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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 160-163

Use of Different Murder Weapons by a Single Murderer: Two Case Reports

1 Institute of Criminal Science and Technology of Public Security Bureau in Karamay City, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Karamay, 834000, P. R. China
2 The 2011 Collaborative Innovation Center of Judicial Civilization, The Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education, China University of Political Science and Law, Beijing 100088, P. R. China

Date of Web Publication30-Sep-2016

Correspondence Address:
Rufeng Bai
25, Xitucheng Road, Haidian District, Beijing
P. R. China
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2349-5014.191469

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Homicide is an extremely serious crime, and although the offender usually uses the same weapon to initially injure and complete the killing, there are exceptions. We report two cases in which a single murderer killed a victim using different weapons and summarize several situations in which a murderer might use different weapons to kill. The number of murders should be determined and estimated after a comprehensive complicated investigation of the scene, careful examination of the victim's injuries, and evaluation of evidence reported by eyewitnesses.

Keywords: Homicide, injury-causing weapon, victim

How to cite this article:
Orazhkan E, Pu T, Wang L, Wang Z, Zhu Z, Bai R. Use of Different Murder Weapons by a Single Murderer: Two Case Reports. J Forensic Sci Med 2016;2:160-3

How to cite this URL:
Orazhkan E, Pu T, Wang L, Wang Z, Zhu Z, Bai R. Use of Different Murder Weapons by a Single Murderer: Two Case Reports. J Forensic Sci Med [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Jul 6];2:160-3. Available from: https://www.jfsmonline.com/text.asp?2016/2/3/160/191469

  Introduction Top

Homicide is an extremely serious crime, and the cause or motive of the crime can be intentional or unintentional. Usually, when a murder is premeditated, the murderer prepares many items including the weapon according to a plan and hopes that the whole crime transpires as expected. On the other hand, if the offender commits a crime on the spur of the moment, the weapon used is often found at the murder scene, which suggests that it was already there before the criminal activity began. In most cases, the same weapon is often used by an offender in a criminal case from the beginning to the end. However, there are exceptions as evidenced by our report here of two cases in which each offender used different weapons to kill the victim (s).

  Case Reports Top

Case 1

A 61-year-old woman was found dead on the floor in a large pool of blood in her living room. External and internal examination of the corpse by forensic pathologists revealed the following potentially lethal injuries [Figure 1]: (1) irregularly shaped point or slice abrasions and bruises on the skin around the mouth and mucosa of both lips, cheeks, and gums, especially two ruptures of the mucosa of the upper lip; four arc-like abrasions in a parallel arrangement on the right side, and one on the left side of the neck; pinpoint and petechial hemorrhage distributed over the ocular conjunctiva of both eyes, galea of the right forehead and left occipital region, the serosal cleft between the lobes of both lungs, and the external serosa of the heart; the left superior temporal parietal subarachnoid hemorrhage; cyanopathy of the lips and fingernails of both hands; (2) transverse arrangement of four parallel wounds (9, 11.5, 4.2, and 9.2 cm long) located at the anterior triangle area of the neck with muscle bleeding, transverse fracture of thyroid cartilage, and transverse rupture of the right common carotid artery; and (3) irregularly shaped slice abrasions and bruises scattered over the left upper arm and dorsal side of both hands. No alcohol or commonly used anesthetic, sedative drugs were found in her blood or liver samples.
Figure 1: The injuries on the male victim in case 1. (a-c) The point or slice abrasions and bruises with irregular shape on the skin around the mouth and mucosa of double lips, cheeks and gums; (d) the four abrasions similar to arc with parallel arrangement on the right side of the neck and the transverse arrangement of four parallel wounds located at the anterior triangle area of the neck; (e) the simulated situation according the abrasions on the neck. (f) the abrasions on the left of neck and the transverse arrangement of four parallel wounds located at the anterior triangle area of the neck

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On the basis of these autopsy findings, the forensic pathologists identified two main potential causes of death: mechanical asphyxia and hemorrhagic shock. First, mechanical asphyxia was indicated according to the injuries (abrasions and bruises) located at the mouth and neck and the ischemia and hypoxic conditions (e.g., pinpoint and petechial hemorrhage of the eyes, galea, lungs, and heart and cyanopathy). [1] The distribution and morphological characteristics of these injuries located at her face and neck suggested the offender covered her mouth and nose with his right hand and stuck her neck with his left hand. Second, hemorrhagic shock was indicated by the deep wounds on her neck with rupture of the right common carotid artery and the large pool of blood on the floor. The flat edge and wall of the wounds implied that the weapon was a sharp blade such as the kitchen knife found on the scene, and the DNA evidence on the knife verified our conjectures and insights. Other abrasions and bruises scattered on the arm and hands suggested that the woman resisted her attacker.

