Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'CSI' and the Internet Alter Realities of Mass Murders; TRYING TO UNDERSTAND These Types of Slayings Require Specific Theories and Approaches to Investigate, Experts Say

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'CSI' and the Internet Alter Realities of Mass Murders; TRYING TO UNDERSTAND These Types of Slayings Require Specific Theories and Approaches to Investigate, Experts Say

Article excerpt

Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

A little more than a week after the New Hope slayings, details of one of the biggest family killings in U.S. history are scant. What is known: Guy Heinze, Jr., 22, was charged Friday in connection with the murders of his father, six other family members and a family friend in the trailer where they all lived. A ninth victim, a 3-year-old boy, remains hospitalized from the Aug. 29 attack.

The massacre unnerved residents of Glynn County, leaving many worried for their own safety.

There and around the country, people struggled to comprehend how anyone could attack and kill a family that included two children and two people with disabilities.

Mass murder is a relatively new field of academic study, but experts have made strides in learning about it.

The Times-Union spoke with three criminologists about the crime of mass murder: James Alan Fox, an expert in mass murder and professor at Northeastern University; Christine E. Rasche, professor emeritus in the Department of Criminology at the University of North Florida; and Thomas Blomberg, dean of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University.

None of them has consulted on the New Hope case; all stressed that it's impossible to speculate on what happened before more information is released.

What is mass murder?

Unlike serial murders, where the killer has periods of rest between victims, and spree murders, where a person kills numerous people over a period of time with no rest, mass murders take place all in one event, Rasche said.

In the past, she said, mass murders have typically fallen into a few broader categories based on where they take place: school, workplace and domestic. The New Hope slayings are clearly domestic because they took place in the family's trailer.

Most people are accustomed to the typical pattern of familicide, where a member of the family - mostly the male leader, but sometimes a child or mother - takes out the whole family and sometimes kills him or herself.

Often such actions are taken as payback for perceived injustice, Fox said, where there is one key target but others are killed as a further way to get even with that person.

"In situations with children who commit family annihilation," Fox said, "one parent might be the target."

In other cases, a family is killed by an outsider, whether motivated by a robbery, a grudge, a drug deal gone bad or some other reason.

Whatever the motive, mass murders require specific theories and approaches to investigate.

"Mass murders are different," Fox said. "It's not murder multiplied by eight victims."

Does the New Hope killing fall into one of those patterns?

It's impossible to say. Police have not released enough information to make a determination. …

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