Domestic Violence Lust Murder : Law and Order Magazine

A Clinical Perspective of Sadistic and Sexual Fantasies Intergrated into Domestic Violence Dynamics Vernon Geberth

In a sex related homicide inquiry an investigator examines the actions and activities of the offender during the crime to determine his “signature,” and attempts to understand how that person’s mind “played-out” the sexual act. Clinically speaking, there is a
very thin line between sexual fantasy and reality. Sexual perversions are premeditated in the obsessive fantasies of the offender. An offender who is not psychotic may experience a “psychotic episode” relating
to a temporary condition brought on shortly or in response to an extreme stressor. Sex is a stressor.When an individual becomes thoroughly vested in sexually sadistic fantasy and begins to draw and script these fantasies, an insidious amalgamation develops where fantasy and reality become blended.

Domestic violence homicides are murders that occur between husbands and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, and other domestic partners. In fact, any murder between intimate partners would be considered a
domestic violence homicide. They may also involve third party relationships, such as love triangles, former husbands and/or wives, and jilted lovers. I classify domestic violence murders as Interpersonal
Violence Oriented Homicide. They are the most prevalent form of sex related murder. The rationale for classifying domestic violence as sex related is that murder serves as the ultimate form of sexual revenge.
In many instances the homicides will include sexual assault or wound structures manifesting a sexual orientation (See LAW & ORDER Vol. 46 No. 11 November, 1998).
It is important to note that the motivation in an interpersonal violence oriented dispute may be obscured by what was done to the body of the victim, or how the crime scene was staged or changed. Originally, what
appeared to be a rape-murder, the work of a sexual psychopath, or a lust murder is oftentimes based on interpersonal violence. The case cited in this article is a classic example of these phenomena.

A Case History

A 37 year old woman named Susan was murdered in her home. She was discovered by police responding to an emergency call. Officers forced entry into the house, as all doors were locked. The female victim had
suffered numerous stab wounds to the frontal portion of her body. In “clearing” the house to assure there were no other victims or offenders, officers discovered her 43 year old husband, Frank, in an upstairs bedroom. He was suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound fired from a .25 Caliber automatic found next to
his body. He was nude from the waist down and had blood on his legs and genitals, as well as his arms and hands. He was rushed to a hospital where he died from the head wound. Susan had been shot four times in the chest with a .38 caliber handgun found at the scene and had been stabbed 57 times with a large hunting knife that was left
protruding from her chest. According to the police report, Susan’s co-workers had become concerned when she failed to show for work.
They went to her house and looked into the front window after receiving no response. They saw her nude body on the floor with a large hunting knife in her chest.

Detective Investigation

This case was presented as a Murder/Suicide. Apparently, Frank had shot his wife with the .38 revolver and then used a .25 caliber semi-automatic to shoot himself. Police recovered the murder weapon and
the gun that the husband had used to shoot himself in the head. In addition to these weapons Frank had a .22, a .380 and a .45 caliber semi-automatic gun. Police also recovered hundreds of drawings and
paintings of nude women. Frank had set up an art studio in a bedroom where he apparently spent time drawing and painting his fantasies. According to friends and family members the couple seemed happy and
there was no history of domestic violence.

The Crime Scene

Susan’s body was in a supine position with her right arm extended above her head. North of her body was a chromed .380 semi-automatic. Her legs were crossed and she was wearing high heel shoes. The rest of the body was nude. There were a number of stab wounds into her
chest and breast. The stab wounds continued down her chest into her pubis and pelvic area and her throat was cut. A telephone cord had been wrapped tightly around her neck. The extensive blood around the victim’s body had been smeared. There were palm prints in the blood on the floor. There were also footprints in the blood from the husband’s feet; it was apparent that Frank had positioned his wife’s body in a pose similar to some of the drawings police recovered. Approximately 18 of the stab wounds perforated her chest. The knife had literally been drilled into the linoleum floor after passing through her chest. The many drawings and paintings recovered depicted women with gunshot wounds and/or knife wounds to the breast and chest. There were also a number of centerfold photos that Frank had stabbed or cut through and then added blood marks with a red ink pen. The injuries and mutilation of his wife’s body as well as the large knife protruding from her chest bore a
resemblance to the drawings and paintings recovered from the scene.
In an upstairs bedroom, Frank’s body was located between the right side of the bed and the wall. He was nude from the waist down. Blood on his genital area, which was later determined to be Susan’s blood, led me
to conclude that he had attempted to engage in sexual activity with his wife. He had an injury on the right side of his head from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun found close to his body was the weapon he used to shoot himself. One
expended .25 caliber casing was found on the floor west of the bed. The .25 caliber projectile was lying on the bed. The phone in the bedroom was off the hook, lying in a puddle of blood. A .38 caliber revolver, approximately three feet from the foot of the bed, was lying on a piece of glass and had four empty .38 caliber shell casings in it. On the wall above the gun was a poster of a semi-nude woman dressed in a short black slip with one arm extended up and the other arm on her hip in a provocative pose. It had been shot 15 times with both a .38 caliber and a .380 caliber through the chest area. The bullets traveled through the wall of a bedroom closet. Detectives recovered eight .380 shell casings as well as spent rounds from a .38 revolver and projectiles
from the .380 semi-automatic in the immediate vicinity of the poster. This indicated that the poster had been shot prior to the murder event and provided some insight into the pathological dynamics of the marriage.
Additional shell casings were found on the bed, floor and dresser. The .25 caliber handgun was to the right of the bed’s headboard. A black briefcase contained two additional weapons: a .45 caliber semi-automatic, a .22 caliber revolver and numerous rounds of ammunition.
To the north of the first bedroom (northwest corner of the house) was a second bedroom that was undisturbed. In the northeast corner of the house was the husband’s art studio. On a dresser was an empty knife sheath consistent with the knife used on Susan.


