Tag Archives: Homicide

WAS PRINCESS DIANA REALLY A HOMICIDE VICTIM?

It’s been 20 years since Diana, the Princess of Wales, was killed in a horrific car crash. This tragic event ended of one of the world’s most famous people’s life. It shocked everyone. Millions lined London streets paying respect to her funeral procession. Over 2 billion watched her funeral on TV. But Princess Diana’s death was far more than a loss to the world. It left her two young boys without a mother.

Circumstances surrounding Diana’s death are exhaustively investigated. Everyone knows basic facts that Diana and her new boyfriend, Dodi al-Fayed, were leaving a Paris hotel for a private apartment and trying to avoid the ever-present Paparazzi. They got in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan driven by Henri Paul—a hotel security agent. Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, rode shotgun in the passenger front.

But exactly what happened next is still cloudy. To escape prying eyes and cameras out front of the Ritz Hotel, the four used a rear escape route—sneaking away to the apartment. Several Paparazzi members clued in. They raced to follow. As the Mercedes entered the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel along the Seine River in central Paris, Henri Paul somehow lost control and smashed head-on into a solid concrete column.

The car was destroyed. Henri Paul and Dodi al-Fayed were dead at the scene. Princess Diana passed away from massive internal injuries two hours later. Only Rees-Jones survived. However, he had no recollection of what happened.

Those are the bare case facts. There were two extensive investigations. One by the French police and one by the British authorities who held a public inquest. Both inquiries concluded Diana’s death was from her fatal injuries—the result of a drunk-driving, motor vehicle incident with excessive speed a contributing factor. So was Diana’s neglect to wear her seat belt.

And both inquiries viewed the pursuing Paparazzi as a non-direct, contributing factor despite five photographers charged with manslaughter and three others prosecuted for obstructing justice and violating human rights. No one was convicted. But that didn’t end speculation that Princess Diana was murdered. In fact, Lord Stevens who oversaw the British inquest stated, “This case is substantially more complicated than once thought.”

Rumors ran rampant. There were stories of Paparazzi intentionally overtaking the Mercedes and cutting it off into the column. There’s an unresolved issue of a notorious white Fiat that’s never been found. The Royal Family were accused of masterminding Diana’s murder because she’d been impregnated by a Muslim foreigner. Even the British SAS and MI6 were implicated. And most accusatory was Dodi’s father, Egyptian billionaire Mohammed al-Fayed.

But where was proof the Peoples’ Princess was really a homicide victim? Well, two decades later it turns out that the homicide declaration was right all along. And the evidence—the undisputed truth that Princess Diana really was a homicide victim—is absolutely clear.

Facts Surrounding Diana’s Car Crash

Although Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed were officially an item, they’d only been seeing each other just over a month. That’s hardly enough time to get engaged let alone planning a pregnancy. Diana was far too smart than getting accidentally knocked-up never mind rashly getting married. Both of those stories are blatantly false.

They rendezvoused on Mohammed al-Fayed’s yacht before arriving by private jet into Paris on August 31, 1997. Then dined at a popular restaurant before dropping by the Ritz Hotel where the Paparazzi laid in wait. Diana and Dodi had a nightcap. Rees-Jones was nearby. Henri Paul made a plan to bring the staff Mercedes around to the rear door where the celebrity couple could quietly slip out. Then, Paul would chauffeur the group to a private apartment that Mohammed al-Fayed kept in the heart of Paris.

The plan almost worked. Unfortunately, the Paparazzi were crafty. They set several sentries out back. Diana and her entourage were spotted as they sped away. The time was approximately 12:20 am Paris time. Three minutes later, at 12:23, the Mercedes entered the Alma tunnel. Henri lost control and the Mercedes swerved to the left or driver’s side. It hit a concrete column support with such force the engine was shattered and the radiator shoved through to the front seat.

The Mercedes rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise and rocketed backward into the right tunnel wall. It came to rest but was so severely damaged that emergency responders had to cut off the roof in order to extract the crash victims. It was 20 minutes before Diana was freed.

By this time, the Paparazzi were present in full force. Some were arrested. Some had their cameras confiscated after taking gruesome victim death photos. The scene was nearly impossible to control, especially as word spread about who the famous victims were.

Emergency personnel reported that Princess Diana was semi-conscious when they arrived. She softly cried “Oh my God”—repeatedly—and said, “Leave me alone.” By the time Diana was pulled from the wreckage, she’d gone unconscious. Then she suffered acute cardiac arrest when laid on a stretcher. Her heart was restarted by manual resuscitation however her blood pressure severely dropped on route to the hospital.

