This depicted a gunshot wound and asking if this was murder or suicide, based on the picture. Dean's response was 'murder'; but, not because it was obviously - or likely - murder. The answer is because it should be investigated as a murder. Suicide is, in part, the exclusion of Homicide, Accident, Natural and Undetermined.
In watching the posts and responses, it was mixed leaning mostly to murder. There were good reasons, but most were assumptions. Here are a few:
- Murder, gun is in wrong hand for the blood splatter to be on that side of the wall.
- Suicide. She was sitting in her chair facing away from the desk. Stool fell in the direction of the prevailing energy. Cigarette in her hand indicates no sign of struggle. Note on the desk is probably a suicide note.
- Suicide. The cigarette gives it away. For me at least.
- Murder. She writes (note the positioning of the pen and paper) left handed and is smoking with her left hand, indicating she's probably left-handed. But the gun is in the right hand.
- Most women are not going to shots themselves in the head.. cigarette she would have finished it.. plus the gun is in her hand and not on the floor in front of her... if she was on the stool the splatter on the wall would be larger.. too many things not seen.
Taking in mind this is a simple cartoon, and of course a review of all the evidence - records, reports, and photographs is important - one picture can tell a lot. The important take away is to ask questions, dig deeper - and not assume. We have had many cases with key points answered by one photograph. In a recent example, the sitting position of the decedent was confirmed as reported by one witness from two photographs (a patterned imprint on her thigh, and the same pattern on the soles of her shoes). Without photographs - other evidence may have left this witness statements to question.
Take a look at the cartoon and make your own assessment. The actual answer is this remains equivocal - and likely homicide vs. suicide - pending more evidence. Here are some other comments we saw when researching this picture (www.scoopwhoop.com/is-this-a-murder-or-suicide-puzzle/#.bi3ecrqk4):
1) The person is clearly left-handed. The lamp is placed to the right side which is again a common tendency for a left-handed person. She is even holding a half-burnt cigarette in her left hand so she obviously didn't shoot herself.
2) Basic human behavior suggests that we tend to finish all our work before committing suicide. So, she would have finished her cigarette first before having to kill herself.
3) She's holding the gun the opposite direction where the blood splatter is at. The point of impact and the blood splatter speak otherwise.
4) When you commit suicide by gun your body releases all tension, meaning the gun would not be in their hand.
5) The light is unplugged, and you can see (what seems like) the night sky in the window. How could the person write a suicide note in the dark?
1) The person may very well be right-handed. Look at the position of the pen on the table. It's positioned in a way that suggests that she was using her right hand to write.
2) There's a distinct blood trail in the image. If you lay your head down in that position, you will notice your muscles make a nice pathway for blood to pool at your collar bone, like in the picture. Meaning the wound would have to be on the right temple.
3) The ashtray and coke can on the left-hand side are because he uses his non-dominant hand for recreation.
As you can see, many posting had similar responses to the referenced website. These are all reasonable - but most are assumptions, and may require additional evidence to conclude or exclude.
Here are some key points in the cartoon:
- It is dark outside
- There is a pen and note on the shelf / desk
- There are glasses by the note
- The lamp, to the right of the note, is unplugged
- There is blood spatter on the right wall
- There is a handgun in the decedent's right hand
- There is a cigarette in the decedent's left hand
- The cigarette is not extinguished or finished
- There is one sandal (right foot)
- The stool is over with the seat to the right
For thought provoking examples, what do these items definitely tell us?
- It is dark outside - at the time of this 'photograph' - it may have been daylight when the event occurred, recently became dark during the investigation, or dark when the event occurred and the investigations. It is unknown from this point of information.
- There is a pen and note on the shelf / desk - something was composed or being composed, but what or when is unknown. These are not affirmatively indicative of left or right-handed
- There are glasses by the note - this may indicate the task was done, or interrupted.
- The lamp, to the right of the note, is unplugged - it is not known when the lamp was unplugged or why. Would it make sense for an intruder or person contemplating suicide to unplug the lamp?
- There is blood spatter on the right wall - it is not known if this is wet, drying or dried. It is unknown height but looking to be lower than the decedent's height and consistent with sitting on the stool.
- There is a handgun in the decedent's right hand - it is not known if the decedent is right or left-handed; statistically the dominant hand is used.
- There is a cigarette in the decedent's left hand- it is not known if the decedent is right or left-handed; statistically the dominant hand is used. But, as others pointed out - persons who bowl, shoot pool, carry firearms, etc., are known to keep their dominant hand / strong side free.
- The cigarette is not extinguished or finished - this is one of the more potentially telling pieces of evidence. If burning at the time of the event, it would usually continue to burn (cigarettes may also extinguish unfinished if not inhaled). Any degree of use and ashes would be helpful to a timeline.
- There is one sandal (right foot) - the other may be 'off camera'; we simply do not know but should - is it in another location?
- The stool is over with the seat to the right - it appears likely this was where the decedent was seated; there is nothing that contradicts this.
What story does this tell us? As a thought-provoking consideration...
The decedent was smoking a cigarette and composing a note or letter, while drinking a soda. After lighting a cigarette, the decedent was interrupted - taking offer their glasses - and turned around on her stool to face the other person. The decedent was then shot and killed, and the firearm placed in their right hand.
(or, the decedent was not smoking a cigarette and that was placed in their hand by the intruder)
(or, the decedent was surprised, shot, and then the handgun and cigarette placed in their hands, moving the body in the process)
Or, another thought provoking consideration...
The decedent was composing a note or letter, and having completed it placed their glasses down, lit a cigarette, turned around and then committed suicide by a single gunshot wound to the head.
There are different possibilities because there is one definitive piece of information not revealed in the cartoon...
This is one reason for a forensic autopsy - even when the Cause and Manner of Death are 'obvious'. This is not definitive without an autopsy telling us the entrance, and likely exit, of the GSW. Examination of the decedent and weapon is also necessary to determine range of fire - contact, close contact, mid-range or distant. Is there any blood spatter / blowback on the firearm?
From these points, we can begin looking at positions and discrepancies. Regardless of murder or suicide - it is important to not assume any facts not in the evidence - which are not actually facts; it is simply unverified information. As an example, the lamp is unplugged and it appears to be dark outside - some would say she would have the lamp on in the dark - but no one really knows when this happened. There are other nuances that can lead to assumptions - valid or not. It is contextual (circumstantial) and empirical.
What happened? We don't definitively know. What are your thoughts? What points do you see? What investigative steps would you take?