Crime du Jour, Day 20: Murder, Second-Degree

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!


Crime du Jour #20: Murder, Second-Degree


Second-degree murder is an ugly, boring crime. In theory it’s supposed to be a “crime of passion,” when you kill someone in the heat of the moment, or you kill someone you only intended to injure, or you kill someone while you’re committing another crime.  In practice, it’s a crime for stupid people.

Lemme give you some examples.

One guy kills a priest in Marlborough who was hearing his confession, not in a confession booth like in the movies, but in the priest’s office, face to face, over a cup of coffee.  The guy was abused as a kid, and it slips out.  Suddenly the guy is like, “You weren’t supposed to ask about that.” They tussle, the priest gets shot, second-degree murder.

A contractor in Arnold drives over a homeless man in an alleyway near his apartment. Hits the guy, runs over him, then reverses his pickup truck and backs over him again.  He was high and hadn’t meant to do it, second-degree murder.

This guy in Fairview Heights is molesting little kids. One of the moms finds out.  She recruits her brother to help deal with this bastard, then hires the guy to help put together some bunk beds for her even younger twin daughters. They tussle, she accidentally shoots her brother, then the guy. She has a good lawyer. Instead of first-degree murder and manslaughter, the charge about her brother is dismissed and the one about the alleged molester is downgraded—you guessed it—to second-degree murder.

A chorus of domestic disturbance rings out over the St. Louis metropolitan area, as regular as church bells. Second-degree murder.

Two guys stuck in a traffic jam on I-70 on a Friday at 4 p.m., one guy gets out and shoots the other, second-degree murder.

Two guys walk out of a bar just off Vandeventer Avenue, they get in a fight, one of them knocks the other out, the first guy drags the second guy’s unconscious body into a park, the second guy hits his head on a rock and dies, second-degree murder.

Robbery in an old man’s home in Fairview Heights, the robber ties up a 79-year-old man and leaves him there after ransacking the house. The man has diabetes and no family and can’t get to his insulin, second-degree murder.

Three teenaged boys in Ferguson steal some unsecured guns off a second-amendment neighbor, all trigger and no discipline, then break into the house of neighbors who happen to be black. They wear ski masks, one of the guns goes off accidentally, everyone’s in the news, second-degree murder.

A woman’s driving a car in Hi-Pointe. The car is moving. One guy is in the seat beside her, the other is in the seat behind her. A gun goes off—twice. The car swerves and hits a tree. Video from a store across the street shows three people in the car: the dead woman in the driver’s seat, a guy in the front seat, another guy in back. The woman was shot in the back of the head twice. Both of the guys have previous convictions for drug felonies. The guy in the back seat says he got out of the car and went home before the shooting occurred and he wouldn’t have shot her while the car was moving anyway, second-degree murder.

Are you bored yet? Rolling your eyes? Trying to talk to the people on the other side of the story and tell them it wasn’t worth it? I do.

I work for the local daily paper.  You wouldn’t recognize my byline. I started out delivering papers at four a.m. off my bicycle and worked my way up to reporter.  Not one of the top reporters, but a reliable hack with a sympathetic face who works the courts a lot.  The cops recognize me.  I’ve stepped down more than a few situations.  “Oh, it’s her,” they’ll say, and the situation will de-escalate. Apparently my writeups are sarcastic.

But here it is: I started noticing, when I was doing follow-up interviews with the survivors after sentencing, that there would be a snow globe sitting around somewhere.  Small, cheap-looking, white plastic in a glass dome with a white plastic base.  I didn’t think about it until I saw the fifth or sixth one.  Now I see them everywhere.

When I first realized it, I broke off in the middle of the interview.  I said, “What’s that?”

The widow handed the globe over to me.  Her husband had been killed behind a gay bar off 7th Boulevard. She’d known what her husband was like, but she loved him too much to stop him that night, he’d been shot after making out with the wrong closeted gay man, second-degree murder.

“Charles’s snow globe,” she said, like I should have known already. She handed it to me.

Behind the swirling white glitter was a 3D-printed miniature in white plastic. One man standing, the other kneeling, the first man holding a gun to the second man’s head. A little metal plate at the bottom said Charles Garmer, Jan 7 1982 to May 13 2018, Crime du Jour.

“Where’d you get it?” I asked.

“It came in the mail.” She tilted her head. “Didn’t you know? Every day someone gets one of these.”

She showed me the St. Louis survivors’ forum she frequented. One of the top topics was just that: Crime du Jour.  Every day, some anonymous artist selected a second-degree murder case and made a miniature snow globe for it on a 3D printer, then sent it to one of the survivors.

“That’s…” I said, not knowing how to describe it.

The widow shrugged. “We like them. It’s nice knowing someone is paying attention.” She skipped a beat, then added, “Besides you, of course.”

“Of course,” I said, and wrapped things up.

Twenty years of summing up second-degree murder cases, and it was someone else who had found the perfect description for that dull and relentless horror, the horror of human stupidity.

Crime du jour.



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You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

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