A killer is not necessarily a murderer. They are not synonyms. All murderers are killers, but not all killers are murderers. The law recognizes that and so distinguishes among killers as to intent and violence. Beheading someone is not inadvertent. Shooting someone with a gun might be. A quick death versus one that involves torture also figures into determining the degree to which to prosecute the killer.
One can kill with a car accidentally or purposefully. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to show both intent and viciousness if going for first degree murder of the killer. In fact, killing someone could be classed as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. The person is still dead, killed in fact, but intent distinguishes manslaughter from murder.
A killer charged with first degree murder is believed to have killed in a premeditated manner, willfully and “with malice aforethought”. Felonius killings/murders are typically first degree. In Mission Impastable, my felon was trying for a charge of involuntary manslaughter. He was charged with first degree murder, but he is trying to overturn that verdict in book two.
Here are the capsule descriptions your killers could be charged with:
First-degree murder, as stated above is premeditated, willful, and malicious.
Second-degree murder is intentional and malicious but is unpremeditated.
Third-degree murder, also called voluntary manslaughter, is intentional but with no prior intent. “Crimes of passion” fall into third-degree murder charges. Circumstances conspired to lead the person to act impulsively, emotionally, and in a mentally disturbed manner that resulted in someone’s death.
Involuntary manslaughter is killing someone without an intention to kill, but involves some negligent or intentional act that resulted in death. Driving while under the influence is one example of involuntary manslaughter. Not securing a gun so that a child kills himself accidentally could result in involuntary manslaughter charges against the gun owner.
Having said all that, individual states have somewhat different definitions. For example, how accomplices are charged can vary. Check the definitions for these killers for your setting.
When plotting your mystery or crime fiction, charge your killer with the correct crime or people in the know should and will call you on it.
Kidnap is an interesting word. The etymology for kidnap dates to the late 17th century. Kid of course means a young person; nap is slang for nab, meaning to seize or steal.
If the victim is transported across state lines, kidnapping is a federal crime. This change occurred after the Lindbergh kidnapping in the 1930s because it was so high profile. Kidnapping is one of the indictable crimes.
Kidnapping includes both the unlawful taking and removal of a person for felonious purposes (extortion, use as hostage, human trafficking, or in commission of a crime) or by a non-custodial parent wanting his or her child. These two types of kidnapping are sometimes dealt with differently under the law due to circumstances triggering the different motivations for the kidnapping.
Kidnapping is a viable crime for your mystery. There is always the possibility of things going not as planned, and the angst of a child away from familiar surroundings creates good tension in your story. I used a short-term kidnapping scenario in Mission Impastable to escalate the stakes for my amateur sleuth.
Part 11 of “The List” gives Mort’s rationale for a gift.
Kissing her fingers, he replied. “It do, it do indeed, Miss Frieda. You are looking at your new car—fully loaded and completely paid for. I wanted to make sure you have reliable transportation. That old BMW of yours had to go, so I traded it in for this one.”
Frieda smiled a tight little smile. “So you just went and picked me out another car without even consulting me? You just decided I needed to dump my perfectly fine car? How thoughtful. As usual!”