Diana arrived at the emergency department approximately 2:06 am. That was an hour and a half after impact. She was still breathing and displayed a weak pulse. X-rays immediately determined she had massive internal bleeding. A thoracic surgeon incised her interior to drain the blood then found her heart’s left ventricle was lacerated. While suturing this main blood vessel, Diana went into full cardiac arrest. Extensive resuscitation efforts by the trauma team failed to revive her.

Diana—the Peoples’ Princess—was Declared Dead at 4:00 am.

The bodies of Henri Paul and Dodi al-Fayed were taken to the city morgue. It was a separate building adjacent to Diana’s emergency ward. Because of the massive crowd now assembling outside the hospital, the Paris coroner felt disrespectful removing Diana’s body past the crowd. He conducted an external examination in a private hospital room but didn’t order a full autopsy. The medical cause of Diana’s death was abundantly clear.

This left the problem of keeping Diana’s now-decomposing body in a warm room. The ER had no cooler. Pursuant to French law, the coroner legally authorized Diana’s embalming to retard decomposition while transportation arrangements were made to take her body to England. This was the right thing to do but led to fuel conspiracy theories, some which abound today.

Full autopsies were conducted on Dodi al-Fayed and Henri Paul. Both clearly died of internal injuries—both suffering severed aortic arteries which are immediately fatal. They had both been on the driver’s side which absorbed more of the impact. This explains why Diana was not killed instantly and why Rees-Jones walked away. His front airbag deployed but there was none in the back to protect the Princess.

Toxicology Testing on Henri Paul Found Interesting Results.

These are Henri Paul’s official and reliable toxicology results. They were later confirmed to be his through DNA testing to dispell accusations of evidence tampering.

Blood Alcohol Count (BAC) — 174 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood or commonly termed a BAC of 0.174% (This was corroborated by his vitreous humor or eye fluid count being 0.173%, his urine being 0.218% and his stomach BAC being 0.191%.)

The legal BAC limit for impaired driving in France is 0.05% making Henri Paul 3 times over the drunk driving tolerance limit.

Small traces of the anti-anxiety medication fluoxetine were noted but were well within the therapeutic range. So was the medication tiapride. Carboxyhemoglobin and nicotine levels proved Paul was a heavy smoker.

Examination of the Wrecked Mercedes

Although the Mercedes was a total write-off, it was sufficiently sound to inspect. There were no mechanical defects found mechanically contributing to the crash. One tire was punctured but wasn’t a blowout. It happened because of impact. The brakes and steering were sound and the car was only two years old with low mileage.

Thorough testing was done on the seatbelts. All were in perfect operation. It was obvious none of the occupants were wearing their restraints, however, it’s questionable if Paul or al-Fayed would have been saved given the massive force of the left side impact. Overall, there was nothing mechanically wrong with this vehicle that made it veer hard so hard to the left.

So what caused the Mercedes to spin out of control? Did the Paparazzi cut it off? Did the mysterious white Fiat force it into the column? Why did a perfectly good car fail and, by the way, just how fast was the Mercedes traveling?

Totally fraudulent information circulated for years about the Mercedes traveling at 120 mph (190 kph) when it hit the column. Proof of this—they said—was the car’s speedometer sticking at that measurement. That’s rubbish. Total bullshit, like so many myths surrounding Princess Diana’s death. Truth is the Mercedes was doing 65 mph (120 kph), +/- 5 mph, when it hit the column. This was established by a meticulous accident reconstruction conducted by the French police.

Still, this is a significant velocity given the Mercedes’ gross vehicle weight with 4 passengers being over 4,000 lbs (1815 kg). The kinetic energy transfer of this weight multiplied by high speed resulted in Diana’s heart being—literally—ripped inside her chest. It’s surprising Diana lived as long as she did.

The real reason Henri Paul lost control is hidden in the details of the accident reconstruction report. It’s written in technical jargon but clearly understandable. There were no skid marks indicating pre-braking. No out of control swerve. One moment the car was going fast and straight. The next it cut sideways.

The Answer is in Tunnel Design and Vehicle Dynamics.

The Alma tunnel has a posted speed of 20 mph (30 kph). That’s for a good reason. The tunnel is low and narrow. It also sharply dips at the entry and is protected by a perpendicular drainage grate to keep the flat area from flooding with water.