Case 2

After a married couple had been missing for several months, their employer found the 41-year-old husband dead at home. The police searched for his 32-year-old wife and found her buried on the west side of their house where they had observed traces of soil loosening. The two corpses were highly decomposed because of the summer season and the length of time since death, and therefore, the damage could not be observed in detail. The main injuries exposed after autopsy are partly shown in [Figure 2]. The husband had five roughly parallel rough-edged lacerations of different lengths located in the occipital area but no skull fracture under the damaged scalp and an intracranial hematoma. Brain damage could not be determined because of the liquidation. A transverse contusion (approximately 9.3 cm long) on the front of the neck with subcutaneous and muscle hemorrhage, a longitudinal fracture on the left bone plate of the thyroid cartilage with an irregular edge, pinpoint, and petechial hemorrhages scattered on the serosal cleft between the lobes of the lungs and serosa of the heart and both kidneys, and multiple subcutaneous hemorrhages over his entire body were also found. The wife had a horizontal ligature mark (approximately 14.5 cm long) above her Adam's apple from the left to the right side of the neck with subcutaneous and muscle hemorrhage, a fracture of the hyoid bone, and a large number of soil particles in her mouth, trachea, and bronchus.
Figure 2: The injuries on two victims of the husband and wife in case 2. (a) Five lacerations with rough edge, different lengths, and relatively parallel arrangement located at the occipital area of the husband; (b) the transverse contusion on the front of neck; (c) longitudinal fracture on left bone plate of thyroid cartilage with irregular edge; (d) the horizontal ligature mark above the Adam's apple from the left to right of neck; (e) fracture on hyoid body; (f) a large number of soil particles found in her mouth, trachea, and bronchus

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On the basis of these autopsy findings and other investigative information, it was believed that both the husband and wife died from mechanical asphyxia because there were obvious injuries on their necks and evidence of ischemia and hypoxia in their internal organs. [1] Regarding the husband's injuries, the head trauma was difficult to evaluate because of the severe liquefaction of the brain despite lacerations of his occipital area. Furthermore, the long appearance of the lacerations and the 9.3-cm-long transverse contusion on the front of his neck and the irregular longitudinal fracture of thyroid cartilage implied that a greater force compressed his neck than could be induced by hand; therefore, a tool such as a stick was likely used. Regarding the wife's injuries, the horizontal ligature mark on her neck and hyoid bone fracture suggested that a soft tool such as a rope was used. Furthermore, the soil particles found in her deep airways showed that she was alive when buried.

  Discussion Top

In homicide cases, most offenders attempt to severely injure the victim as soon as possible to avoid resistance of the victim, complete the killing process, finish the criminal activities, and leave the scene without being caught. Therefore, in the initial stages of planning a criminal activity, the offender usually chooses a weapon that is convenient and powerful enough to be trusted to complete the task, such as a knife with a sharp blade or axe, whether the crime is planned or unplanned intentional or unintentional. During the process of killing, the offender has to concentrate on the resistance or escape activities of the victim, which is why the same weapon is generally used by an offender from the beginning to the end. There are, however, many exceptions, for example, if the offender is not as strong as the victim such as an adolescent versus a young adult, if there are several victims, if the weapon breaks unexpectedly, if the criminal process is interrupted, or if the offender is inexperienced and perhaps conducted his or her first crime. It should be noted that these exceptions usually occur during unintentional or unplanned crimes.

