I’m doing a series based on Murder one: A Writer’s Guide to Homicide by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino in an effort to pass along pertinent information needed to write a believable murder mystery. I’m in chapter 2, which covers murder weapons. Today’s topic is unusual weapons.
I brought up a statistic several posts ago that said 71% of all murder weapons are firearms or knives (the division is 50% firearms, 21% knives). If my math is right, that leaves 29% of all murders using something other than a firearm or knife. Hmmm, what could we use to kill off our unwanted character?
Corvasce and Paglino suggest that common household items (weapons of opportunity) make up some of that extra 29%. You’ve got two characters arguing, one of them goes a bit crazy and grabs the nearest weapon: a fireplace poker, a baseball bat, a floor lamp, a small TV, a frying pan, a cinder block, or a two-by-four.
The thing to remember is that each of these items don’t really need to be described to the reader, as the reader already knows what they are, BUT each one leaves trace evidence at the scene to be collected by crime fighters. Then they can trace it back to the murder weapon, which might contain evidence of the murderer (DNA, fingerprints, hair, trace evidence, etc). Cases where a weapon of opportunity was used are usually not premeditated, meaning they weren’t planned before-hand. Because of that, the cover-up will be sloppy or even non-existent, and many times the weapon will be left at the scene of the crime. That’s good news for your crime fighter hero.
The authors bring up an interesting case: a kitchen knife was brought to the scene by the murderer. He killed his victim, rinsed off the knife, and slipped it into a knife block on the kitchen counter thinking he’d throw off the detectives. The detectives found the knife, found trace amounts of DNA on it, and therefore determined it was the murder weapon. They then discovered that it didn’t belong to the set on the kitchen counter and was therefore brought to the scene by the killer. Once they had their suspect in custody, they matched the knife to a set in his own kitchen. This contradicted his statement that he’d grabbed a knife from the vic’s kitchen in self-defense. He’d stupidly kept his knife set, thinking the murder weapon would never be traced back to him. Therein lies the beauty of criminals: they think they’re so smart, but they always make mistakes. It’s those mistakes that get them caught, so come up with some clever ones for your book and your reader will be pleased.
That concludes the chapter on murder weapons. They didn’t delve into poisons, drugs, or kills involving body parts (strangulation, drowning, judo kick to the head), but we can delve into those at a later date, if pertinent.