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?