Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Morbid Curiosity

A 2005 triple-homicide in Tacoma caught my interest primarily due to the arrogant contumacy of the killer. Now, more than a year later, the wheels of justice are clunking absently along, giving the accused a chance to declare himself "guilty as charged," thereby avoiding the death penalty. Some of the more interesting facts of the case are coming to light, including the dubious character of all involved players, Caesar-esque tragic irony in the form of murder delivered by a comrade, public messages exchanged on Myspace, and the comical ignorance of the so-called "mastermind."

It seems that Daniel Varo, Darren Christian and Ulysses Handy knew eachother well. Christian was a known drug dealer who befriended Handy, an ex-con. Whether Christian or Varo knew the full extent of Handy's background is unclear. However, an altercation led Handy and accomplice Sirree Mohammed to murder the two, along with Lindy Cochran (who is the definition of "being in the wrong place at the wrong time"), during the course of a robbery. Handy got caught by having the audacity to return to the crime scene.

The most fascinating aspect of this story was the Myspace ripple effect -- the exchange of messages leading up to the killings, and the sympathetic or vindictive messages left afterwards -- taking place in full view of the public. Handy himself seems like a walking contradiction, cold-blooded enough to murder his friends, foolish as to leave incriminating messages on Myspace, and insolent enough to remain remorseless.

Handy (left), with Darren Christian.

This consequential fallout of this story illustrates how portraits of people can be painted, often inaccurately, post mortem. Even if one knows and supposes nothing about these individuals, by browsing through the myriad interwoven threads the picture become less obscured -- and presents an inherent and unavoidable duality. News coverage of violent crime tends to focus on the atrocity of the crime itself, often glorifying the killer and divulging little about the victims. The Myspace ripple, in this case, reveals the victims and their ostensible social circle as money-loving, hard-partying, motorcycle-riding speed demons. The ripple, while meant to provide tribute to the victims, may result in a decreased probability of empathy from the common objective reader.

That is not to say that the victims are to blame for their own murder; Handy executed Christian and Varo without provocation for what he deemed to be a disrespect issue, and murdered Cochrane because she was a witness. However, the irony of leaving behind a visual reference of the fast-lane lifestyle that resulted in the owner's demise is too substantial to go unmentioned. The depth of information on Myspace serves a greater purpose in that it brings to light the circumstances under which these people lived and died, and may act as a deterrent to others who seek to appease their morbid curiosity by perousing those blogs.

1 comment:

Emmy said...

Such human tragedy? Victimizing victims by down playing the depth of their trauma. Desensitizing the community by passing clamity indifferently for the fear that it might embarrass emotions and cause awareness. Who are we kidding? Consciousness is dead, humanity is fast asleep, and we have been feeling so alienated that we started talking to ourselves. There is no one else to hear.