Why Do We Kill?

For anyone who knows me or reads this blog, it’s no secret that I’m kinda fascinated by crime and murders and stuff.  If you are wondering why, well I guess it’s because of books that my parents had on the shelves when I was a boy.  One of those books was, “Death of a President” written by William Manchester which was about the JFK assassination.  The other was Vincent Bugliosi’s recounting of his prosecution of Charles Manson and his followers, “Helter Skelter”.  I couldn’t stop flipping through those books as a kid.  There is one other reason that I find this bad stuff so interesting; I’m from Baltimore.

I came of age when Baltimore, historically a violent city, started going off the charts with murders and this horrible reality became a heavy yoke for the Baltimore Police Department to carry and led to Baltimore being THE city that folks think about when they think about murder.  I can recall that it was even documented in an early issue of SPIN magazine, years before David Simon’s seminal work, “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets”.

I’m very close to getting off topic, so, for “Fun” here is a photo of Vincent Bugliosi.

"I hear Carberry blames me for his creepiness!"

I’m writing this blog entry because I wanted to tell everyone about a book I’m reading, called “Why Do We Kill? The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore”.  It’s written by former Baltimore Homicide Detective, Kelvin Sewell & investigative reporter, Stephen Janis.  In the book, Sewell provides summaries of some of the more insidious cases he’s worked.  Some of the cases were fairly famous and easily recalled by me.  He was the lead detective on the murder of former Baltimore Police Commissioner, Leonard Hamm’s, daughter.  I mean, welcome to Baltimore, where even the highest ranking police official isn’t free from the web of despair that homicide casts.  Before I go any further, here is the cover of the book.

I think you can pick it up at Atomic Books in Hampden.

The author does a good job of making the reader aware of something that is more troubling than any criminal mastermind, snatching lives and confounding citizens and authorities.  Kelvin Sewell lets us know that most murderers in Baltimore are people that lack any kind of empathy whatsoever.  It’s hard to read. No one wants to think that the city that they live and work and raise their families in, is populated by a considerable number of humans that have never had their socialization and empathy buttons turned on.  Reading the book, I can’t help but recall Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus”; a work that is distinctly a treatise, warning against the physical and emotional abandonment of children.  But in our case, it’s not only the ill-equipped parents(if there even are two parents)that play the role of Dr. Frankenstein; it’s our entire community that just wasn’t ready for the industrial economy to collapse.  Our community wasn’t ready for the onslaught of cheap heroin.  Sewell notes that the drug game has replaced the industrial base as employer and lifestyle provider.  I would also note that Baltimore has such a virulent racist past…and present, that our economic woes further marginalized an already marginalized population.

Detective Sewell also notes that the Baltimore Police Department has had and probably still has problems with racism within its’ ranks.  He offers instances of policy and procedure decisions that just don’t make sense.  Comically, the BPD has a history of using white undercover officers in black neighborhoods to try and apprehend drug offenders.  He notes that they literally “stand out like a sore thumb”

It is a good read and I recommend it.  As a matter of fact, Kelvin Sewell and Stephen Janis appeared on CSPAN Books, talking about the book from Atomic Books.  So it’s really cool that the nation got a chance to see my favorite bookstore in Baltimore.  Here is a still of their appearance.

Hold on! They're not the Kardashians!

And if you are keeping score, I used the word “book” four times in the previous sentence.


About scottcarberry

I'm one nifty dude who is fascinated by his hometown; Baltimore, MD. It is persistently beautiful and ugly and I wish to live nowhere else ever again.
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3 Responses to Why Do We Kill?

  1. Drewdy says:

    Great post. your best to date.

  2. thenotwriter says:

    I have always had a strong interest in homicide and especially forensics. Serial killers in particular have always held a special fascination for me. At one time I dreamed of becoming a forensic medical examiner or forensic psychiatrist (until circumstances in my life made medical school an unattainable goal and drove me to follow my other passion, writing). I dont know where my interest came from. I grew up in a small town where murder and violent crime was virtually unheard of, or at least was kept relatively hushed up.

    The city I live in now is fairly small as far as cities go, and averages about 20 murders a year, most of them either gang related or domestic disputes. Nothing that makes any kind of national headlines. We did have a serial killer once, tho. He killed six women I think. I dont think they ever caught him tho, and I dont know whatever became of him. Its kinda creepy to think he may still be lurking around out there. Its been a few years since his last victim, but who knows what may trigger him again.

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