Did video games make Peter Charles John Jensen, left, shoot his wife? Did Satan make Christopher Roalson, right, stab an elderly woman to death? If not, why are police, prosecutors, and the press mentioning it?
On Sept. 25, police in Jacksonville, Florida, charged Peter Charles John Jensen with murder. Allegedly, he apparently was “playing violent video games under the influence of some type of drug,” police said, before he got into an argument with his wife, Karina, and shot her. A witness — who was playing video games with Jensen — reported the shooting, and fled when Jensen pointed the gun at him. Karina was dead when police arrived and found her.
A few days earlier, a Hayward, Wisconsin, jury found Christopher Roalson guilty of first-degree murder. Roalson, along with accomplice Austin Davis, broke into 93-year-old Irena Roszak’s Radisson house and stabbed her to death in 2009. They have called it a “thrill kill,” and Davis told the court that he heard screaming and someone saying “Hail Satan” coming from Roszak’s bedroom the night of the murder. Roalson also reportedly claimed he was “Satan’s son” as he and Davis left the house that night.
As you can see, the headline in the Jensen case is:
Man killed wife in Julington Creek shooting Saturday, police say
Police: He played video games and took drugs before the slaying.
And for Roalson, the lede in a Duluth newspaper:
A Sawyer County jury on Friday found 30-year-old Christopher Roalson guilty in the murder of 93-year-old Irena Roszak, a case that officials called a “thrill kill” with satanic overtones.
Coverage in both cases has been sketchy and doesn’t point to a clear, legitimate motive. Maybe that’s why everyone has latched onto these sensationalistic but meaningless details. I can point to Jensen’s glazed demeanor and compare it to that of (allegedly schizophrenic) Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes, but that’s guesswork at best. How we can get through an entire trial, in Roalson’s case, and not be clear on why he killed an elderly woman, is beyond me — especially since you have to prove premeditation for first-degree murder, and premeditation suggests a motive.
Instead, we’re left with violent video games, drugs, and Satan: scary things many people don’t understand, but are happy to consider valid motivations for killing — as valid as any other impetus we also might not understand. We’re also left with the impression that these things might make anyone else commit murder. Better take them away before that happens, right?