Whenever I blog, I check the headlines for crimes that offer a hook for a more elaborate topic. As I did in 2012, I’ve looked over the blogs I wrote in 2013 and chose some of the stories that inspired me.
We’d just left behind the Sandy Hook tragedy perpetrated in December 2012 by Adam Lanza (still in the news) when early in February we heard about Christopher Dorner, the rogue cop-turned-spree-killer. He’d been fired from the LAPD and he’d penned a lengthy, rambling "manifesto” (6,000 words) that described how he’d inflict vengeance on certain law enforcers and their families. Thus, he’d clear his name and exact revenge. Dorner was on a suicide mission of “asymmetrical” violence, with a long grudge list and a tormented mind. Finally surrounded, he killed himself.
Then on Valentine’s Day, there was the tragic tale about an Olympic hero’s image tarnished. Reeva Steenkamp was fatally shot at the home of the sprinter and double-amputee, Oscar Pistorius. He claimed he was awake during the early morning hours and heard what he believed was an intruder in his bathroom. He grabbed his pistol and shot four times through the door. But the “intruder” was his girlfriend. Was it self-defense, manslaughter during a heated argument, or premeditated murder? That’s the question that remains for the courtroom next year.
The Jodi Arias proceeding seemed to last forever, but that’s because the type of violence it featured was so atypical of a woman. Arias was on trial for the 2008 murder of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. His throat was slit and he’d been shot and repeatedly stabbed. At first, Arias said she wasn’t there. Confronted with evidence that she was, she invented a story about intruders who’d killed Travis and frightened her so much she didn’t seek help. This story finally gave way to a third version: she had killed Travis, but it was self-defense. She was finally convicted on May 8.
A foul odor on July 19 led police to a dead body … and Michael Madison, a 35-year-old convicted sex offender. Then there were two more bodies wrapped in plastic trash bags before being dumped in a nearby house and yard. Madison had exploited the many foreclosed or abandoned homes in East Cleveland, Ohio, to hide his gruesome deeds.
In my own backyard, just three miles from my home, a pregnant Amanda Hein went to a local sports bar with friends on August 18. When she experienced labor pains, she went into the bathroom to give birth. There, she smothered her newborn and dumped him into the toilet tank. She then returned to watch the rest of the game. Soon under arrest, she could offer no reason why she’d done it.
A stunning story was the murder of a teacher, Colleen Ritzer, on October 22 by a 14-year-old, Phillip Chism. He allegedly raped her with a tree branch and stabbed her with a box cutter. Chism left a folded piece of paper with the words 'I hate you all' next to her body, which he dumped in a recycle bin behind Danvers High School in Massachusetts,
There were several cannibal stories in the news. I recently blogged about Karan Singh Bheel, who killed three people (at least) in India. On December 6, he approached a sleeping middle-aged man and hacked him to death. A week later, he did the same thing to another man, and in the third attack three days later, he chopped off the victim’s legs and took one with him. Reportedly, he drank blood from his victims’ cuts and chopped up body parts to consume.
In NYC, Gilberto Valle, a police officer, ignited controversy over his vile fantasies of cannibalism. Valle had an active interest in dismembering, cooking, and consuming women. He was a member of several fetish groups and corresponded with others who shared his perverse interests. He was arrested after his wife discovered images and communications about her and other women on his computer, in which he’d discussed plans to kidnap, rape, torture, kill, cook and eat parts of women.
There were more than two-dozen incidents of mass murder in 2013, up from 22 the year before. Most were family slaughters, but among them were the Boston Marathon bombing (April 15) and the Washington, DC Navy Yard shooting (September 16). There were also attempted mass murders, such as the November 1 shooting at the Los Angeles Airport and the December 16 attack at Arapahoe High School.
Of course, there were many more crimes than this over the course of the year, but these are the incidents that offered a platform for discussion of topics such as risk assessment, spree murder, and deception detection.