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Phoenix Man Kills Wife, Son Over HIV Fear?

Guilt does strange things to people. A man near Phoenix, Arizona, admitted to stabbing his wife and son to death, saying he feared he may have contracted the AIDS virus from prostitutes and then transmitted it to his wife. Eugene Maraventano faces two counts of first-degree murder, the Phoenix New Times reports.

The bizarre facts raise questions about the mental state required for first-degree murder.

Eugene Maraventano told a detective that he stabbed his wife with a 14-inch kitchen knife while she was asleep, the New Times reports. Maraventano said he frequented prostitutes and may have given the virus to his wife. However, the probable cause statement filed in court did not say whether Maraventano or his wife were actually HIV-positive.

As for his son, Maraventano says he killed his son because he was unsure about how he would cope without his parents. He went on to say that he made several attempts to kill himself, but failed.

In most states, first-degree murder is an unlawful killing committed after planning or "lying in wait" for the victim. Here, Maraventano said he made the decision to kill his wife about two weeks ago, reports the New Times.

After deliberating over using a knife or a gun, he settled on the knife. This level of planning most likely extinguishes the possibility of the charges being reduced to the "heat of passion" charge of voluntary manslaughter.

However, it could be argued that Maraventano lacked "malice aforethought," or an evil disposition or indifference to human life. Perhaps, at that moment, Maraventano thought he was in fact protecting his wife from living with AIDS, and protecting his son from a life without a mother? It's a long shot, no doubt...

Regardless, Arizona essentially merges "malice aforethought" with premeditation, so Maraventano would be out of luck. Instead, Eugene Maraventano's defense attorney may use this line of reasoning in an building a possible insanity defense.

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