Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Disturbing New Trend?

With numerous recent examples in the news, it appears that the murder-suicide rate among couples is on the rise.  Unfortunately, there is no database which tracks the incidence of murder-suicide in the U.S but many studies have focused on this devastating phenomenon.  It is estimated that between 1000-1500 murder-suicide deaths occur each year, equaling about 10 per week.  Although variation in reporting and details exist, there are some commonalities found in this heinous crime.

According to the Violence Policy Center and Eliason (2009):
92% of murder-suicides involve a gun
94% of perpetrators are men
74% of murder-suicides involve an intimate partner
        (96% of intimate partner victims are women)
75% of murder-suicides occur in the home
When there are 3+ victims, the perpetrator is usually male
Most perpetrators are older than their victims by at least 6.3 years
Females will kill their children and then themselves
Males will kill their children, their partner, and then themselves
Current/previous law enforcement officers have higher rates
Substance abuse is less likely in murder-suicides than other murders
Perpetrators have low risk of previous criminal behavior
Estrangement (break-up, divorce, separation) is a common factor
Perpetrators are more depression than other murderers
Domestic violence is common in murder-suicides between intimate partners

States with higher rates of murder-suicide (2005):

  • Pennsylvania & Texas - 18 each
  • California - 17
  • Florida - 15
  • North Carolina - 14
  • Tennessee - 11

Although shocking, the rates of murder-suicide are not on the rise.  These stories are receiving more media coverage, but overall rates remain low in comparison to other murders and violence crimes.

According to the National Institute of Justice, those at risk for murder-suicides have a history of domestic violence (biggest predictor), access to a firearm, and history of threatening statements and/or behavior.

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