Really killed by the most obvious suspect?

From time to time, I hear stats like “85%
of the time, murders are committed by the
most obvious person,” or “You’re 4 times
as likely to be killed by someone you know
than a stranger.”

Clearly, though, these stats are based,
if anything, on solved murders.

Isn’t it highly likely that these are not
independent - that is, aren’t police more
likely to solve a murder if the obvious
person did it? If I may show a bit of my
liberal bias, too, I would generalize that
cops, even the detectives, aren’t the best
“thinking outside the box” candidates in the
world, and become convinced that it’s the
most obvious person when it’s not.

DNA has proved that some ‘solved’ murders
were not.

How valid are those statistics?

Depends on if you are looking at “murder mysteries” or murders. A whole lot of murders are not mysteries. People kill each other in passionate moments, at home, or in front of witnesses, after multiple conflicts, or as the result of long physical fights, or during other felonies. None of those cases are mysterious at all. The obvious person was the murderer in all of them, and often, if not usually doesn’t deny it.

Among unsolved murders, some percentage also is likely to be the “obvious” choice. Some cases will be different. But murder is a very significantly deviant act, from the perspective of normal human behavior. To commit the act, requires a motive. Random or psychotic motives do exist, but they are still the exception. The motives for passion are pretty well known. Hate, jealousy, fear, rage, vengeance, and greed are fairly easy to notice.

None of that is evidence, though. It is only statistics. What is true of all murders may not be true for any murder. Courts, judges, juries, and policemen are constrained to limit themselves to criteria such as probable cause, evidence, and in the end, reasonable doubt. There are murders walking free, because of it, and some of them were the obvious suspect.


RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
**Ambrose Bierce **(1842-1914?)

I don’t know if 85% is correct but it’s probably pretty close. Consider this: Why would a complete stanger kill you? Maybe in a robbery, but that’s about it, unless you somehow get a contract put out on your life. OTOH, people who know you well may have any number of reasons to kill you: money, jealosy, passion, anger. It’s just far more likely that a friend, relative or co-worker will have a motive.

Here I go again. (Don’t you just hate people who feel they have to get in evry thread?)There is a line in Casablanca.I think it is Louie who,after the crime says “Round up the usual suspects.” Who are these USUAL suspects? Is there a group of people they round up every time there is any crime?
Or just murders or only mysterious murders? Do they live in a certain part of town so they can be regularly rounded up? Are they filed under Usual Suspects at the cop house?Do they have other occupations besides Usual suspects?
But yeh that is a ‘padded’ stat. Should be85% of SOLVED murders. I don’t think it is on purpose. After all if it isn’t solved we don’t know WHO doneit. If it is not an 'obvious" suspect it is harder to solve even out of the box, and another maxim is that if it isn’t solved in 48 hours it usually is never solved

“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx

Mr. John has a point. As long as we’re talking about padded statistics, let me bring up another set of maxims. We often hear reports like “only half of domestic abuse crimes are reported.” How can they possably know things like this? Or are these figures, as I suspect, just WAGs.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Saying “of SOLVED murders” would be the best approach.
Since murder takes such a high priority with law enforcement, the category of “solved murders” takes in almost all the murders anyway.

So that’s why “the butler” is always an obvious suspect.

I always thought it was the most famous guest star.

Not to do the lame ‘I agree’ thing, but I do. Random strangers have very little to gain from killing you unless you are an idiot who advertises your wealth for the whole world to see. I suppose a serial killer might fall into the unsolved category (although they get caught too) but this number is extremely small (certainly not 15%). You can even get the latest serial kiler stats at:

I believe there’s only possibly 5 confirmed nuts running around the country right now, last time I looked.

Whoops, make that 6

So does anyone have a figure on what percentage of murders are ‘solved’? If it’s, say, 95%, the original claim is accurate enough.

Of course, that still leaves out deaths not recognized as murder, but I’d think there are even fewer of those.

When they give you a figure like half of all abuse isn’t reported, reported to whom? The cops? Maybe battered women’s shelters keep track of how many calls and women they see battered but don’t call the police? That could account for the stat.

We can speculate about how the police arrive at their statistics…
But until someone can provide really good cites I think “only xx% of this crime is reported.” ranks up there with asking the guide at Carlsbad Cavererns “How many miles of undiscovered caves do you have?”