The Perfect Murder- A Criminal Psychology Perspective
The Perfect Murder
No. This is not a How To article. I'd rather not end up in jail if at all possible.
This is really more of a musing on the concept, factors to consider, as well as a listing of some of the more inventive ideas I've heard or had. I thought I'd do something a little more spontaneous and fun for my birthday, so here it is. I'm sure you're all wondering what sort of sick person considers this fun, but I've always been like this. It's sort of a mental exercise to figure out a way of evading the consequences of one's actions. If only all of life's other problems were so easily quantified and nailed down. And, yes I learned much of this from my criminal psychology and sociology professors, so blame them for teaching people how criminals behave, because the flaws in our legal and justice system are shown just as readily by what the statistics and studies don't say. And by thinking logically on how to get away with a crime, hopefully it will allow us to eventually devise better methods of detecting criminals and trying them.
First there are four factors to consider, each with their own unique obstacles. Method, Motive, Evidence, and Witnesses or (Alibis). We'll take each in turn.
A few rarely considered methods
Method is simply defined as the way one goes about committing murder. This method ends up creating evidence of one kind or other, but we'll try to keep the two separate for the sake of clarity. There are all sorts of ways to do it, some more messy than others. Each comes with an endless number of issues, so let's go with a few of the most common.
Stabbing: First off, unless one has a good knowledge of human anatomy, there exists the potential to stab someone dozens of times without killing them. Stabbings or slashings generate a lot of blood one way or another. If a major artery is cut, there's a distinctive spray pattern created in the surroundings which can be used to determine the exact site of the murder and which way the deceased was facing; if he was standing, sitting, on his stomach, on his back etc. Also the shape of the wounds can be used to determine the exact shape and dimensions of the knife that was used. Factor in the sheer mess it creates on the clothes and you've got one helluva lot of evidence to deal with.
Gunshots: Using a gun is by far the quickest method to kill someone. If one has a decent rifle and scope one can take out someone from several hundred yards. Making dum-dums, either with pistol or rifle ammunition, is highly illegal, but quite effective as a killing tool. However, though the bullet fragments, the back of the bullet remains intact, allowing forensics to figure out pretty quickly what type of gun was used. This can then be cross-referenced with registries of suspects owning firearms and end the case in less than a day. Thus there are two things that can be done to throw police off the trail, but will by no means ensure one's success. The first is that one uses a stolen gun, either taken by the killer or purchased illegally. It's not registered, can be cleaned of fingerprints, and disposed of. The second is that one use frangible ammunition. This is ammunition which can be sold to the general public which is designed to fragment completely after striking the target. I should point out that even hollow-point ammunition will not do this. As such ammunition is difficult to find and often must be specially ordered, this creates an unwanted paper trail. Again it only delays an investigation rather than stops it.
Another thing to consider with guns is the fact that your hair, your skin, and your clothes will be covered with burnt gunpowder residue when the gun is fired. This does not prove that you pulled that particular trigger, but it does prove that you've fired a gun within the last 7 to 10 days. Thus, if one were to use a gun, it would be best to make a show of going to a gun range either sometime before or directly after the murder with someone to act as a witness in case one should be questioned.
Poison: Poison tends to work best if one is familiar with the day-to-day activities of the victim. This in itself can be a sufficient clue to police to put one behind bars, making it pretty darn risky. On the other hand, various types of poison need not necessarily be ingested. The Iceman, Richard Kuklinski, who lost count of the number of people he killed at 200 during his time working as a mob hitman, liked using poison because it was so easy and anonymous. The difference is all in the setting. If the mark is in a crowded bar for example, he would order a martini, pay in cash for it, drink it, and then refill the glass with cyanide. He would then act drunk and accidentally spill the cyanide on his mark. In most cases the mark would get angry, but brush himself off and think no more of the wet shirt or pants against his skin, never realizing that the cyanide was seeping in through his skin. Twenty minutes later, the poison would build up to sufficient levels in the mark's bloodstream and he would fall down dead, leaving everybody baffled and the killer well away.
In cases where there is a known animosity between killer and victim, a toxicology report can be expected which would reveal any poisons or chemicals in the victim's body. To get around this, one simply uses chemicals which are already commonly found in the human body. Several CCs of liquid potassium injected into the body is sufficient to upset the balance of the sodium-potassium pump by which the human heart works, causing spontaneous and untraceable heart failure. But what about the overly high levels of potassium found in the body, you ask? That's the great thing about potassium, it will equalize levels with the sodium in the body even after the victim has died, meaning most toxicology reports would be done too late to catch it. However one ends up with a livid needle mark somewhere on the body, great if the person is a known drug-user or takes insulin regularly, but otherwise quite obvious unless one can make the injection somewhere along the gum line of the mouth where it wouldn't show.
