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Chloroform - The Utilization Of The 'Knockout Substance' In Homicides Over The Past Three Decades

Delve into the chilling history of chloroform as a lethal weapon in homicides over the past 30 years. Uncover the shocking cases and methods behind its sinister application as the 'knockout substance'.

Vincent Bloodworth
Vincent Bloodworth
Feb 20, 202431 Shares515 Views
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  1. Why Chloroform Is Dead?
  2. Crimes Using Chloroform - A History
  3. Distinguishing Reality From Fiction
Chloroform - The Utilization Of The 'Knockout Substance' In Homicides Over The Past Three Decades

In February 2018, North Carolina investigators revealed that 3-year-old Mariah Kay Woods had died from chloroform poisoning after an autopsy. Adolphus Earl Kimrey II, 32, her mother's boyfriend, has been charged with the murder and has entered a not guilty plea. The date of his trial is not set for February 2021.

You're not the only one who finds the concept of chloroform perplexing.

Major Chris Thomas, head of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office's investigation into Woods' murder, tells in an interview, "I've only ever heard of one other case in the [history of] state of North Carolina." Major Thomas refused to respond when asked directly how and why his department thought Kimrey utilized the substance, stating that details would become clear during the trial.

Why Chloroform Is Dead?

Since the 19th century, crime fiction has included chloroform; but, in such pulpy novels, it is mistakenly depicted as an instantaneous “knockout drug,” frequently administered with a saturated cloth during an alleyway ambush. According to forensic scientist and John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Nathan Lents, chloroform-induced sedation really necessitates cautious and ongoing dosing.

According to Lents, "you can knock out a person's conscious awareness, and as long as you don't go further, the autonomic functions are still intact" since proper dosage of sedation suppresses central nervous system activity. Because your respiration, kidneys, and visceral organs are dependent on signals from the brain, your brain is still able to govern these functions. only if the dosage is correctly adjusted.

It knocks you unconscious at smaller dosages and kills you with higher amounts. According to Lents, respiratory failure accounts for most chloroform-related deaths, while deadly cardiac arrhythmias can also happen.

Crimes Using Chloroform - A History

Mariah Kay Woods is not the first person to die from the drug's effects, despite the general public's belief that it is a safe way to induce unconsciousness.

Physician Samson Dubria was found guilty in February 1993 by a San Diego court of killing and sexually assaulting Jennifer Klapper, his traveling companion, after the 20-year-old was discovered dead in a motel room in California during the summer of 1991.

Dubria asserted that the partner's chloroform poisoning occurred as a consequence of following a truck transporting the chemical while driving on the highway, and that the sex had been voluntary. Dubria received a life sentence in prison. It's thought that this is the first occurrence of a murder using chloroform.

Chloroform made headlines once more in 2011, this time around Casey Anthony's high-profile murder trial. The Orlando mother was charged with administering a chloroform dose to her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, smothering her with duct tape, and disposing of her corpse in the woods. However, the jury in the case rejected the prosecution's argument and declared Anthony not guilty.

More recently, in 2014, 39-year-old David Cooper was accused of killing Sameena Imam, his girlfriend, with a tea towel drenched in chloroform after finding out she was having an extramarital affair with his brother Roger. "I have a bottle of chloroform, and because I'd seen it on telly and thought it was O.K., I thought 'I'll just shut her up,'" David Cooper reportedly told police after being arrested, according to an audio recording of their conversation that was published on The Daily Mirror.

In the case, Roger was also accused and found guilty. Each brother was sentenced to 30 years in jail.

Nevertheless, there are very few of these cases.

It's highly exaggerated, Lents claims. "Using chloroform to kill oneself would require extreme effort. It penetrates quickly into the skin, but not to the point where it would be fatal. I've poured it on myself, yet I didn't even have dizziness.

However, Linda Stratmann, author of Chloroform: the Quest for Oblivion, which chronicles the history of the now-obsolete anesthetic, points out that even if it is rarely used for murder, chloroform is nonetheless deadly and has historically resulted in hundreds of deaths due to improper use.

According to Stratmann, the medical use of chloroform was initially introduced in Scotland in 1847 by Sir James Young Simpson, a physician.

"He used it during deliveries and for tooth extractions. People felt it was fantastic, according to Stratmann. "But then deaths began to occur."

According to Stratmann, the drug's attraction was that it smelled better and was less combustible than ether, the widely used anesthetic at the time. The smell is "very distinct...pleasant...a cross between citrus and acetone," according to Lentz, a lab technician who works with chloroform (nail polish remover).

Distinguishing Reality From Fiction

Stratmann contends that the effects of chloroform, a magical knockout drug of the criminal underworld, were exaggerated and mythologized practically immediately after the substance was introduced to the public, particularly by those who were caught in precarious situations and wanted to escape responsibility.

Frederick Jewett, a Londoner, was involved in one of the earliest documented instances of the chloroform narrative in 1851. As a government employee, Jewett said he was accidentally chloroformed while walking by a young woman who startled him by waving a handkerchief in his face, knocking him out cold. When Jewett awakened in the prostitute's apartment, his watch, jewels, and cash had all been taken.

According to Stratmann, even at the time, "Doctors said, 'This is ridiculous.'" It is much more likely, he continues, that the gentleman was robbed after purposefully approaching the prostitute, and that he invented the handkerchief narrative to save face. However, "It caught on."

In the meantime, the drug's actual lethality persisted; this is something that is mostly ignored nowadays.

Stratmann claims that over 300 persons in 1933 perished from chloroform intoxication while undergoing surgery. Dentists and anesthesiologists switched to nitrous oxide and other, safer medications after realizing the substance's risk.

The chemical has long since lost favor and is now only used in toxicology labs rather than being used in medicine.

In spite of this, obtaining it is simple. While a chemist's advanced understanding is needed to synthesize chloroform, most chemical supply stores sell the product readily and no permit is required to obtain it.

But keep in mind that you can't use something the way people in the movies do just because you can get your hands on it.

Stratmann claims that it is "extremely irresponsible for filmmakers to represent something that is lethal as something that is safe." "I don't think that after watching a movie, the uniform is the wrong color. However, chloroform poses such a risk. Individuals need not to take anything they see on television as gospel.

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