Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Too Much Tube

Posted February 15, 2007 4:41 p.m. EST

This week I came to the conclusion that criminals are watching too much television, and as a result, they're picking up bad habits.

Take the brutal murder of a Wendell woman who was found stabbed to death in her home Tuesday morning for example.  Investigators say the man charged with killing his wife enlisted two teenagers to help him cover up the crime.   Then, in a gruesome move worthy of a prime time television crime drama, investigators say the suspects wrote a threatening note in the victim's blood on the kitchen floor.  The goal was obviously to make everyone believe that the killer meant to get revenge against  the woman's husband- the man ultimately charged in the crime.

Then, almost as unbelievable as the note written in blood, the husband called 911
to report finding his wife's body.  He sobbed into the receiver as he recounted his horror to the dispatcher.  At times, he was so frantic that his words were impossible to understand.  The dispatcher had to keep telling him to slow down and speak clearly.  Investigators now say the call was a hoax.  If it was, it was an Oscar-winning performance, one ripped right out of a Lifetime movie.  Clearly, it didn't pass muster with detectives.

The final element that proves criminals are getting too much information from television is that the murder suspect spent the day "cooperating" with investigators, the assumption being that if you talk you couldn't possibly be guilty.  By midday, they say information about the two teens involved in the cover-up came to light.  They also found items taken from the crime scene that were disposed of in a nearby field.  They ultimately confronted the suspect who was speaking freely without an attorney present, and charged him with murder.

Not unlike television viewers who think crimes can be solved in an hour (because that's how it's done on C.S.I.), I think criminals take cues from what they see on television.  They learn what they think are plausible evasive moves that will keep them from getting caught.  But in the end, most of the time, especially in serious crimes, the techniques don't work, the bad guys get caught, and they go to jail.

So grab the remote, keep on watching boys.  I know some people in law enforcement who would gladly pay your cable bill.  

About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.