05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

No Body, No Crime?

A note from Opal: Hi. I’d like to thank Madelle Morgan for filling in for me again this month.  Madelle is also Canadian and writes Hot Romantic Suspense.

  Be warned: I started to write a light post on how mystery writers draw from real life for ideas on where to hide a body, but quickly realized that I’d stumbled upon quite a dark topic.

Police detectives have a real life mystery on their hands when people go missing. Adults disappear either voluntarily or involuntarily. Detectives check internet and credit card usage and medical history. They question family, colleagues, friends and acquaintances. They publish photos in the media and ask the public to report any sightings. Unobtrusive video cameras are everywhere these days, and internet users can be traced. It’s very difficult to hide a living person’s existence in this electronic age, even if he or she does not want to be found. The evidence accumulates. Most cases are solved quickly, thank goodness.

But what if there is no evidence, no body, no suspects and no trail to follow?  Months or years pass. It becomes a cold case. A missing person mystery. Then one day, perhaps decades later, a lucky break occurs….

Truth can be infinitely sadder than fiction. A very sad case in Canada involved a man who murdered his young wife and buried her in the backyard. He hired a woman to write letters to his wife’s family, even inventing the births of children over the years. Since the family was not close, they never missed visits or speaking to her on the phone. They never reported her missing.

The killer eventually moved out of the home he’d shared with the victim. Then one day the new occupants decided to dig in the backyard… After the gruesome discovery of a skeleton (no one will ever eat vegetables from that garden), the police became involved.

It emerged that the killer had subsequently preyed upon an older woman without local family. When she disappeared and he moved into her apartment, he told inquirers she’d moved to Florida. No one investigated her sudden disappearance. This serial killer escaped detection for decades. Did he murder other women? Unfortunately, I doubt he will volunteer the information.

We live in an age when the internet often replaces personal contact, say with a bank or utility. While service providers, neighbors or acquaintances may suspect something is amiss, many “do not want to become involved” or tell themselves “it’s the family’s responsibility”. Isolated persons can become victims.

As a mystery and suspense writer, one aspect pops out: if a person is not well connected to others socially, he or she is vulnerable. A sitting duck.  A target for con artists, thieves and even murderers.

Do you know of any socially-isolated persons who have been victimized?  How can we protect them?

When Madelle Morgan wrote her debut romantic suspense, Diamond Lust, she had to dispose of a murder victim at an isolated Arctic mine site with 400 employees working 24/7 where the flat treeless ground was permanently frozen, there was no road access, and worst of all there was no dark of night in which to sneak a body away from the murder location. She drew on her engineering education to figure out a place to hide a body. Find Madelle at and on Goodreads.


Paty Jager said...

At one time I would have said a little old lady friend of the family would have made a victim. Not only did she live several states away with only a couple relatives who rarely had contact with her, she was going blind and liked her privacy. She would have been target if she hadn't been so ornery.;0)

Thank you for a thought provoking post. And welcome to RTG!

Madelle Morgan said...

Thanks, Paty. I'm glad to have the opportunity to guest post on RTG.

As families get smaller and children grow up and move hours away, there are fewer people to check on the elderly. This case was a wake up call for me!

Brenda Gayle said...

Sometimes when we read stories like the one you related, we think "no way, that's just fiction." But the truth is often stranger, isn't it. It is especially sad when you see an older family member being taken advantage of by their children or gandchildren. They can become cut off or alienated from others in the family that want to help protect them, but without a ruling of incompetence, there is nothing you can do. Thanks Madelle for highlighting the vulnerable in society.

Madelle Morgan said...

Hi Brenda,
So true. Financial abuse by family member is a serious problem. The affected person often does not want to press charges. Others are too ill physically or mentally to protect themselves.

I often see reports in the media about elder abuse, such as a granddaughter draining her grandmother's bank account to buy drugs. It's really sad...

Judith Ashley said...

Great post, Madelle. I have a contract to check on just those vulnerable adults being mentioned. I always tell them and remind myself, to be truly independent one has to know when to accept help. That way we are in control of what and who --- so often people become prey because they no longer can make good decisions when they realize they need help.

In the US, each state has a Department of Aging and Disability Services (sometimes called Senior and People with Disabilities or something along those lines). They have adult protective service (APS) staff who do go out and check and keep in contact with people who are socially-isolated people. In Oregon, we have the postal workers and meals on wheels folks who also are on the lookout for problems and who report to APS.

Sarah Raplee said...

Welcome back, Madelle! Thank you for the thoughtful, compassionate post.

Thank God we have people like Judith, meals on Wheels volunteers, postal workers, and good neighbors who check on the elderly.

My mother was somewhat isolated after my father died. I was sooo grateful for my cousin and his wife and her neighbor across the street, who kept an eye on her and sometimes drove her places or had her over for dinner.

Other than making the effort to check on our elderly neighbors, and report any worries to the authorities, I'm not sure what we can do.

Now my sister and her husband are around to protect her from harm.

Madelle Morgan said...

I wish Canadian provinces had a service such as Judith describes.

If the elderly come to the attention of the provincial health care system, they do have "an eye" on them and support/care services are mobilized. Otherwise, if they are healthy and independent-minded they either hire someone or have to depend on the kindness of neighbours and family.

Unfortunately some do fall through the cracks.

I knew of an elderly woman in a condo highrise who was recuperating from surgery and could not walk. (At an advanced age many friends will have died.) She was forced to ask her unwilling neighbour on the same floor (who was a nod-in-the-hallway acquaintence) to do her banking and grocery shopping.

That neighbour obliged, grumbling, but hey, what goes around, comes around. Someday that neighbour may need help!