Susan, 37, was married for the second time. Frank, 43, had been married twice before. Susan had a full-time job and helped support her husband. Frank drifted from job-to-job working as a male model and dance instructor. They had been married approximately three years. Family and friends were unaware of any problems or incidents of domestic violence. Friends described Susan as totally opposite from
Frank. She was down-to-earth and quiet, somewhat passive. Frank was hyperactive, he stated his opinions and was considered flashy. He taught dancing lessons and Susan attempted to assist her husband in his business. One person stated Frank was intense about the dancing lessons and would chastise his wife severely if she made an error while dancing. This person told police that Frank controlled Susan, who acted
subservient. Interviews of family and friends presented contradictory personalities. Some considered Frank a passionate and emotional man. Others described him as angry. Susan provided him a lot of affection.
Investigators learned that neither his second wife nor his mother provided Frank with much love or nurturing, but he never got over his emotional attachment to his second wife. It was known that Frank considered her “the love of his life,” and he had often expressed
this to Susan. Several who were interviewed found Frank to be
effeminate. One acquaintance described Frank as having a “Hollywood” life style. He was very open-minded concerning sexual matters, outgoing and talkative. Others who were interviewed stated that Frank drank excessively. He did not have a criminal record but did have a complaint lodged against him by his former wife for domestic abuse. The charge was dismissed when they were divorced. It was learned that Frank boasted that while he was at college the CIA had recruited him. He told people he had been part of a CIA Assassination Team operating in South America. He said he had martial arts training and owned a number of guns. He bragged about owning several handguns as well as a shotgun and an assault rifle. He proclaimed he could kill someone and get away with the murder without being caught. Frank claimed to be a model and boasted of other exploits, including an appearance in an episode of “Miami Vice.” In fact, he had held four different jobs and tried to form his own company with his wife’s assistance. As a result of this unsuccessful business venture the couple experienced financial difficulties. Family members stated that Frank was a fairly good artist who concentrated on drawing well-endowed naked women. According to a female friend, Frank had told her he was beginning a project with another person. The project was to include drawings of various homicide
scenes for a detective magazine. None of this was reality. Susan was the primary breadwinner while Frank drew pictures of nude women, fantasized, claimed he would be hired as a commercial artist and took over the second bedroom of the house as an art studio. Susan’s father told investigators that four days before the murder the couple had a fight. Frank told his father-in-law that Susan slapped him, that he had
slapped her back and she left the house. Frank said they had been having financial problems and were behind on the house payments. He disclosed they had been sleeping in separate bedrooms for approximately five months. When Frank explained that he and Susan were having
problems he mentioned they were thinking about selling the house in the spring. It should be noted that Susan had lived in the house prior to marrying Frank and the house had been hers. On the day of the murder, Susan’s father received a call from Susan’s mother, his ex-wife. She asked him to go check on Susan as she thought there was something
wrong. When he got to Susan’s house the police were already there. Investigators interviewed Susan’s mother and she stated she had called Susan’s house 10 to 12 times and received a busy signal. She then went to the house and knocked on the door several times. She walked around the house and looked in the window. She saw a body on the floor, but thought it was Frank sleeping on the floor. She then went to work and called Susan’s co-workers and her ex-husband.

