The kind of man who kills his wife or family fits a pattern, and this new understanding of who commits this kind of murder could help prevent them from happening in the first place. So report Northwestern University researchers in the Journal of Forensic Sciences after interviewing and evaluating 153 murderers for more than 1,500 hours. Domestic homicide is one of the most common types of murder in the US, with one-third of all murdered American women killed at the hands of their male partners, current or former. Among the things these killers have in common? Severe mental illness—especially psychotic disorders—along with few previous felony convictions, lower intelligence, low emotional and impulse control, and greater cognitive impairment.
"These murders are in the heat of passion and generally involve drugs or alcohol and often are driven by jealousy or revenge following a separation or a split," lead researcher Robert Hanlon says. "This is grabbing the kitchen knife out of the drawer in a fit of anger and stabbing her 42 times." In fact, guns are the murder weapon in only 14% of these cases; knives, bats, hammers, clubs, rocks, and fists were other weapons used by the men interviewed, reports the Chicago Tribune. "These crimes are often preventable if family members are more informed about the potential danger from having someone who is severely mentally ill in the home and who may have shown violent tendencies in the past," Hanlon adds. "The fact is the husband or son may very well harm the wife or mother." (The man who recently murdered six kids and their parents in Houston was an estranged boyfriend.)