The collision reconstruction analyst deduced when Paul declined the entry ramp and struck the bumpy metal grate at 65 mph, the Mercedes reacted by going slightly airborne. This reduced the road surface friction adhered by the tires, effectively causing a dry hydroplane incident. The analyst surmised that Paul, in his impaired state, never braked but misjudged an overcorrection and simply steered the fast-moving Mercedes into the column.

The Operation Paget Report

Many people who followed Princess Diana’s death story don’t know about Operation Paget and its incredibly detailed 871-page report. Operation Paget was a London Metropolitan Police special task force detailed to investigate conspiracy and murder allegations involving the Princess’ tragic end. They also addressed cover-ups. You can download it here.

The British inquest overseen by Lord Stevens relied heavily on the brilliant work uncovered in Project Paget. The police went to amazing lengths dealing with every listed allegation. They fairly answered with truth. They dispelled insinuations of government plots and sinister cover ups.

They established a fact—there were no credible eye witnesses to the crash and pursuing Paparazzi were nowhere in sight when the impact occurred. They even dealt with the white Fiat nonsense by pointing out white paint on the Mercedes door was probably from a previous parking lot incident.

As much as everyone wants to blame the Paparazzi for killing Princess Diana—well, that’s just plain wrong. Certainly, Paparazzi presence was a contributing factor as Paul was no doubt driving this speed to evade them. One can’t blame the Spencer family and Diana’s two sons, Princes William and Harry, holding the Paparazzi responsible for essentially murdering their beloved Diana. That’s a natural emotional response. But the Paparazzi, as individuals or as a  group, are innocent.

The truth is Diana, the Princess of Wales, was no accident victim. Her death was clearly a homicide. Let me explain.

On April 7, 2008 Lord Stevens’ inquest returned a verdict. They ruled Princess Diana was the “victim of an unlawful killing by the grossly negligent chauffeur, Henri Paul, who’s driving ability and judgment were severely impaired by alcohol”. The secondary contributor to Diana’s death was her failure to buckle up. Not the Paparazzi.

The jury made no mention of Diana’s death being an accident. That’s because they couldn’t rule it an accident. Death classifications are universal throughout the civilized world. Coroners and their juries have only five classifications to choose from: Natural, Accidental, Suicide, Homicide and Undetermined.

You can immediately rule out Princess Diana’s death as natural, suicide and undetermined. The cause and means of Diana’s death are clear. She died because of internal bleeding and hypovolemic shock resulting from injuries received in her car crash. That’s clear. What’s not clear to most people is why this can’t be classified as an accidental death. It’s because of the legal definition of homicide.

Homicide means a person dies because of direct actions by another person. A homicide classification doesn’t necessarily mean a culpable or intentional killing of one person by another. It includes lesser degrees of acts like manslaughter and criminal negligence that cause death. Homicide also includes deaths that result from any form of a criminal act including impaired driving. Henri Paul was criminally drunk and grossly negligent. He directly caused Princess Diana’s death.

That makes the Peoples’ Princess a homicide victim.

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THE BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME

Russia’s parliament recently voted 380 to 3 favoring decriminalization of domestic violence against women where it doesn’t cause “substantial bodily harm” and occurs “not more than once per year”. So… in Russia—once again—it’s socially acceptable to beat the wife. Makes you wonder how the United States Violence Against Women Act will stand given the Trump administration’s apparent admiration for how Vladimir Putin does business, never mind Donald Trump’s personal treatment of women.

Intimate Partner Violence is the politically correct term for wife-beating. It’s a serious and common criminal offense. For years physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of female spouses was conveniently overlooked because what went on in private homes was supposed to be no one else’s business. That’s until women fought back and killed their spouses. Then they were prosecuted for murder with all the zeal reserved for serial killers.

Many battered women were convicted of murder and given lengthy jail sentences. There was no regard for the big picture of what created intimate partner violence, how it led to homicidal acts, and what effect it had on entire families—especially children—as well as society in general.

But some women were acquitted of criminal culpability for killing their partners.

They invoked self-defense because they suffered years of cyclic abuse and finally fought back in order to prevent themselves and their children from the imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or being murder victims themselves. These women weren’t claiming temporary insanity or a moment of heated passion. They were telling the truth about years of mental torture that drove them to commit the ultimate act of violent response because they were suffering from the Battered Woman Syndrome.

