We’ve seen spouses planning the murder of their so-called beloved in some of our favorite movies like The Perfect Murder, Jagged Edge, Basic Instant, Enough, Shadow of a Doubt, No Way Out, Sleeping with the Enemy, Vertigo, Secret Window, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, Double Jeopardy and just about every Lifetime Movie or episode of Columbo or Law & Order. But how common is it, really?
Some of the more notorious murder mysteries of spouses or girlfriends are of Nicole Simpson, Lacy Peterson, Betty Broderick’s ex, Natalie Woods, Phil Hartman, Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend, Drew Peterson’s wives, and more recently the murdered fiancée Gabby. Gabby’s mysterious disappearance and subsequent murder got me wondering, “what is going on?”
History has recorded the following less publicized spousal murders:
- Beat Author William S. Burroughs (1914–1997) shot and killed his wife, Joan Vollmer (1923–1951), during a drunken recreation of The William Tell act. Vollmer’s death was ruled a culpable homicide, after Mexican police investigated.
- Philosopher Louis Althusser strangled his wife to death on 16 November 1980. He was not tried, on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and was instead committed to a psychiatric hospital. He was discharged in 1983.
- Richard Crafts of Newtown, Connecticut, was convicted of killing his wife Helle in 1985. The crime became known as the “woodchipper murder” because of the way he disposed of her body.
- In August 1996, Janet March disappeared from her home in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. Her husband Perry was convicted of murdering her despite the absence of her body ten years later, after his father had confessed to helping him dispose of the body, whose location he couldn’t accurately remember.
- Mark Hacking murdered his pregnant wife Lori Hacking in 2004. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2005.
- On 10 October 2006, Hans Reiser was arrested and subsequently convicted of the murder of his wife, Nina Reiser.
- On 21 April 1992, Jesse Anderson stabbed his wife, Barbara E. Anderson, thirty-seven times
- On 23 October 1989 Charles Stuart shot his pregnant wife in the head and shot himself in the abdomen, claiming to have been the victim of a carjacking. The child was born alive, but later died from injuries sustained in the murder.
- Cal Harris, of Spencer, New York, was accused of killing his wife Michele on 11 September 2001. He was tried for her murder four times before being acquitted in 2016 by a judge. She has not been seen since the night she disappeared.
- Mark Winger was convicted in 2002 of murdering his wife, Donnah Winger in 1995.
- In December 2009, Susan Cox Powell disappeared, and her body was never found. Her husband, Joshua Powell, was the main suspect of her presumed murder, but he committed suicide in February 2012 after killing their sons. The case was closed in 2013 when police lead to the conclusion that Joshua and his brother murdered Susan and disposed of her body. Wikipedia
Gruesome, isn’t it? Definitely not what these wives had in mind when they stood at the alter dressed in their beautiful wedding gowns and said their vows. Did they see it coming? Did their husband suddenly have a dark look in his eyes like the devil had entered his body? Did they see little signs of it coming like him increasing her life insurance policy or buying a row boat or rat poison? Was their savings account emptied out? Did he have charges of jewelry on his credit card? Were there lots of hang up calls when she answered the phone? Did she happen to pick up his cell and see texts from an unknown woman? Was he working late at the office, joining a gym, and buying new clothes? Did he recently buy a convertible sports car without telling his wife? A lot of the blame goes to “the other woman” as she is committing adultery too.
We’ve all had an argument with our spouse, but never to the extent of wishing them dead. What motivates a person to snap that badly to commit murder, premediated murder, or sometimes murder/suicide of their spouse? In Scott Peterson’s case, he planned ahead to dispose of his wife’s pregnant body. Probably the worst and most gruesome case in modern history outside of O.J. Simpson’s double murder. Usually there’s a motive of greed, lust, jealousy, passion, revenge, or just wired wrong. There’s also the accidental murder by loss of temper. Good rule of thumb: Never strike your loved one in anger, they may retaliate with much more force.
Movies make it seem like it’s an everyday occurrence among couples making it “life imitating art” it seems. This morning in the local news a man was arrested for murdering his wife. He was a “person of interest” but finally they found enough evidence to arrest him. What goes on in their heads when they are committing murder like this? Do they actually think they will get away with it? It’s a different kind of murder than we see everyday in the streets of Chicago by gang members of other gang members or innocent bystanders. It is personal.
They say the husband is the number one suspect in the murder of a wife. But how often is this occurring, really? It’s definitely fodder for many mystery novels and movies, but is it really that common? I’m wondering if Hollywood has desensitized murder of a spouse into an everyday occurrence. They’ve definitely desensitized the danger of a handgun on the set of a movie. I cannot turn on an episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent without seeing a wife murdered or sometimes a husband. It’s women’s equality, after all. Maybe Hollywood should cut back on all the spousal murders and stick to strangers they met on the internet. It could be putting ideas in the mushy brains of some borderline sociopaths. Just saying.
No one wants to go to bed wondering if their spouse or fiancé is planning their murder. Whoo…hoo…hoo…hoo. I’m sort of pollyannaish in thinking “till death do we part” means dying of natural causes. Silly me.