Legal closure has finally come for one of the two murderers in the cold-blooded stabbing that ended the life of 14-year old Stefanie Rengel on New Year's Day, 2008. The boy who actually wielded the knife will be tried for first-degree murder. But public interest in the case has mainly been focused on the other murderer, identified in the mainstream press only as M.T.
This now-16 year old girl, 15 at the time of the murder, was convicted last week as an adult, which calls for a mandatory life term, although for those under 17 there is a special parole clause, which could release M.T. in five to seven years if she is deemed fit to re-enter society. From the facts of the case, one suspects this bad seed never has and never will understand or respect the sanctity of other human lives. For this was an unusually passionless, motiveless and conscienceless crime. M.T. did not know the victim, but was obsessed by her. A sickening trail of documentation - e-mails, cell phone urgings, text messages - condemns the girl utterly. M.T. pushed her reluctant, but weak boyfriend to carry out Stefanie's death sentence with remorseless and relentless vigour. She showed no sign of guilt when apprehended.
There is a social lesson to be drawn from this crime that has not been touched on so far. When sexual jealousy pushes controlling females to the point of murder, they very often recruit a male surrogate to carry out the actual deed. Why didn't M.T. murder Stefanie herself? She had the will and the temperament and, given the advantage of surprise, needed only to stab once to have complete physical domination of her victim. She is obviously a girl without moral scruples, yet she endured months of frustration in order to make sure it was someone else who "pulled the trigger."
Was it because she expected to escape punishment? If that was her motive, she would have covered her tracks, and made sure her conversations with the boy left no archival trail. No, although M.T.'s case is particularly puzzling - most women murderers inn "love" cases know and hate their victims for what they consider a good reason - her modus operandi is well within a gender paradigm. The crime literature on women who actively incite or tacitly endorse killing by a male surrogate - boyfriends, fathers, brothers - is extensive.
The lesson to be drawn? It is well known that spousal homicides are perpetrated in a two-to-one ratio by men against women. What is not understood is that this ratio has been established using murder statistics that deal only with direct murders. That is to say, if a man kills another man at the behest of the victim's partner, the crime is registered as a homicide, not as a spousal killing. But in fact it is just as much a spousal killing as if the woman had done it herself, since the actual murderer - just as in the murder of Stefanie Rengel - would not have committed the crime, and has been coerced into it through sexual weakness or the threat of the loss of his relationship to the woman.
I have no sympathy for these men surrogates, don't get me wrong. But for the sake of statistical objectivity on the domestic violence front, I suggest that we rethink our categories. Statistics should reflect the fact that when it comes to sexual jealousy and the murderous rage that can lead to violence and murder, women can be as lethal as men and as culpable. Crimes of sexual passion by "marionette murderers" should be reflected in our domestic violence statistics.