Thursday, 12 March 2009


“Murder itself is past all expiation, the greatest crime that nature doth abhor.” – William Goffe

The Alabama tragedy last Tuesday where Michael McLendon killed 10 people and then shot himself still has the small towns of Geneva and Samson reeling in the shocking aftermath of his crime. Some details are beginning to emerge about this “polite and ordinary” man’s life but the people who knew him are still trying to understand what drove him over the edge. The victims were identified as McLendon’s mother, Lisa McLendon, 52; his uncle, James Alford White, 55; his cousin, Tracy Michelle Wise, 34; a second cousin, Dean James Wise, 15; and his grandmother, Virginia E. White, 74. Also killed were James Irvin Starling, 24; Sonja Smith, 43; and Bruce Wilson Malloy, 51.

McLendon was briefly employed by the police department in Samson in 2003 and spent about a week and a half at the police academy, dropping out before he received firearms training. He then worked in various places including a metal factory, the place where he took his own life in the end. The people who may have helped us to understand the actions of the murderer are all dead. His family were all but destroyed, but also some strangers paid the price of being at the wrong place at the time and suffered the fatal outcomes of McLendon’s random shootings. The members of the terrified community are still considering the fact that any of one of them may have been victims seeing he shot more than two hundred rounds as he was driving through the town.

In the wake of this rampage, another meek killer, a 17-year-old boy dressed in black opened fire inside his former high school in southwestern Germany yesterday killing 15 people before he turned the gun on himself. His name was Tim Kretschmer and authorities have no idea why he did it. Some students died with pens still in their hands. Most were shot in the head. Most of the victims were women and girls. The father of the murderer was a member of a gun club and had numerous weapons at home, not all of them securely locked away.

It is suspected that perhaps, that the boy was influenced by the 2002 German shooting, when 19-year-old Robert Steinhaeuser shot and killed 12 teachers, a secretary, two students and a police officer before turning his gun on himself in the Gutenberg high school in Erfurt, in eastern Germany. Or maybe he was even influenced by the McLendon murders. In all cases some secret grudges worked over unbalanced minds may have been enough to make these people totter over the edge of reason and commit these heinous crimes.

Is it our society that is to blame for these random acts of extreme violence where people seem to lose control of their reason, their faculties, their normal patterns of behaviour? What is it in our society that cause these people to crack under the strain and become executioners of some crazed plan of punishment and retribution for perceived wrongs that have been done them? What can cloud someone’s mind so completely and utterly, what can make someone go berserk and open fire on people that until then he loved, or knew, or interacted with daily? In the case of the random killings, what madness possesses someone to kill utter and complete strangers, against whom he cannot have a grudge?

I am trying to rationalise the irrational. Surely these must be the works of madmen, it cannot be otherwise. What is it in our society that is driving these young men to murder and kill themselves in these copy-cat crimes? We are surrounded by violence and murder daily, but most of us are not as affected by it as these three examples of mass murderers were. We see violence and murder in our films, in our documentaries in our news reports. We read of it in our novels, our newspapers. Our children see it on TV, we are confronted by violence every day. Some people snap. How do we prevent it?

berserk |bərˈzərk; -ˈsərk| adjective
• (Of a person or animal) out of control with anger or excitement; wild or frenzied: After she left him, he went berserk, throwing things about the apartment.
• (Of a mechanical device or system) operating in a wild or erratic way; out of control: The climate control went berserk and either roasted or froze us.
• (Of a procedure, program, or activity) fluctuating wildly: The stock market's gone berserk, with sugar at 15.27 cents a pound.
ORIGIN early 19th century (originally as a noun denoting a wild Norse warrior who fought with frenzy): From Old Norse berserkr (noun), probably from birn-, bjҩrn (bear) + serkr ‘coat,’ but also possibly from berr ‘bare’ (i.e., without armor).


  1. I cannot even begin to fathom the depth of despair and hatred that could drive a person to mass murder. There must be something lacking, something akin to Aspergus syndrome, when people could not feel empathy towards others; for them, it's all about I, Me, My - "others" are but shadows, or inferior beings incapable of intense feelings or thoughts...
    In fascist Germany, the "others" ideology helped turn normal, sentimental and naive young people into killing machines. But that was state ideology...
    On individual level, I would not be surprised that
    a combination of lack of nurture and psychiatric problems(unidentified and sometimes identified!)
    could very well trigger murderous ideation. Enter
    easy access to automatic weapons...
    Anton Chekhov once wrote that a rifle on the wall must eventually fire... That is why I do not support
    freedom of bearing arms. I would much rather be killed, than become a murderer. Interestingly enough, my Anglo-American friends have stockpiles in their homes, and my Russian-American friends have none...

    I also want to thank you for you kind words and support. I agree that there are special people in the world ... and only God knows when and why we meet them...

  2. Good question. I have myself done some investgaions into this issue.

    So, they're maniacs? But then their acts are unintelligible. If so, how could you possibly prevent it from happening in the future?

    Murder forms a pattern. There DOES exist a comprehennsible and politicvalla practicall criminology to be applied for effective prevenmtion.

    Lets outline a classification.

    1. Wanton killings, emerging from the heat of the moment, regularly under influens of alcohol and other drugs. Characteristical for undermost social strata.

    2. Rational murders. Occuring in organized crime, almost always for economical motives.

    3. Political murders.

    4 Serial murders. These are almost exclusively sexually motivated, committed by people with severe lobidinous disorders of an insular character,leaving most of personality intact and well-ordered.

    5. Spree murders. Svetlana cannot even begin to fathom? I think I can. You see, this happens again, and again, and agan there is a pattern, and a quite clearly discernible pattern at that. Committors are regularly youg people with personality disorders, filled of hatred fuelled with the feeling of being outcast, downthrodden, bygone and debased, and the motiveis explosive generalized revenge. (The name Martin Bryant should be acutely significant for the adience. Here we have type case indeed, of the Spree murderer).

    Now, compare diffent countries, different society. In Sweden, we have a constant prevalnce of class 1 muurders, and class 2. murders form a steadily rising curve. We have no class murders, few class 4 murders, and have seen no class 5 murders at all.

    What about USA, Germany, Finland, Russia, indeed Australia? Seems to me there's a different pattern here. These are the ountries wher serial killings and spree murders occur.

    In Russia there's serial murder, in Finland spree murder.

    Conclusion: society, culture, system should be object of enqiuiry here. Then you may find some explanations; and some grip of what could be done for prevention.

    But don't take pride in ignorance! Platitudinal expressions of chocked bewilderment raises some suspicion the real errand is to make onmeself known as a law abiding reliable citizen and a make impression of being a generally impeccable person. Now, ehat did we alllearn by that? Such an approach to it doesn't seem much productive for improvement of real things and circumstances.

    I will take up this on my blog Window Mirror.

    Peter Ingestad, Sweden