Battered Woman Syndrome is not a recognized medical or mental disorder according to the psychiatric profession’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Battered Woman Syndrome is a contributing factor to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but they are two separate issues. On its own, Battered Woman Syndrome is not a specifically accepted defense in most courts. Battered Woman Syndrome is part of an overall defense to criminal accusations. It’s a clinical explanation for using violence to proactively defend one’s self and it’s supported by expert testimony that encompasses the entire case facts. That includes the history of the intimate partner relationship, the mechanism of the killing, and the aftermath that followed.

The battered woman defense component is widely used to establish diminished responsibility of a woman accused of killing her husband under circumstances where he was incapacitated and not able to defend himself nor be an immediate physical threat. The battered woman defense is highly successful in many cases.

The highest-profile battered woman case was portrayed in The Burning Bed, a true-crime movie from 1984 where Farrah Fawcett played Francine Hughes, a severely battered woman who killed her husband in Dansville, Michigan, by setting him on fire while he slept. Francine was charged with first-degree murder and acquitted by a jury who found her not guilty by her having to use a temporary insanity defense.

Thirty-three years ago, the Battered Woman Syndrome was starting to be explored by the courts. There was little psychiatric or psychological science available to establish the reliability of this murder defense tactic. Today, much more is known about the patterns causing intimate partner violence and how they inescapably lead to defensive killings, even when the deceased spouse was incapacitated and not an apparent immediate danger.

Thirty-one years ago, I was lead investigator where a battered woman shot and killed her abusive husband while he slept. Deeana Bingingham suffered years of domestic cruelty at the hands, feet, words, wallet and penis of Lyle (Bing) Bingingham—much of it watched and heard by their 10-year-old son, Logan, and 8-year-old daughter, Kiley.

Bing was on the run from ripping a criminal organization and moved the family to an isolated cabin in the Pacific Northwest. He came home one snowy, stormy night—drunk—as usual—and attacked Deeana. He beat her with his fists and boots, sexually assaulted Deeana in front of their children, then threatened to shoot the family with a 30/30 Winchester. Bing passed out. Deeana took the rifle. She shot Bing in the head.

The first bullet didn’t kill Bing. It tore off his jaw and ripped out an eye. Bing rose in a rage—thrashing—ki-yiiing—gurgling—spewing blood everywhere. He clawed to get up… folded… stood… lunged… then fell and crawled to get at her. Vibrating, gasping and backing away, Deeana levered the gun to reload. It jammed. She threw it. Ran to the closet. And grabbed a 30.06 bolt-action. Deeana scrambled for cartridges, pleading to little Logan for help while Kiley cringed in a corner. The boy loaded the second rifle. The tiny girl watched. As a family… they finished Bing off.

Deeana Bingingham’s children were apprehended. She was jailed on second-degree (non-capital) murder charges—the prosecutor deeming killing Bing was intentionally committed but not premeditated. Deeana spent 2 years on remand while her kids bounced between foster homes and her family abandoned her. She invoked battered woman syndrome in defense and her story was a nightmare to hear. Deeana was offered a plea bargain to manslaughter or an accepted defense of temporary insanity with a compromised offer of family counseling for rehabilitation rather than risking a convict’s chance at parole. Deeana refused. She chose to stay in jail, waiting her chance to tell the court—and other battered women—her plight.

The jury heard a shocking story. A sickening story. A story of horrific psychological, financial, sexual abuse and extreme, prolonged physical violence. The jury acquitted Deeana. They reasoned Deeana was a provoked, trapped and helpless victim of ritualistic domestic violence. They found proactively killing her intimate partner was Deeana’s only reasonable recourse—Deeana ultimately protected herself and her children.

Deeana Bingingham’s case never left my mind. I got a tremendous education into what causes an intimate partner killing that has a legitimate spousal homicide defense. Today, a lot more is known about battered women behavior and the psychological syndrome surrounding their necessary violent acts of defense.

The primary legal principle applied to Battered Woman Syndrome homicide defense is the accused woman being constantly subjected to severe domestic abuse making her unable to take independent action in conventionally leaving the relationship and a firm belief the escalating pattern of violence would end with her death and/or that of her children. Eventually, the situation explodes and the battered woman—hopelessly affected by a clearly-defined, state-of-mind syndrome—takes an immediate opportunity to protect herself by proactively killing her husband through whatever available means.

On its own, Battered Woman Syndrome is part of a self-defense argument and used to explain a battered woman’s experiences that caused her to commit proactive homicide. A crucial part of having Battered Woman Syndrome admitted as trial defense evidence is the case facts being examined by a professional who specializes in the psychiatric and psychological elements of the syndrome and introduces their opinion of the accused’s mental state through expert testimony.

