Do you like to read a good murder mystery? This is an
unbelievable twist of fate! 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.

Mr. Opus had jumped from the top of a ten-story building
intending to commit suicide. He left a note to the 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 deceased was aware that a safety net had been
installed just below 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.

The room on the ninth floor, where 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, and both said that they thought the
shotgun was not loaded. The old man said it was a
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,
assuming 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 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.

Since the loader of the gun was aware of this, he was guilty
of the murder even though he didn’t actually pull the
trigger. 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, Ronald
Opus, had actually murdered himself. So the medical examiner
closed the case as a suicide.

A true story from Associated Press.

About this entry