It is an unimaginable tragedy to either person involved. One life is lost. The other is ruined, haunted forever by the memory of a grave mistake, obsessed with what could have been done to avoid it. But there is no turning back from manslaughter.
People who carry the burden that they unintentionally took the life of another person shared their stories to Reddit. They do not ask for forgiveness. They do not ask to be defended. These stories are meant to provide one with the understanding of how one goes on following a life-changing, harrowing mistake. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I never talk to anyone about this. It was half accident, and half not.
My mother, my aunt, my 10-month-old cousin, and I were all out in the garden, with a little pool set up. The pool was really shallow, like, shallow enough that she could sit in it with the water only up to her chest. My mother and aunt got up and went inside to go feed their addictions. I knew what they were doing and got really annoyed with it, because they would always promise fun things and then go do that.
My cousin fell over in the water. I’ll never forget it. She just fell over in the water and laid there under it. She didn’t struggle or try to get up or do anything. She just laid there, still, under the water. I got out and called for my mother, but they didn’t hear me. I just felt annoyed because they were always off getting high... and I didn’t do anything. I walked away and started playing somewhere else. I thought they would come back in a minute and it would make them feel bad for going away like that. They didn’t come back for probably 15 or 20 minutes.
It is their fault in the long run, but it is very hard not to think back to that moment and remember my very active and childishly selfish choice to just walk away and leave her there because it would upset them. If I hadn’t done that, she would most likely still be alive.
I’m not really sure what lesson I can hope to learn from the experience. It was over 30 years ago, and I have long since moved on in life, had a child of my own, etc. I obviously would never put him in that sort of situation, but I think that should be a given for any responsible parent.
If anything changed in my adult life as a result of this, it is probably how I treated my child. The distinct memories of actively thinking in what I consider to be a somewhat 'adult' way at the time made me listen and treat him more as a fully formed person when he was that age instead of just a child who doesn’t get it. Having the memories of that day and my thinking seared forever into my mind gave me a snapshot of how complex my own thinking was at that time, even if it was immature and I didn’t have the means to express it.
I’m so sorry, Ellie. I’m so, so sorry. "
"When I was 13 years old, we lived in a large house with multiple rooms and a security system. One night we had a confirmed break-in. The security system started going off. I had weapons in my room. My father is usually working at night so, being the man in the house, I grabbed my weapon and went searching. My father never went to work that night, but there was an actual intruder. I was sitting under my kitchen table and saw a man completely covered in black. So I shot at him four times, twice in the stomach, once in the shoulder and another in the leg.
But the thing is... that wasn't the intruder. I knew because of the scream. It was a scream of a voice I loved all too much. Then, around the corner came the actual intruder, sprinting and jumping out my kitchen window. I had no reaction because I knew instantly what I had done. I ran to the phone and called the police.
He died on the way to the hospital. I wasn't charged because I was so young to be in a situation like that. My mother was heartbroken. I'm 19, on my own, and have had no contact with my family since that night. I'm an addict with no future. I blame myself for being irresponsible with a weapon. I know my father is looking down on me. I never meant for it to happen."
"I'd been driving for less than a year when I was driving through a neighborhood that had lots of cars parked on the side of the road. A 4-year-old kid ran out in front of my car and I had less than a second to stop. I bumped her pretty hard and she was knocked over. She hit her head on the pavement and (apparently) died instantly.
I went numb. My surroundings suddenly started fading and I almost passed out. As I got out of the car, I saw her blood all over the road, and I vomited everywhere. Her mom came over screaming. It's the worst sound I've ever heard. The police saw that there was literally nothing I could have done and let me go.
As for dealing with it, I didn't/don't do it well. The first six months after it happened, I was either wasted or on painkillers and weed almost 90% of the time because it was the only thing that made me forget what I'd done. Then, I stopped drinking and replaced it with self-harm and continued doing painkillers for about two years. I'd go through the moment thousands of times in my mind. I had dreams about it. I barely slept. I'd dealt with depression before this point, but this just made it so much worse.
Then, one day, her mom showed up at my house and wanted to talk to me. In all honesty, the initial thought that went through my head when I first realized it was her was, Oh no. She's here to kill me and get revenge, which was then followed by, I hope she does it so I don't have to live with the guilt anymore.
She hadn't come to do that. She'd come to forgive me. She told me that it was hard for her to do, but she ultimately realized that me killing her daughter wasn't my fault. I burst into tears and hugged her for a solid minute while we both cried our eyes out.