The American legal precedent in having Battered Woman Syndrome admitted as a contributing factor to homicide defense is called the Dyas Standard from the case Dyas v. the United States. It’s simple, yet complicated. First, the defense team must establish the accused is a battered woman within the accepted behavior parameters of the syndrome. Second, they must persuade a court the jury would be aided by expert testimony that Battered Woman Syndrome is relevant to explaining her behavior.

Once Battered Woman Syndrome because of Intimate Partner Violence is determined relevant, it has two more legal hurdles to jump. Expert testimony must be admissible, then it has to show a probative value that outweighs prejudicial impact. Making matters more complicated, Dyas Standard admissibility has a three-pronged test.

  1. The testimony’s subject matter “must be so distinctly related to some science, profession, business or occupation as to be beyond the ken of the average layman (layperson).”
  2. The witness “must have sufficient skill, knowledge or experience in that field or calling as to make it appear that his (her) opinion or inference will probably aid the trier in his (her) search for truth”.
  3. Expert testimony is inadmissible if “the state of the pertinent art or scientific knowledge does not permit a reasonable opinion to be asserted even by an expert”.

This might sound like a bunch of masculine, legal mumbo-jumbo but it says a recognized and reliable expert opinion about how a history of spousal abuse led to the accused’s perceptionat the time of the act they had no other recourse than to ultimately defend themselves by killing their intimate partner—is valid evidence that may help a jury deciding if the accused was criminally culpable. Perception in the accused’s mind—at the time of the act—is central to a self-defense claim and Battered Woman Syndrome testimony is meant to educate the jury about the realities of intimate partner violence.

Presenting a spousal abuse history proving Battered Woman Syndrome is difficult. This defense requires detailed investigation into years of abuse that’s often not documented or credibly supported by independent observations or interventions by other family members, friends, acquaintances and support professionals like social workers, medical responders, police officers, and court records.

Sadly, the reality of intimate partner violence or spousal abuse is specific incidents are seldom recorded or reported. Battered Woman Syndrome is based on a cumulative pattern of countless small and large incidents of verbal, mental, financial, mental, physical and sexual assaults that build up to a point of explosion, ending in death. So many cases have mitigating circumstances where the woman victim didn’t report most incidents, many peripheral witnesses have convenient lapses of memory, and responsible professionals fail to intervene.

Battered Woman Syndrome is based on a known, cyclical pattern of abusive behavior and response first identified by Dr. Lenore Walker who is known as the mother of Battered Woman Syndrome. Dr. Walker conducted extensive research into intimate partner violence and established theories of victim’s psychological responses to spousal violence including a behavior called “learned helplessness” and a pattern of violence cycles.

Learned helplessness is a state of mind where the woman has been long subjected to so much abuse that they feel totally incapable of defending themselves or voluntarily leaving the relationship. The emotional, financial, physical and entire realm of abuse causes the woman to lose any motivation to change their situation and they submit, rather than fight. Learned helplessness is a core element of Battered Woman Syndrome and it manifests in all cases.

Cycle theory encompasses the entire relationship period and has various degrees of severity and intervals. Cycle theory is another core element of Battered Woman Syndrome and it, too, manifest in all cases. There are three recognized violence cycles.

  1. Tension building is a phase where minor abuse incidents like emotional outbursts, verbal threats, and subtle punishments cause the woman to become hyper-vigilant to her partner’s cues and changes her behavior accordingly to diffuse them.
  2. Acute battering incidents are the second escalation. These are violent episodes where physical harm or severe emotional damage occurs.
  3. Reconciliation is the third cycle phase. It’s a loving contrition where the batterer claims to be remorseful, is charming, and promises never to harm the woman again. Invariably, the abuser blames his actions on outside influences like impairment substances, financial difficulty, or employment stress.

Battered Woman Syndrome becomes a vicious circle where the violence cycles repeat and become more frequent, making learned helplessness further entrenched. Over time, the tension-building and honeymoon stages get shorter and battering increases. This pattern results in battering incidents that become increasingly longer and more severe. The cycle works to wear women down and to keep them in a toxic relationship by controlling them, chipping away at their feeling of self-worth and independence.

Abused partners hope their abusers will change. They falsely believe the batterer doesn’t mean to harm them, rather somehow they brought it on themselves. Secrecy, fear, lack of opportunity and low self-esteem combine to make leaving an abusive relationship extremely difficult—if not impossible.

