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Domestic Homicide of Male Spouses by Females: A Review for Death Investigators

NCJ Number
Forensic Nurse Dated: September/October 2003 Pages: 8-9,15,18
Cynthia T. Ferguson
Date Published
September 2003
6 pages
After providing an overview of the varying motives and dynamics that may be involved in a woman's killing of a male spouse or intimate, this article details the tasks of the homicide investigator in cases that involve a male homicide victim and a female suspect.
Typical motives for women killing their husbands are battering/self-defense, money/financial gain, jealousy/rage, or an undetermined motive or mental llness/personality disorder. In the case of an unexplained death of a male, the cause of death must be determined. If homicide is determined to be the cause, then investigators should first operate out of the knowledge that females who kill have the greatest incidence of being the perpetrators of domestic homicide. This should cause investigators to have a higher degree of suspicion of a woman whenever there is a death in a family that appears illogical; homicides are seldom committed without a motive. There is little evidence in the reviewed literature to suggest that many women stage homicides of intimates to divert attention from themselves, but this must always be viewed as a possibility in cases where it initially appears that a death was due to suicide, an accident, or a natural cause. This article describes investigative steps and procedures at the crime scene to determine what, when, and why the death happened. When considering a female suspect's capability of committing murder, the investigator of a spousal/intimate crime should obtain information on the childhood home environment of the female partner. Issues that should be explored are her childhood relationships with her parents, the characteristics of the home environment in which she was raised, and the presence of any history of physical and/or sexual abuse in her past. A childhood environment of violence is suggestive of future violent behavior. This article discusses the significance of the characteristics of the victim in homicide investigations; the common implements of spousal homicide; interviews of spouse/suspect, family, and friends; women who kill spouses due to jealousy; women who hire someone to kill their husbands; women who kill intimates for money; and women who kill their batterers.