Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.
In 1994 at the annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS.
The President Dr Don Harter Mills astounded his audience with legal
complications of a bizarre death.....
He concluded that Mr. Opus had died as a result of a shotgun wound to
Mr. Opus had jumped from the top of a ten story building intending to
commit suicide. He had left a note to the effect indicating his despondency.
As he fell past the ninth floor his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast
passing through a window, which killed him instantly.
Neither the shooter nor the deceased was aware that a safety net had been
installed just below the eighth floor level to protect some building workers
and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide the
way he had planned.
Ordinarily a person, who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds,
even though the mechanism might not be what he intended, is still defined as
The fact that Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably
would not have been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical
examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands.
In the room on the ninth floor, where the shotgun blast emanated, was
occupied by an elderly couple.
They were arguing vigorously and the husband was threatening the wife with a
shotgun. The husband was so upset that when he pulled the trigger he missed
his wife and the pellets went through the window striking Mr. Opus in the
head, on his way down.
When one intends to kill a subject "A" but kills subject "B' by mistake one is
guilty of murder of subject "B"
When confronted with the charge of murder the old man and his wife were
adamant and both said that they thought the gun was unloaded.
The old man explained that it was a long-standing habit to threaten his wife
with an un-loaded shotgun during the course of their arguments. He had no
intention to murder her.
Therefore the killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an unfortunate accident;
that is, if the gun had been accidentally loaded.
The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's
son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the argument and fatal
It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the
son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly,
loaded the gun with the expectation that his Father would shoot his Mother.
Since the loader of the gun, was aware of this, he was guilty of murder even
though he didn't actually pull the trigger.
The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death
of Ronald Opus.
Now comes the exquisite twist.
Further investigations revealed that the son was in fact, Ronald Opus.
He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to
engineer his Mother's murder on March 23rd 1994 he went to the top of
the ten story building and jumped off, only to be killed by a shotgun blast
through the ninth story window.
The son had actually murdered himself.
A True Story.