When it comes to murder, it’s all about who you know



Marc Chagall, Cain et Abel, 1960

For getting jobs, getting into college and getting murdered, it all depends on who you know. And despite what your parents told you about strangers, it isn’t strangers who pose you the most danger.

The four charged murders so far this year in Kitsap, and one as yet uncharged murder, shed a grim light on this fact. What may be unusual is how the deed is alledged to have been done.

For some, this might be unsurprising, especially those who work with victims of crime, and especially sexual assault victims, as sexual assaults by perfect strangers are rare when compared to the majority of these crimes. But for people who don’t spend their time slogging through the finer details of the human condition, they might be apt to think of murder as typically an impersonal, random act, something performed by an “other.”

But the truth is, when it comes to murder most foul, it usually isn’t strangers who pose the biggest threat.

Consider these facts about murder in Kitsap this year:

-Four of the suspected five murders so far this year are considered “domestic violence,” and the fifth suspect was a trusted neighbor.

-But what do you think when you hear domestic violence and murder? A woman being killed by a male intimate partner? In fact, three of the five victims were men, two were suspected of being killed by the female in an intimate relationship, the third is suspect of being killed by his adult daughter. Again, not surprising for many who work in the muck. We often hear how women are seen as sex objects by society, but not much about how men are seen as violence objects. As such, men are more likely than women to be victims of violence. This is not to minimize the violence suffered by women.

-That also isn’t to say men haven’t been accused of killing females, but not intimate partners. In those cases, the males are suspected of killing young girls. One an infant daughter by her father, one a 6-year-old girl by the neighbor boy.

-Although guns may be the easiest way to kill a person, not a single charged or suspected murder in Kitsap in 2014 was committed with a firearm. There were shootings, in fact the year wasn’t more than an hour old before a guy at a hotel party in Bremerton got shot. Good luck, bad marksmanship, quick responses from medics or easy access to helicopters to get the wounded out of Kitsap might take credit for the fact nobody has been murdered with a gun. * Yet. Knock on wood.

-In fact, when it comes to weapons, just a single case is alleged to involve a conventional weapon, and it was a knife, and that one hasn’t been charged.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery said the cases so far this year don’t jibe with what many might assume makes up a murder, but the fact that the suspects had a relationship with the deceased is not that out of the ordinary.

“Every case has its own facts,” she said, but conceded the murder cases this year are a little strange. “We scratch our heads a little.”

“The lay person might think of murder as when a person is shot with a gun, or stabbed, and it is a stranger who is the suspect,” she said. But it doesn’t take a gun or a knife to kill somebody, and often enough, the suspect is a person who was in a position of trust, and that can shake our assumptions about those we are close to and who we see as the “other.” Murder is rare, but it doesn’t look far for its victims.

“That is something we don’t want to see as possible,” Montgomery said.

None of the murder cases from this year have made it to trial. Here they are:

Shelly Margaret Arndt, 45, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree arson for the Feb. 23 death of Darcy Edward Veeder Jr. of Bremerton. Arndt, who has a previous arson conviction for setting a fire in 2011 in a home while Veeder slept, is scheduled to go to trial April 20. She had a second arson charge tacked onto the case from another fire she allegedly set in 2011, but that charge was dismissed last week.

Renee Roberta Nash, 59, is charged with second-degree murder for neglecting her elderly father, Harlan Haynes, 97, who was found in their squalid South Kitsap home March 12. An autopsy found Haynes died of malnutrition and dehydration, and had depended on his daughter for his care. Reports say Nash did not report Haynes’ death for two days. Nash is scheduled to go to trial Dec. 8.

Hector Francisco Saavedra Ruiz, 21, of Kingston, is charged with second-degree murder for the July 16 death of his infant daughter, Natalie. Doctors suspected the child had died from being shaken, and had a broken bone that was healing. Saavedra had taken the child to show her to coworkers, and was said to have smoked meth prior to taking the baby. His trial is also scheduled for Dec. 8.

Gabriel Zebediah Gaeta, 17, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree rape of a child for the death of 6-year-old Jenise Wright, who was reported missing Aug. 3. The two were neighbors in the same East Bremerton mobile home park. Jenise was found to have died of blunt force trauma, and Gaeta’s DNA was found on an article of clothing belonging to the girl. He is expected to plead not guilty to the charges Oct. 31.

Alan Charpentier, 54, died from knife wounds after fleeing his East Bremerton house Aug. 31 in what his family believes was a murder-suicide attempt. As neighbors gave him aid, Charpentier identified his estranged wife, 55, as his attacker. An autopsy found he had been sprayed in the face with pepper spray before being stabbed, according to court documents. After the attack, the woman is believed to have spread fuel around their house and started a fire, leaving her with burns and smoke inhalation injuries. After having her condition upgraded last week, this week a spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said the woman was back in the Intensive Care Unit.

 *There is one fatal shooting by police currently under review.

4 thoughts on “When it comes to murder, it’s all about who you know

  1. Thanks for your article. I’m not sure, though, how well the article you cited about gendered violence backs your claims. My two takeaways from the research were that gendered gaps have mostly closed, and that women are still largely targets of partner related abuse, which it seems like these murder cases were? Wondering if I missed something …?

  2. Thanks for writing. Things have changed since this post went up, with two people not mentioned being charged with murder (in one week). However, as it stood at this post, one person two people were killed in what investigators believe was intimate partner violence, and the victims were men. Of course, now that number is at one two male victims and one female victim (“Intimate partner” is to differentiate it from the larger category of “domestic violence”). According to the data, when it comes to intimate partner violence, women are more often victims, which is why it’s interesting to me, that in Kitsap this year, it’s now at one two to one. However, the data also shows that men are more often the victims of homicides than women. Figure one shows that in 2004 men were killed at a rate of about nine per 100,000; women were killed at a rate of about 2 per 100,000. There are more female victims in some categories, including rape. As far as the “gender gap” closing, it appears that is true. For an interesting take on violence, its cause and relationship to gender, check out James Gilligan’s “Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic.”

  3. Thanks for writing, Lisa. You might not have noticed that the date stamp on this post is Oct. 23. Amber Coplin was died Nov. 3 or Nov. 4. There was another charged murder that came after this post, so it wasn’t included as well. Also, the other incident you mentioned, which claimed the life of Leon Shaw, occurred in Pierce County. Let’s hope we make it through the end of the year without another!

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