects in the house!) I enjoyed reading this article and pondering the possibility of a genetic predisposition to violence and murderous acts. hum….very interesting read, Philip.

  16. Don McClure

    Love the cover!

  17. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    I am not violent! But only if I win! Yes!

  18. Richard Hicks

    Love the cover on this!

  19. Sandy Klocinski

    No murders committed by relatives that I am aware of…although I had an Aunt that disappeared and my mother (her sister) always said that her husband killed her. I don’t recall any murders that frightened me as a child

  20. Andrew Gordon

    fascinating

  21. Shannon Baas

    I would like this.

  22. Deb Philippon

    Fascinating, dark topic. The first true crime book I read was In Cold Blood, and it completely creeped me out. Well, wish me luck!

  23. Barbara Lima

    No to both. Wow, just wow!

  24. JULES M.

    this sounds really interesting!

  25. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win!

  26. L Peters

    Kind of chilling to think there might be a genetic connection. Hopefully there are things to overcome such predispositions. Thanks for the interesting discussion. Can’t wait to read your book. thanks

  27. Joy Isley

    No to both quesrions that were aksed.
    Enjoyed reading the comments. Am looking forward to reading this one.

  28. Marjorie Manharth

    Thank heavens I know no one who has murdered – yet. Or at least that I know of. Sounds like a fascinating book.

  29. Susan Meek

    The Zodiac murders still frighten my, because they never caught him & at least one survivor knew the killer. Manson & his band also frightened me, it was just so random.

  30. Susan Meek

    The Zodiac murders still frighten my, because they never caught him & at least one survivor knew the killer. Manson & his band also frightened me, it was just so random.

  31. blondiebarb

    No I do not know any related individuals. The scariest was the Manson murders. Your book sounds very interesting.

  32. Janice Santillo

    no to both but I remember the murder of a young high school girl close to where I lived and eventually went to high school. Creeped me out. The murderer was never caught. Creepy.

  33. Michael Carter

    I’d love to win this.
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks!

  34. Rose Jones

    Not aware of any murders. Ted Bundy was from the town that I live in now.

  35. Donna Shaw

    This sounds like an interesting concept. I would love to learn more. Thank you for the chance to win this book.

  36. Doris Calvert

    Interesting! Something to think about and would love to read all about it!

  37. Carolyn

    My answer is no to the first question. To the second question – I was in third or fourth grade when the assination attempt against President Ford occurred by one of Charles Manson’s followers – Squeaky Fromme. There was a big write-up in Time Magazine on the assination attempt and Squeaky Fromme and then another large write-up on the murders by Manson’s followers that occurred in the 1960s. I read all that and woke up with nightmares for weeks.

  38. Carl

    Sure, there are plenty of murders within families. I think of the Menendez brothers for example. Thanks for the chance to win this book.

  39. shannon calvin

    I’ve aut have not always wondered about this but have not explored. Wasn’t to far in our past that we believed forehead measurements ment damage and danger, later disproved. looking forward to your take

  40. Terry Pearson

    No to question #1 and Ye to #2, Sharon Tate’s murder. Charles Manson plagued my dreams as a child.

  41. ZS Seastrunk

    Interesting concept!

  42. susan beamon

    I have to say no to both of your questions. I don’t believe there is a mystery gene that makes some people more likely to commit murder. If one mistreats a good dog bad enough, one should not be surprised if it turns and bites one. Greed and booze account for more murders than any other reasons.

  43. Lori Provenzano

    I have to consider myself fortunate that nothing like this has ever intersected in any way with my life, but it’s all infinitely interesting to read about nonetheless.

  44. Kim Keithline

    sounds great sign me up

  45. Susanne Troop

    No to both questions!

  46. Susanne Troop

    No to both questions!

  47. K. Martin

    Nature or nurture? We will most likely never know the answer to the question of what makes a psychopath — but oh, it’s so much fun to ponder! Hope to win this book, which, with its author’s comments on genetics, evidently leans toward “nature” and is sure to offer some interesting points for that side of the argument.

  48. Karl Stenger

    Sounds fascinating.

  49. Kim Salmi

    interesting concept …right up there with nature versus nurture

  50. Kim Salmi

    interesting concept …right up there with nature versus nurture

  51. Daniel Morrell

    no and no

  52. Pat Murphy

    Interesting comment> would be interesting to see if it was proved.

  53. Laurent Latulippe

    I’d love to read this.

  54. JAMES LYNAM

    Another Winner. I want this.

  55. Crystal Blackburn

    Interesting and thought provoking article. I’d like to read the Coors book.

  56. Polly Barlow

    Not to the point of murder but my mother believed that in every family with more than two children that there was a “Black Sheep” and it was generally the middle child. Thinking back over the history of my family and that of mother’s family I can see the pattern.
    I would like to read “The Death Of an Heir”.

  57. Nissa Evans

    I really want to read this book. I love anything true crime.

  58. IBCsurvivor

    I firmly believe that suseptbility to addiction is inherited. Thus the “sins of the father” or mother or whomever, can be visited on the offspring. I cannot wait to read this!

  59. Barbara Eveland

    I firmly believe that susceptibility to addiction is inherited. Thus the “sins of the father” or mother or whomever, can be visited on the offspring. I cannot wait to read this!

