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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Murdered Over Nothing

     Just because murder is a serious crime does not mean that murderers always have equally serious motives to kill. In the world of criminal homicide the motive does not always match the crime. Authors of detective novels give their fictitious murderers good reasons to kill such as revenge, big money, passionate sex, jealous love and burning hatred. In the victimology of crime fiction the killer and the killed usually know each other well. In novels, murderers are, if not nice people, fascinating folks with interesting reasons to commit the ultimate crime.

     In real life people who commit criminal homicide are often wildly insane, drug-addled or just plain stupid. Nonfiction killers are frequently uninteresting people who kill for trivial idiotic reasons. Quite often in real life the murder victim is as insane, drug-addled or stupid as the person who killed him. In the more tragic cases these mindless murderers take the lives of decent people who simply had the misfortune of being in the wrong place. If there is anything interesting in these under-motivated murder cases it is the fact they are real. The advantage of writing about nonfiction crime is that these cases do not have to make a whole lot of sense. They just have to be true. Fiction on the other hand has to be believable. Fiction has to make sense.

The Trigger-Happy Mr. Dunn

     At 7:40 in the evening of November 20, 2012, Michael D. Dunn and his girlfriend pulled into a service station in Jacksonville Florida. That day the couple had attended the wedding of Mr. Dunn's son. The 45-year-old software developer and his girlfriend were en route to Dunn's home 160 miles away in Satellite Beach Florida. Mr. Dunn parked his vehicle and waited behind the wheel as his girlfriend entered the gas station's convenience store.

     Mr. Dunn had pulled into the service station alongside a SUV occupied by three teenagers who were listening to music Mr. Dunn considered much too loud. He asked the boys to lower the sound level. The kids didn't take kindly to his request which led to an exchange of angry words. Suddenly Michael Dunn picked up a handgun and fired eight shots into the car. Two of the bullets struck 17-year-old Jordan Davis who was sitting in the back seat. The high school junior, who was about to start his first job at McDonald's, died in the SUV.

     The shooter's girlfriend ran out of the convenience store and as she climbed into Dunn's vehicle asked, "What's going on?"

     "I just fired at those kids," Dunn replied as the couple drove away.

     The next day police officers arrested Michael Dunn at his home in Satellite Beach. (A witness had written down his license number.)  Dunn told his police questioners that he had fired his pistol in self-defense after one of the kids in the SUV pointed a shotgun at him. Dunn's self-defense justification suffered a blow when investigators failed to find any weapons in the SUV. (There were no drugs in the car and none of the boys had ever been in trouble with the law.)

     In May 2013 a grand jury sitting in Jacksonville Florida indicted Michael Dunn of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. On October 17, 2014 after a jury found Dunn guilty as charged the judge sentenced him to life without the chance of parole.

James Pak: The Angry Landlord

     In 2006 James Pak sold his Korean Yankee Landscape Company, a Biddeford Maine business he had owned since 1964. In 2012 Mr. Pak was living with his wife in a cape cod-style home in the town of Bedford located 15 miles south of Portland. He rented out an apartment attached to his house to 44-year-old Susan Johnson who lived there with her son, 19-year-old Derrick Thompson. Derrick worked as an auto detailer at a nearby car dealership. His girlfriend, Alivia Welch, worked as a waitress at a local coffee shop. She was eighteen.

     Around six o'clock in the evening of December 29, 2012, Bedford police officers responded to a call to defuse a dispute between Mr. Pak and his tenants. The 74-year-old landlord was upset because Derrick Thompson and his mother had parked their cars in his driveway. (The town had banned overnight parking on the street to clear the way for snow removal crews.) After speaking with Mr. Pak and his renters the officers left the scene without taking anyone into custody.

     At seven that night, shortly after the police thought they had resolved the dispute, they were called back to the Pak house on reports of shots being fired in the rented apartment. Upon their arrival the officers discovered that Mr. Pak had shot Derrick Thompson and his girlfriend Alivia Welch, killing them both. He had also shot and wounded Mr. Thompson's mother, Susan Johnson.

     Following a three-hour police stand-off at his home James Pak surrendered to the authorities. Among other crimes he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. After pleading guilty on February 3, 2016 the judge sentenced James Pak to two life sentences.

Street Gang Killings

     Drug dealers and members of street gangs regularly murder each other over minor slights, petty arguments and even disrespectful looks. For these habitual criminals it's their chosen way of life. Unless some innocent bystander goes down in the cross-fire the general public couldn't care less about these deaths. One violent crook is dead and his killer is off to prison for life. From a societal standpoint these cases are hardly tragedies.

     Michael Dunn and James Pak were murderers who weren't career criminals or drains on society. Because they were not stupid their homicidal behavior makes even less sense. These men ruined their lives over nothing. And their victims did nothing to deserve their sudden and violent deaths. That is what makes these spontaneous homicides so tragic and hard to understand.


  1. If Dunn killed that teen over subwoofer noise (a modern terrorist plague) my sympathy for the victim is limited. Many people have felt like doing the same thing when scummy neighbors assault them with that racket. And when it's forced on them again in public places, the stress gets revisited. I think there's more to the Dunn story than has been effectively told.

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  3. Amen to all of the above, he was drunk that is why he ran...

  4. Did Mrs. Pak give any indication that her husband had become irrational or obsessively concerned with their tennants? He had been a busy man who'd had little to occupy his time after he'd retired. Could he have slipped into early to mid-dementia?