From March 2009 to April 2009, 43 people in the United States died during murder-suicides, stirring speculation that copycats were becoming inspired by real-life crimes. One of the most publicized incidents was the shooting of 13 people at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, N.Y., before the gunman turned his weapon on himself. In addition, from 2008 to 2010, there were a series of parent-child murder-suicides in states from California to Maryland [source: Sandberg].
While researchers point to a possible combination of factors that may be responsible for the increase in murder-suicides -- economics, unemployment and passionate motives like jealousy -- they also revealed that suicides alone are a largely seasonal event, as evidenced by an uptick in self-inflicted deaths each spring. There's also often an increase in the suicide rate in the areas surrounding a highly publicized suicide. However, there's no conclusive evidence that murder-suicides follow the same patterns -- even if there have been an unusual number of murder-suicides within specific time periods [source: Szalavitz].
For more about the crimes and topics discussed in this article, check out the links below.
- 10 Real-life Crimes That Became Fictional TV Episodes
- How Serial Killers Work
- How Crime Scene Investigation Works
- How Autopsies Work
- How Crime-scene Clean-up Works
- How DNA Evidence Works
- How Blood Works
- How Luminol Works
- How Profiling Works
- How Your Brain Works
- How Prisons Work
- Do criminal psychopaths enjoy other people's fear?
- Was a Hungarian countess the world's most prolific serial killer?
- Allender, Thad, et al. "Major U.S. School Killings." April 12, 2009. (Jan. 6, 2012) http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/graphic-school-killings.htm
- Bean, Matt. "'Matrix' Makes its Way into Courtrooms as Defense Strategy." CNN. May 21, 2003. (Jan. 6. 2012) http://articles.cnn.com/2003-05-21/justice/ctv.matrix.insanity_1_insanity-defenses-matrix-defense-legal-pads?_s=PM:LAW
- Bell, Rachael. "The Tylenol terrorist." truTV. (Oct. 29, 2009) http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/terrorists_spies/terrorists/tylenol_murders/4.html
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- Greek, Cecil. "Copy-Cat Crimes." 1997a. In Rasmussen, R. Kent (ed.). Ready reference: Censorship. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. https://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/learning.htm
- Grisham, John. "Unnatural Killers." Oxford American. April 1996. http://facstaff.gpc.edu/~jbusbee/Grisham.htm
- Haynes, Esther. "Kiss of the Scorpion Woman." New York Magazine. (Oct. 29, 2009) http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/crimelaw/features/n_10181/
- Madden, Melissa Ann. "Heriberto 'Eddie' Seda." truTV. (Oct. 29, 2009) http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/weird/seda/index_1.html
- Osborn, Andrew. "'Scream' Movies are Blamed by Teenage Girl's Copycat Killer." The Guardian. Nov. 18, 2001. (Jan. 6, 2012) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/18/filmnews.film
- Ramsland, Katherine. "Movies Made Me Murder." (Jan. 6, 2012) http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/movies_made_me_kill/5.html
- Sky News. "Just Tell us Where the Bodies Are." Oct. 6, 2008. (Jan. 6, 2012) http://news.sky.com/home/uk-news/article/15113820
- Snopes. "Aftermath of the Tylenol Murders." (Jan. 6, 2012) http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/tylenol.asp
- Steel, Fiona. "Savage Weekend: Danny Rolling." (Jan. 6, 2012) TruTV. http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/predators/rolling/gain_1.html
- Szalavitz, Maia. "Is Copycat Behavior Driving Murder-Suicides?" April 23, 2009. (Jan. 7, 2012) Time. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893273,00.html
- The Sun. "Jack the Ripper Killer Jailed." Oct. 6, 2008. (Jan. 6, 2012) http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article1773004.ece
- Welch, William. "Effects of Assassination Attempt on Reagan Echo Today." USA Today. Jan. 24, 2011. (Jan. 6, 2012) http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2011-01-23-ronald-reagan-assassination-attempt-effect_N.htm
Broken Harts is a new serial podcast that delves into the tragic deaths of the Hart family. HowStuffWorks finds out more.