Roadmap: predicting who will kill in 2016 and beyond

Predicting violence remains something of a forensic uncertainty.  When it comes down to reliability in predicting violence the best predictor is past violence. In a post first published in late 2013 pre-incident indicators for domestic violence homicide (DVH) are introduced as a roadmap.  These were nothing new and hold true today in terms of the manipulation and control exhibited by habitual abusers as defined by Walker and many others. While the capacity to predict who will kill their intimate partner remains somewhat obscure those who intimidate with weapons and repeatedly violate court orders must be considered at high risk for DVH and held without bail.  During this period of confinement a formal dangerousness evaluation is essential. Decisions about prosecution must be based on the totality of the circumstances not solely on the wishes of the victim – especially when the lives of children have been threatened.

In the most despicable cases of domestic violence homicide (DVH) women were murdered while a child looked on (Sefton, 2016). At some point the judiciary and lawmakers will catch up to the robust body of literature on the cycle of violence.  In spite of have no convictions, the abuser’s history of criminal threatening must result in a comprehensive dangerousness evaluation regardless whether the victim wishes to press charges or not. During my service as a police officer I have had cases in which as many as 3 women have had protective orders in place against the same abuser. If the victim is able to move on from the abusive relationship the abuser will move on too and abuse another domestic partner and her children.


WESTBOROUGH, MA December 12, 2013  There is no single road map to understanding the complexity of human behavior in general and homicide in particular. If there were the rate of domestic violence homicide might be reduced to zero. Unfortunately behavioral analysis as a science has not evolved into a reliable enough predictor of murder and cannot envisage when terminal rage might be unleashed, accroding to Michael Sefton, Ph.D..

The psychological autopsy is the study of individual cases that uncovers details about the pre-incident behaviors known as red flags. The application of this information can identify commonalities among cases of domestic violence so that police and social service agencies might have justification for early stopping and when necessary containment of high risk abusers.


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