Welcome back to this series on solving homicides. Chapter three of the book Murder one: A Writer’s Guide to Homicide by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino, is all about financial murders. Today is all about bumping off the business partner. I love how the authors take care of this chapter: they offer a believable scenario, showcase the motives and methods, then cover the investigation and capture.
Scenario: Two men share equal rights in a company that manufactures gaskets for oil filters. I’ll call them Bob and Doug. The business is in the black, but neither partner can have that lavish lifestyle they desire. The senior partner, Bob, in the midst of a midlife crisis, finds himself a pretty young woman who enjoys spending his dough, and the wife becomes suspicious. Bob is in a quandary: he wants to keep the lover, but he doesn’t want his wife to find out because she’ll divorce him and take him for everything he has. If that happens, the lover leaves and he’s got no one and no cash. What’s a man to do?
Motive: Panic, fear, and greed, the trifecta of all great murder plots. Bob could choose to dump the lover and remain faithful to his wife. Instead, he decides to kill Doug so Bob can have all the cash to himself. (Never mind the fact that, if his wife finds out about the affair, all the new cash will be gone, too. Men in the midst of midlife crisis who decide that killing someone is the best option are rarely thinking logically.) Bonus: Doug also has a life insurance policy that pays out to Bob in case of death. (Again, wife will get it in the divorce and/or if Bob goes to prison.)
Method: Bob, in a bold and brilliant move, decides that Doug’s death must look like suicide. To make it believable, this homicide has to fool seasoned homicide detectives, forensic specialist, and medical examiners–all of whom have seen this before. The best scenario would be if detectives on the scene label it a suicide, therefore skipping the forensics and ME’s.
Bob cooks up a plan to make all the employees at the factory think Doug is going through some serious personal problems. Bob changes business meetings to different times and locations without telling Doug, so Doug misses these meetings and it’s noted by the employees. Bob also makes it look like Doug is buying unnecessary equipment for the company, wasting precious profits. Eventually, the employees will come to believe that there’s something wrong with Doug. Bob may even suggest, in front of witnesses, that Doug find some professional help for his issues. Poor Doug is clueless.
Every year about the same time, Doug heads to the office on a Sunday to prepare for the annual inventory. His family and friends expect it of him, and no one else is at the factory during this time, so Bob grabs the opportunity. He purchases an illegal weapon and heads to the office to do some “work.” He finds Doug at his desk, pulls out the gun, and shoots Doug in the head at close range. There are no signs of forced entry, no signs of struggle, and poor Doug is dead of a head wound that is a typical suicide method of adult males. Bob thinks he’s gotten away with murder.
Investigation and Capture: Bob’s not as smart as he thinks he is. Doug’s fingerprints aren’t on the weapon or on any of the unfired bullets inside the gun. That, alone, points to murder, since Doug’s not wearing gloves. Because of this small detail, homicide detectives will immediately look at those closest to Doug: his wife and his business partner. It won’t be long before Bob’s fitted for his prison garb.
Such a simple thing, huh? In almost every crime, it’s the little details that lead to the perpetrator’s capture. Keep this in mind when planning your fictional perp’s capture. Things like a witness, video surveillance, or trace physical evidence can all have a huge impact even by themselves. When combined with other “little” details, they can lead to capture and conviction.
Any questions? Comments? I love hearing from you:)