High profile stories capture attention in 2013

From tragic deaths just around the corner to a twerking teen idol on the television, 2013 has seen its fair share of strange and morbid stories that captured our attention.

One area psychiatrist says a big part of what attracts people to these stories is a reminder of their own mortality and the ability to share the experiences of others vicariously.

Within the past two months, two apparent murder-suicide cases drew tremendous local attention.

In October, police said a Baltimore City police officer shot and killed his former girlfriend and her new boyfriend, a Baltimore City firefighter.

The victims' families say the firefighter saved the life of his girlfriend's 18-year-old sister who was also in the Glen Burnie home at the time.

Less than a month later, all eyes were again on an apparent murder-suicide, this time in Frederick County.
Police believe a 40-year-old man shot his wife and infant son with one bullet before turning the gun on himself. The couple's 5-year-old daughter was upstairs getting ready for a bath at the time of the shooting. She ran to a neighbor's house for help.

Dr. David Shevitz, a psychiatrist with LifeBridge Health, explained that this kind of story is intriguing to many people because it reminds them of their own mortality.

"We all know that we're very fragile people, we don't talk about it that way, but every day we go out there and we face mortality," Shevitz said.

These stories about sudden deaths also capture the attention of readers and viewers because they want to know how survivors fare.

"I think a lot of people can relate to it and I think they're fascinated by the outcome of it," Shevitz said. "Even if they don't recognize it."

Sometimes people look around at what others have and feel they themselves are unlucky. The tragedy of a stranger has a way of changing this perspective, Shevitz explained.

"I think when these things happen to other people it reminds us that everyone is lucky," Shevitz said.

It doesn't matter if the story features a local stranger or a celebrity, the same basic principle applies.

In a situation of art imitating life, "Fast and Furious" star Paul Walker was killed in a fiery car crash. Just like the local stories of tragedy, Shevitz says, this kind of accident serves to remind people that life can end at any moment.

Then there were bizarre stories such as Miley Cyrus's shocking performance at the Video Music Awards that capture people's attention because they are in some way relatable, Shevitz said.

"It's probably because a lot of other people out there want to be the bad girl," Shevitz said.

Whether tragic or simply bizarre, the majority of people are attracted to these stories for the same basic reason. 

"For the most part people are seeing something that reflects something in their own life," Shevitz said.

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