Even now, three years later, I still think about it every day. I still hate myself, I still have depression and I'm still suicidal. I don't know how to deal with it. But I'm still here, I guess."
"From my late teens to my mid-to-late 20s, I had a severe problem with dependency. When I was 22 or 23, I met a girl who was a recovering addict. We started dating right away, and, as I was still very active in my addiction, it was only a matter of time before she relapsed.
She began smoking it at first, but I used needles. Since I always had needles around, it was only a matter of time before she started IV use. We continued on our path of codependency and chemical dependency for a few months, spiraling ever deeper and, as far as I could tell, there was no way to stop it. I did not want to stop. We made it easier for each other to use. We enabled each other and fell ever deeper into the void.
She decided she wanted to quit. I had absolutely no plans of doing so and, one night, I convinced her that we should get 'one last bag.' It was certainly her last bag. We both overdosed that night. The last thing I remember was us sitting on the floor together, trying to find a vein. I woke up, injured and confused, about six hours later. She was on the floor next to me, eyes open and glazed, her cheeks blue. She was very obviously dead.
I called 911 and they instructed me to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation. I knew it was futile, but I did it anyway. The sound of air escaping from her dead lungs is something I will never forget, and always relive.
So in my eyes, I had killed her. I took her down the road of IV use, provided the smack, and the means to use it. She was 23.
I spiraled horribly. The next few years are mostly lost to me, as I was not sober for more than a couple hours here and there. I wanted to die and I knew it would happen. I cried often and did not seek help, instead choosing to isolate. I continued down this path for three or four years.
I don't really know how I got out of it, but I came out a different person. I was older, less confident, less warm, less caring, less loving, and less feeling. This was seven years ago now and I still struggle with addiction, and probably always will, but I gave up smack a couple years ago. I stopped being able to cry. I think the last time I cried was a few months after she died.
What happened that night, and what happened to me following it, has lead to some pretty severe PTSD, which I am now in therapy for. But I got out alive, she didn't, and she was the kinder, brighter, more loved and more loving one. I will never forgive myself. I just try not to think about it. Unfortunately, that is a luxury that I do not think is afforded to her family."
"It was around 2007, the end of October, and my dad and I were practicing pitching techniques. I played baseball and wanted to get better, so he got me one of those pitch-back nets that springs the ball back at you if you throw a strike. About 20 pitches in, then, a 4-year-old kid ran out from behind the bushes and trees right in front of the net as I threw the ball. Dad yelled out, the kid turned towards him, and then bam, the pitch hit him in the sternum, and he was down on the ground in under a second.
He stopped moving, stopped breathing. He just laid there, a kid who, up until 10 seconds before, was just having fun playing with his brother and friends. My dad tried performing CPR to no avail. He had someone immediately called the paramedics the second he went down, but by the time they got there, five minutes had passed.
After that hit, I went into shock. I wasn't sad, or angry. I didn't know what happened, honestly. I think my brain said, He'll be fine, the adults will take care of him and he'll be OK by tomorrow. Then, you'll go over and say sorry. Thirty minutes later, my mom came into my room to tell me he had passed away.
He had no oxygen going to his brain and, even if he could make it back with the AED, he would have had permanent brain damage. They said it was Commotio Cordis or 'heart agitation.' It is caused when a projectile causes the rhythm of a heartbeat to falter, leading to a cardiac arrest. The fatality rate of 65% even WITH CPR and a De-fib, and around 85% without. Only a 10-millisecond window for it to have happened, and it happened to me, a fifth grader.
The next day at 8 am, I saw three news vans outside my house at the little playground where it happened. I didn't think anything of it until I went outside to sit on our porch. One of the newscasters came over after the camera was off and sat down next to me, asking if I thought I was going to be OK. I told him I didn't know. He said he was sorry, and then left.
My family put me in therapy for a few weeks so I could talk about how I felt to someone. After going, I realized that I didn't even really feel anything. The doctor asked if I felt guilty or heard anything or saw anything weird so, as a 10-year-old who wanted to please adults, I said I saw him in my dreams or something like that. The truth of the matter was that I just wanted to stay alone for a while and reflect, think about everything, come to terms of what I did.
Next few years were rough. Word got out in middle school around seventh grade that I killed a kid, and then I kept that ostracized title until high school. I lost friends, was called a monster. Thirteen-year-olds really know how to throw insults. I think I was around 14 or 15 when I tried killing myself due to the fact that someone in high school found the article, told everyone about it, sent it through mass texts, and tried saying that I probably meant to kill him because I hated the kid's brother (side note, his brother WAS a punk. This 14-year-old stabbed me in the hand with a stick when I first met him. Six months after his brother's death, he burned down a house trying to get high with his friends). But who was going to believe the plea from someone who killed a child?
