murder

KN, p. 192 “Deadly Poisons in the House”

 

Sheila and I have been watching an Australian murder/mystery series that recently included poison as a method of getting rid of one of the characters. An interesting case that hinged on who had access to the poison in question.

 

Mystery writers quite often use poison as a way to dispatch the victims in their books. Famed Agatha Christie used poison in several of her 66 novels, on 30 victims. Christie’s choices were based on what she needed to happen in the plot; did the poison have to be fast-acting or was it important to give the killer time to get away?

 

In “What poisons were in Agatha Christie’s books?” I listed a few of her favorite dastardly tools of death, but one of the critical aspects of choosing the correct one was its availability to the murderer.  🙂

 

Arsenic, belladonna, cyanide, etc. may be handy for a pharmacist or a chemist or a doctor, as in the Australian show, but what about the ordinary gal (poison is traditionally a woman’s choice) who wants to do somebody in? It’s not as if a housewife would normally have access to cyanide. Some medications would make you woozy or extremely nauseous if you overdosed, but over-the-counter meds are rarely going to kill someone unless a bucketful is consumed – unless an allergy is involved. There are some exceptions to that, but most will not do the job without some devious planning and execution.

 

So, what is a revenge-focused lay person to do? Assuming of course, that the fictional person is motivated, would have the guts to actually kill someone, and is not squeamish about the cleanup. Dead bodies are messy and hard to drag around.

 

We all have cleaning supplies readily available in the house or garage, so let’s take a look.

 

Bleach This is a fairly common household item used to remove stains from clothing or to kill surface bacteria. It’s well-known to be powerful as a cleaning agent and once upon a time, I poured too much into the machine when I was helping Sheila with the white wash. The shirts basically disintegrated and the ones that didn’t, smelled of bleach forever after. It would be impossible to get this smell past a victim’s nose, so it couldn’t be used in any subtle way.

 

Ammonia is often used to clean windows and is contained in many popular products in a diluted form. The ammonia smell is distinctive and too strong to be pleasant without perfume additives. Used straight out of the ammonia vat? It would burn the skin off your hands while you pass out from the fumes.

 

Remember, our housewife wants to get away with murder, not die while she’s carrying out the dastardly deed.

 

BUT, when these two cleaners (even diluted in the pleasantly scented store products) are mixed together they produce a lethal chlorine gas. If the products have been poured into non-descript spray bottles, the scenario might be to ‘accidentally’ mix up the labels and get the potential victim to help with cleaning after a messy spill in a closed space while the housewife leaves the room. The trick would be to switch the labels back before the cops arrive. Variations of this smelly method might involve cleaning a toilet with one of the clear liquids already in the toilet. After adding the other liquid, the noxious gas would suddenly waft upward toward the victim’s face.

 

Hydrogen peroxide is used as an anti-bacterial agent and some people even use it when gargling or for cleaning small cuts or abrasions.

 

White vinegar is used in cooking and in many restaurants as a gentle, yet effective, solution for shining the stainless steel.

 

BUT, when hydrogen peroxide and vinegar are mixed together, they create an acid, which can be quite harmful to the lungs. Harmful, but not necessarily deadly in small quantities.

 

Dishwasher detergents contain chlorine in highly concentrated amounts, but it’s hard to imagine how you could get an adult to ingest detergent willingly. Perhaps mixed in food? I wonder if it would foam while cooking…

 

Air Fresheners – Most air fresheners include formaldehyde which interferes with your ability to smell and phenol which can cause convulsions, coma, and even death in high enough concentrations and quantities. However, this amount would also kill our housewife while she worked with it.

 

Oven Cleaner contains lye (sodium hydroxide). A little bit of lye is used in old-fashioned soap compounds; too much of the stuff can dissolve skin off the bone.

 

Our housewife might just be better off to find out what food her victim is allergic to, then mix that with a tasty treat to be served at the next get-together. The invitation could read:
“Tea at 4pm. Body Doggie bags will be provided.”

 

The next time you look at the warning labels on the cleaning products, keep these real-life guidelines in mind:

DANGER: can be fatal if swallowed. Less than a teaspoon could kill a 150-pound adult.

WARNING: is harmful if swallowed, and drinking less than an ounce could kill an average sized adult.

CAUTION: is harmful if swallowed, and it would take anywhere from an ounce to a pint to kill an average adult.

 

http://www.achooallergy.com/blog/dangerous-household-chemicals/

 

 

*Please note: this article is posted for entertainment purposes only.

 

 

 

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KN, p. 191 “Is he/she a serial killer?”

 

Warning: Some content may be too intense for some readers.

 

In 2005, the FBI conducted a symposium in Texas for law enforcement officers and defined serial murders in this way: “The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.”

 

As terrifying and brutal as these events are, the FBI reports that serial murders occur in less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year.

