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1994's  Most Bizarre Suicide

At the 1994 annual awards dinner given by the American Association for Forensic Science, AAFS President Don Harper Mills astounded his audience in San Diego with the legal complications of a bizarre death.

Here is the story:

On 23 March 1994, the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound of the head.

The decedent had jumped from the top of a ten- story building intending to commit suicide (he left a note indicating his despondency). As he fell past the ninth floor, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast through a window, which killed him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been erected at the eighth floor level to protect some window washers and that Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide anyway because of this."

"Ordinarily," Dr. Mills continued, "a person who sets out to commit suicide ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended. That Opus was shot on the way to certain death nine stories below probably would not have changed his mode of death from suicide to homicide. But the fact that his suicidal intent would not have been successful caused the medical examiner to feel that he had homicide on his hands.

"The room on the ninth floor whence the shotgun blast emanated was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing and he was threatening her with the shotgun. He was so upset that, when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife and the pellets went through the a window striking Opus.

"When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject B. When confronted with this charge, the old man and his wife were both adamant that neither knew that the shotgun was loaded. The old man said it was his long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her - therefore, the killing of Opus appeared to be an accident. That is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.

"The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the fatal incident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

There was an exquisite twist. "Further investigation revealed that the son had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten-story building on March 23, only to be killed by a shotgun blast through a ninth story window. [Yup, the son was Ronald Opus]

The medical examiner closed the case as a suicide."


Flying Chickens

In a recent issue of Meat & Poultry magazine, editors quoted from "Feathers", the publication of the California Poultry Industry Federation, telling the following story:

It seems the US Federal Aviation Administration has a unique device for testing the strength of windshields on airplanes. The device is a gun that launches a dead chicken at a plane's windshield at approximately the speed the plane flies.

The theory is that if the windshield doesn't crack from the carcass impact, it will survive a real collision with a bird during flight. It seems the British were very interested in this and wanted to test a windshield on a brand new, speedy locomotive [the HST] they are developing.

They borrowed the FAA's chicken launcher, loaded the chicken, and fired.

The ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, went through the engineer's chair, broke an instrument panel, and embedded itself in the back wall of the engine cab. The British were stunned and asked the FAA to recheck the test to see if everything was done correctly.

The FAA reviewed the test thoroughly and found all the data were as to be expected, and the experiment had been done according to procedures, although they did have one recommendation:

"Use a thawed chicken."


For those of you who have not contributed to the gene pool, read and learn. For the rest of us, why do you always find out these things too late? Preparation for parenthood is not just a matter of reading books and deco-rating the nursery. Here are 12 simple tests for expectant parents to take to prepare themselves for the real-life experience of being a mother or father:

  1. Women, to prepare for maternity:

    put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front;

    leave it there for 9 months; and after 9 months, take out 10% of the beans.

    Men, to prepare for paternity:

    go to the local chemist, tip the contents of your wallet on the counter, and tell the pharmacist to help himself;

    then go to the supermarket and arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office;

    now go home, pick up the paper and read it for the last time!

  2. Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who are already parents:

    berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels, and how they have allowed their children to run riot; and

    suggest ways in which they might improve their child's sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behaviour. Enjoy it - it'll be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.

  3. To discover how the nights will feel:

    walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 lbs.;

    at 10pm put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep;

    get up at 12am and walk around the living room again, with the bag, till 1am;

    put the alarm on for 3am;

    as you can't get back to sleep get up at 2am and make a drink;

    go to bed at 2.45am;

    get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off and sing songs in the dark until 4am;

    put the alarm on for 5am;

    get up and make breakfast.

    Keep this up for 5 years and remember to look cheerful.

  4. Can you stand the mess children make? To find out:

    smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains;

    hide a fish finger behind the stereo and leave it there all summer;

    stick your fingers in the flower beds then rub them on the clean walls; and

    cover the stains with crayons.

    How does that look?

  5. Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems:

    first buy an octopus and a string bag; and

    then attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that none of its arms hang out.

    Time allowed for this - all morning.

  6. Parent craft:

    first take an egg carton and using a pair of scissors and a pot of paint turn it into an alligator;

    now take a toilet tube and using only scotch tape and a piece of foil, turn it into a Christmas cracker;

    last, take a milk container, a Ping-Pong ball, and an empty packet of Coco-Pops and make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower.

    Congratulations! You have just qualified for a place on the play-group committee.

  7. Forget the Mercedes and buy a Vauxhall. And don't think you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars just don't look like that:

    buy a chocolate ice cream bar and put it in the glove compartment;

    leave it there;

    get a quarter and stick it in the cassette player;

    take a family-size packet of chocolate cookies and mash them down the back seats; and

    finally, run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

    There, perfect!

  8. Getting ready to go out? Try this:

    wait outside the toilet for half an hour;

    go out the front door;

    come in again;

    go out;

    come back in;

    go out again;

    walk down the front path;

    walk back up it;

    walk down it again;

    walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes;

    stop to inspect minutely every cigarette end, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way;

    retrace your steps;

    scream that you've had as much as you can stand, until the neighbours come out and stare at you; and

    give up and go back into the house.

    You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

  9. Always repeat everything you say at least five times.

    Always repeat everything you say at least five times.

    Always repeat everything you say at least five times.

    Always repeat everything you say at least five times.

    Always repeat everything you say at least five times.

  10. Shopping:

    go to your local supermarket;

    take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child a fully grown goat is excellent;

    if you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat;

    buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight;

    and don't forget to pay for everything the goat eats or destroys.

    Until you can easily accomplish this do not even contemplate having children.

  11. Feeding:

    hollow out a melon;

    make a small hole in the side;

    suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side;

    now get a bowl of soggy Weetabix and attempt to spoon it into the swaying melon by pretending to be an aeroplane; continue until half the Weetabix is gone; and then

    tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor.

    You are now ready to feed a 12-month old baby.

  12. Finally, learn the names of every character from: Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When you find yourself singing "Postman Pat" at work, you finally qualify as a parent!