Ultimately, the heated cycle boils over and the helpless woman snaps. She takes a spontaneous and opportune, final defensive action without regard to repercussions. In her perception—at the time of the act—she has no recourse than to kill her partner. Otherwise, it’s inevitable she’ll die and so will her children. In law, this establishes a legitimate defense for homicide.

At the core of Battered Woman Syndrome lies a severe psychiatric impact that has four psychological stages.

DENIAL: The woman refuses to admit—even to herself—that she’s been beaten or that there’s a “problem” in her marriage. She may call each incident an “accident”. She offers excuses for her husband’s violence and each time firmly believes it’ll never happen again.

GUILT: She now acknowledges there’s a problem but considers herself responsible for it. She “deserves” to be beaten—she feels—because she has defects in her character and isn’t living up to her husband’s expectations.

ENLIGHTENMENT: The woman no longer assumes responsibility for her husband’s abusive treatment, recognizing that no one “deserves” to be beaten. She’s still committed to her relationship, though, and stays with her husband—hoping they can work things out.

RESPONSIBILITY: Accepting the fact that her husband will not—or cannot—stop his violent behavior, the battered woman decides she’ll no longer submit and takes self-defensive action. That can be leaving the relationship, seeking help and intervention, or taking termination matters into her own hands.

The Battered Woman Syndrome is an ugly reality in many relationships. It may not occur in your intimacy but you can be sure it’s happening in a home near you. You probably know the symptoms of an abuser and recognize the behavior of a decent and loving partner. Here are the character traits of abusive and non-abusive men, irrespective of being physically violent.

An abusive man:

  • Shouts
  • Sulks
  • Smashes things
  • Glares
  • Calls you names
  • Makes you feel ugly and useless
  • Cuts you off from your friends
  • Stops you from working
  • Never admits he’s wrong
  • Blames you, drugs, alcohol, work, stress
  • Turns the children against you
  • Uses the children to control you
  • Never does his share of  the housework
  • Never looks after the children
  • Expects sex on demand
  • Controls the money
  • Threatens or coerces you to get his way
  • Seduces those close to you
  • Expects you to be responsible for his well-being

A non-abusive man:

  • Is cheerful
  • Is consistent
  • Is supportive
  • Tells you that you look good
  • Tells you you’re competent
  • Uses your right name or pet name
  • Trusts you
  • Trusts your judgment
  • Respects you, your dignity, and your body
  • Welcomes your family and your friends
  • Encourages you to be independent
  • Supports your higher learning and career
  • Takes personal responsibility
  • Admits to being wrong
  • Is a responsible parent
  • Is an equal parent
  • Is a role model for the children
  • Is faithful
  • Shares money and assets
  • Does his share of the housework

Statistics show one in four women are—or have been—subjected to some form of intimate partner violence. That includes psychological battering. Much is subtle abuse with a long, dominant pattern of financial control, suggestive degradation, humiliation, unreasonable expectations and emotional blackmail as well as sexual overbearing and verbal assaults. Some abuse progresses to violent sexual and physical aggression.

If you’re in an abuse relationship, take action to stop it. If you recognize others in an abusive relationship, take action to help them. Don’t wait till there’s another battered woman case like Deeana Bingingham who—in my opinion, as well as a jury’s—was fully justified in taking proactive, lethal action to defend herself and her children.

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Please Share This Post!

Domestic abuse and battered woman syndrome are huge social problems worldwide. Please help spread awareness of this unacceptable violent behavior by sharing this post on social media and with your sphere of influence. The only way intimate partner violence is going to be reduced is by supporting victims and encouraging them to safely disclose their plight.  

FIFTEEN FAMOUS AX-MURDER CASES

Attic Image 4There’s something terrifying—absolutely horrific—about being axed to death. Hollywood’s made a killing off movies like The Shining, American Psycho, and So I Married An Ax-Murderer, not to mention Lord Of The Rings where Gimley, the ginger-bearded psycho-dwarf, double-blades dozens of ornery Orks. But movies aren’t real—not real life, that is. In reality, ax-murder victims don’t get up to act another day. I’ve investigated a few real-life ax-murders in my time, including one gruesome and grotesque axing scene that tops anything Hollywood has yet to script.

In fact, I’m just about finished the manuscript for In The Attic. It’s based on a true double ax-murder story and I’ll tell you what happened in that bedroom… eight feet below the attic. But first, let’s look at some other famous ax-murders that compete with my case.

