Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An unusual case of murder-suicide

Murder-suicide is strangely an all-too common crime. I don't know if the numbers have changed in recent years, but an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported in 1992 that they account for "approximately 1,000 to 1,500 deaths yearly in the United States. The annual incidence of these events is relatively constant across industrialized nations and has not significantly changed over several decades."

In the book, "A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812," Martha Ballard tells the story of a farm family in Maine where the father murdered all of his children, then killed his wife and then committed suicide. Before I read that, it hadn't occurred to me that such incidents took place back in the 18th Century. But, alas, they did. And in all likelihood, they go back thousands of years.

Most of the time the murderer is the father of the family. He does not always kill his children in these cases. I've read of many where the man, who normally has some history of domestic violence, loses his wife's love and in a rage kills her and then kills himself. My guess as to the reason why it is almost always the man of the family is testosterone. Men have a lot more of it in their systems. And it makes men prone to violence.

However, today, there is a breaking news story out of San Clemente in Orange County about a family killed murder-suicide in which the murderer is likely the mother of the family. She seems to have killed her children and an older woman, who I would guess is her mother and the grandmother to the kids.
A 38-year-old mother and her two daughters, ages 2 1/2 and 4, were among four family members found dead in a home in a gated San Clemente neighborhood, authorities said this morning.

Another relative, a woman in her 60s, also was found dead in the home on Calle Sonador, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities are now calling the case a murder-suicide. The bodies found in the hallway were so close together they were touching, authorities said. But they still cannot say how the family died and who the killer was.

“There's no question the two children were killed first, and one of the adult females is the killer, which is unusual by itself,” Amormino said. Investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy, which is expected to identify the victims and causes of death.

"We know where the father was, and the father was nowhere near the crime scene." Amormino said.

What has always baffled me is why someone who is suicidal thinks it makes sense to kill others along with himself? If he is going to be dead, why should he care if others go on living? Or is it the case with murder-suicide that murder is ultimately his great impulse and that he only kills himself because once he has committed murder he lacks the guts to allow law enforcement to punish him for his crimes?

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