Sunday, September 9, 2012

WHY DO PEOPLE KILL?


by Earl Staggs 

I watch a lot of true crime shows on TV. These are documentary retellings of real life crimes, usually murders. I can’t get interested in a lot of the dramatic mystery shows that are highly rated. The only mystery in some of them is when are the main characters going to go to bed together. In others, all the sleuthing is done by punching a few keys into a computer and getting an incredible amount of information about the suspects. In others, a CSI takes one look at a dead body and reveals the killer had red hair, was left -handed, drives a blue BMW, and lives in a three-story house. After that, the show revolves around when the main characters are going to go to bed together. 

Most of the comedy shows don’t interest me either. I see nothing funny about being loud, stupid, bizarre, or obnoxious. It seems in every one of them there must be a scene in which everyone screams at everyone else or some guy gets kicked in the groin, often by a little old lady or a child. I don’t see the humor.  

But in true crime shows, I see real cops investigating real crimes committed by real people. The investigators track down real suspects the old-fashioned way. They knock on doors, check previous criminal records, and talk to everyone living in the neighborhood where the crime occurred or who knew the victim. They search every nook and cranny for clues and wear out a lot of shoe leather to determine who had the basics for committing the crime: means, motive and opportunity. 

Motive is the element which intrigues me most. How can one human being believe taking the life of another human being will solve a problem? How can anyone be so twisted to believe killing is justified? Love, money, and revenge, I believe, top the list of motives. A woman whose husband left her for someone else decides to murder him. Perhaps the other woman also. A man covets his neighbor’s expensive home and car so much he kills his parents or his spouse for the inheritance so he can have them too. Serial killers may have no reasonable motive other than someone had the bad fortune to be handy when the inexplicable drive to kill surfaced. Psychopaths and sociopaths somehow lack the ability to respect the right to life of anyone but themselves. 

I often wonder if there is some physical malfunction somewhere in the mind of a killer. Are there neurons in the brain turned around backwards? Were some cells in their brain not fully formed at birth? Did some traumatic event early in life unhinge their ability to know right from wrong? 

The answers to these questions fascinate but elude me. Does anyone have the answers?

 

 

 

16 comments:

jinxschwartz@yahoo.com said...

And then again, some folks just need killin'.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I think whether you call it lust, love, money, or something else, it all comes down to various form of rage/anger.

Lynn Cahoon said...

And maybe a form of entitlement - some people are just built that way - this is mine and you're in my way.

Kaye Barley said...

and some people are, sadly, just purely evil.

Larry W. Chavis said...

At bottom, there has to be some kind of disconnect, some fundamental failure of the killer to associate himself with humanity in general. Somehow, he or she finds personal needs/wants to outweigh any other consideration. Earl, I think you are correct - some cases likely do result from some physical misfire, but Kaye is correct, too - some are just evil, although, to me, the desire/lust/whatever that leads anyone to kill for gain is itself evil.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Back in college, a friend of mine insisted that all killers had one thing in common--they were not sane.
Something is somehow twisted in their psyche. I think she may have had a point there. Regardless of so-called motive, there is something mentally wrong with a person who plots to murder another.

Mark Troy said...

It's long been a tenet of psychology that all motivations are based on a set of very elemental drives that are controlled by tiny structures in the primitive part of our brains. These drives are sometimes called the four F's -- feeding, fighting, fleeing, and reproducing.

Mark Troy said...

It's long been a tenet of psychology that all motivations are based on a set of very elemental drives that are controlled by tiny structures in the primitive part of our brains. These drives are sometimes called the four F's -- feeding, fighting, fleeing, and reproducing.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Desperation; fear; a primitive survival gene, perhaps? Good question, Earl.

Morgan Mandel said...

Loss of control over emotions sometimes. Going too far and regretting it later. And then there are those who can't tell right from wrong.

Morgan Mandel
Twitter: @MorganMandel

Shalanna said...

Perhaps SOME people just get so fed up with Facebook (the constant political stuff from both sides, the stupid game requests, the passing along of urban legends that can be easily dismissed with a visit to Snopes) that they have to kill. As Jinx said--some people just need killin'.

But seriously, folks, I think some people are just born without a soul. It's a birth defect. They grow up to be psychopaths/sociopaths because they have no moral compass and nowhere to install one. Then they see some cleverly written murder TV episode or movie and they copy it. Maybe that's all there is to it. Them people just ain't right!

And I get to make stuff up about them. What a racket. The writer's life!

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Or maybe some of them are more like Bernie. The undertaker from Carthage, Texas who killed the meanest woman in town and the townspeople refused to convict him! (Jack Black did a fantastic job portraying Bernie--just watched the movie last night)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Earl. I always have a very dark psychopath in my novels and do a lot of research on this kind of person. Though I'm not a scientist I think those who kill have brain malfunctions, have missing cells at birth or, as Kaye said, are just born with a bent to do harm and evil. Thelma Straw

Anonymous said...

By the way, it pays to place a note on DL! I saw your note, and as I love your writing, voila!!! Thelma

Kaye George said...

Earl, this question is the one I've been seeking answers to for many years. It's part of the reason I write mysteries, to explore that very thing. Psychopaths aside, I believe any one of us could get into a situation where murder was the only solution, the only way out. I believe normal people (not psychopaths) generally try to do the right thing. When that's not possible, a person will do the thing they feel they must do. I like to explore how a person gets to that point, backed into that corner--where the only choice seems to be to take someone else's life. Great question!

Earl Staggs said...

I'm blown away by the depth of responses to my questions. It's obvious there are no simple answers. The human psyche and the world it inhabits is far too complicated for that.

My thanks to everyone for pondering this with me, and. . .

. . .be careful out there.