When a suspect dies before police can question him or her, it makes the investigation that much more difficult to conduct.
When Kurt Myers died in a shootout with police March 14 after killing four people in Herkimer County, his demise echoed the two homicides Utica has experienced so far this year.
In all three instances, the killer died – never to be arrested for his actions, and never to offer the answers that the grieving families and law enforcement deserve hear, Utica police officials said.
In Myers’ case, he was killed when he opened fire on police inside an abandoned bar. But Utica’s only two homicides of the year have ended with the suspects shooting themselves in acts of murder-suicides.
On Feb. 6, Jerry McNair, 37, killed himself after repeatedly shooting his girlfriend, Petra Gonzalez, inside an apartment on McVean Street, police said. Several days earlier, McNair had tried to kill a former girlfriend by shooting her in the head in North Utica, but she survived.
About a month later, Somnang “Sam” Porm, 45, shot his estranged wife, Moeun Porm, twice before then turning the rifle on himself inside the woman’s Utica home, police said.
“If we had a choice, I think most law enforcement would choose to have a living suspect to put through the penal system and have a jury of their peers decide whether they did it or not, instead of that person taking their own life,” Utica police Sgt. Steven Hauck said.
After weeks of investigation, however, Utica police don’t think they’ll ever know why McNair and Porm shot their victims, Hauck said. And police efforts to explain why the loner Myers, 64, of Mohawk turned into a mass killer overnight so far have come up fairly empty handed.
That makes it more difficult for police to know why someone killed another person, and to eliminate the possibility that another unforeseen factor could have played a role in what happened, Hauck said.
For example, Hauck said, perhaps an undiagnosed mental illness might reveal how a troubled person was able to slip through the cracks.
Victims’ families also want to know why this had to happen to their loved ones, Hauck said.
When a suspect dies, the victims’ families can grieve without worrying about drawn-out court proceedings and fearing that the killer might one day get out of prison, Hauck said. But without knowing why, perhaps those families never will be able to move on.
“The family deserves those answers, even if they’re ridiculous answers,” Hauck said. “Even if it was a deranged perception of right or wrong in this guy’s head, the family could at least wrap their minds around a misguided reason.”
“To not get answers, I think is worse,” Hauck said.
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