Death by Ballpoint Pen
You know how your mother told you never to run while carrying a sharp object? She was giving you good advice. Here’s a case where the mom herself probably should have followed her own teachings.
A college student came home to have dinner with his mom, and found her lying on the carpet. Bloodstains splattered her clothes and her right eyelid was swollen.
Autopsy revealed that a black Bic ballpoint pen had perforated the woman’s eyelid, pierced the eye, and penetrated the brain.
The case was, at first, dealt with as a homicide, although various forensic experts thought it was more likely that it had resulted from an accident. But police continued to suspect murder, and “witnesses” were found who recalled the victim’s son talking to friends about how easy it would be to kill someone by firing a ballpoint pen from a pistol crossbow. (You don’t know what a pistol crossbow is? Neither did I, until I looked it up. It’s just what it sounds like — a crossbow, but fired by a pistol-like set-up.) Because of that witness testimony, the son was convicted of his own mother’s murder and was sentenced to prison.
Which, you think, would be the end of the story. But it’s not.
The son’s attorneys didn’t buy the guilty verdict, and requested further studies. So forensic scientists got to work. They tried to reproduce the victim’s injuries by using pistol crossbows to fire Bic pens into … well, human brains. (Relax. These were cadaver brains, donated for dissection.) They tried again and again to reproduce the injuries found in the victim. And couldn’t penetrate the eye far enough. Their conclusion? The death was almost certainly accidental.
So how often does this happen?
There are more than 40 intracranial transorbital stab wounds documented since 1848. Among the objects which cased the wounds were pens, pencils, an umbrella tip, pitch forks, a radio antenna, and a snooker cue. They’re uncommon and most likely accidental. And they don’t always lead to death, although fifty percent of victims have permanent injuries.
As a (somewhat) happy conclusion, the young man in the story I mentioned earlier was indeed released from prison, after the evidence exonerated him. Moral of the story? Even an everyday object like a pencil or a pen can be deadly. Think about it.
It’s enough to make you want to curl up in bed and stay there.