Traci Cunningham, a 28 year-old woman from Aurora, Colorado, confessed to the murder of her mother in Eagle County earlier this week. From the arrest affidavit, she reportedly told investigators that she and her mother were arguing over her lack of cooperation in completing chores and housework. She went on to tell the police that she found her mother's gun in the trunk of her car and "everything goes black."
Is that possible? Can a person black out and commit murder without knowing what she is doing?
The short answer is, "Yes." The slightly longer answer is, "Yes, but it is extremely rare."
There are certain mental illnesses that can cause something called a dissociative state, where a person has the experience of leaving her body and losing control of her actions. This state often causes temporary amnesia--the person will not remember what she did while dissociating.
Interestingly, this is a very rare condition and happens to very few people with mental illness. However, it is one of the most common claims people make when they are talking to police about a murder they just committed. If they do not argue self defense, they often try to argue that they blacked out, which would then raise the issue of sanity at the time of the offense.
Here is Melissa Blasius's 9 News report on Traci Cunningham:
Click here to watch the video if it does not appear above.
What do you think? Is it possible for a person to black out and lose control of their actions (when drugs or alcohol is not involved)?
Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.