From forks to frying pans, the diversity of weapons wielded by the city's murderers could fill dozens of Agatha Christie mystery books.
The weapon of choice in Chicago for doing in a neighbor, relative or worst enemy remains the firearm, says the 1987 Murder Analysis Report, a compendium of statistics about murder in the Windy City compiled by the police department.But last year, people in Chicago were killed with an almost A-to-Z arsenal of weapons, from an ashtray in one case to wooden boards in five slayings, the report shows.
One person was murdered with an ax, another was killed with an electric fan and a third was apparently burned to death with hot grease, says the report, which lists the type of weapon and the number of cases in which it was used without elaborating on the circumstances.
"They say necessity is the mother of invention," said Chicago police Officer Patrick Camden of the department's news affairs office. "People grab whatever's handy, I guess."
That's usually the case, says Stuart Kaminsky, who is something of an expert on the art of murder as the author of 21 murder mysteries.
"It sounds like these might be exotic murders, done by some fiendishly clever criminal," says Kaminsky, who lives in suburban Evanston and has written such mysteries as the Toby Peters and Inspector Rostnikov series.
"But it seems to me that in most of these cases, when exotic weapons were used, they were probably domestic cases where people grabbed what was handy when the emotions of the moment took over," he said in a telephone interview Friday night.
Camden noted that the report, though depicting a diversity of dastardly deeds, contains some good news: the number of homicides in Chicago dropped from 744 in 1986 to 691 in 1987.
In the nation's third-largest city, 374 people were killed last year with firearms, 175 were killed by cutting or slashing implements and 142 lives were ended with other weapons, the report found.
The most widely used firearm was the .38-caliber revolver, employed in 126 shooting deaths, the report said. Murderers used semi-automatic pistols to kill 76 people and shotguns to blast away 20 others.
Under the cutting and slashing category, one person was murdered with a bayonet, one with a saber and one with a screwdriver. Two people died at the hands of fork-wielding killers, three were stabbed to death with a carving knife and two with a boning knife.
A simple kitchen knife was the most-used weapon in this category, involved in 88 murders, followed by a pocket knife, used in 29 slayings, the report said.
In the "other" category, 10 people were beaten to death with baseball bats, one with a hammer, three with bricks, one with a rake and another with a shovel. Most beating deaths - 54 - were committed with the most accessible weapons: the hands, fists or feet, the report shows.
The report notes that matches were used in two killings, but Camden says in those cases a lighted match was tossed on a person soaked with gasoline.
"While these appear to be creative, I think truly creative killers are rare," Kaminsky said. "I think the more clever the killer the less likely he is to use an exotic weapon because that draws more attention, making it more likely the person will get caught."