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This stroy is either the inspiration for an episode of the NBC TV "Homicide"
or "Homicide" has inspired a new urban legend.  Either way it's a great story.

At 06:44 PM 11/22/98 -0800, you wrote:
>At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS president
Dr. Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal complications of
a bizarre death.
>
>Here is the story:
>
>On March 23, 1994 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and
>concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head.  The decedent had
jumped from the top of a ten story building intending to commit suicide. He
left a note to that effect indicating his despondency.  As he fell past the
ninth floor, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a
window, which killed him
>instantly.  Neither  the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety
net had been installed just below at the eighth floor level to protect some
building workers,  and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete
his suicide the way he had planned.  Ordinarily, Dr. Mills continued, "a
person who sets out to commit  suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though
the mechanism might not be what he intended" is still defined as committing
suicide. That Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death nine stories
below at street level, but that this suicide attempt probably would not have
been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical examiner to
feel that he had a homicide on his hands.  The room on the  ninth floor from
whence the shotgun blast emanated was occupied by an elderly man and his
wife. They were arguing vigorously, and he was threatening her with a
shotgun. The man was so upset that  when he pulled the trigger he completely
missed his wife and the pellets went  through the window striking Mr. 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 the murder charge, the old man
and his wife were both adamant. They both said  they thought the shotgun was
unloaded.  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 Mr. 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 about six weeks
prior to the fatal accident.  It transpired that the old lady had cut off
her sons 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.  Now
comes the exquisite twist.  Further investigation revealed that the son was
in fact Ronald Opus.  He 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 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast
passing through the ninth story window. The son had actually murdered
himself so the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.
>
>Very tidy of him.
>( A true story from Associated Press, by
>Kurt Westervelt)
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