Cracking down on cold cases

Murder is fascinating. Serial killers are fascinating. It’s difficult to not be curious about what makes people do such awful things.

However, when we get caught up in the stories of the strangest murders or prolific serial killers, we forget that these stories only exist because people lost their lives. Families lost sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. In quite a few cases, the killer become famous and the victims are forgotten. For example, the Zodiac Killer. I could tell you many details of that case, but not a single victim’s name. Or in the case of Amanda Knox, who I discussed in my last blog post. Her roommate, Meredith Kercher, is rarely mentioned when Knox’s infamous case comes up. People forget that no matter how gruesome the killing was, how suspicious Knox and her boyfriend seemed at the time, a young woman was still dead.

It’s no secret that there are more missing persons, rape and murder cases than there are law enforcement officers. Resources and manpower have a limit and the longer the case goes unsolved, the harder it is to find new information.

For my final project in the class this blog was created for, I want to create a resource that enables true crime fanatics like myself to not only listen to these stories and derive entertainment from them, but also do something about the problem. Just like with any problem in society, there are things we can do, no matter how small. Turning off the water when you brush your teeth helps conserve water and the more people who do it, the more water is conserved. Who’s to say that small acts, like reporting suspicious behavior or donating blood can’t help catch criminals or aide victims and their families?

I will create this resource through a Wix site and include hyperlinks to other websites that share the same goal: to unfreeze some of the many cold cases and help those suffering from the repercussions of these terrible crimes. I may also create a Facebook and/or Twitter page to further the reach of this project.

As fascinating as it is, the world needs less death and more compassion.

I will post an update here when the site is up and running. If you have any suggestions or resources to recommend I add to my project, feel free to comment below.

— Caroline

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What happens in Perugia never stays in Perugia

Netflix.

Netflix.

Even before the release of the Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox was a household name. Her case is polarizing and most people have a strong opinion on her innocence or guilt. I was personally captivated by the documentary and it changed my view, as it did for many others. On Storify, I created a narrative of public opinion of Knox’s guilt (or lack thereof) before and after the release of the documentary, as well as some of the reactions to it. 

I want to make sure to mention Meredith Kercher, who is not a household name, but should be. The country knows Amanda Knox, but rarely can someone name her roommate who tragically lost her life. No matter if you believe Knox is guilty or innocent, there was a victim in all of this. Meredith Kercher was British student, age 21, who was found dead in the apartment she shared with Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy on November 1, 2007. Rudy Guede was found guilty and charged for her murder, but has never confessed. His final sentence was 16 years in prison, making his release date 2024.

–Caroline

Apparently, a candlestick is a very uncommon murder weapon

One of the ways I’ve fostered my love for true crime and murder mysteries over the years is with the classic board game Clue.

The rules are both simple and complicated: play detective and find out the circumstances of a murder – the what, where and culprit. You may discover by the end that you are the murderer.

Photo from Deviantart.

Photo from Deviantart.

You need at least three and as many as six players. Each person gets a character with a distinctive personality and motive for killing the host of the dinner party they’re attending. Mrs. White is my personal favorite because in the version my family owns, her onetime special power during the game is to make a prediction in a room she isn’t currently in. To make a suggestion, you have to be in the room in question. You can’t say it was Colonel Mustard in the dining room with the knife if you’re in the hallway. Everyone’s a suspect, even yourself.

The cards are divided into three categories: weapons, rooms and suspects. The objects and rooms and people all exist within the mansion – outside elements are not considered. The suspect has to be one of the six remaining party-goers. There are only nine rooms and nine possible weapons (in the most updated version) in the house.

Unlike real life, the choices are random. You don’t guess that the murder weapon was poison because of a toxicology screening done on the dead body, or that it took place in the living room because of carpet fibers on the body. There are no forensics, just the motivation to get it right first and win.

Luckily, cards for players to track their predictions are provided with the game materials. It’s tough to track all the different suggestions being thrown around even with notes. I write the initial of whomever showed me a card next to it on my paper so I can try to get them to show me different cards every time, but it’s hard to manipulate that. Getting other players to help you eliminate weapons, rooms and suspects is the closest thing the game has to interrogation.

In my family, this game is taken very seriously. Alliances shift, people try to get a peek at cards players are showing each other and my grandmother will flat-out cheat while claiming she’s using the “South American rules.” My father takes meticulous notes on every suggestion people make and tries to catch someone in a lie. It’s common practice in our house to make a suggestion with a weapon, room or suspect we have the card for, in order to draw answers out of others.

As the game goes on and players become closer to uncovering the truth, tensions start to run high. People are making wild, sometimes baseless suggestions in acts of desperation. It becomes a race to see who can nail down at least two of the components first. If you know the murderer and the weapon and have a pretty good idea of the room it took place in, you want to get to the room with the Case File (in most versions, the basement or the pool).

This isn’t unlike the real world of high-profile crime. With major cases with a lot of media attention, like Amanda Knox, every time a piece of evidence turn up, people press harder for answers and anyone with even a bit of authority claim that they have uncovered the truth. Media outlets waste no time in publishing headlines like “NEW EVIDENCE UNCOVERED — ALL SIGNS POINT TO KNOX AS THE CULPRIT” or “EVIDENCE UNCOVERS THE BLOODTHIRSTY TENDENCIES OF AMANDA KNOX TEN YEARS LATER.”

The question is, does the game trivialize murder and make it into a game? Killing someone in real life holds extremely serious consequences, but in Clue, once the murderer is exposed, the game ends. Nothing else happens. The game play of Clue simplifies horrific acts into who, what and where.

In this video, real investigators joke that Clue should contain DNA evidence and surveillance cameras, things that didn’t exist in 1949 when the game was first created. They also highlight the similarities and differences between real crime-solving and Clue.

— Caroline