Strangling: This is an old tried and true method that still works quite well. Two flavors to this one: bare handed or using a cord of some kind. The fact is that there are always going to be ligature marks around the throat regardless. What you might not have known is that these marks will take the shape and dimensions of your hands, meaning there's a slim chance the marks can be matched to the killer. It's small, I know, but stranger things have happened.
Piano wire is a cliché, and pretty hard to explain if one doesn't have a piano. If one lives on the coast, buy some fishing gear and use a length of heavy sport-fishing line, the kind they use to haul in swordfish and marlins. If you've got a stringed instrument you like to play, something along the lines of guitar string works well. In these cases you don't have to hide the wire, it hides in plain sight because it's so common. If a cop looks at it in your home, he won't bat an eye unless you do. The cutting line from weadeaters works well too, provided you've got one.
Well that about wraps up the actual instruments, so let's consider another part of method: Location.
Location is the site of the murder, each with its own obstacles. Kill someone in their home and one reduces the chance of having to worry about a witness, but it's dangerous. One is essentially breaking into the victim's home ground, where it's possible he can defend himself. Also, by entering, one leaves behind clues: fingerprints, blood, hair, skin cells, etc which can be used to prove that one was within that home.
If the murder can be sufficiently orchestrated to look like you caught someone breaking into your home, one might be able to kill them and cop a self-defense plea depending upon the statutes of one's particular state. In Florida I am legally allowed to kill anyone who forces their way into my home against my wishes, period. In places like California, unless I was attacked in my own home and let's say... stabbed or shot, only then would I be able to get away with a self defense plea. Knowledge of the law is just as important to a criminal as it is to those who uphold it. The smart ones read up on this stuff well beforehand.
Public places such as movie theaters have been known to be the sight of completely untraceable murders. If the victim is in a theater which has relatively few patrons, a killer might sit next to the mark and slip a knife between his ribs. He then waits for about 20 minutes or so, so it seems like he has gotten up to use the bathroom, and walks out. No witnesses and no-one realizes a crime was committed until the lights come on at the end of the film.
Bars are a little more crowded, though they can be useful if the person is leaving on foot. Deliberately making a killing seem like a random attempt at a robbery gone wrong has been done before. It still does not address the problem of leaving evidence behind, but it does delay the establishment of a motive.
While a murder in a public place increases the chances of being seen, it reduces the chance of evidence left behind be noticed by an investigation.
Motive is the reason why a person would want to kill another. Often an investigation will draw up their list of suspects based on how they were related to the deceased. Enemies as well as close family members are at the top of the list. Coworkers, lovers, and business rivals are included as well. To that end the only way to circumvent this is to kill someone you would have no reason to kill: a complete stranger. It's illogical to think that people go around killing others for absolutely no reason, which is why random killers can often get away with it.
Even serial killers typically have an area of operation; a hunting ground, as well as a specific MO and choice of prey. To that end the most dangerous and difficult to track killer is one who hunts with no boundaries, taking people completely at random using many different techniques and methods of murder. What this ends up doing is it cuts out everybody who kills over rivalry, broken marriage vows, or revenge. Such a person is what many would call a "Thrill Killer", one who takes life for the shear enjoyment of it while still being within their right mind. By right mind I mean someone who is not psychotic, schizophrenic, a sociopath, or suffering from any form of delusion. The completely healthy, average, ordinary everyday individual basically.
Because such a person would not think to jeopardize himself and his life by being caught by police or damned for religious reasons, thrill killers are decidedly rare.
Evidence is any item or indication which indicates a crime was committed. The two most obvious and crucial to the successful conviction of a murderer are the body itself and the murder weapon. Secondary pieces of evidence would be marks upon the body indicating how it died and was subsequently treated, bloody clothing, damage to the area in which the murder took place, and items belonging to the deceased and/or the killer found where they had no right to be. Disposal of a murder weapon is difficult if it's actually a weapon. Guns and knives can be thrown into a river a long distance from the site of the murder and then reported as stolen. Poison can be flushed down a public toilet, while impromptu weapons can hide in plain sight.
Public dumpsters and trash cans are often a poorly thought out choice given that the police and waste collection services might take notice, especially if it's put in your own trash cans. Bloody clothing can be burned if one has a fireplace, though metal components such as snaps and zippers must be removed afterward. Often evidence can be left behind if the body is disposed of away from the site of the murder. The transportation of a body and its subsequent disposal is perhaps the most difficult part of getting rid of evidence.
Professional cleaning services do exist whose entire job is to take the scene of a crime (once the case is closed, of course) and remove every indication that something had happened there, allowing the property to be opened for public use or resold to another tenant. Typically they have to pull up the carpets, bleach the walls, and take away anything marred by blood or viscera to be incinerated. Old-fashioned furnaces are ideal for this procedure if one were to take matters into one's own hands.
