Police (possibly) seek connection between dead baby, mother’s gaming habits

Gamepolitics has a story up relaying the depressing tale of a North Carolina woman who may have been been responsible for the death of her 11-month-old daughter, and the confusing tale of how police are attempting to connect it to her gaming habits. Here’s the scoop:

Police in North Carolina are looking into a woman’s online gaming habits as they investigate the death of her 11-month-old daughter.

According to WRAL-5, Johni Michelle Heuser has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of baby Harmony, who had been reported missing last Friday, leading to a statewide Amber Alert. On Saturday police found the child’s body in the attic of Heuser’s home. Heuser said Harmony died weeks ago from crib death and she hid the body out of fear.

Alright, so that all seems rather routine, if not a bit morbid, but how does it relate to gaming? Hit the jump and prepare yourself to be as utterly confused as I am.

No one is debating the dead baby. Obviously this woman is at best an unfit mother, and at worst she’s the reincarnation of Elizabeth Báthory. Not content to merely chalk the infanticide up to the woman’s being an inept human, North Carolina police have apparently been seeking a connection between the woman’s gaming habits and the death. Here’s another quote:

As part of their investigation, authorities seized an Xbox video-game system from Heuser’s home, and they were examining her playing habits in hopes of developing leads in the case.

“It can be utilized to connect with the Internet, so you can talk with other people, play games with other people, that sort of thing,” Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins said.

In an e-mail to WRAL, a woman who claims to live near the family said she recognized Heuser’s game character on her computer. She said Heuser was online as late as last Thursday to participate in a role-playing game.

Something about that description seems a bit off. Assuming the description — from a TV news report — is accurate, it seems the woman was playing some kind of online RPG that caused her to devote more attention to gaming than to her child. As they seized an Xbox from the woman, one has to assume it’s an Xbox title, but that would only leave Final Fantasy XI or Phantasy Star Online. This wouldn’t be the first time that an MMO has sped up Darwinian selection, but then the next bit makes things even more confusing:

GP: The police seem interested in determing whether Heuser may have discussed some detail of Harmony’s death while online and will likely be focusing on chat and message logs.

Are the police scouring the Xbox hard drive for these logs that apparently indicate the woman’s guilt? They already have her admitting to the death, they have a corpse, and yet they seem really intent on pushing this whole “ze games killed her baby” angle. I’m not saying people never get so into these games that they lose any concept of reality, but it seems like the police are searching for a scapegoat; or the media reporting on things is playing up an angle that doesn’t exist using their limited knowledge of the medium.

I wonder how the dead baby feels about being used to push an agenda? Oh right, I forget! The dead baby is dead! He feels nothing! Well thank god for that, otherwise he might be a trifle pissed about being the posterchild for the scourge of video games.

Earnest Cavalli
I'm Nex. I used to work here but my love of cash led me to take a gig with Wired. I still keep an eye on the 'toid, but to see what I'm really up to, you should either hit up my Vox or go have a look at the Wired media empire.