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Witness to Murder

Mary Thompson had been conducting fieldwork in a Southeast Asian community for 18 months. Her house was ideally located on the edge of the village plaza, allowing her to readily observe daily activities that took place in the plaza. In addition to gatherings of women who shared food preparation tasks and talk, and groups of men working individually on carvings, the plaza was regularly a gathering place for men at night.

One night while Thompson was working up some statistical problems in her house, she was distracted by argumentative discussions in the plaza. When the noise of the argument reached a high pitch, she decided to investigate the situation. Just as she stepped from her doorway, she saw one of the men in the group of five, angrily raise his machete and deliver a deadly blow to another–Tom–in the group. Stunned silence fell over the other three men, as they watched their companion quickly bleed to death before their eyes. Moments later people from the other homes began moving into the plaza in response to the wailing that came from the man who had wielded the machete. Mournful crying and wailing was carried throughout the village.

The family members of the dead man carried him to their home and began funeral preparations. The next evening, Tom was buried. The man who had dealt the deadly blow was allowed to participate in the funeral and to make a death payment to the family of the deceased.

Two days after the funeral, three regional policemen came to the village. As part of a new governmental program designed to reduce blood feuds, the regional authorities now regularly sought to arrest and jail people who were involved in killings. They had heard about the recent death. They began questioning the villagers in an attempt to determine if Tom had been “murdered.” Thompson had written a detailed description of the events of the night of Tom’s death in her notebook which contained a running record of village activities.

Thompson’s dilemma: (1) Since she knew the police would question her, should she quickly tear out and destroy the pages in her notebook where the events were recorded? (2) When questioned by the police should she, like the other villagers, plead ignorance concerning the killing? (3) What information, if any, should she share with the police? (4) What anthropological perspectives and ethics must guide Thompson’s thought and actions?

Sample Solution

children (Horse, 2001, 2). Their sadistic daydreaming as children influenced them as adults to act out their fantasies. Serial killer Ted Bundy carried knives around with him at the age of three due to his fantasies of controlling people with knives (Mukherjee, 1998, 1). He used knives on at least fifty women when he was older and each victim was a substitute for his mother whom he daydreamed about killing numerously but could never follow through with it. Although sadistic daydreaming as a child can lead to serial killer behavior, the most common denominator of serial killers is abuse as a child. Most serial killers undergo many forms of abuse as children. Sexual, psychological and physical abuse as a youngster fills a child with hate and self-loathing that torments a child to become vengeful towards others for their own troublesome family backgrounds. More than 43% of serial killers were sexually molested as children (Schechter and Everitt, 293). Serial killer John Bartsch was bathed by his mother in Germany until he was eighteen years old. His mother would clean his private parts that would sexually stimulate him. This mental abuse caused Bartsch’s psychopathic fantasies, which lead to the killing of his victims. More than 74% of serial killers were subjected to continuous psychological torture as a child (Schechter and Everitt, 293). Bartsch’s mother screamed and threatened him numerous times of cutting off his penis, which lead him to his fear of his sexuality. FBI findings prove that over 42% of serial killers have suffered severe physical abuse (Schechter!
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