Metro-East News

3/5/2005: Experts: Anger, emotion usually spur stabbings

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Belleville News-Democrat on March 5, 2005

The weapon of choice for killings, especially multiple killings, is rarely a knife, experts say.

Typically, someone who stabs a person to death didn’t plan the slaying, but instead acted out of anger or revenge because killing with a knife is a much more intimate, personal and emotional act than killing with a gun.

“Stabbings happen, but far less often than killing with a gun. Let’s face it, it’s difficult to kill three people in one location with a knife,” said Jack Levin, director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Massachusetts.

Levin is the author of several books about multiple murders, including his most recent book, “Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.”

“Most multiple murders, not serial murders, but multiple murders in one location, are motivated by revenge,” Levin said. “The killer wants to get even. He thinks the victim is responsible for all his personal problems and wants revenge.”

Hairstylist and antique dealer Michael J. Cooney, 62, and two of his longtime customers, Doris J. Fischer, 79, and her sister, Dorothy E. Bone, 82, were stabbed to death Wednesday in Cooney’s home-based beauty salon at 7813 W. Main St. All of the victims were stabbed multiple times with a butcher knife, according to the autopsy results.

According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, murders are most often committed with guns. In 2002, the latest numbers available, 51 percent of murders were committed with handguns, 16 percent with other guns, 13 percent with knives, 5 percent with blunt objects and 16 percent with other weapons.

Sometimes a killer will use a knife because he doesn’t know how to use a gun, Levin said.

Police have ruled out robbery as a motive for the killings and believe Cooney was the intended target. They said Bone and Fischer were simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Police are pursuing leads that have taken them into Cooney’s personal life and into the gay nightclub scene. They have questioned several people who knew Cooney.

Approximately 2 percent of murder victims were slain in homosexual relationships, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics, and boyfriend victims were more likely than any other group of intimates to be killed by knives.

“A knife is so much more personal than a gun,” said Daniel Cuneo, a Belleville psychologist. “I find that a knife is much more vicious than a gun because it’s personal: You feel the knife go in, you feel it cut, you see the blood. There is usually a lot of real rage in someone who uses a knife, especially with multiple stab wounds.”

According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics, 78.1 percent of male victims were killed during an argument, while 40 percent of all killings are the result of an argument.

“Stabbing is much more likely to be spontaneous and compulsive, usually during an argument of some kind,” Levin said. “Most killings with a firearm are premeditated because it requires thinking about bringing a gun to the scene.”