  60. Karen Hester

    I would like to know more about the death in the Coors family.

  61. elsie321

    Great conversation, and captures my interest. A co-worker years ago was one of 6 siblings of a single mother who was murdered and remained unsolved who dunnit.

  62. Patricia

    An interesting question which will probably never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction!

  63. Jamie Whitten McCauley

    Thank you for this opportunity.

  64. Penny Snyder

    Would love to read this!!~

  65. Penny Snyder

    Would love to read this!!~

  66. jodi scott

    No unsolved murders in my family. Would enjoy reading more about this case

  67. Robert Grieco

    Looks extremely interesting and scary to say the least. Hope I win!

  68. Saundra K. Warren

    Nature vs Nurture

  69. Sally Schmidt

    This looks like a fascinating post. I enjoy reading about true crime. Nothing to add. We had the peeping Tom who would roam the neighborhood (naked) while his wife was working the midnight shift at the phone company, but otherwise my childhood was fairly quiet.

  70. Clydia DeFreese

    I hope crime isn’t genetic…..that’s a terrible burden for a person to carry… Thanks for the sweeps.

  71. Rhonda Barkhouse

    Excellent article. I would love to read this book.

  72. Barbara Fish

    I hope I win!

  73. Donald Forsythe

    [b]Sounds like a great read! Makes me wonder about my famil![/b]

  74. bill norris

    sounds like a fun read

  75. Barbara Bolam

    You know, I’ve often wondered the same thing. I’d love to read his book!

  76. Barbara Bolam

    You know, I’ve often wondered the same thing. I’d love to read his book!

  77. Linda Peters

    great review would love to read this, thanks

  78. Daily Reader

    Very well written! Definitely an interesting read from Jett and one that brings up some fascinating questions worth pondering. Makes me excited to read The Death of an Heir later this month!

  79. vicki wurgler

    no to those questions, the book sounds so interesting

  80. samantha cox

    Seems like it would be an interesting read

  81. Susan Smoaks

    this sounds really interesting. i do not know of any personally.

  82. Valerie Wiesner

    I am fascinated by this particular topic. Is the inclination towards violence ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’? Maybe neither? People with temporal and frontal lobe brain injuries may sometimes become violent….My ex husband, out of fear late one night, killed a man who silently entered his property and would not answer him when he asked who was there. He is still in jail awaiting trial, although this is going on the fourth year now. My ex does have a history of violence, but he also has a steel plate in the front of his skull. Interesting question!!!!

  83. Angie Stormer

    My grandfather shot a man in the back of the head. The man he shot had a child held hostage with a knife to his neck. He had let my grandfather enter the backseat of the car to talk but with the condition, he could see all weapons put on the ground. What the man did not know was that my grandfather had a small gun around his ankle. To save the child’s life he had no choice. Both my Grandfathers were Peace Officers. But on that side of my bloodline, there have been multiple unexplained deaths a long time ago. So I think it is possible it runs in the bloodline (Genetics).

  84. helen martin

    What an interesting premise. Sounds like a great read. Is there such a thing as a “bad seed”?

  85. Tracy Gibson

    Hmmmm…..very interesting. Can’t wait to read!

  86. HESTER MAYO

    Would love to add to my collection!

  87. Christal Mormann

    I remember reading about a dad who was a murderer while his family and children had no idea….how can anyone lead a life like that?

  88. Lisa Pecora

    Sounds interesting I would love to read this.

  89. Tricha Leary

    The answer is no. Sounds fasinating

  90. Tammy Z Evans

    Are you aware of any murders committed by related individuals? No. Are there any murders that frightened you as a child that you’d like to share?Yes, I grew up on Long Island in New York and the murders that spawned the Amityville Horror books/movies were just a few miles away from where I lived. The murders scared me way before there was any talk about a haunted house.

  91. Jerry Marquardt

    Looks so goos I can barely wait to read it. I would like to thank you so much for your involvement in this fine giveaway. Thanks for giving a chance for us to win.

  92. trish mckee

    I think some members of my family have violent tendencies and addictions, but not murder. I remember when i was little, tehre were two girls down the road that I was not allowed to play with because my mom told me their dad had murdered his parents. I remember being outside and shaking my head when they asked if i wanted to play. The older of the two girls leaned forward and said, “Is it because my dad killed my grandparents?” I wish i knew why he was not in jail or what had happened exactly. Kind of haunts me knowing he lived just down the street.

  93. JAMES LYNAM

    Answer to both is “NO”.
    Eager to read this book.

  94. Sharon Shumway

    My grandfather was a mean scoundrel and a thief. That’s the best I can do. I sure would like to win.

  95. Buddy Garrett

    My answer is no to both questions but it is an interesting topic.

  96. Lily Kwan

    I’m not aware of any murders committed by related individuals.

  97. Regina Marlborough

    A sub teacher set fire that killed parents.

  98. Tim Moss

    I say no to the questions also. Please include me in the drawing.

  99. Carl White

    [b]I remember the first time I murdered someone. Dad was so proud.[/b]

  100. Philip Lawrence

    Genetic or inherited makes no difference since either way it is wrong.

  101. Stephanie Liske

    I am not aware of any murderers or murders that are any way related to anyone I know.

  102. Kimberly Dull

    I find this kind of stuff fascinating

Comments are closed.