In the first case of the current report, the offender subdued the victim by manual strangulation after covering the victim's nose and mouth and then ensured and confirmed the victim's death by cutting her neck with a kitchen knife. The multiple incised wounds also suggested that the murderer was not experienced in committing such a crime. These inferred conclusions were confirmed by the confessions. The 22-year-old male murderer was a close relative of the female victim, and he asked her for living expenses one night. When she refused after nearly 2 h of discussion, he became sufficiently provoked to kill her. Initially, he beat the victim, and she dodged and called loudly for help. Therefore, he had to cover her mouth and grab her neck until she ceased resisting; he then obtained the knife from the kitchen and cut her neck repeatedly to ensure her death. According to his confessions, he had no plan to kill the woman and was just begging for a little money to cover living expenses.

In the second case, the morphology and distribution of the five lacerations around the husband's occipital area without a skull fracture implied that the stick used may have been wooden rather than metal because a metal weapon is more likely to cause a fracture. The victim was likely rendered defenseless by the multiple wounds on his head, and then, his neck was compressed by the murderer with the stick to ensure the victim's death. Furthermore, the husband was attacked unexpectedly as suggested by the location of the lacerations at the back of his head, indicating the offender attacked him from the back. Regarding the wife, it was obvious that she was strangled by a soft rope and then buried. [2] The confession of the murderer confirmed these inferences. The murderer had come to the victim's house because of a debt dispute and found only the husband at home. After a prolonged argument, the murderer became enraged and used a wooden stick that was leaning against the living room wall to deliver a blow to the husband's head while he was not prepared, then sat on him, and compressed his neck until the victim died. As the murderer was leaving, he heard the wife's voice out back. He found a rope near the door and hid. When the wife opened the door, he suddenly strangled her with the rope around her neck, but he was not sure she had died. He took her body to a pit at the west side of their house and buried her. In this case, the murderer killed two persons using a wooden stick, rope, and burial. He used different methods and weapons because the killing process was interrupted.

In this report, the two female victims suffered the manual strangulation by a familiar murderer, in accordance with an epidemiological study in Taiwan by Fong et al. [3] reporting that the neck was the most common site of injuries in homicides, and strangulation was one of the most common causes of death. Furthermore, in these two cases, the offenders were not experienced criminals and killed their victims on the spur of the moment. The injury weapons used were obtained at the crime scene, and when the victims ceased resisting, the offender changed methods to continue the killing process to ensure the death, such as the multiple parallel wounds on the wound by knife, and the extra burial in these two cases. It is notable that in the second case, after the offender had killed the husband and was leaving the crime scene, unfortunately, his wife came back and interrupted the criminal process, and therefore, the offender obtained another weapon to kill her.

  Conclusions Top

In forensic practice during the investigation of a criminal case, when the use of different weapons is inferred from the wounds incurred in the same case or by one person, it is usually suggested that there was more than one murderer. However, the inference should take into account the contrast in strength between offender and victim, the whole process from beginning to end, the murderer's motive, and other relevant information. The number of murderers should, therefore, be determined and estimated by a comprehensive investigation of the scene, careful examination of the victim's injuries, and evaluation of the evidence of eyewitnesses. Using computer technology to reconstruct the crime scene can also be very useful. [4]

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship

The authors are very grateful to two case information providers for their contributions to this work. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, Nos. 81172902 and 81373241), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2013M540661), the 2011 Collaborative Innovation Center of Judicial Civilization, China, Beijing Natural Science Foundation (No. 7132116), and the Program for Young Innovative Research Team in China University of Political Science and Law (16CXTD05).

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Zhao ZQ, Liao ZG, Wang YY, Guan DW. Forensic Pathology. 4 th ed. Beijing, China: PMPH Press; 2012.  Back to cited text no. 1
Ma J, Jing H, Zeng Y, Tao L, Yang Y, Ma K, et al. Retrospective analysis of 319 hanging and strangulation cases between 2001 and 2014 in Shanghai. J Forensic Leg Med 2016;42:19-24.  Back to cited text no. 2
Fong WL, Pan CH, Lee JC, Lee TT, Hwa HL. Adult femicide victims in forensic autopsy in Taiwan: A 10-year retrospective study. Forensic Sci Int 2016;266:80-5.  Back to cited text no. 3
Buck U, Naether S, Räss B, Jackowski C, Thali MJ. Accident or homicide - virtual crime scene reconstruction using 3D methods. Forensic Sci Int 2013;225:75-84.  Back to cited text no. 4


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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