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Air Rifle Homicide

A crim­i­nal defense attor­ney asked me to look into a homi­cide a few months ago that involved an air rifle as the mur­der weapon.

The state con­tended that the defen­dant shot the vic­tim in an apart­ment, put their body into a car, and torched it. Then hid/disposed of the air rifle.

The defense the­ory of the case was that another indi­vid­ual had per­formed the mur­der, and then returned the mur­der weapon to Wal-Mart, claim­ing the air rifle wasn’t operational.

The return of the air rifle was caught on secu­rity footage, and it occurred roughly two hours after the defense believed the homi­cide took place.

The air rifle was seized by police, but never sent to the state crime lab for analy­sis, nor were the autopsy pro­jec­tiles (pellets).

The autopsy pro­jec­tiles were of a very inter­est­ing design:
cropped pellet(2)

Of note was the impressed rifling on the pel­let. Specifically there were 12 lands and grooves, with a right hand twist.

When the returned “defec­tive” air rifle was looked at, it was also found to have 12 lands and grooves, with a right twist, AND it also func­tioned just fine.

Due to a vari­ety of fac­tors, the autopsy pel­lets them­selves could not con­clu­sively be “matched” to the “defec­tive” air rifle, but they couldn’t be excluded either. And there were good sound rea­sons why they couldn’t be matched.

When loaded with the same type of pel­lets as the autopsy pel­lets, the “defec­tive” air rifle would shoot the pel­lets into a bal­lis­tic media block with a pen­e­tra­tion depth con­sis­tent with what was observed in the autopsy.

These fac­tors, and other as well includ­ing no blood found at the sus­pected mur­der scene, lead the jury to find the defen­dant not guilty.

Further inves­ti­ga­tion also made the per­son return­ing the “defec­tive” air rifle a new prime suspect!


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