Psychosocial History

The investigation revealed the following information about Frank. His mother physically and sexually abused him. He also witnessed domestic violence in his household. His father deserted the family because he
couldn’t deal with his wife, who was domineering and psychologically abusive. Frank worked from age 11 to take over his mother’s position as the target of abuse. His mother basically controlled his life. He was previously divorced and had remarried twice. His first marriage, to a high school teacher, lasted 11 years before ending in divorce. During these years, Frank had a drug problem necessitating hospitalization.
His first wife denied any abusive behaviors. However, Frank was controlling by nature and always wanted things his way. It was his idea to divorce; he said he no longer wanted to be married and wanted to date other women. This is an example of an inability to commit to
one individual in an intimate relationship. He then began an eight-year relationship with his competitive ballroom dance partner Wendy. After they married he discovered she was bisexual and having an affair with another woman. Their marriage lasted only eight months. Frank had a drinking problem most of his adult life. He used alcohol to numb his thoughts and deal with his many losses. His best friend left the area. His father died and the family estate was tied up. He lost contact with most of his friends when his ex-wife left. He felt isolated and abandoned and once again betrayed. He was eventually hospitalized for an attempted suicide. He then married Susan, an old acquaintance. During the
three years they were married Frank started several business ventures but was unsuccessful.I reviewed numerous notes written by the subject as well as correspondence from his ex-wife that he kept secret. He wrote out lists of his symptoms and kept them with his drawings. He complained of insomnia, nervousness, general depression, disorientation,
anxiety and fear, as well as nightmares and flashbacks. The notes and lists, as well as the written correspondence he had had with his ex-wife,
displayed behaviors of a Mixed Personality Disorder. His pathology is consistent with child abuse victims as they experience feelings of abandonment, betrayal, lack of trust, rage, chaos and isolation. Frank’s
psychosocial history revealed a fragile individual with a low self-esteem as well as grandiose patterns of behavior. In an interview with his second wife, Wendy, she stated that they dated and lived together for about seven years before she married him. She said Frank was the
kind of man who needed and thrived on being well liked. She described him as having a “love-hate” relationship with his mother. Wendy said they were married only eight months. She left him after he attacked her because they had had an argument over her going to school. When she walked away from him into another room, he followed her with a strange look in his eyes. He appeared to be staring off into space. When he attacked her she kicked him and ran from the apartment. She was treated at a local hospital, filed a police report and moved out. She said Frank had numerous pornographic tapes including bondage. He liked to take nude pictures of her, which she agreed to pose for. She did not know that he had secretly videotaped them making love or that he secretly videotaped her while taking a shower and getting dressed.
She was shocked when the detectives showed her a photo of herself with numerous holes in it with red paint on the holes, simulating blood. She said she thought she had taken all of her photos when she divorced him. She didn’t remember any pornographic magazines in the house
and Frank did not do any drawings like those found at the crime scene. However there were porn tapes featuring bondage. She thought he started getting strange because he acquired a fascination with “slasher” and bondage movies. She described her ex-husband as being dangerous and explosive and said she was afraid of him. After their divorce Frank would call her and complain that he was having problems with Susan. He stated that Susan wouldn’t talk to him and she would overreact to
everything he did. Frank’s studio in the house contained hundreds of
drawings and paintings. He also had various fantasy stories on notepaper dealing with the CIA and sexual exploits. He also scripted some of his drawings, revealing his psychosexual attributes. When someone scripts their fantasy drawings they have become “vested” in the fantasy and have effectively created an engram, which allows them to reinforce a specific sexual fantasy. Furthermore, if an individual
has vested in sexually sadistic fantasies the drawings and scripts merge into an insidious relationship where fantasy and reality become integrated into their everyday lives. The theme that Frank scripted was one of sexual sadism, with the infliction of pain and suffering on his models accompanied by their scripted pleas. Much of his artwork was on poster paper measuring 2×3 feet. He spent many hours with his hobby, which probably caused a great deal of friction between him and Susan.
There were 115 drawings and 105 photographs of nude women. There were also 83 men’s magazines; many had pages removed, including the pictures of centerfolds with stab marks. Frank also had an extensive collection of VHS and BETA pornographic videotapes as well as 16-
mm movies. The many photographs of nude women with knife holes and
simulated bullet holes displayed his obsession with the sexual mutilation of women. He then added red magic marker as “blood” marks on the models and stabbed through these photographs with a large knife. It very well could have been the same knife that was found in his wife’s chest. The drawings depict women with very large breasts who have been shot or stabbed in the breast area. The violence progresses with multiple shots and cuttings. He drew knives, arrows, swords and
darts (phallic symbols) inserted into the breasts. In one elaborate poster he presented a series of ten panels depicting a nude woman sitting in the tub, getting out of the tub, drying herself off and dressing
while a “shadow picture” of a voyeur is standing outside the bathroom window watching her. My opinion is that the shadow figure is actually the subject fantasizing about his own voyeuristic activities. Some of the drawings were scripted to depict women as whores being punished and killed to satisfy his fantasies. There is a ritualistic and ceremonial
context to the drawings, which indicate his rage and his desire to seek vengeance. There is also a very prominent lesbian theme in the fantasy stories. It was very revealing that his drawings of the women for the lesbian theme were “true” blondes. His former wife, who turned out to be bisexual, was also a “true” blonde. Many of his illustrations reflected his obsession with women who were “true” blondes, represented by coloring the pubis area yellow. Several of the drawings and paintings that showed a woman with black hair being stabbed and or shot in the chest could have been Susan, as they were depicted in the same way
her body was positioned and posed in the crime scene.

