This Class Is Murder: Course Focuses on Homicide
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Kasey Quinn is afraid to turn off the lights at night.
Cecilia Hewick doesn’t like to walk alone anymore.
And it’s all because of a class they love at Anne Arundel Community College.
But both women can’t get enough of the History of Homicide.
Bring it on.
“A lot of this class is creepy,” said Hewick, 18, of Edgewater. “But I like it.”
Quinn, 20, is particularly fascinated by learning what drives people to kill. “It’s very interesting to see the motives and characteristics,” she said. “We all think the scary person (commits murder), when it’s really the friendly neighbor.”
Professor Darlene Mallick made that point as she opened the part of the course dealing with serial killers. She put up pictures of a few people and had the class guess which were the murderers.
No one was stumped by the photo of Albert Einstein, but many failed to identify the man who looked like a banker as John List, who shot five family members. They also didn’t realize the regal woman depicted in a 16th-century painting was Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary, who offered lessons in etiquette and may have killed as many as 650.
Student Josh Woodard thoroughly enjoyed the presentation.
“I’m way into morbid history,” said Woodard, 18. “I always have been.”
He’s learned some new stuff in Mallick’s class, such as how far back homicide goes in history. Mallick starts with Cain and Abel and goes up to present day killings, including terrorist attacks. Serial killers are only a small part of the course, but generate the most interest.
Several students mentioned the case of H.H. Holmes from the late 19th century as particularly interesting. Holmes is thought to be one of America’s first documented serial killers.
“It definitely opens your eyes to how many sick and twisted people there are,” said Zack Richardson, 19..
Although few of the students could explain the public’s fascination with murder, all said the media played a major role by publicizing killings and devoting television shows to the subject.
Richardson said the interest in serial killers is nothing more than society’s preoccupation with the unusual. “Everything abnormal, people are attracted to,” he said. “It’s something different from every day.”
Mallick was always interested in detective stories and has a law degree. So, she knew quite a bit about homicide when she volunteered to take over the class from its originator, Robyn Brown, about eight years ago.
Still, Mallick did a lot of research before starting the class and attended seminars with FBI profilers and other experts in the field. She also developed an online curriculum and PowerPoint presentations.”I wanted to do something different,” said Mallick, who has been teaching at AACC for 38 years. “I didn’t want to get stale.”
In addition to classroom and online sessions of the History of Homicide, she’s teaching forensic psychology and victimology and juvenile law this semester.
Her homicide class isn’t easy, but it’s not murder. “If there’s anything I like people to know, it’s that this is a very serious college-level course that deals with many aspects of murder,” Mallick said.
Grades are determined by quizzes, tests and papers. For one of their written assignments, students can choose to create their own serial killer using information covered in lectures.
The 15 students in the classroom section of the course don’t seem to mind the workload because the topics are so unique. Murder is everywhere in today’s society, Mallick said, so it’s important to study it and perhaps find ways to stop it.
The grandmother of two said delving into homicide hasn’t changed her life — other than making her a little more cautious. Given the rather haunting directions lectures can take, the prudence is understandable.
When Mallick began discussing serial killers last month, the lecture involved everything from sexual perversions and cannibalism to decapitation and torture.
She discussed killers such as Baron Gilles de Rais of France, a 15th-century knight who fought with Joan of Arc and was suspected of up to 200 child murders; Bathory, who was eventually walled up in her castle; and Jack the Ripper. Mallick showed photos of the women he killed, including a particularly gruesome shot of his last victim.
Students asked if the Washington, D.C., snipers would be considered serial killers. Mallick said they’re hard to categorize, and could be considered spree killers and serial killers depending on the definitions and their entire criminal history.
“Oh, we’re getting into it,” said Neal Lee, 24.
He didn’t take many notes, but also didn’t take his eyes off Mallick for the entire lecture. Lee said the class hasn’t made him more wary of people, but rather more prepared.
“When you know what might happen, you’ll be OK,” he said.