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Posts Tagged ‘graduate school

Some Analysis of the Killings at Virginia Tech

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As a part of my Homicide Investigation class at George Washington University, my instructor has asked us to write a brief analysis of the killings that occurred at Virginia Tech on Monday. Even though I am only a student and haven’t had the experience, statistically speaking, there are many things that are common when this type of crime occurs. I am in no way stating that any of the following is fact, it is just my interpretation of the events as based on my knowledge gained in my Homicide Investigation course.

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It appears that the offender’s motivation for the first shooting is domestic. There have been much speculation as to the offender’s relationship with the female victim. Some feel that they may have been in a relationship or that Cho had feelings for the female victim. It is possible that his motivation to kill her was caused by Cho’s apparent hatred for “spoiled, rich kids.” Is it possible that Cho had feelings for the female and was rejected? Thus taking his hatred out on her? Based on the fact that Cho walked across campus (at least half a mile) to Norris Hall to commit his crimes shows he had been planning this. The killings at Norris were not spontaneous at all.

Cho wanted to destroy what symbolized the high class that he felt such disdain for. Since he associated many, if not all, students at Virginia Tech as being in this class, he felt that everyone encountered could potentially be his victims.

This murder seems most likely to be an authority murder. The perceived authority being the higher class. If Cho grew up in a middle or lower income family, then this could explain his problem with the higher class. Northern Virginia can have very large gaps in the income levels among families. Cho probably felt this gap during his time in school in Northern Virginia and this is what probably helped escalate his hatred.

But the question remains of who was his primary target? Was it the first two victims? Or was his primary target someone in Norris Hall? Usually in an authority killing, the killing ends once the primary target is killed. Did Cho find his primary target in Norris Hall, then end his life?

Weapon stockpiling and verbalization of hatred towards a particular authority is also common in this type of murder. It seems that Cho did both of these things by purchasing two semiautomatic handguns and writing disturbing poetry and plays in his creative writing classes.

Cho probably had a history of mental illness, including isolation, paranoid behavior, etc. Cho’s post offensive behavior did not seem to change at all. Especially since he shot two people, and calmly went back to his own dorm, then walked across campus to execute another batch of killings. Cho’s history of being isolated and calm continues to his post-offensive behavior. This is probably why nothing was suspected of his behavior in between the two shooting incidents.

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Written by Eric Spiegel

April 17, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Career Thoughts

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So, recently I began reading the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and its protagonist got me thinking about some career ideas.  The main character, Dexter, is a blood splatter pattern analyst.  I’ve been intrigued by blood splatter but haven’t had the chance to study it in a course yet (I will this summer in my Crime Scene Investigation course though).  But this book made me investigate it a little further.

One thing I learned is that it is one of the few specialties (other than accident reconstruction and ballistics) in forensic science that uses a lot of math and physics.  This made me happy to learn because I’ve been struggling with the idea of just giving up my math and physics background for forensic science.  But now that I have learned about this career path, I’ve been seriously considering going for it once I graduate.

So I did a little research and in order to become a blood splatter pattern analyst, you’ve got to first start off as a general crime scene investigator.  Once you do that, you can begin taking specialized day courses at different police colleges and seminars during the year.  Once you go through the courses, you can get your certification (through the IABPA), and then you can work on getting a job as a blood splatter pattern analyst.

Written by Eric Spiegel

March 16, 2007 at 8:13 pm

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Class Difficulties (or a Lack Thereof)

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Have I mentioned here that my masters program in Forensic Science is very underwhelming? Compared to the year I spent in graduate school for Physics, this program just feels like it isn’t as hard as it should be. I mean come on, IT IS GRADUATE SCHOOL. But I’m at a crossroads about the whole situation.

I love my classes (which is very difficult to say about much of my time in Physics). My Homicide Investigation course is truly interesting. The readings are very interesting and the teacher–a former homicide detective–is a riot in class. The only problem is that I don’t find it very challenging. I mean, I’m learning a lot about how a homicide investigation is ran and the many different types of homicides there are, yet I don’t feel like I’m having to work hard in the course.

My other course is Forensic Pathology. And this course is wonderful. Despite the fact that it isn’t taught on campus, it is still a good course. I’m learning all about things like post-mortem changes in the body, blunt force and sharp force injuries, forensic dentistry, forensic anthropology, and so on. It is taught by a group of licenced medical examiners who have tremendous amounts of experience in the field. Every class is very well done. And once again, I don’t really do anything for the course except listen to lectures and take two tests. I mean I haven’t even bought on of the “recommended” text books for the course, and I don’t think I will.

