Tis the season for Murder, Suicide, and Murder.
In midtown Manhattan, on the west side, a few blocks from Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center, Dmitriyi Kanarikov threw his three year old son and then himself from the top of a hi-rise apartment building. Both fell 52 floors. Kanarikov died on impact, and his son died soon thereafter. It was a murder suicide. Early reports assert that Kanarikov was in the midst of a contentious divorce with his wife, the primary issue being the custody of the three year old boy.
In Colorado, Claire Davis, 17, a pretty student at Arapahoe High School, who loved her family, friends, horses and One Direction, succumbed to her wounds inflicted by the most recent school-shooter, Karl Pierson, 18. Pierson shot Davis at point blank range with a pump action shotgun, legally purchased, illegally employed. Davis had been sitting outside the school’s library and had had no opportunity to get away from her killer. She was a random victim. After Pierson shot Davis he entered the library in search of the school librarian, thought to be Pierson’s primary target. Not finding the librarian and with authorities closing in, Pierson shot and killed himself. It was a murder suicide.
In a car park by the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, carjackers ripped off a Chevrolet SUV owned by Dustin Friedland, 30, and his wife, Jane, 27. During the brazen assault and theft, one or more of the carjackers shot and killed Friedland, a Hoboken lawyer, while his wife of two years looked on. Authorities soon tracked down and arrested four suspects who’ve been charged with the murder. The suspects’ photos have been published on television and the net.
In Bratenahl, Ohio, an upscale community located a few miles east of downtown Cleveland, a male driver of a silver or white pickup truck and a woman driver were involved in a minor fender bender. Both got out of their vehicles and began to argue. The argument escalated and the truck driver returned to his truck and drove away. The woman tried to stop him and was dragged several hundred feet. The male driver then stopped, got out of his truck and beat the woman mercilessly. He then left the woman lying in the road. He got back into his truck and drove over the woman, attempting to kill her. The woman’s mother was a passenger in the woman’s car and saw everything the truck driver did to her daughter. The injured woman is in the hospital and in critical condition. She is said to be fighting for her life. Beyond a vague description of the truck (possibly a silver or white Chevrolet Silverado) and the male driver (6 feet tall, medium build, brown hair, jeans and dark jacket), the police have little to go on.
Tis the season, alright, for murder, suicide, theft, rage and more murder.
These weren’t the top stories of 2013, but they came in a cluster at year’s end when people tend to look back and assess where they are, where their family is, where their lives are headed, and how they’ll get there in a country endowed with promise and riddled with problems, not the least of which is the chronic violence that threatens all.
The passions that drive men and women to acts of violence are endemic to the human condition. There’s always been anger, avarice, greed, envy and arrogance. There’s always been the fuel to lower inhibitions and excite the blood. There’s always been mental disease and the void that plagues many with its promise of futility and an existence without meaning. There’s always been the outlier who takes the step no one took before him. There’s always been stupidity, stubbornness, rigidity, and a false sense of entitlement. There’s always been evil, within and without.
It’s just that now, the flawed creatures (meaning everyone) who exhibit the less-than-their-best, to some degree or another, live in a society where the pressure is chronic, where the input is unceasing, where the demands ever escalate, where the returns are uncertain, where one allows one’s self to be distracted or pays the price for trying to engage too much reality. The pressure builds, the anger contracts and finally explodes, sufficient to destroy everything in its vicinity and wake.
The above stories are more disturbing, though, because they exhibit a cold carelessness in crimes where the murder is secondary to the underlying and primary motive.
Karanikov wanted to hurt his wife, so he killed their son.
Pierson wanted to exact revenge on a librarian, so he killed an innocent girl, virtually unknown to him.
The carjackers wanted the SUV, so they killed the owner, too.
The enraged truck driver didn’t want the hassles attendant to a fender bender, so he tried to swat the other driver away as one might swat a pesky fly. In the process he beat her and drove his truck over her, leaving her in critical condition, fighting for her life.
In each instance the killer and would-be killer placed more value on a personal interest (depriving another person of a loved one, exacting revenge for some imagined wrong, the price of an SUV, the relief of personal responsibility) than they placed on the value of the lives they took or tried to take.
Tis’ the season to stop and look around, to be of good cheer, to write off murder-suicides as the outliers of human behavior.
Tis’ the season to complain that there aren’t enough Hallmark Movies or Walton Reunions and that the media pays all those bad guys too much attention with too much air-time.
Tis’ the season to wait another week and see whether some other sick or evil or misguided or fractured human being opts for the consolation prize, because he or she can’t get what they really want. If the consolation prize happens to be one more innocent victim, dead or comatose, the unintended consequence of a very intentional crime, perhaps the statisticians will have to revisit the definition of outlier. Perhaps what were once thought to be the random bad acts of randomly distributed people in a free society are now happening with such frequency that the outliers are no longer outliers. Perhaps the exceptions are becoming a new rule. Perhaps the points once deemed to be off the charts are beginning to form bell curves of their own on charts of their own.
Tis’ the season, after all.
By Michael Hogan