I’m a Recovering Crime Writer, Not a Lawyer.

I’ve been watching one of those social-media explosions, lately. Let’s see if I can even find video without commentary attached…

There is more video than this, but a huge number of the copies I’ve seen include people speculating about what happened, so I’ll let you look them up yourself.

She was 19 years old (note for people outside the US: two years below the legal drinking age.) and at some point the following day, (many, many hours later) she was found dead inside a hotel freezer in an “unused” portion of the building which was under renovation. (And that’s pretty much everything anyone can agree on.)

In the beginning, the police seemed to be leaning toward this being an accidental death.

And then, Kanneka’s mother took her story to social media (I actually heard about this on Twitter, before it got to mainstream news in my area), and the internet rose up in support of a more thorough investigation.

The manner of death is now undetermined. (Manner of death is a check-box. Multiple choice. Five options. Natural, Homicide, Suicide, Accidental and Undetermined. It is not the same thing as cause of death, which could be Alcohol poisoning, hypothermia, asphyxia, etc.)

And on the internet–you’ll see what I mean, if you look at many of the videos–the theories of how and why Kanneka died run from the reasonable to X-Files worthy material.

My opinion? Doesn’t really matter a lot, but I think unlikely that Kanneka was murdered for her organs, and it’s also unlikely that her death was faked by sex-traffickers.

I still think there’s an excellent chance she was murdered.

Oh, no. Not in the way you’re thinking. I don’t think anyone pushed her in the freezer, or locked the door, or edited themselves out of the surveillance footage.

What I believe is that this death may have been the result of a felony.

Felony murder is the idea that you are responsible for the deaths that occur while you are committing a felony, or as the result of a felony. And–in the United States–it’s more or less first degree murder.

So, imagine that you are the get-away driver in a bank robbery. You never set foot in the bank, you never point a gun at anyone. Maybe your accomplices inside the bank don’t even have guns. The bank guard turns and shoots your buddy Steve. Steve dies as a result of your felony, so… guess who’s going to jail for murder? Just a hint: not the bank guard.

So, now that you have the general idea…

Imagine that you are a drug dealer in a hotel party. Selling illegal drugs is a felony. (Selling any scheduled drug without a license is, too.)

(As is Conspiracy, by the way. Someday, I’ll have to talk about my deep and abiding hatred of conspiracy.)

So, here we are… Down to the toxicology report.

If what we’re looking at is purely alcohol intoxication, then, maybe it’s an accidental death.

If, on the other hand, there’s anything else causing that intoxication… If she was sold or given drugs… If there were drugs at the party, and that’s the reason nobody called the police or the front desk when she first went missing… if any number of things happened,… that’s a death as the result of a felony.

Hobbies For Serial Killers… and Writers.

One of the things I like to do–as a point of interest, not as a career path–is to take the information that people hand out without a second thought, go to the internet, and see how much more I can come up with. It’s a holdover from my time writing thrillers, and the truth is, everyone should probably take a step back and think about how much information they really want to give strangers.

The correct answer?

I don’t know. I mean, I have a blog, don’t I? A Twitter account?  I post information on the internet, and for the most part, I don’t get a whole lot of negativity. I’ve never gotten any trolling, or threats. Of course, I’m also not really advertising to a full cross-section of the world, either. My blog focuses on readers, writers… uhm… mostly not homicidal maniacs.

I still believe you should think about what kind of information you’re giving away… particularly if it connects to minors.

There’s not a whole lot of advantage to giving away personal information.

So, the game goes like this. You see a stranger. It could be one of those SUVs with the stick family on the back, or it could be that Booster Club Mom with the giant buttons with her kid’s picture and the Sports Team T-shirt. Anyone, really. The goal is to get from watching their car drive by to knowing enough to get them to believe you know them. (I’m not actually suggesting that you act on this.)

You are not allowed to talk to the person, or to communicate with them in any way. No asking for more information,  no hinting, no introducing yourself in hopes of hearing the person’s name, or getting them to chat about their high school glory days.

You take the information they hand out freely, and you go from there. Is their kid an honor roll student at Herbert Hoover Middle School? Does Dad have one of those license plates that lists his ham radio call letters? (You can pull up radio license information, and usually a home address with one of those.) Those nifty Team/sport/name/JerseyNumber bumper stickers are suddenly weirdly creepy.

Because people really do give away a lot of information on their cars, sometimes on their bodies. Hobbies. Interests. The number of people and pets in the family. Do you really want people walking by your car to know you own an attack cat instead of a Doberman? Do you want them to know that your daughter’s name is Chelsea, she goes to Franklin Middle School, where she plays volleyball, and then goes to dance at Baby Ballet is us? Would you like that same stranger to know what her brother’s name is, and what kind of car to tell her broke down?

And yes, one of my villains does wind up choosing victims based on the bumper stickers on their cars. It’s not as detailed as this, but… well, it’s the kind of thing that gets a girl to thinking. Be safe out there.

What do you think? Where do you draw the line on giving out information?