15. The Axman of New Orleans

A13Between May, 1918 and October, 1919 six men and six women were attacked in their Lower Ward homes and hacked to death with an ax. The MO was consistent. The killer knew when the victims were vulnerable. Entry was made through the back door. There were no sexual overtones, no evidence of robbery, and a common denominator was that all victims were Caucasian and mostly from Italian-American heritage. The series of killings stopped as abruptly as they started and no viable suspect was ever developed.

14. The Servant Girl Annihilator

A series of eight ax-murders occurred in Austin, Texas in 1885 where the victims were young ladies who worked as servants to wealthy employers. All were chopped in their sleep in their detached quarters. Six victims were black. Two were white. No one was arrested in the cases and they also ended abruptly. In 2014, an investigative report for PBS identified a strong suspect as Nathan Elgin, a 19-year-old African-American cook who was known to many victims. Elgin was shot by police after attacking a similar servant girl with an ax. No other Austin ax-murders took place in this string after his death.

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13. Frances Stewart Silver

“Frankie” Silver was hanged in 1833 for the ax-murder of her husband, Charles Silver. His dismembered body was found distributed around the family’s North Carolina farm. Frankie never confessed and, despite weak evidence, a jury convicted her. No motive was established. Prior to her execution, she was sprung from jail through a well-planned break and was disguised as a man. She was caught attempting to flee the state and returned to the gallows.

12. The Crazed Captain

A18William Stewart was the skipper of the Mary Russell, a trading boat returning to England from Barbados. He suffered paranoid delusions and accused seven crew members of conspiring to mutiny. One by one, he lured the innocent men to the ship’s salon and enlisted three other young crew members to overpower the innocent men, binding them hand and foot then pinioning them to the floor. Once all seven were restrained, Captain Stewart took the ship’s fire-ax and systematically split their skulls. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The Mary Russell became known as the ship of seven murders.

11. Karl Denke

By day, this guy was an organ player at a church in the Kingdom of Prussia. By night, he chopped people up with his ax and stored their flesh in huge vats of pickling salt. He was caught axing a man to death at Christmas in 1924. When police searched Denke’s home, they found his business ledger documenting 42 other humans Denke killed and commercially processed. He was selling the meat at the market labeled as salt-pork. Two days after his arrest, Dehke hung himself in jail.

10. The Tokoloshe

Elifasi Msomi was called The Ax Killer in his village in South Africa. He started an 18-month killing spree in 1953 where he raped and murdered six children by hacking them apart and disposing of their parts in a valley. When caught, he claimed to be possessed by an evil spirit called the Tokoloshe. Superstitious Zulu elders bought his claim and freed Msomi after exorcising the entity. When Msomi went back to business, higher authorities stepped in and re-arrested him. A psychological assessment found Msomi to be of very high intelligence, near brilliant, however derived sexual pleasure from inflicting pain and death upon young children. He got hung.

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9. The Greenough Family Massacre

This took place in Greenough, Western Australia. In 1993, Karen MacKenzie and her three children Daniel (16), Amara (7), and Katrina (5) were so savagely ax-murdered on their remote rural farm that the trial judge ordered the details of the killings sealed, stating they were too gruesome for public knowledge. Bill Mitchell, their 24-year-old farmhand, was convicted in the murders as well as for performing sexual assaults on the dead bodies. He’s serving life sentences and was recently eligible for parole. It was denied.

8. The Hexing Axer

A20Jake Bird, also known as the Tacoma Ax-Killer, was convicted in the 1947 murders of a mother and daughter in Tacoma, Washington. He got caught fleeing the scene, barefoot, after police were called to reports of horrific screams coming from the house. Bird had the victims’ blood and brain matter on his hands, feet, and clothes as well as his bloody fingerprints on the ax found by the bodies.

At his sentencing to hang, Bird stated to the courtroom, “I’m putting the Jake Bird hex on all of you who had anything to do with my being punished. Mark my words, you will die before I do.”

A21Allegedly, six of these people died before Bird was hung in 1949; the judge, the officer who interrogated Bird’s primary confession, the officer who interrogated a secondary confession to other murders, the court clerk, an attending guard, and Bird’s own defense lawyer. Bird progressively confessed to 46 other murders, saying he liked to use an ax because it did the job very well.

