Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Ashley Mancik


The current literature on the use of arson in homicides analyzes the role of psychosis and mental illness, detection avoidance, and fire-setting as a precursor to violent crime. Only recently have researchers examined the connection between arson and family violence through the means of coercive control. Remaining unanswered is the role of arson in family mass murders occurring in a private residence. Using the Mass Killings in America database compiled and maintained by the Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University (2006-2022), I compare characteristics of family mass murders that are arson-related to those that are non-arson-related. While family mass murders are a small percentage of homicides across the US, the large victim counts are significant. Due to the prevalence of homicide-suicide in mass murder, the study further analyzes whether a family mass murder being arson-related impacts the odds of offender suicide. Analysis found three variables significantly related to whether an event involved the use of arson; 1) taking place in the Southern region, 2) a shooting taking place during the incident and 3) at least one child victim (under 18) killed in the incident. Further, while arson use was not a significant predictor of offender suicide, many variables were; at least one non-family member killed, a despondent offender, a shooting taking place during the incident, offender age, and offender race.


© 2024, Rachel Rori Rodriguez Spradley