The Top 5 Murders by Relationship to the Victim in the United States
Number of Murders (2011)
Percentage of Total Murders
Sources: FBI Uniform Crime Report: Crime in the United States, 2011.
List Notes: Data is relationship of victim to offender (according to the data killers kill acquaintances far more than they kill fellow co-workers for example). Data is latest available data for the year 2012. Figures are based on 12,664 murders in the United States in 2011 for whom supplemental homicide data was received. Murder as defined here includes murder and non-negligent manslaughter which is the willful killing of one human being by another. The relationship categories of husband and wife include both common-law and ex-spouses.
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Out of 13,636 murders studied in the United States, 30.2% of the victims were murdered by persons known to them (4,119 victims), 13.6% were murdered by family members (1,855 victims), 12.3% were murdered by strangers (1,676 victims) and 43.9% of the relationships were unknown (investigators were not able to establish any relationship).
Murders were the least frequent violent victimization of all categories -- about 5 murder victims per 100,000 persons in 2009.
The number of homicides where the victim/offender relationship was undetermined has been increasing since 1999 but has not reached the levels experienced in the early 1990s. Between the years 1976 and 2005 the following facts were found: about one-third of the victims were acquaintances of the assailant, 14% of all murders, the victim and the offender were strangers, and spouses and family members made up about 15% of all victims.
Homicides committed by friends/acquaintances and strangers are more likely to involve guns than those committed by intimates or family members.
Homicides in which the victim
and offender were intimates or related
made up a relatively small
portion of all homicides, but a sizable
portion of female homicides. In cases where the victim-offender
relationship was reported,
roughly 50 percent of female victims
were killed by family members or
other intimates; in contrast, fewer than
20 percent of male victims were killed
by family members or other intimates. Adding to this, research using city-level data from the United States indicated that there is a higher risk of uxoricide (the murder of one's female spouse) for cohabiting women relative to married women. Cohabiting relationships constituted 46%
of 972 "spousal" homicides in Detroit during 1926-1968, 31% of 45 spousal
homicides in Houston in 1969, 35% of 43 spousal homicides in Miami in
1980 and 46% of 1,706 spousal homicides in Chicago during 1965-1989. Recent estimates of the prevalence of cohabiting relationships in the United States are much lower, around 9% in 1989. Women in cohabiting relationships
are nine times more likely to be murdered by their partner than are women in marital
Top 5 facts sources:
FBI Uniform Crime Report. (2009). "Crime in the United States". Retrieved November 24th, 2009.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010). "Homicide Trends in the U.S." Retrieved November 24th, 2009.
National Institute of Justice. (1997) "A Study of Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities". Retrieved November 24th, 2009.
Shackelford. Todd K. (2001) "Cohabitation, Marriage, and Murder: Woman-
Killing by Male Romantic Partners". Volume 27, pages 284-291. Retrieved November 24th, 2009.
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