A man, a gun, substance abuse: Factors in murder-suicides

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

The York County Coroner says the murder-suicide that happened on South Russell Street in Springettsbury Township is the fourth one in the county this year, and the second this month.

Police say Brian Wilk shot his wife Donna in the chest on Wednesday before turning the gun on himself, and they don’t know what precipitated the crime.

Experts say murder-suicides are very hard to predict because there aren’t as many recognizable warning signs as with suicide.

“Risk factors might be someone who gives their possessions away, or someone who becomes very reclusive, someone who quits their job,” says Dr. Salvatore Cullari. “But you don't tend to see that stuff in murder-suicide, that’s why a lot of people think it’s a completely different kind of behavior.”

Common factors in a murder-suicide include a male killer, a gun, and some type of substance abuse. Psychologist Dr. Salvatore Cullari says shooters normally have a form of depression, but they’re not on medication.

“You have homicide, suicide and then you have murder, they're really three different behaviors,” says Dr. Cullari. “Suicides are fairly common in our country, there's about 40,000 suicides a year.”

Cullari also says the murder-suicides often are preceded by a separation or breakup, or an illness that brings a sense of hopelessness. The crime doesn’t always arise out of an abusive relationship.

“Generally speaking, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, but it’s not always the case there's been spousal abuse or violence in that household,” says Dr. Cullari. “It might've been, but that’s not always the case.”

The York County Coroner has publicized resources for anyone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. If you see warning signs, you can call the York County Suicide Prevention Coalition at 717-227-0048 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.