Ohio couple Micah Risner and his fiancée Nataleigh Schlette, mad wags that they are, decided to play an elaborate practical joke on their families. The two pranksters staged gory photos of Schlette’s supposedly mutilated body (that’s one of them above) and sent the fake murder scene to family members. Risner texted his sister saying, “Please help me! I really didn’t mean to. I don’t remember. We was arguing and I woke up to this.” (His sister advised him how to cover up the murder. She wasn’t joking. I wonder if she also advised him to learn basic grammar? )
Other family members called the police, and when officers arrived to the abode where Risner and Schlette resided, Schlette was alive and well!
The police were not amused for some reason, and arrested them—HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! –charging them under an oddball Ohio statute making it a crime to “induce panic”:
2917.31 Inducing panic.
(A) No person shall cause the evacuation of any public place, or otherwise cause serious public inconvenience or alarm, by doing any of the following:
(1) Initiating or circulating a report or warning of an alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime, or other catastrophe, knowing that such report or warning is false;
(2) Threatening to commit any offense of violence;
(3) Committing any offense, with reckless disregard of the likelihood that its commission will cause serious public inconvenience or alarm.
Prof. Turley, who found this gem, opines that the charge probably won’t stick, and I agree, especially since the family members aren’t pressing charges. This was a prank, and not aimed at “the public.” He suggests that police would have a better case if the hoax was on social media. I agree with that, too. Is it possible that the police knew this, but arrested them anyway to teach these idiots a lesson? If so, that was an abuse of power and process, and unethical.
I’m glad the police did it, though.
I suppose this is where I should admit that I have a long record of pulling scary practical jokes, especially in my college and grad school years. I was famous for decades at the Cambridge Savings Bank for faking my suicide by hanging by my tie, from a hook, in a dark records vault lighted by only a single, dangling, dim light bulb. I had a note pinned to my suit, my tongue lolling, and in the scant lighting nobody noticed that I was on my toes, swaying. The scene caused the famously stuffy bank president to scream like a little girl when he opened the vault door (I wasn’t expecting him to be my first victim.) Moral luck: he was very amused, and we spent the next hour with me hanging from that hook as he called employees down one by one to see the grisly scene, just so he could hear them scream.) I also once got revenge on two college room mates for leaving me to spend a nervous night alone in a house we were painting in Truro, on Cape Cod, shortly after headless torsos had been found in the nearby woods. My roomies Dick and Chip arrived the next morning to find my grotesquely posed body lying, open-eyed, in a pool of ketchup on the kitchen floor.
It was great.
In both cases, however, my fake demise lasted less than five seconds. I would no more have allowed photos of these faux horror scenes to be sent to my grandmother, parents and sister (well, maybe my sister) than I would have thrown a live hand grenade at them.
That photo is designed to cause grief and horror, if not panic. Inflicting intentional emotional distress to that degree is a tort, not a joke.
Good job faking the murder scene, though…