One Small Detail

I arrived on the crime scene at about 4:30 p.m. A young man, 19-going-on-20, had apparently killed himself with his father's shotgun. Estimated time of death was approximately 1:20 p.m. It looked like he'd done it standing up, facing his dresser (which now held the shattered remains of a mirror, which he'd apparently broken before doing the deed) with his back to the bed. Brains and blood covered the wall behind him, along with holes from the buckshot load that was in the shotgun. There was a note from the victim that rambled about the mirror and the victim's reflection, something for the psych guys and linguistic analysts to look over. The final lines read, "I wish it hadn't come to this, but I have to try something, anything, and I can't wait any longer. I hope this works. If not, I'm sorry. Love, ███████"

He’d been a mostly clean kid. No posters on the wall or anything, except for a floral calendar I’m sure he’d been itching to replace with a swimsuit calendar. There wasn’t trash all over the floor or anything, and his trashcan wasn’t full. He had some shit under the bed, mostly stuff from high school he hadn’t bothered to throw away. You know, old projects and stuff. His closet was cleaned out. Most of his clothing was in a bag he had sitting at the foot of the bed. The rest was in a hamper, apparently ready for washing. The victim himself had been wearing the sort of clothes I’m guessing he usually slept in: plain white t-shirt and a pair of shorts. The clothes were dirty, and the room stunk. The bed the kid was laying on (sans head) looked like it hadn’t been made in weeks, and like the person sleeping there wasn’t having the most restful sleep.

Typical suicide case, except that the victim had no history of mental illness, suicidal tendencies, depression, or anything else that could have foretold this. The kid had been a college student in good academic and financial standing, a promising AFROTC cadet, and a good employee at the local grocery store. No signs of drug or alcohol abuse (the kid was an admitted recreational tobacco user, but "only smoked at celebrations," according to his parents). He was staying in town with his parents for the summer, waiting for the next semester. His parents hadn’t noticed any unusual behavior besides a request to remove the now-ruined dresser because their son "was creeped out by the mirror at night." A replacement was in the back of the kid's father's truck when the kid was discovered.

I thought I was done taking pictures and statements, and collecting physical evidence, when I noticed two details that haunt me to this day: 1) the shatter pattern on the glass indicated buckshot like the victim had used on himself, but there wasn’t penetration to the dresser or the wall behind and no spent casings on the victim's bedroom floor, and 2) the kid’s remains left no reflection in the shattered mirror.

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