 

That doesn’t mean that law enforcement treats serial murders any less seriously, just that most cops will never encounter that kind of case. When they do, the hardest part of the investigation might be recognizing that two or three murders committed across several counties could be linked in some way. Different personnel spread through different jurisdictions might not see all the facts in evidence and never see the connections, hence the reason that some serial killers are never caught.

https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder

 

Although not every point is true for all serial killers, there seems to be a common thread in the backgrounds of most, starting in their childhoods. Here are a few of the behaviors that appear to tie the Serial Killer category together.

 

  • Childhood abuse and/or neglect
  • Lousy grades in school or poor work performance, despite a high IQ
  • Damage to the brain’s frontal lobe – childhood head injuries
  • Bedwetting
  • Arson
  • Animal Torture

 

As possible suspects are investigated, and/or eliminated, more weight is given to those on the list who have those behaviors somewhere in their history.

 

Serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Gacey all had above average intelligence, as evidenced by their ability to commit multiple crimes and evade capture (and even detection) for so many years. But Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Forensic Psychologist, maintains that even the smart ones can do dumb things.

 

“…serial killers range from Ivy League caliber to downright moronic. Self-defeating habits or failure to plan wisely have brought many down. It’s not all about IQ. Even smart ones can be idiots at just the wrong time.”

 

Examples:

  • Ted Bundy drove erratically in a stolen car.
  • Randy Kraft had a dead body in his passenger seat when the highway patrol stopped him for suspected drunk driving.
  • Joel Rifkin was also “transporting,” but without a license plate.

As Dr. Ramsland said, “You’d think if you had a corpse with you, you’d at least try to be inconspicuous.”

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201612/stupid-stuff-stopped-serial-killer

 

 

Dr. DP Lyle, cardiologist, forensic expert, and crime writer, interviewed Dr. Ramsland on his Writers Forensics blog, discussing the various descriptions of serial killers being used today.

 

Dr. Ramsland said, “The behaviors that stand out for budding psychopaths who are the most apt to become violent involve unmotivated deception, tendency to blame others, callous disregard, and ADHD – a combination of them all. Such children will tend to manipulation, deflect responsibility, damage property, steal, do poorly in activities that require sustained discipline and focus, and play cruel pranks. They will also exercise their need for control on others who are weaker, including animals, and this could involve experiments, mutilation and killing.”

 

https://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/forensic-psychologist-dr-katherine-ramsland-talks-about-serial-killers/

 

Some serial killers are angry for imagined (or real) slights and seek revenge against those who were “mean” to them.

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201611/power-assertive-murder

 

For more information about the criminal mind, visit www.katherineramsland.com Dr. Ramsland is the author of dozens of books and articles on the subject. Her latest, “Confessions of a Serial Killer,” is the untold story of Dennis Bader, the BTK killer. Scary stuff.

 

The average person is unlikely to interact with a serial killer, but many law enforcement officers or profilers get specific training in order to keep it that way – to keep the community safe from predators. It has been found that not all serial killers work alone, and a good percentage (around 15%) are women.

 

 

How do you keep from becoming a victim?

 

  • Don’t go out with people you don’t know.
  • Don’t get into cars with people you don’t know.
  • Don’t go shopping at night by yourself.
  • Park your car in well-lit areas and lock it.
  • If your car has a flat tire in a grocery store parking lot, go back into the store to get help. Don’t accept assistance from a stranger who just happens to be near your car.
  • Become familiar with self-defense techniques. Take a class to become proficient.

 

Use common sense, be extra aware when alone, and stay safe!

 

*Photo credit: Ted Bundy – Wikipedia

 

 

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Visiting Detective Ava Logan – “Crime in Appalachia”

 

VisDetAvaSmokies

It’s no secret that Sheila and I like to take a week here and there and see the sights around this great country of ours. This past Fall, we took the scenic route through the Great Smoky Mountains (part of the Appalachian range) to see the North Carolina cousins. I know, really long way around from the New York area, but the weather was great and it was a “why not?” kind of week.

 

The scenery was breathtaking and we pulled over lots of times to take pictures and soak it all in. When we finally left the Smokies, we stopped at a little spot called Minnie’s Diner in Jackson Creek, North Carolina. The parking lot was packed, but that’s usually a good sign, and we looked forward to mouth-watering, down-home cooking.

 

As we waited for the waitress to lead us to the only open booth, another couple came in behind us. She grabbed two menus from the counter for us, and spoke to the couple in typical small-town fashion. “Sheriff. Ava. Y’all doing okay?”

 

I glanced at the guy—long sleeve black shirt, rugby-type, tucked into black utility pants, a round patch on the shirt front reading Jackson County Sheriff. Below that, a bar with G. Ridge inscribed.

 

“Doing good,” he answered the waitress for both of them. “Looks like it’s standing room only today.”

