Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fayetteville, NC: Murder is Murder

A well-respected real estate developer in Fayetteville, North Carolina shot and killed his wife and two teenage children on Monday before completing the act of suicide. As frequent Quarterbackers know, family annihilation murders, as this type of incident is called, are rare but news-grabbing. They follow a particular pattern in which the perpetrator is almost always male, and they may be the culmination of escalating domestic violence, or not.

I first read about this incident on CNN.com, before it was confirmed as a murder/suicide. The article quoted a news release from the Chief of Police which read, in part,
At this time, there is no reason to suspect foul play; however the investigation remains in its early stages.
I had to go back and read this several times because I couldn't believe it. "There is no reason to suspect foul play." How could he possibly say that?

I would like to chalk this up to a slip of the tongue. What he meant, obviously, was that there was no reason to believe there was a suspect at large, and that makes sense. He meant that no one else was in danger. Fine. Except that this wasn't a slip of the tongue. It was a written press release. This leaves just two possibilities: that it was an incredibly sloppy job of writing the release coupled with poor or no editing (and this is why you should take your time when you are communicating in a crisis), or that he meant what he said. What if he really meant that a husband and father killing his wife and children does not count as foul play?

You may say that I'm overreacting, and maybe I am. All I have is this one snippet from the release. I don't know this man, nor has he been asked what he meant as far as I know. But I also think that little things like this add up, so that the death of one person seems less tragic, less violent, less important than another. It wasn't really a murder, it was, well something else. And that kind of rhetoric makes it that much easier to look the other way when a family is in trouble.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines foul play as
unlawful or dishonest behavior, in particular violent crime resulting in another's death.
This wasn't "just" a domestic dispute. It was a crime. The fact that the perpetrator is dead does not change that. There was foul play, and this wife and these children deserve the same respect and memorial they would get if they were killed by strangers. Murder is murder.


Colleen said...

Does "foul play" mean something specific in Cop Jargon that it doesn't in regular speak? If it does, that means that cops need to be way more careful when talking to the press/writing press releases.

But, really, there should be someone who rereads a press release, who isn't the cop in charge (like maybe their office manager?)...someone who has had a few writing courses. It's not rocket science, only takes a minute, and can prevent embarrassment and criticism.

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