The Ronald Opus Case

A case with more turns and twists than a mountain road!


On March 23, 1994, a medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a gunshot wound of the head caused by a shotgun. Investigation to that point had revealed that the decedent had jumped from the top of a ten-story building with the intent to commit suicide. (He left a note indicating his despondency.) As he passed the 9th floor on the way down, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast through a window, killing him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been erected at the 8th floor level to protect some window washers, and that the decedent would most likely not have been able to complete his intent to commit suicide because of this.

Ordinarily, a person who starts into motion the events with a suicide intent ultimately commits suicide even though the mechanism might be not what he intended. That he was shot on the way to certain death nine stories below probably would not change his mode of death from suicide to homicide, but the fact that his suicide intent would not have been achieved under any circumstance caused the medical examiner to feel that he had homicide on his hands.

Further investigation led to the discovery that the room on the 9th floor from whence the shotgun blast emanated was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. He was threatening her with the shotgun because of an interspousal spat and became so upset that he could not hold the shotgun straight. Therefore, when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife, and the pellets went through the window, striking the decedent.

When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject B. The old man was confronted with this conclusion, but both he and his wife were adamant in stating that neither knew that the shotgun was loaded. It was the longtime habit of the old man to threaten his wife with an unloaded shotgun. He had no intent to murder her; therefore, the killing of the decedent appeared then to be accident. That is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.

But further investigation turned up a witness that their son was seen loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the fatal accident. That investigation showed that the mother (the old lady) had cut off her son’s financial support, and her son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that the father would shoot his mother. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

Now comes the exquisite twist. Further investigation revealed that the son, one Ronald Opus, had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to get his mother murdered. This led him to jump off the ten-story building on March 23, only to be killed by a shotgun blast through a 9th story window. He had loaded the shotgun and had, therefore, murdered himself.

The medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.


This amazing tale of a bizarre suicide attempt appeared on the Internet in August 1994. Prized both for the entertaining logic problem it presents as well as the morally-just surprise ending, even years later it remains a cyber-favorite and continues to be forwarded to ever-widening circles of netizens and has been widely circulated since, on web pages, in chat rooms, and even in print publications, shows and films.

The story was originally told by Don Harper Mills, then president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, in a speech at a banquet in 1987. After it began to circulate on the Internet as a factual story and attained the status of urban legend, Mills stated that he made it up as an illustrative anecdote “to show how different legal consequences can follow each twist in a homicide inquiry”. There never was a suicidal Ronald Opus, a feuding, shotgun-wielding older couple, or an increasingly confused medical examiner trying to get to the bottom of things!

Credits: and Wikipedia. Thanks to Marty Kaarre at for pointing out.


12 Responses to The Ronald Opus Case

  1. gopal says:

    Vayasaana Kaalatthila Idhu Thevaiya ennakku.. Ore Alavu purinjikka 3 tharave padikka vendi irundadu..fulla purijukka thirippi varen….Naan ezhudinadu purijuda…venum unakka ..thiruppi thiruppi padi idae


  2. tskraghu says:

    Mannika vendugiren, thalaiva, thavaru ennudhuthan!


  3. Nithya says:

    Interesting article. Super comment, Gopal mama! 🙂


  4. Buvana says:

    Very interesting!


  5. Kannan says:

    Not surprised that it was made up by an esteemed member of legal profession. Don’t they do it all real cases to keep the courts engaged in a fool’s chase and keep the culprits out.


  6. gopal says:

    Annathe…yaar yaara poi Thalaivar aakkaradunu inda naatle vivasthae illayepa…Thittunum na Nera thittidu..adhukkaga Thalaivar nu sollanuma…Adhu sari Neram kedachha Ennoda BLOG pakkam thala kaattaradhu !!


  7. shubh navratra. may all the blessings of divine mother shower down upon you and your loved ones now and forever.


    • tskraghu says:

      Thanks so much for your kind sentiments. Likewise may the Devi bring to your doors sanguine health, unbounded happiness and abundant wealth during this year and the following years! May your writing grow from strength to strength.


  8. V Narayanan says:

    Was very Interestttttttttttttting !


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