I guess my problem is that a majority of the college work I’ve ever had involved spending hours upon hours on homework sets only to get a poor grade back and an urgence to pluck my eyeballs out. But in these courses, there is no written work. We have readings, mid-term exams, and final exams. Some courses have a corresponding lab, and others occasionaly have us write a paper or two (OH NO!). That’s it! Like I’ve said before, this is graduate school. Isn’t this supposed to be hard?

Oh well, I guess we’ll see if I’ll be eating my foot when I take my mid-terms this week.

Written by Eric Spiegel

February 25, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Where did I go???

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Man it has been a long time since I’ve written anything here. I guess I’ve just been busy the last month. There must be some kind of correlation between the amount of blogging I do and having a full time job.

The semester is beginning to wind down. I’ve only got a few exercises left in Photography and just a bunch of readings to do for Criminal Law–and then finals. I’ve signed up for my courses for next semester. I’m taking Forensic Pathology, Firearms and Toolmark Identification, and Homicide Investigation. Since the classes haven’t been too demaning in this program, I’ve decided to bump up my course load to three per semester. I’m really excited about my classes next semester, especially Firearms and Toolmark Identification. This is one of the two fields I think that I might want to go into after I graduate. I’ve been considering going into Questioned Document Examination as well.

This week Cheri and I will be travelling down to C-peake for Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to the visit, especially since we haven’t been home since June. The only thing I’m not looking forward is the drive home. Since I have to work a whole day on Wednesday, I won’t get home until 4:30, so we probably won’t be able to leave here until 5ish. And this being NOVA, traffic in every direction sucks. So we’re going to try to experiment with some alternate routes to try to find a way home while avoiding the heaviest traffic.

Hopefully I’ll get back into blogging here a little more frequently. Its definitely something I’ve been missing.

Written by Eric Spiegel

November 19, 2006 at 8:09 pm

On The First Week of Classes

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Well, today was the end of my first week of classes (classes started last Tuesday) here at The George Washington University (All the graphics and such for the university all have “The” in front of the name. Why? I have no clue.) I’m only taking two classes this semester. The main reasons behind this is that I can’t afford to be a full time student (since I do need to eat), I can still finish the program in two years by taking two classes per semester plus summers, and I didn’t want to get overwhelmed in my first semester. Basically, I didn’t want a re-hashing of what happened in the physics program I was in at Virginia Tech (or should it be The Virginia Tech?).

My first class was last Thursday, and it was Photography in Forensic Science. My first impression was that I was one of three guys in a class of 24 people. This kind of bothered me. Not that I don’t think women can handle forensic science or anything like that, but I’ve never been a minority in my major. In my graduating physics class, there were five girls out of eighteen graduates. Here it seems like the majority of the students in forensic science are women. I guess I just figured that most women wouldn’t want to handle some of the gruesome aspects that may accompany this program, but I seem to have been wrong. Its men that are the wimps. Hmmm.

Going into tonight’s class (Criminal Law I), I figured maybe that Thursday’s class was a fluke, that there were more guys in this program. Nope. I was wrong. Out of a class of 35, 4 guys. Weird.

One thing I will say about the classes in this program is that they probably won’t be anywhere near as difficult as any of my physics courses (*knocks on wood*).


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Written by Eric Spiegel

September 11, 2006 at 9:24 pm

Goodbye Liboff!

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Today I listed a number of my physics textbooks for sale on Half.com. I guess I just realized today that I’ll probably never need textbooks about quantum mechanics, mathematical methods, analytical mechanics, or linear algebra ever again. Its kind of depressing to a certain extent. I mean I spent five years of my life devoted to physics, and now I’m more or less leaving it behind. And I know that five years is only a small fraction of the rest of the life I will live, but I just feel a certain connection to the subject. I prided myself with the fact that I majored in physics. I loved the reactions I would get. The pleas from people to help them with their introductory physics courses or math classes. The inherent geekiness that went along with being a physics major. I just tended to identify a large part of myself with being a physics geek. And not one of those geeks that follow physics superficially by reading books by Stephen Hawking or Brian Greene but actually being a physicist-in-training. Not only did I know about the subjects studied in physics, but I knew how it all worked mathematically as well.

It makes me look to the future as my graduate school adventure in Forensic Science is about to begin. Will I become a Forensic Science geek as well? Will I learn jokes that only forensic scientists will get? Will I buy forensic science t-shirts to display proudly my degree program as I trot around campus? Will I make friends with fellow geeks who are proud of what they study?

I sure hope so. Otherwise it will be a slow two years.


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Written by Eric Spiegel

August 27, 2006 at 6:27 pm