Apparently, this is one of those urban myths which was originally made up by
Dr Mills at the aforemetioned awards ceremony but is not true.
Its also the first scene in Magnolia, with Tom Cruise. ( see
see also Los Angeles Times 27 Feb 96
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On Behalf
Sent: 03 July 2002 12:11
Subject: RE: virus: Bizarre story
Weird scenes inside the goldmine
At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS
President Dr Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the
legal complications of a bizarre death.
Here is the story.
On March 23, 1994 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus
and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head.Mr Opus had
jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide.
He left a note to the effect indicating his despondency. As he fell past
the ninth floor his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing
through a window, which killed him instantly.
Neither the shooter nor the deceased was aware that a safety net had
been installed just below the eighth floor level to protect some
and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide
the way he had planned.
"Ordinarily," Dr Mills continued, "A person who sets out to commit
suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be
intended, is still defined as committing suicide."
That Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would
not have been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical
examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands.
In the room on the ninth floor, where the shotgun blast emanated, was
occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing vigorously
and he was threatening her with a shotgun. The man was so upset that
when he pulled the trigger he completely missed his wife and the pellets
went through the window striking Mr. Opus.
When one intends to kill subject "A" but kills subject "B" in the
attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject "B"
When confronted with the murder charge the old man and his wife were
both adamant and both said that they thought the shotgun was unloaded.
The old man said it was a long-standing habit to threaten his wife with
the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her. Therefore the
killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an accident; that is, if the gun had
been accidentally loaded.
The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old
couple's son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal
accident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's
financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to
use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that
his father would shoot his mother.
Since the loader of the gun was aware of this, he was guilty of the
murder even though he didn't actually pull the trigger. The case now
becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald
Now comes the exquisite twist.
Further investigation revealed that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus.
He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to
engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten story
building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing
through the ninth story window.
The son had actually murdered himself so the medical examiner closed the
case as a suicide.
(A true story from Associated Press, Reported by Kurt Westervelt)
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