7. The Police Corruption Ax-Murder

Daniel Morgan was a private investigator who was digging into allegations of drug-related police corruption in the southeast section of London. In 1987, Morgan was found dead in a park with a massive ax-wound to the back of his head. This opened up a massive investigation into police corruption that resulted in five public inquiries. A number of officers have been charged with many offenses such as drug trafficking, extortion, conspiracy, and cover-ups, but who axed Daniel Morgan remains a secret. The investigation is ongoing.

6. Joseph Ntshongwana

Here’s another South African who was good with an ax. He was also good at sports, being a professional rugby player. But something wasn’t playing right in Joseph’s head. He convinced himself that four men gang-raped his daughter and gave her an HIV infection. He hunted and hacked the men, holding their heads as hostages. At his arraignment, Joe spoke in tongues and called to deities. The court called it faking insanity and declared him fit to stand trial. Joseph Ntshongwana’s now serving life… in maximum security.

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5. Victor Licata

A23This guy did-in five members of his own family back in 1933. The Tampa, Flordia man was 21 when he went on a psychotic rampage and axed his way around the house. His mother, father, two brothers, a sister, and the family dog were slaughtered in their sleep. When arrested, Licata was dressed in clean clothes while his body underneath was covered with dried blood. Prior to the murders, his parents were trying to have him committed to a mental institute. They were too late. Licata eventually hung himself in a hospital for the criminally insane.

4. The Black Widow Ax-Murderer

A24Eva Dugan was convicted of killing her fifth husband, Charlie, in Arizona back in the 1920’s. She, like others in this article, used an ax. Eva dismembered Charlie, then buried him in the desert. She was caught—I’m not sure how—and sentenced to hang. Eva became more famous in death because the hangman miscalculated and she was decapitated. They said Eva’s head came to a rolling stop in front of the witnesses, some of which fainted. The error led to Arizona adopting the gas chamber. The noose used to kill Eva Dugan is now on display at the Pinal County Historical Museum in Florence, Arizona.

3. Lizzie Borden

A25As the song goes, “Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”  This occurred in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892. Lizzie Borden was acquitted of her parents’ murders, though history gives every indication she was dirty as a tree root. The motive appeared financial and Lizzie was perfectly sane. The house where the Borden murders took place is now a Bed & Breakfast / Museum and even has a giftshop where you can buy a Lizzie Borden Bobble Head doll. It’s blood-spattered and holding an ax. Now how cool is that? Click Here to visit or book a night.

2. The Villisca Ax-Murders

A5Probably the most famous ax-murder case… still unsolved… was in June of 1912. Six Moore family members and two child guests were savagely axed in a house in Villisca, Iowa. Evidence showed the killer hid in the attic and crept down while they slept, dispatching them one… by… one… a number of suspects… were identified… no one charged…. let alone convicted… motive unknown… crimes unsolved… the house is also a museum…

1. In The Attic

Now it’s my turn. I’m writing my next novel titled In The Attic. It’s based on the true double-ax-murders I investigated when I was a cop. Maria Dersch, the complainant/victim, came to my police office seeking protection from her ex-boyfriend, Billy Ray Shaughnessy. He’d just raped Maria at knife point, promised to kill her if caught with another man, then snuck back and sliced-up Maria’s clothes.

I’m the poor bastard who got handed the file.

AtticSo, I took an audio-recorded statement from Maria. It opened “I’m so terrified that psycho’s going to kill me.” I went to Maria’s house to find Billy Ray. To arrest Billy Ray. To photo Maria’s clothes as evidence. He was nowhere to be found. I took this serious. I arranged for others to stay with Maria until Billy Ray could be caught… even arranged for the locks to be changed on Maria’s doors.

Two and a half days later, Maria and a male friend—Earl Barker, who stayed to protect Maria—were savagely slaughtered in their sleep. Billy Ray climbed down from the attic at 3 am with an ax. The scene looked like a bomb blasted a barrel of blood. He’d been in the attic… the whole fucking time… while I photographed the clothes… changed the locks… protected Maria…

In The Attic’s point of view tells in first-person with me, the nameless detective, narrating the investigation. Uniquely, it’s also told from Billy Ray’s perspective—his thoughts told to me about lurking above. In The Attic is nearly complete and I’m looking for potential victims who’d like ARC’s, Advance Reading Copies in exchange for reviews. In The Attic is available about mid-June in ePub, Mobi/Kindle, and PDF if anyone wants dibs.

Please leave a comment or email me at garry.rodgers@shaw.ca and I’ll ship you a copy of…

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