MURDER OR SUICIDE?
Today’s story (which is a bit longer than usual) can only be labeled as “bizarre”. This is an edited version of a speech that was given in 1994 at an awards dinner for the American Association for Forensic Science. While some sources refer to this as a “true story” by AAFS President Don Mills, other sources are I believe more accurate when they describe this as a “tall tale on complex forensics”.
On March 23, 1994, a medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound of the head. Opus had jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide (he left a note indicating his despondency). He was unaware that a safety net had been set up at the eighth floor level to protect some window washers and his attempt to kill himself would not succeed. As he fell past the ninth floor, however, he was hit by a shotgun blast through a window, which killed him instantly.
Suicide or homicide? If Opus was going to die anyway, it would still be categorized as suicide. But the fact that his suicide attempt would not have been successful caused the medical examiner to believe it was homicide. The room on the ninth floor out of which the shotgun blast came was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing and he threatened her with the shotgun. He was so upset that, when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife and the pellets went through the window striking Opus.
When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the attempt, he is guilty of the murder of subject B. When confronted with this charge, the old man and his wife were both adamant that neither knew that the shotgun was loaded. The old man said it was his long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her – therefore, the killing of Opus appeared to be an accident.
The continuing investigation turned up a witness, though, who saw the old couple’s son loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the fatal incident. It seems that the mother cut off her son’s financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother. The case now became one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.
However, further investigation revealed that the son had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother’s murder. This led the son, Ronald Opus, to jump off a ten-story building on March 23, only to be killed by a shotgun blast through the ninth story window.
The medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.
So often we find that attempts to hurt others only hurt us in the end. For example, if we refuse to forgive someone, thinking “I’ll show them!”, we end up suffering the consequences of bitterness in our own lives.
But the opposite is also true. Attempts to do good to others come back to benefit us in the end. Jesus said that how we treat others will determine how we ourselves are treated, often by men, and most certainly by God.
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:37-38)
May you do much good to others today, and may much good find its way back to you in return.
Have a great day!
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