Alibis and Witnesses
One's your best friend and one's your worst enemy. An alibi is the best reason one should keep an active social life if it all possible. Having a friend vouch for one's presence elsewhere during the time of a murder is the best way to throw an investigation off of a given suspect. Conversely, a witness telling police who it was that committed a murder will always result in a murder, and often a conviction. This is because of the backward way the criminal justice system runs. Though forensic evidence can prove a person's presence at the scene of a murder without doubt, if not prove that person committed the murder, this is often ignored in a court of law. This is due to the technical nature of forensic evidence, which can often go over the heads of jurors. If the jurors don't understand the magnitude of forensic evidence, (such as happened with several famous trials in the past. Ahem-OJ-cough-sneeze) then it will be overlooked.
To that end most criminal juries still rely upon eye-witnesses. It's generally assumed that the witness is speaking the truth and that his/her memory of the event is accurate. This is sadly not the case. In studies by criminal psychologists, the average individual's memory was consistently incorrect up to 60% of the time. Thus 60% of the time the eyewitness may end up pointing out an innocent person, though they still believe their memories to be accurate. The only way to get around a witness taking the stand in a trial is to attempt to discredit them and their recollection.
The unfortunate result of a police officer seeing one sight too many.
Exploiting a Weakness in the System
Once you've got these down pegged you're home-free, sort of. There are always details, minute things which one can do little about will always pop up, and that's what today's modern police force prey on. With the advancement of criminal forensic science this only makes getting away with such crimes even more difficult. But let's remember, thousands of murders occur every day throughout the entire world, and only a very small percentage of them are ever viewed by anything other than a police detective. That right there is the key, the weak link in the chain. Before an investigation can be started, specialists and forensic people brought it, searches called off, an arrest made, and court proceedings begun, the police officer ( typically a detective) has to get the ball rolling.
While I have nothing against police officers, what with being related to a couple and knowing several more personally, I know that the majority of them are beaten down by the system after their first few years of being on the job. That's why there are so many movies and stories about burned-out cops, there are tons of the poor guys (and gals) out there who see horrible things happen to good people and the bad guys get away with it, either because of legal issues or they know the system well enough to avoid ever being arrested.
It's funny, I've taken all sorts of courses and read books about criminal psychology, getting into the mind of the murderer, the thief, the rapist, the child molester, the drug abuser, and far worse. I've never once read a book about the mind of the average police officer. Police psychology, there's a course I'd sign up for in a shot. Might come in handy when I need to get out of a speeding ticket.
Even the most adamant police cadet who comes out of the academy with an unrelenting will to "catch the bad guys and uphold the law" will eventually react to being forced to see horrible acts day after day. They pull inside and shut out the rest of the world to protect themselves. There's some part of their mind that becomes a safe haven for their emotions and self to exist, and the rest of the mind is sacrificed to the job. Many decent people put on the uniform and become complete power-hungry arrogant SOBs, this is not because that's who they are, but the callous uncaring attitude and rough demeanor is how they can survive. It's a form of self-protection.
With this uncaring attitude and deflection of the rest of world comes a natural change in their goals which often goes unnoticed, even by them. They are no longer interested in "catching the bad guys and upholding the law", rather they're just trying to make it through the day. In order to do that they've got to clear cases to keep their superiors satisfied and hold onto their jobs.
The difference between solving a crime and clearing a case is a fine one. The crime is solved when the real criminal is arrested, tried, and convicted. The case is cleared when an arrest is made, regardless of whether that person ends up being convicted or not. Once an arrest is made, the police officer's job is done and the court system does its thing. An arrest is made 70% of the time in a reported murder case (remember only in those where a body or other evidence of murder has been found, which as we all know, doesn't always happen), however the murder conviction rate of this 70% is less than half, meaning in roughly 65% of the reported murder cases in the country, the murderer gets away scot-free, either acquitted or never even arrested.
Still, it's far better that the murderer never be arrested in the first place; for the murderer, of course. What does one do? Run? Of course not; such an action immediately implies guilt. The trick is to get the police officer to make an arrest, some else's, I mean. Yep. With this method the unscrupulous and intelligent criminal can not only get away with a crime, but be rid of an enemy at the same time. All it takes is the generation of a link between the person and the crime, evidence being the most common. Unfortunately it's the easiest to defend oneself against if the person has an alibi.
That brings me to my next point: distance. Choosing an enemy as a scapegoat is just as bad as killing someone you know. The very fact that there is a history or even knowledge about one another creates a link which just might possibly be trailed back to the real killer. For that reason, the best scapegoat is a completely random individual. This is the principle by which drug traffickers use mules to get narcotics through airports. They may have half a dozen mules on board, but they'll approach a likely looking mark right before the flight, and offer them money to take a package. They then send an anonymous tip to the local police about that particular person. The narcotics in the package are found, and the person is arrested. Because the arrest is made, the half-dozen other mules don't receive so much as a second glance.