 

“The wait shouldn’t be too long.”

 

The waitress turned to lead me and Sheila to the booth, but I stopped and turned toward the couple. The badge meant he was okay with me. “Want to join us?” They looked surprised, but agreed right away.

 

We all slid into the booth – Ridge and Ava sitting across from us – and introduced ourselves. Ava and Ridge lived in the next town.

 

I’ll let Ava Logan tell their story.

 

*****

 

“So let me get this straight,” Charlie said, wagging a finger between Ridge and me. “You’re the sheriff, and you’re the publisher of the town newspaper?”

 

“Yes,” we both answered.


Charlie nodded and asked, “Does it ever cause a problem?”

 

“Not at all.” I must have answered too quickly because Ridge jerked his head around to glare at me. “Maybe. Sometimes,” I conceded.

 

While Ridge and Charlie talked shop, Sheila and I chatted about their trip through the mountains. Born and raised in western North Carolina, I love hearing others’ take on my part of the Appalachians. I smiled and declared that the scenic beauty is matched only by the people who called these hills and hollows home.

 Highway-SmokiesIMG_3611

Although engaged in conversation with Sheila, I couldn’t help but overhear Charlie ask, “So how many residents are there in Jackson Creek?”

 

“4,327,” I answered. A hot blush crept up my cheeks as the Kerrians and Ridge looked at me like I always went around spouting random numbers. I mumbled a clarification, “Jackson Creek proper. I’m not sure about Jackson County.” Somewhere near the fifty-thousand range, but it was Ridge’s county. I thought he might want to answer.

 

The corner of Ridge’s mouth arched upward in a slight grin. He turned back to Charlie. “Fifty-three thousand. Jackson Creek is the county seat. I’m sure that’s a lot smaller than what you’re used to.”

 

Charlie answered with a smile, then turned to me. “Is there enough news in a town of four thousand to sustain a newspaper?”

 

“Oh, yeah. We do a lot of human interest features. And the occasional crime wave public service announcement.”

 

He and Sheila laughed. Ridge didn’t. He pressed his tongue to the inside of his cheek, a sign I knew all too well. We’d ridden this merry-go-round before. We rode it every day. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department wasn’t large enough to hire a media liaison so as Sheriff, Ridge filled that role. He was quick to feed me information when he needed to get the word out, and got especially tight-lipped when he didn’t want the press involved.

 

To be fair, Ridge was a good sheriff. And the fact that extracting information from him was like pulling the proverbial teeth, probably made him an even better one. It did make my job more difficult, though. And, sometimes caused me to do a little detecting in search of the facts behind the crimes.

 

“Don’t get me wrong,” I said, spitting the words out like I was in a hurry to defend him, or explain my earlier words. “We had a rash of car break-ins a few weeks ago and I was happy to put a warning out to residents. And we always have ginseng poaching that sometimes gets out-of-hand. And of course, the…occasional murder.”

 

VisDetAvaBloodyFootprint

I stared at the trail of condensation snaking its way down my water glass, remembering every detail of that recent murder, the scene stamped into my brain forever. The victim had been a good friend. It was hard to forget, no matter how many times I’d tried, when you were the one to find the body. I’d never in my life been more glad to have a conversation interrupted by a waitress delivering food.

 

“So, Charlie,” I said, diving into a chicken wrap. “How’d you like the Smokies?” 

 

“Wait!” He and Sheila chimed in together. Charlie laughed, “You can’t leave us hanging like that! What poaching? What murder? Tell me no lies!”

 

VisDetAvaGinseng

“The poaching was a big deal around here!” I launched into my tale, but left out a few details about the danger we were all in, knowing that Ridge was still not happy about how that had played out. Charlie shook his head. “That’s a case we’d never get in the city.” The waitress delivered some warm apple pie and Charlie nudged, “Tell us about the murder. Don’t leave anything out.”

 

I glanced at Ridge, not at all sure he wanted to talk about that case. Yup, he was scowling. I quickly changed the subject and we continued our lunch over more pleasant conversation, laughter, and a promise to keep in touch. I had no doubt we would.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

VisitingDetLynnChandlerWillis6-16Shoot

Lynn Chandler Willis created the newspaper owner Ava Logan character, based in no small part on her own experience in the news biz. “Tell Me No Lies,” the first in the series, will debut in February, 2017, and will explain all about the ginseng poaching as well as the murder, and Ava Logan’s part in both.   🙂

 

Book Cover - Tell Me No Lies                                                                        Amazon link

 

Take a look at www.lynnchandlerwillis.com for updates about the series and Ms. Willis’ other work.

 

Ms. Willis’ Facebook Author Page

 

*Photo credits:

 Smokies, Ginseng, Footprint – Google

 Lynn Chandler Willis, Blue Ridge Highway – Patti Phillips

 

 

 

 

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