Research Briefs

Gender Bias in the Smiley Face Killer Theory

By: Anne Lehmann & Dallas Drake

A theory attempting to explain the drowning deaths of intoxicated, young, white, college males is taken to task based on empirical data. The claim that women do not drown is shown to be the result of methodological or sampling biases. Researchers gathered 200 cases of dead women pulled from rivers. A surprise finding relates to several victims who were murdered, and yet no claim of serial killing. Of these female victims, 43.7% “were killed by an intimate or sexual partner.” To read the brief, click here.

When is Deadly Force Self-Defense a Legal Defense to Homicide

By: Liam PD Nuhring

One of the most well-known legal defenses, the claim of self-defense, if successfully asserted and proven, acts as a justification to what would otherwise be considered criminal activity. This brief identifies the variance among state jurisdictions in determining what constitutes self-defense. Issues relevant to homicide researchers are also addressed. To read the brief, click here.

Third Parties in Conflict: Factors in Creating A Peacemaker Homicide Outcome

By: Annika Kohrt

Homicides in many instances involve more than an easily delineated victim and offender. This brief discusses patterns of third parties in conflict, and examines peacemaker homicides specifically. How many peacemaker homicides occurred in Minnesota between 2006 and 2015 and what patterns exist there? What can be done to prevent peacemaker homicides?

To access the brief, click on the image.

Impact of Homicide on Housing

Stigmatized PropertiesBy: Katherine Herman

Stigmatized properties are often hard to sell because many people are superstitious, further perpetuating the conceptual idea of stigmatized property. However, prospective buyers who are able to overlook the home’s tragedy may only pay a fraction of the asking price for such a property. The reduced price occurs because stigmatized properties often take longer to sell, which can result in a lower sale price when compared to similar non-stigmatized properties. This brief will address issues of law; situational variables such as neighborhood and racial characteristics; as well as provide relevant  examples.

To access the brief, click on the image.

How to Locate Missing Vehicles in Suspected Homicide Cases

By: Jonathan Rasch

The Homicide Center is re-titling this research brief to better describe its content. When people go missing under suspicious circumstances, it is often easier to track and locate their missing motor vehicle rather than their person. Written by an emergency communications center supervisor, this brief outlines strategies for helping to locate difficult to find missing vehicles.

To access the brief, click here.

Sex Strikes: Boycotting Sex as a Homicide Prevention Tactic

By: Patricia Poyer

Sex Strikes, or withholding sexual activity as a means of stopping homicide has been used around the world. Little has been written about this as a homicide prevention strategy, yet it has been enacted in many countries around the world. This brief pulls together information about its origin, implementation, and success.

To access the brief, click here.

Accidental Discharges by the Police

By: Stephen Kaminsky

With the enactment of new laws and a national debate on whether teachers should be armed, the Center for Homicide Research examined the issue of accidental discharges by schoolteachers. Researchers found that one group of current firearm users were also experiencing accidental discharges – the police. Firearm advocates propose that teacher training should match that of police officers. Therefore, researchers hypothesized that cases of accidental discharges by teachers might be just as prevalent as, or possibly higher than, those of police. This observation highlights a possible threat to the safety of students, school administrators, and faculty.

To access the brief, click on the image.

Drowning the Smiley Face Murder Theory

By: Dallas S. Drake, Cheryl M. Bebernes, Brandon J.Wheeler, Eden Z. Stelflug, Peter D. Espenson, Angela M. Van Auken, Kevin R. Olson, Agathe M. Panaretos, & Ben J. Anderson

A theory has developed that credits the drowning deaths of a number of young men in the Midwest and Northeastern United States to the work of a serial homicide offender. In 1999, journalists first reported that college-aged students were drowning in rivers after an evening of heavy drinking (Maller). These deaths were said to form a pattern, and it was soon proposed that it was the work of a serial killer, or team of killers, who were deliberately targeting young men for murder (Kaye, 2008). Smiley face graffiti was sometimes, though not always, discovered near these death scenes. This serial murder explanation is now called the smiley face murder theory (Smiley, 2010).

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Drowning the Smiley Face Murder Theory

Drowning the Smiley Face Murder Theory – Photos

Staged Hunting Mishaps and Criminal Homicide

By: Seth Benjamin Cobin

In May 1988 a lesbian couple, camping along the Appalachian Trail were shot by a cave-dwelling mountain man who came across them engaged in intimate activity. One victim died at the scene and the other suffered serious injuries. When approached by the authorities the offender initially claimed the shooting had been a simple hunting accident. Had the offender not fired eight shots and left one victim alive, investigators might have believed his story.

To access the brief, click here.


What Happens to a Vehicle that is Towed or Impounded?

By: Jonathan Rasch

Homicide and missing person cases many times involve the disappearance of a vehicle related to the investigation. This paper will address the points an investigator must consider when searching for or trying to identify the location of a vehicle related to a case.

One difficulty in developing information on this topic is that while states have regulations regarding towing and impounding vehicles, local jurisdictions can also regulate vehicle towing and impounds through their city ordinances and codes. It would be impossible to include all of these regulations in a paper such as this, but it should give a researcher a better understanding of the process. This will allow the researcher to concentrate efforts more specifically in a jurisdiction they may be researching.

To access the brief, click here.