This all may seem tawdry or outright disgusting to you. To that I say... good. I am in no way suggesting that you go out and knock people off. I'm not even suggesting that you countenance such a thing. However the fact is that there are many people out there who do, and rather than bury one's head in the sand and avoid such distasteful topics, it's better to scrutinize them closely so that they can be safe-guarded against, cause if I can think of it, anybody else can too.
With all that said, I'll mention a few ideas I and one or two like-minded friends came up with when we we're thinking it over after having finished our mid-terms. In the absence of white lightning, it's a decent way to drown a college-student's sorrows.
My good buddy Mike from Philadelphia figured out a way to stab someone by molding a spike out of thick ice and stabbing them in the top of the shoulder where the veins angle up to travel up the neck. Place the body under an eaves clustered with ice sickles and the local police figured that's what killed the person. They rule it an accident. It was a great way to get around the problem of a murder weapon seeing as it would just melt. And yes, I'm given to understand that people are injured and even killed by ice sickles with some degree of regularity.
Another one we both worked out was the old bum-sickle approach. Every winter thousands of people die of the cold across the country. It's not all just folks who've got nowhere to go; drunks and people who get knocked out during robberies pass out in alleys in the night and by morning their dead, frozen stiff. Rumor has it that it's a way the Chicago mob gets rid of people they don't need as well. Just administer something to induce unconsciousness (if one's on friendly terms with the victim, just invite them out to a bar and drink them under the table), place them out of direct sight, remove all but their innermost layer of garments, and let Jack Frost do the rest.
Another friend of mine used to work in a corner butcher's shop, one of the old fashioned mom and pop places. He came up with an idea not unlike that of Sweeney Todd. Though we have no first-hand evidence to corroborate this, human meat used to be called "long pork" by some of the more "pragmatic" tribal groups in world history. Apparently a dressed human carcass resembles that of a pig's save that it's longer, and the consistency of the meat is similar as well. To that end simply throw the body into an industrial meat-grinder and sell the poor bugger off by the pound.
If feeding someone to other people is too gruesome (remember, it's not considered cannibalism if the eaten are not considered your own kind) one might try feeding the body to non-humans. Pigs, specifically, will eat a full-grown human body, bones and all, in the course of a few hours if they've not been fed the day before. Six will do the job in half an hour.
If you live near a large body of water, such as I do, one can always throw the body chained to a cinder-block over a bridge at 3 AM. The issue to consider here is that the human body tends to fall apart when left submerged for a few weeks, so bits of the deceased can end up floating ashore. That's why I would highly recommend a couple yards of chicken wire wrapped around the body to hold it together.
Of course you can always go the completely legal way of killing a person: philander his wife, buy out his business and put him on the street, become the stepparent his children always wished they had, cut him off in traffic, drive him into the median, then call the cops and report him for reckless driving. He goes off like a fourth of July rocket and attacks the police officer who's only doing his job and subsequently blows the poor man's head off. This method takes a bit more time and commitment, but to the truly sadistic bastards out there I would highly recommend it for the sheer torment it puts the victim through. It makes a session with fishhooks, shackles, and a belt-sander look like a weekend at the beach in terms of pain and anguish. And it's perfectly legal. But that’s the sick world we live in...
Comments 33 comments
To all of you out there disgusted by this
It seems I'm receiving 5 threatening and outraged comments for every one that is encouraging or constructive. Funny that those who don't like what they read are the first to offer violence, whereas those who are quite willing to accept the facts of this world are entirely calm. Sort of like the pot calling the kettle black.
In that same vein I would ask all those people who are marking this article down a simple question: Ever watch CSI? What about Law & Order, Bones, heck, even Dragnet? If you've ever enjoyed any of these shows than how on earth can you dissprove of this article? The only difference is that those shows focus on the criminal justice system in their investigations. But it would be far too simplistic if every show matched a set of fingerprints or finagled a confession out of the murderer.
It is the creativity and sequence of events leading up to and following the criminal act that has you gripping the edge of your seat. In order for you to be entertained, writers must think along these lines. And since art takes after life, the writers are not at all the first to consider these concepts and methods.
So I ask you: where is the harm? Where have I gone wrong in placing the reader on the other side of the fence? Is there some list of taboos, a guidebook perhaps which tells me what you like and what you don't? Please, tell me what is wrong about presenting a legitimate science and argument instead of going on about Paris Hilton's new fall line or Angeline Jolie's attempts to breed her own country? Thank you.
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