Murder-Suicides

In a number of these cases the defendant killed his wife, or wife and children, and then killed himself, or attempted to kill himself. And there are some cases where a woman killed her husband or her children, and then killed herself or attempted to kill herself.
View all homicides in which circumstances included suicide

View video of Cynthia Grant Bowman, author of Wife Murder in Chicago: 1910-1930
View video of Michelle Oberman, author of Understanding Infanticide in Context: Mothers Who Kill, 1870-1930 and Today

"I Loved Joe, but I Had to Shoot Him": Homicide by Women in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Jeffrey S. Adler

This set of records kept by the police does not include all suicides of the period, only those associated with homicides and a few other suicides. The records for all suicides during the period would be kept by the Cook County Coroner.

Patterns of murder followed by suicide in circumstances of domestic violence persist in the present.

Three of the researchers on this project have examined the patterns of murder/suicides in this data set:
  • Professor Jeffrey Adler has studied a number of the cases of murder/suicides reported in this data set in Jeffrey S. Adler, “‘If We Can’t Live in Peace, We Might as Well Die,’ Homicide-Suicide in Chicago, 1875-1910,” Journal of Urban History, Vol. 26, p. 3-21 (1999).
  • Professor Cynthia Bowman and Ben Altman also comment upon patterns exhibited in the murder-suicides in cases where husbands killed their wives. This article examines patterns in domestic violence killings in the historical period, in comparison with  patterns exhibited in present times.
  • Professor Michelle Oberman’s article in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology compares cases in which mothers kill their children from the historical cases with patterns in similar cases today.
There are many similarities between the historical cases involving murder/suicide in circumstances of intimate partner homicide, and the cases of domestic violence in today’s society. In spite of the vast differences in technology, in the development of psychiatry, the greater availability of more specialized social services, the incidence and character of these patterns seems to have changed little since the beginning of the past century.