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.

2 thoughts on “I’m a Recovering Crime Writer, Not a Lawyer.

  1. What a sad story. It doesn’t matter how she died, a life was lost. Is this our new past time—speculative crime solving via social media? Morbid and sad.

    • Karen says:

      I’ve been trying to work out exactly what the attraction for this is, and I think it more or less works out to a weird combination of feeling as though public organizations (particularly the police) are not doing everything they could to help a specific case or group of people, and youthful optimism that through the internet, ordinary people can change the world for the better. In my own case, it’s a variation on people-watching.

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