Crime Heats Up

As temps rise, so do tempers (All Voices)

Numerous studies have examined the effects of temperature on crime. And the same basic pattern almost always seems to emerge: violent crimes rise in the spring, peak in the summer, wane in the fall and drop off steeply in the winter.

Nothing is worse than the summer, though. Just look at history.

Charlie Manson and his acid-soaked “family” launched their murder spree in the summer of 1969; the mysterious Zodiac Killer operated in San Francisco and sent cryptic messages to local  newspapers around the same time; and David Berkowitz—the infamous “Son of Sam”—terrorized New York City in the summer of 1977.

The potential explanations for all this hot-weather homicide and summertime crime are fairly obvious: when people get hot, they are more likely to get “hot under the collar,” too—anger definitely rises with the temperature; when the weather is warm, more people go outside, which increases their interactions with others and, similarly, the chances for violence—this also leaves homes vacant for thieves; and kids are out of school, which means more possible victims or even offenders will be on the streets.

And no, that wasn’t a reference to Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, I assure you.

One or even all of these could be true, of course, but what do they matter? The fact is that hot weather and violent crime go hand-in-hand. The pattern is there and this summer, it is only getting worse. Take the cases of Derek Medina and James DiMaggio, for instance—two men far less notorious than Manson and the others, but equally violent in their own right.

Derek Medina and his family appear happy (Facebook)

Derek Medina and his family appear happy (Facebook)

On Thursday, 31-year-old Derek Medina of Miami, Florida posted a picture to Facebook of himself, his wife—Jennifer Alfonso—and his daughter having a nice dinner near a marina. The author of several self-help books offering marital advice and communication tips, Medina unfortunately could not practice what he preached. He and his wife got into a huge argument that escalated when Medina pulled out a gun.

According to Medina, his wife threatened to leave and when he pursued her—the gun tucked neatly away—she attacked him. First came a volley of punches, most of them to the head, followed by a knife Alfonso suddenly pulled on him. Medina managed to wrestle the knife away and when she continued to punch him, he retrieved the gun and shot her multiple times. Alfonso collapsed on the kitchen floor dead, her body oddly contorted. She was 26 years old.

You might ask how I know about Alfonso’s body position in this gruesome scene. That’s easy, but also very strange and quite sick and demented: Medina took a picture of his wife’s corpse and posted it on Facebook!

The image disturbed friends, family members and even total strangers who, despite being outraged, still found a way to share the photo countless times. Accompanying it was the following message from Medina:

“I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys miss you guys take care Facebook people you will see me in the news.”

The comments posted in response to this disturbing picture understandably expressed surprise, concern and sorrow. “What happened?” “That is my friend there.” How horrible it must be to see someone you care about lying dead for everyone to see. All the while knowing that the person who killed her thought so little of her—killing her wasn’t enough, so now he had to brag about it?

In a note posted with his wife’s death image, Medina claimed to be the victim of abuse and asked his friends to understand why he had to do this—as if he was simply defending himself!

Derek does his worst Trayvon impression (ilgazzettino)

Derek does his worst Trayvon impression (ilgazzettino)

Nothing about this case makes much sense, especially when you consider what Medina did immediately after murdering Alfonso. Rather than fleeing or calling 911, he changed his clothes, went to visit his family—to tell them what he did—and then drove to the nearest police station to surrender. He confessed to the crime and told police where to find his wife’s body, which they did a short time later—along with his 10-year-old daughter, who was also in the house only alive and well. Medina has been charged with first-degree murder (for now) and is being held without bond in Miami Dade. A more formal charge will be filed in the next three weeks.

Just for the record, Miami experienced heat in the high 80’s and low 90’s on Thursday. Is it possible this had something to do with Medina’s sudden psychotic behavior? I wonder.

I also wonder how temperature might have affected this next case—it was in the mid-70’s, which normally wouldn’t be hot enough to cause problems—but that doesn’t make it any less interesting and disturbing. It is ongoing since California Amber Alert suspect and fugitive James DiMaggio is still at large somewhere in the Idaho wilderness. He was spotted there on Wednesday along with the girl he kidnapped in San Diego last weekend, 16-year-old Hannah Anderson. The young girl was last seen leaving cheerleading practice on Saturday afternoon.

From what I understand, DiMaggio befriended Brett and Christina Anderson before Hannah was born and was considered to be part of the family. Since DiMaggio enjoyed camping and hiking so much, he would even join them for campouts from time to time. As far as the Andersons knew, he was a close friend and someone they could trust.

Unfortunately, they were wrong.

DiMaggio with his captive Hannah in happier times (Jennifer Willis)

DiMaggio with his captive Hannah in happier times (Jennifer Willis)

For no apparent reason—aside from rumors that he was infatuated with Hannah (her best friend Alan MacNabb claims he confessed this to Hannah at one point)—DiMaggio snapped and decided to murder both Christina and her 8-year-old son, Ethan. Their charred remains were discovered in his burned-down San Diego home last Sunday. DNA tests confirmed both of the victims’ identities.

DiMaggio then kidnapped Hannah and fled the area. Amber Alerts were issued from California to Oregon, but there was no sign of them until a man in Idaho reported seeing the fugitive and his captive in the River of No Return Wilderness area near Cascade on Wednesday evening. He encountered them on horseback as they were hiking earlier that day and said it seemed “odd,” but not “alarming.” Only after seeing DiMaggio on the news later that night did he realize who he was and contact authorities.

“They did speak and exchange pleasantries,” Andrea Dearden of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office said Friday. “I don’t think there was a lot of information exchanged. He left the conversation believing they were camping in the area.”

Police found Dimaggio’s car hidden in the brush near the trailhead in Idaho, roughly seven miles from where the rider spotted them. The license plates had been removed, so investigators used the vehicle identification number to connect it to their suspect. They also called in bomb technicians to make sure the car wasn’t rigged with explosives—evidence found at DiMaggio’s burned-out home suggested as much.

Checkpoints have been set up and access points secured around the area where DiMaggio is believed to be “hunkered down,” as authorities put it. The wilderness is vast, though, so there is no telling how long he can remain there or, better yet, if he will remain there at all. Some believe he is capable of reaching Canada.

Hannah's friend Marissa found DiMaggio to be "creepy" (LiMiT)

Hannah’s friend Marissa found DiMaggio to be “creepy” (LiMiT)

We’ll just have to wait and see how this story plays out, but I sincerely hope Hannah is returned to her father soon. She is all he has left, after all.

Even though temperature seems to have played no part in DiMaggio’s case—this is obviously something that’s been building up in him for some time—it doesn’t change the fact that crime seems to be heating up this summer. And if the temperatures continue to rise as I believe they will, things will likely get worse before they get better. Until then, I guess the best we can do is try to stay cool… and hope that criminals do the same.

Posted on August 10, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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