Clinical Assessment

The wound structures indicate a psychosexual orientation consistent with anger, lust and rage. In fact, after the body was posed in the position that it was found, Frank forced his wedding ring into Susan’s
nose. Although there was no official history of domestic violence, this behavior is a classic example of interpersonal violence. One cannot separate the sexual component from a domestic violence episode. It is a manifestation of ownership and possession coupled with power and
control. Susan’s murder was a sex-related homicide with classic “overkill” injuries directed to significant sexual parts of the body. The stabbing injuries in the breasts, chest and vagina along with the evisceration and slashing of the throat are consistent with the
psychodynamics of sexual sadism. Frank’s psychosocial history, coupled with the psychodynamics of the crime scene, indicates that he
could have been diagnosed with a Personality Disorder that featured Obsessive-Compulsive Personality traits and Narcissistic traits. Individuals who are obsessive-compulsive tend to display a preoccupation with mental and interpersonal control at the expense of their own flexibility, openness and efficiency. They are compulsive, repetitious in behavior and practice rituals with lists. They are often self-critical. Frank had an obsession with nude women, whom he drew and painted hundreds of times over. He also kept all of his drawings. He could not set priorities. He was prone to becoming angry, exploding when he felt he was unable to maintain control of his physical and interpersonal environment. A prime example was the discovery of the poster-picture with the bullet holes fired through the wall. He was also narcissistic, which was evident in the patterns of grandiosity in his fantasies. He had a grandiose sense of self-importance, exaggerated
achievements and talents indicated by his several business ventures. He also had the ideal love, Wendy, whom he labeled “the love of his life.” In fact, he had told Susan how important Wendy was to him.
Frank was unable to hold a job and succeed. He told people he had been recruited by the CIA. He also claimed he was going to be hired as an artist to draw covers for a detective magazine. He had a preoccupation with his fantasy of “power over women” and required excessive admiration. Unwilling to recognize the needs of others or relate to the feelings of others, Frank couldn’t accept responsibility for his failures and most likely considered Susan to be weak. Frank dominated Susan and demanded complete control of the family finances. Because Susan worked full-time and had a responsible position, Frank probably appeared to respect his wife’s ability to provide a steady income, which assisted him to launch his businesses and pay the
bills. Internally, he probably resented his wife’s stable position — particularly in view of his lack of steady work. Susan most likely complained about her husband’s unemployment and ideas of becoming a
commercial artist. I speculate that Susan’s mother was aware of her
daughter’s distress and was concerned about her safety when she went to the house to check on her. I believe that when Susan’s mom didn’t receive an answer at the door she looked in the window and saw what Susan’s co-workers had seen. She most probably went into both
shock and denial. She immediately raced home to call Susan’s co-workers and beseech them to go to the house. Frank was discovered nude from the waist down with blood on his legs and genitals. Susan was stripped of her clothing, with extensive and multiple stab wounds
into her chest, breasts and genitalia. In reconstructing the crime scene with an analysis of the victimology and history of the participants, I suggest that there was a sexual confrontation. Frank attempted to force his wife, whom he had not been sleeping with for months, into sexual relations. Susan denied his demands. When she refused he became enraged and angry, initiating his displeasure by firing the
eight shots into the poster-picture. Firing the gunshots “set the stage” for the escalation of his rage and anger. During the course of this domestic argument with his wife, Frank most likely became “out of control” and extremely agitated, resulting in a Brief Psychotic
Episode. This acute psychotic reaction would clinically be described as a temporary break from reality. During this break, Frank acted out his most primal and perverse sadistic fantasies. These actions were apparently predicated upon a perverse fantasy system fueled by his involvement with his drawings and his sadistic pornography, and reinforced by the scripted fantasy stories depicting sexual sadism.
Under certain conditions an otherwise “normal” individual may “act-out” his most bizarre and primal fantasies on a victim. The sexual mutilation of the genitalia and breasts of the female victim are typical
occurrences in lust murders. What is not typical is a domestic violence lust murder in which an offender acts out his most perverse and
primal sexual fantasies on his wife’s body. The crime scene was typically disorganized and the sexual mutilation of his wife’s body suggested a Brief Psychotic Episode. At some point thereafter, upon
coming out of this state and returning to normal consciousness, he comprehended what he had done to his wife’s body and encountered the reality of his rage and anger. He then made a conscious decision to take his own life.

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