(Received 17 March 1997; accepted 23 June 1997)
Published Online: March
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With constant improvements in socioeconomic conditions, the people of most industrialized nations are living longer. Most elderly individuals lead productive lives within the community. Unfortunately, when elderly individuals suffer from a debilitating disease or injury, society seems ill-equipped to care for them. The frailty and social isolation that comes with illness or advanced age renders the elderly more vulnerable to crime. This study examines the circumstances that surround homicides of those 65 years of age or older which occurred in Jefferson County, Alabama over a 15 year span. We conducted a retrospective study of all decedents brought to the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner Office during the 15 years from 1981–1995. A computer search identified 150 homicide victims who were 65 years or older. In these 150 cases the causes of death were as follows: gunshot wound 50%, blunt force injuries 19%, knife wounds 14%, and asphyxiation 10%. Younger homicide victims were much less likely to be killed as the result of a direct physical assault; blunt force injuries and asphyxiation combined caused death in only 7% of the younger population. Robbery was the most common motive for death in the elderly population, which accounted for 37% of cases. The most common location for homicides in the elderly population was in their own residence, which accounted for 71% of cases. Four elderly homicide victims were shot by the police. Three elderly decedents died as a result of abuse.
Fellow Forensic Pathology, Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner Office, Birmingham, AL
Associate Coroner/Medical Examiner and Assistant Professor, University of Alabama at Birmingham,
Stock #: JFS16148J