Written by Laura Pettler, Ph.D., LPI
Could allergy medicine be responsible in part for the tragic murder of Rebecca “Becky” Apodaca on February 1, 2017? I’m not a medical doctor, so check out the show for what Dr. Oz has to say about over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication taken in large quantities, but instead let’s focus on the forensic criminology aspects of this case.
As always, we begin victim-centered, which means that by studying the victim, we learn more about how the victim became a victim of violent crime, who might have been in conflict with the victim, and individuals who may have wanted to cause harm to the victim. In this case, Becky Apodaca was a loving mother of son David and daughter Ella. Ella appeared to talk about the tragedy of losing two members of her family when her mother was murdered: her beautiful mother Becky and her brother David McGee, who was convicted of killing their mother.
Becky and David shared a home because David suffered impairment from having a stroke when he was 14 years old. Becky cared deeply for her son and did everything she could to help him cope with impairment and find success in life. But, according to media reports, David struggled with life while his mother continued to support and uplift him.
Then on February 1, 2017, David did the unthinkable. David claimed he went to the kitchen to get a knife and take OTC medication to die of suicide. Instead of killing himself, he took a small amount of pills to help him sleep then bludgeoned his mother to death with a claw-hammer. Later, in a letter he wrote from jail, he offered an explanation for why he killed Becky Apodaca. David alleged he killed his mother because he did not want her to suffer the pain of his suicide.
In a trial earlier this year, the jury found 26-year-old David McGee guilty of murdering his mother regardless of the physical evidence recovered at the crime scene, his self-inflicted injuries, or his overdose. Apparently, the jury didn’t buy it and sentenced him to life in prison.
As a forensic criminologist, my area of expertise is in forensic psychology and forensic science, and the marrying of the two. The crime scene was brutal. Becky Apodaca had bruises as documented in her autopsy reported on her forearm and leg. However, it was the craniofacial bludgeoning that killed her. David Apodaca claimed he blamed her for bringing him into the world. As reported by media outlets, David claimed he heard a voice telling him to kill her.
After killing his mother, David was found by his sister Ella, who came to check on Becky after Becky didn’t log in to work or meet Ella for dinner as the women had planned. She found her mother dead face-down in the bedroom and her brother David, naked, in the closet with lacerations to his neck and wrists babbling incoherently. David was treated overnight at a hospital and then jailed the next day while Ella was left devastated.
Victims being face-down in a crime scene is an interesting behavior. It can mean they want control of seeing the victim last instead of feeling the victim can see the offender last as he or she turns to walk out. Another interesting thing about David’s behavior is that of all closets and locations in their shared apartment, David chose to stay in the closet of the same room as his mother; the person he reportedly said he blamed for being born. The crime scene evidence and David’s behavior are consistent with what authorities appear to have confirmed and with what the jury heard during the trial. The beating death of Becky Apodaca was purposeful, deliberate, targeted, and the fatal wound pattern and location was specific to her face and head. There is a lot of science, specifically physics, involved when investigators take on a case like this, so during a segment on the show, I demonstrated for Dr. Oz, crime correspondent Melissa Moore, and the audience how blood spatters when force is applied.
This is an extremely sad case and my heart breaks for the Apodaca family. I had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful and kind Ella Apodaca-Smith who shared with me memories of her mother and how Ella would like her mother to be remembered. Ella has forgiven her brother and is working towards speaking to him again. What an incredibly courageous, inspirational story of love, tragedy, forgiveness, and healing. I am inspired by Ella and look forward to continuing supporting her as she moves forward in her journey.
Forensic criminologist, North Carolina licensed private investigator, and IAI certified senior crime scene analyst, Dr. Laura Pettler is one of the world’s foremost experts in crime scene staging and domestic violence homicide. She is well known for her dynamic presentation style: With a background in show business, Laura calls her presentation style “edutainment” and believes that human connection is one of the most fundamental principles of leadership and being able to earn the respect of an audience. Additionally, Laura is known for her sheer passion for using her life to make a difference and for being a pioneer in staging research and cutting-edge homicide investigation practice.