skip navigation

Add your conference to our Justice Events calendar


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the NCJRS Abstracts Database. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.

  NCJ Number: NCJ 176762     Find in a Library
  Title: Murder Masquerading As Suicide: Postmortem Assessment of Suicide Risk Factors at the Time of Death
  Author(s): R I Simon
  Journal: Journal of Forensic Sciences  Volume:43  Issue:6  Dated:November 1998  Pages:1119 to 1123
  Date Published: 11/1998
  Page Count: 5
  Annotation: This discussion of the role of forensic psychiatry in distinguishing suicide from homicide presents several cases in which the cause of death was unclear, as well as a case in which postmortem assessments of suicide risk factors at the time of death were used to expose a murder masquerading as a suicide.
  Abstract: The discussion notes that the deaths of Marilyn Monroe in 1962, Robert Maxwell in 1991, and Vincent Foster in 1993 have been sources of debate. The case history involved a married but separated woman found hanging naked in her bedroom closet by her landlord. The prosecution's pathologist believed that the death was suspicious. The defense forensic pathologist testified that the death was a straightforward suicide. Further police investigation revealed that the husband had a police record for physical spousal abuse and that the woman was moving forward with a divorce. Hair samples in her apartment matched those of her husband. These and many other factors led the prosecutor to request a postmortem psychiatric assessment regarding suicide risk factors. Analysis of individual, clinical, interpersonal, situational, and statistical risk factors revealed a low or minimal suicide risk at the time of death. The husband was prosecuted and convicted of first-degree murder. This case demonstrates the role forensic psychiatrists in equivocal suicide cases. Postmortem assessment of suicide risk should readily meet prevailing evidentiary criteria of reasonableness. Forensic opinions in such cases should avoid conclusory statements that invade the province of the fact finder in determining criminal responsibility. Table and 35 references (Author abstract modified)
  Main Term(s): Criminology
  Index Term(s): Homicide ; Suicide ; Psychological evaluation ; Forensic psychiatry ; Death investigations
  Country: United States of America
  Language: English
  To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.