A Newspaper Surveillance Study of Homicide-Suicide in the United States


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Abstract

The objective of this study was to identify the number and subtypes of homicide-suicides in the United States by age group and state over a 3-year period from 1997 through 1999. A total of 673 homicide-suicides, including 674 perpetrators and 779 victims, were identified from Internet searches of 191 national newspapers, and they were classified according to a modified Hanzlick-Koponen typology. One quarter of the homicide-suicides were perpetrated by persons 55 years or older, and 77% were spousal/consortial, higher than the 57% observed in the younger age group; 11% of the older homicide-suicides were familial, compared with 16% in the younger age group. Whereas only 3% of older homicide-suicides were infanticide/pedicide, 16% of the younger homicide-suicides involved parents killing their children. Forty-five states, including the District of Columbia, reported a homicide-suicide during the 3-year period, and they occurred most frequently in Florida (163), California (98), Texas (36), and New York (35). Newspaper surveillance is useful to identify where homicide-suicides are occurring most frequently, but they are underestimates of the true prevalence. However, the number of incidents detected is large enough that the cases detected may be a fairly representative sample.

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