Two UWF professors wrote the book on murder – literally

By Sara Agans
Staff Writer

book

UWF professors Richard Hough Sr. and Kimberly D. McCorkle wrote the newly released textbook “American Homicide.”
Photo by Sara Agans.

 Who would have thought that two of UWF’s own professors would literally write a book on murder?

Written by Richard Hough Sr. and Kimberly D. McCorkle, the new textbook “American Homicide” was three years in the making.

McCorkle is associate dean and professor for the College of Education and Professional Studies as well as a former prosecutor. Hough, an instructor in the department of criminal justice, teaches a course on homicide at UWF drawing from his lengthy experience in law enforcement, which included being a homicide detective.

Hough has been teaching investigative techniques both in college settings and in law enforcement for 25 years. Twelve years ago, when Hough created a homicide course, the right textbook just was not out there.

“Most of them were repackaged theory books on crime, not really specific to homicide because most academics don’t want to try to tackle that because it’s a little more complex,” Hough said.

Professors occasionally receive books to review to adopt for their classes, and at the end of this process the professors are asked if they are going to write anything themselves. At the time, Hough did not like the textbook that was required for his classes, so he decided he would write one. Within two days, the offer to write the book was accepted. That is when Hough called McCorkle to assist with the writing of the textbook.

McCorkle said they looked at the books already published and found only a few books that were mainly about homicide. Both concluded there were things they would do differently if they were to write a book.

“A big thing that stuck out to me was that most of the books did not give a lot of coverage to intimate partner homicide, which is a real and serious phenomenon, not just in the U.S., but worldwide,” McCorkle said. “This constitutes a great percentage of overall crimes, particularly homicides against women.”

One thing that McCorkle thought they could do better when it came to writing the textbook was to include a full chapter devoted to intimate partner homicide.

“Additionally, there wasn’t a lot of coverage of family homicides — homicides that occur within a family setting, in all forms that you can imagine,” McCorkle said. “That is a terrible thing to think about, but we understood the prevalence of these forms of homicide that were not well represented in the existing books. In fact, what those books did instead is focus on the more rare forms of homicide, like serial killing, school killing, and cult killing, and it gave those a lot more coverage than the types of homicide that are actually more prevalent.”

In addition to having a full chapter devoted to intimate partner homicide, another chapter focuses on confrontational homicide, which is another subject the other textbooks did not address according to McCorkle and Hough.

Another interest that McCorkle wanted to address was the court processes, such as what happens once a homicide case makes it to court. To address this process, the book contains chapters dedicated to homicide and the courts, along with investigation, which provides instruction on how to investigate a homicide.

“The reviews that we are getting on this book are very positive, saying the students will appreciate an actual balanced approach talking about the things that they’re interested in, not just getting another theory class, although it has all the theory in it as well,” Hough said.

Oriana Rodriquez, a UWF junior majoring in criminal justice, said, “Dr. Hough has a lot of insight and a lot of stories that you’re going to be able to understand better than just reading out of the book. He gives you both information from the book as well as life experience.”

Caitlyn Skaaland, a UWF junior majoring in criminal justice, said, “When Dr. Hough teaches, he is very excited about it, and he gives real-life experiences because he has been in law enforcement for so long. So you’re actually learning something that you can use later on in your career.”

McCorkle said that Hough and she did not want to make the book only about news stories; they wanted to provide examples to students because students seem to be fascinated by the homicide phenomena.

“In every chapter we have these callout boxes that are called ‘Why Would They Do It?’ and these are examples of the type of homicide that we discuss in the chapter with an actual example of the case that simplifies the concepts that we are talking about,” McCorkle said.

Both Hough and McCorkle said they thought it was important to talk about real-life examples, but they did not want the text to be just one example after another. They also discuss popular media, such as television shows, documentaries and the news, in their book. Hough and McCorkle clarify some of the myths existing in popular media, such as how some television shows solve the crimes, which is not always accurate to real life.

“I am really excited about the ‘Why Would They Do It?’ sections because it helps students understand some examples of what we’re talking about,” McCorkle said. “It encourages them to think critically about the type of homicide, to think about the theoretical constructs, and then the practical, how did the police investigate it, how did they solved it, and how it was handled in court.”

Hough said most textbooks teach you all about what you are studying, but do not elaborate on what you should do about it. The concluding chapter of “American Homicide” focuses on that exact topic and each of the other chapters discuss policy implications. For example, with a certain type of homicide, the book discuss what could society do, what could a legislature do, what could police do, what could prosecutors do, what could schools do, what could teachers do, what could you do for violence prevention, etc.

Confrontational homicide is one of the most commonly committed types of homicide, according to McCorkle. The textbook discusses how bigger cities are struggling with this certain type of homicide. Hough and McCorkle both recognize that homicide takes more than just law enforcement officers, defense attorneys and prosecutors; it takes a society to address problems with violence.

The “America Homicide” is available to purchase on Amazon.com for $58. In addition to the textbook, Hough and McCorkle also created learning materials for the course, such as Power Point presentations, tests, discussion questions, etc.

McCorkle and Hough will attend a Book Talk open to the campus community at 4 p.m. Mar. 24 in Building 70, room 115.