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What is a Triple Homicide?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A triple homicide is generally a form of homicide in which three people die during the commission of a single act or event. The key to this meaning is that the three deaths occur either simultaneously or due to a single action or inaction. For example, if a person is robbing a store and while committing the robbery kills three people, that would constitute a triple homicide. On the other hand, if someone kills three people over the course of several days and otherwise unrelated incidents, then that would not be a triple homicide, and would instead simply be three occurrences of homicide.

Homicide is sometimes used synonymously with murder; however, as a legal term it has a larger meaning and is, in fact, inclusive of murder, manslaughter, and justifiable types of homicide. In general, homicide is used to refer to any type of action or inaction by one person, which results in the death of someone. This can be intentional or unintentional, and in the United States (US) it can generally be broken down into one of five different types of homicides. These types of homicide include two different types of murder, first degree criminal homicide and second degree criminal homicide, two forms of manslaughter, which are voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, and justifiable homicide.

A triple homicide would be any single action or inaction in which three individuals die. The two forms of murder both require intent to commit the act, though second degree criminal homicide can occur in the heat of passion but still shows prior intent or homicide committed during another felony crime. Manslaughter typically indicates a lack of intent, and a homicide that is committed either in a moment of anger or one that is accidental but in which a person is still responsible. If, for example, someone accidentally set off an explosive that resulted in the deaths of three people, then it would be a triple homicide and would likely be considered involuntary manslaughter.

In the United Kingdom (UK) similar definitions for types of homicide are applied, and a triple homicide in the UK could be intentional murder or accidental manslaughter. There are also types of justifiable homicide found in many countries, such as self defense and the performance of state sanctioned capital punishment. Someone who is being attacked by three individuals may protect himself or herself and potentially commit triple homicide by killing the attackers, but if a reasonable threat to his or her life was established then it would not necessarily be a criminal act.

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Discussion Comments
By Reminiscence — On Nov 14, 2014

I've heard of cases where a person went in with the intention of killing all three victims, like a disgruntled employee who shoots his boss and then co-workers he didn't like. There was a triple homicide in a city near me where the shooter was a family member who had an argument with his parents and came back to settle the score. His brother just happened to be home at the time.

To me, a triple homicide is getting into mass murder territory. I can understand the mindset of someone who shoots another person in the heat of the moment. But to murder one person and then just keep going with a second and third victim tells me that person has had some kind of psychotic break. He or she would probably be capable of killing even more people if the opportunity presented itself.

By RocketLanch8 — On Nov 13, 2014

It seems to me a lot of triple homicides turn out to be one intended victim and two witnesses. We had a triple homicide at a convenience store here a few years ago, and the homicide investigation determined the shooter initially wanted to shoot the store clerk for stalling with the money, but then two other people came out of a back room and he shot them to make sure they wouldn't identify him to the police.

When three people get killed all at once like that, it puts a lot of fear out in the community. A lot of us knew the people who were killed, and the murderer was also a local resident. It took a long time for me to go inside that store again. The owner wisely closed it down for a month after the shootings.

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