On January 4, 2017, a homeless man named Daniel M. Aldape was found dead in Las Vegas. A month later, authorities found the body of another homeless man, this one named David H. Dunn. The police had no suspects in either case but did have reason to think the two killings were linked. First, both died from head injuries — each man was bludgeoned to death by their assailant. And second, neither man was robbed of whatever possessions and money he had on him. Whoever killed these men, authorities surmised, was likely to strike again.
And they were right. On February 22, 2017, the likely assailant struck again. The assailant, Shane Allen Schindler, came across a man sleeping on the side of the street, and, for reasons unknown, Schindler attacked. Weidling a ball-pean hammer, Schindler repeatedly struck the sleeping person in the head. Police caught the whole thing on tape.
But the case was hardly open-and-shut. Schindler couldn’t be charged with the murders of Aldape and Dunn because the police didn’t have enough evidence to link him to the crime. And he couldn’t be charged with the murder of the third man because Schindler didn’t actually kill the third person. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Schindler didn’t kill his third victim because the victim wasn’t alive to begin with. The “man” Schindler attacked that February wasn’t a man at all.
It was a mannequin.
With no leads to go on after the first attacks, the police decided the easiest way to catch a potential serial killer was to set some trap, So as NPR reported, “Capt. Andrew Walsh, the downtown district patrol commander, came up with the plan to place the decoy.” And as discussed above, the plan worked. But it also sparked an odd legal problem: can you charge someone with attempted murder if the “victim” wasn’t alive to murder in the first place?
Schindler’s attorney argued that no, you can’t. Per NPR, “Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn derided the charge of attempted murder as ‘a legal impossibility,’ saying someone can’t kill an inanimate object.” Previous cases in the state, though, didn’t seem to care about that distinction, provided that the attacker thought he was attacking an actual person. Schindler, though, initially claimed that he knew that his victim was a fake.
With the threat of charges in the two actual murders hanging over his head, though, Schindler eventually admitted what everyone already suspected though — he had no idea that the man “sleeping” underneath the blanket was, literally, a dummy. In August, he pled guilty to attempted murder of a mannequin, avoiding charges in the killings of Aldape and Dunn. Later that month, he was sentenced to eight to 20 years in prison.
From the Archives: Do You See What I See?: The main story has nothing to do with the above, but the bonus fact is about mannequins.