The Randomness Victim Selection in Murder Cases

The other day I had a colleague ask me about problems in criminal investigations. I stated to him one such problem is that police have a tendency to focus on accessible suspects rather than random ones. An example of this is the Jon Benit Ramsey case. The police focused on the family as the primary suspect rather than a random criminal breaking into the home and murdering and raping that girl.

I recently had a conversation with a convicted criminal on death row. He told me that he used to break into random houses and assault young women. He also killed women on the street and he did not even know their name. This killer stated to me that how he RANDOMLY picked houses and people to accost not necessarily ones that he knew.

These random assaults are more likely to go unsolved rather than pointing at a suspect that is a family member. Dr. Steven Egger, Professor of Criminology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, coined the term “Less-Dead”. This term is used in serial homicide investigations to explain why serial killers target prostitutes or people that are less likely to have a caring family to report them dead or missing. The key to this is randomness. If you review most unsolved cases you will find that family members had strong alibis. The police could not link the evidence to the family. The next logical conclusion that you can make is that a random person must have killed them. Another case that caught my attention regarding this theory is the Dr. Jeffery Mcdonald Case. Dr. McDonald was the Army Green Beret that was convicted of killing his wife and children. The military ruled that they could not link him to the case. Instead of looking for a random killer and focusing on the clues of the case, they re-analyzed the evidence to point at Dr. McDonald. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to prison for life, years after the murders.

I have noticed that the police find it impossible to believe that a random person can break into a persons house and murder a family or person. We have seen evidence of this in random killings and rapes everyday. Picture this scenario and decide who would the police suspect?

As I am driving home from work, after hearing that my wife is pregnant, I feel that I really need to increase mine and my wife’s life insurance. Having a new baby on the way that would be a logical step. I contact my insurance agent and he states no problem and generates the applicable paperwork. I get home and spend the evening with my family. I am a professor of criminal justice at a local college and have the flexibility to work at home when I am not teaching classes.

One evening me and my wife get into a heated argument, just as every other married couple does and voices get loud. Just in every other marriage the argument lasts a short time and peace is achieved. The following day, while I am at work my family is brutal murdered. A deranged man walking down the street looks in the window and sees my family and murders them. Could it happen? Refer to the convicted murderer conversation above. I come home from the college to find my family brutality murdered. I call the police thus the investigation commences.

The police do their preliminary investigation and rule out the fact that a random person could have killed my family. They base it on the following circumstantial facts:

  1. After interviewing my neighbors the police are told that me and my wife were engaged in a heated argument the night before. The neighbor’s report after the argument not seeing my wife or children.
  2. Being a professor of criminal justice, the police could logically conclude that I am an expert in forensics and have the ability to stage a crime scene (I don’t remember a class in graduate school teaching that) How many serial killers liked to read detective magazines?
  3. The big one….After a statement from my insurance agent they find that I increased my wife’s life insurance policy creating motive.
  4. I recently found out my wife was pregnant..As seen in many cases the police conclude that I did not want the baby and that’s why I killed my wife and family.
  5. After interviewing my in-laws they reveal to the police that me and my wife were having marital problems (what marriage doesn’t?) and they tell the police that they never liked me anyway. They begin to tell them about times that we disagreed.
  6. If infidelity was involved: When does infidelity become a motive for murder?

After reading the above scenario and applying the six conclusions it is easy for the police to pin the murder on me?

What percentage of murder suspects know their victims?

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