Experts Say Killers Tend to Be Men, and Guns the Weapon of Choice
In cases of murder-suicide, experts say, the prime motivation for the act is usually suicide, the killer is almost always a man while the victim is someone he is obsessed with.
“It makes it easier to pull the trigger on themselves when they kill someone else. They feel like they have to do it,” Katherine van Wormer, a professor of social work at the University of Northern Iowa who has studied murder-suicides.
A study by the Violence Policy Center
study reported 591 murder-suicide
deaths nationwide between Jan. 1 -
June 30, 2005. Of those, Texas had
18 cases. Other findings include:
• Male offenders: 94 percent
• Cases involving an intimate
• Occurred in the home: 75 percent
• Involved a firearm: 92 percent
• Average age difference between
A study from the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center indicates about 10 such cases occur each week in the United States. Statistics are hard to come by, however, because no single agency records murder-suicide cases, experts say.
“The FBI tracks homicides and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) tracks suicides. There is no mechanism that puts those together,” said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center.
The nonprofit group used a news clipping service to collect information on murder-suicide cases that occurred throughout the nation during the first half of 2005.
“It’s really the most comprehensive data collection of murder-suicide events in the U.S.,” Rand said.
While experts say murder-suicide crosses all age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds, they have detected some common characteristics among the perpetrators.
There is often a history of domestic violence; pre-existing mental health issues, including past suicide attempts; and a strong, emotional attachment to the victim.
Coupled with that, experts say, is the overwhelming fear that the connection is about to be severed.
“There’s nothing to live for if the relationship goes sour,” van Wormer said. “It would be the end of the world.”
A murder-suicide is rarely committed on the spur of the moment and often is based on a desire to maintain control over the victim, said Donna Cohen, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who consulted on the nationwide study.
“If they believe that their love is paramount, and they can’t have the love, it turns into a love-hate relationship,” Cohen said. “I’m going to hold onto you and nobody else can do that but me.”
Huntsville police found no indication that Rachel Pendray ever had romantic feelings toward Jake Taylor. However, Cohen said that isn’t the issue.
“It isn’t a matter of what’s real. It’s what the perpetrator believes,” she said.
Reprinted with permission of The Houson Chronicle.