Ohio Couple Charged After Staging Gruesome Murder As Family Prank

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Micah Risner, 29, and his fiancée Nataleigh Schlette are accused of a truly bizarre crime in Ohio.  Family members received pictures of a grotesque murder scene of Schlette.  Risner then texted his sister to suggest that he had murdered Schlette.  When police were called to the home, they found Schlette alive and the couple admitted that the whole thing was a moronic prank.  The police were not laughing and the couple was charged with “inducing panic.”

This is one of the photos sent:

An Ohio man faked a murder scene with the help of his fiancée, using ketchup.  Risner then texted his sister Mimi and said “Please help me! I really didn’t mean to. I don’t remember. We was arguing and I woke up to this.”  Mimi asked him if she was dead but her brother asked his sister to come and get him.  She then reportedly advised him to cover up the murder: “Take your clothes and throw them in a dumpster far away.” She also told him to delete all of these messages. 

The charge is relatively uncommon.  Here is the relevant provision:

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.

The question will be whether pranking your family constitutes “serious public inconvenience or alarm.”  This was not posting on social media or the Internet. It appears included as a prank within the family — a remarkably stupid prank to be sure but one that was not directed to the public.

The police are clearly ticked off for good reason.  However, do you believe that this warrants a criminal charge (particularly if none of the family members files a complaint)?

27 thoughts on “Ohio Couple Charged After Staging Gruesome Murder As Family Prank

  1. Calling the police or causing the police to be called might be ‘serious public inconvenience’.

    A fine and community service might be in order.

    Next time they should save us all the trouble and just tweet they found the landing gear from a UFO – or something.

  2. Well, Barack Obama caused me to panic almost on a daily basis. I was unaware this was a crime. What is the statute of limitations?

  3. This is an interesting statutory case. I’m not familiar with the peculiarities of Ohio common law but in reading the statute I agree there is probable cause to arrest.

    (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:

    Obviously the former half is inapplicable but the element of the latter centers around the Public nature of the alarm or inconvenience; which leads us to the subparts:

    (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;

    I believe it is clear that the actions of transmitting a picture and text messages is sufficient to satisfy the element of initiating or circulating a report. I do not believe the statute was enacted to be limited in scope to only the filing of an official police report. It should suffice to be the notification of others of a crime. A reasonable person would expect that showing images proffered to be a murder scene and texting alleged admission of complicity in the false crime is at the very least an initiation of a process that will lead to police and EMS being called.

    (3) Committing any offense, with reckless disregard of the likelihood that its commission will cause serious public inconvenience or alarm.

    There are allegations of serious public inconvenience at the least and alarm at most that many local resources were diverted to come to the mock crime scene and investigate a possible murder and a suspect at large. I have personally witnessed false infamous crimes reported that nearly turned tragic. One of which involved the false report of a murder attempt using a firearm, complete with a suspect vehicle description. Through a terrible coincidence a vehicle matching that of the falsely reported suspect vehicle was found by WSP. For unknown reasons the “suspect” vehicle tried to elude the troopers and fortunately he did–they lost sight of him. The false report was confirmed later that night. Had WSP caught the false suspect expecting he tried to commit a murder using a firearm the possibility of injury to someone was high. This was a direct result of the situation created by a false murder report.

    I say the charge is with merit.

    • Darren – they did not do the false reporting (except as a prank to the folks), so it is not like they called in a bomb scare. I think this is very defensible. Once they decide which of the many subparts they are going to be charged with a good defense attorney should have a field day.

  4. The guy left some snot from his nose on the seat of a chair at the county fair and signed his name next to it as Jack Mehoff. He also blogged on this blog. Jack? Are you out there? No name no blame.
    The “Micah” dog in the photo should change his name to protect the innocent. Why not “Michael”?

    • “This has no business being investigated by the police! ”

      i can hardly think of a more compelling reason to investigate than photos that are claimed to be from a crime scene.

  5. NOT a lawyer, but here’s my layman’s take on this:

    (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:

    -They did not cause evacuation of a public place, or otherwise cause serious public inconvenience or alarm.

    (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;

    -They did not initiate or circulate a report or warning of an alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime, or other catastrophe, knowing it was false. (The death of a loved one would be a TRAGEDY, not a public catastrophe)

    (2) Threatening to commit any offense of violence;

    -Nope

    (3) Committing any offense, with reckless disregard of the likelihood that its commission will cause serious public inconvenience or alarm.

    -Again, it was personal- the public at large was not seriously inconvenienced or alarmed, unless ‘the police’ shall hereby be referred to as ‘the public’.

    And if that’s the case, well then, slippery slope, here we come!

  6. All the pinhead couple would have needed to do, is when the police arrived, just tell them they are democrats and this was ‘performance art’ they were sending out to the family. And the police would have known that is perfectly NORMAL and the MSM would think it’s great.
    https://goo.gl/images/LDzCLK

  7. A blog by a “noted” constitutional lawyer about the law and constitution and not a peep about Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s billionaire CEO banning books and authors that challenge a good deal of the “orthodox historiography” of the false religion of Holocaustianity, the texts of which read more like “hysteriagraphy” than history.

    Step up to the plate, Turley.

    Nazis burned books by Jews – Neo-Nazis ban books about them.

  8. What a cruel thing to do, convince your family you’d murdered your fiancé.

    And after they got over their rage at their daughter for scaring them, I imagine the finance’s parents are going to be irretrievably broken with this guy’s family, who advised him to cover up what they believed to be the murder of their daughter. So if he ever does kill their daughter, they can be assured that his family would help him get away with it rather than urge him to turn himself in.

    He, the finance, and his family are all crazy. This led to a false police report, and the diversion of police resources that may have affected response time to actual emergencies. They didn’t even follow up the horrid text with a “just kidding” right away, but let everyone suffer and escalate to the police. What a waste.

    It does not seem like an innocent joke, like, say, a Halloween decoration that accidentally led to a false police report. This was a deliberate attempt to frighten and grieve people. Twisted. I don’t know what the criminal or legal penalty will be, but there is something very wrong with these people.

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