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In a tale that quickly goes from weird to sad, a Las Vegas man was arrested after allegedly attempting to murder a sleeping homeless mannequin with a ball-peen hammer. He is currently only charged with carrying a concealed weapon, but his bail of $50,000 (ten times the normal bail for this charge) is telling.
After two homeless men were murdered while sleeping on the sidewalks under similar circumstances within the last month near the same area, Las Vegas police decided to attempt a mannequin challenge with a different focus: catching a murderer.
The Mannequin Strikes Back
The officers set up a mannequin to appear to be a homeless person sleeping in the same place as one of the earlier murder victims. The mannequin was wrapped up in blankets, and set up so that it would be indistinguishable from a sleeping homeless person. Additionally, officers put video surveillance up to monitor the operation.
The defendant was caught on video approaching the sleeping mannequin, pulling out a ball-peen hammer, and then using both hands to drive the hammer into the head of the mannequin. After being arrested, the defendant claimed that he knew the mannequin was fake, and not a real person before he swung. Although the police's sting operation seemed to work perfectly, there is no word on whether police have any evidence linking the mannequin smasher to the prior murders.
Modus Operandi and the Circumstantial Dilemma
Rarely is it going to be good enough for a district attorney to get a conviction based on circumstantial evidence alone, as opposed to direct evidence. Although the manner in which the defendant smashed the mannequin is similar to the real murders, there are no reports of direct evidence that the defendant had a pattern of this sort of behavior; only the one incident with the mannequin is captured on tape. Additionally, there are no reports of any evidence linking the defendant to the prior murders.
Establishing that a defendant has a modus operandi, or a usual mode of operation, generally requires direct evidence of a few occurrences of the defendant operating in the same fashion, or other objective evidence to support the theory.