IJMC Bizarre Suicide

			IJMC - Bizarre Suicide

I'm fairly sure this went out on the IJMC over a year ago, however I 
think it's worth sending twice. Anyone know who won the award for 1995?
P.S. To all of those who have sent in submissions to which I have not 
replied, I appreciate your doing so, I simply have not had time to 
individually respond as I usually do. Thanks to all!


     At the 1994 annual awards dinner given by the American Association for 
     Forensic Science, AAFS President Don Harper Mills astounded his 
     audience  in San Diego with the legal complications of a bizarre 
     death.  Here is the story.

     "On 23 March 1994, the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus 
      and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound of the head.  The 
     decedent had jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to 
     commit suicide  (he left a note indicating his despondency).  As he 
     fell past the ninth  floor, his life was interrupted by a shotgun 
     blast through a window, which  killed him instantly.  Neither the 
     shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been erected 
     at the eighth floor level to protect some window washers and that Opus 
     would not have been able to complete his suicide anyway because of 

     "Ordinarily," Dr. Mills continued, "a person who sets out to commit  
     suicide ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be 
     what he intended.  That Opus was shot on the way to certain death nine 
     stories below probably would not have changed his mode of death from 
     suicide to  homicide. But the fact that his suicidal intent would not 
     have been successful caused the medical examiner to feel that he had
     homicide on his hands.  "The room on the ninth floor whence the
     shotgun blast emanated was occupied by an elderly man and his wife.  
     They were arguing and he was threatening 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 a window striking Opus.

     "When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the 
     attempt, one 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.  That is, the gun had been 
     accidentally loaded.

     "The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old  
     couple's son loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the 
     fatal incident. It transpired that the old lady had 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 becomes one of 
     murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

     There was an exquisite twist.  "Further investigation revealed that 
     the  son [Ronald Opus] had become increasingly despondent over the 
     failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder.  This led him 
     to jump off the ten-story building on March 23, only to be killed by a 
     shotgun blast through a ninth story window.

     "The medical examiner closed the case as a suicide." 

IJMC January 1996 Archives