I went to the school's counselor. She suggested dark humor, funny enough, worked out for me. She told a few dead kid jokes and she told me one of the best things I've ever heard.
She said, 'Honestly, this isn't the type of stuff the administration is OK with, but if it works, and you feel better about yourself, come to terms with what you did, and never let anyone make you feel like a piece of garbage for doing it, well then, I feel like I did my job well, don't you? Listen, you can't take back what you did. Nobody can, so you can either A: sit around and let people ridicule you for it for the rest of your life, or B: turn it into something that can't hurt you in the first place. I can't make that choice for you, but I can at least show you one of the ways out.'
She was a nice lady. I still have her number saved in case I ever need an ear.
I'm not sure if it makes me a messed up person, but I found solace in comedy, and it really helped me. I still think about that kid every time I go out to play baseball with my friend. Not a time goes by where I don't think about it at least once. I get asked a lot if it ever bothers me. And I shock a lot of people when I say that it doesn't. Maybe it's because I'm a sick person. Maybe it's because that's just how I work. Either way, I'm happier now because of humor, even if it IS a little scuffed."
"I was 18 and in my first year of college in Austin. The girl I was trying to date forgot her ID at the dorm (we were going to a club that allowed under 18), so I offered to take the bus back home with her and play some Fusion Frenzy. There was a guy tricked out on something a couple seats behind us and, as we were leaving, he grabbed her arm.
I jumped on him and, in a matter of seconds, put my pocket knife in his throat. We didn't get back to the dorm until the next day. I spent the night with the Austin Police Department and got probation for a class misdemeanor weapons charge.
She and I are still friends but we don't talk about it ever and never tried to date. I still have dreams about all the blood and his voice, but I try not to think about it too long. I attempted suicide a couple years ago and still plan to kill myself, but now for a whole bunch of different reasons."
"Shortly after I got my license, I ended up in a very fast car. It was one which was far more powerful than I was used to, and far too powerful for me to be driving. After working quite late, I went out to meet some friends. I picked them up and we all went out for a ride. Those of us who could drive had a shot at driving the car. We all took turns on the motorway going fast and generally being stupid.
Afterward, we went into a quiet residential area. As I said, it was late, past midnight on a weekday, so the streets were empty. I was driving and, as I approached a long straight road, I accelerated... simply to show off to my friends in the car. At one point, one of my friends asked me to slow down and I took my foot off the accelerator, but by that point, I was going far too fast and didn't realize that there was a part of the road which stuck out. I swerved to avoid it and lost control of the car. It flipped several times and hit a tree, driver side on.
I don't remember much past this point, as I was badly injured as well, but I remember someone asking if everyone was OK, and then someone saying our friend's name and that he was bad... I turned to try and look behind me, and I saw his face. I heard his breathing... If you've ever heard what's called a death rattle, then you'll know the sound. You never forget it. I didn't know at the time, but that's what it was. He died almost instantly, and that was his body shutting down.
Five seconds before the accident, my actions felt inconsequential. We were having fun. Because of those actions, my actions, a teenager, a child in my eyes now, was taken from his parents, his family, those who loved him and cared for him. From his friends. From his life.
He was a couple of years younger than us. We took care of him, joked, laughed. Talked about the future, our dreams, aspirations. I took those away from him and from the world. I destroyed a family and caused grief that should never be felt, to be felt every day by those who loved him. The pain I caused to my friends in the car that night, who close their eyes and see their friend dying, inches away. The pain I caused to my own family...
Shame. Shame, regret, and sorrow are what I feel. What I've felt every day for 16 years. He'd have been 32 years old this month. I think of him, that night, and my actions every day. I have a photograph of him that is placed in my bedroom so that it's the first and last thing I see before I go to bed and when I wake up.
How do I cope? I don't think I can call it pain anymore, it's not pain. It's a part of me. And however I feel is inconsequential in comparison to the damage I've caused to others. I can sit here, I can type this with tears rolling down my cheeks, and then I'll go on with my day.
I'd be lying if I said I have an unhappy life. I was sent to prison for causing his death. Afterward, I managed to build something, I have a career, a home. I have a wonderful, supportive family. I have lovely friends from before the crash, and new ones who don't know my past. The two others who were with me are two of my closest and have their own children now.
I now know that my actions have consequences. I wish I could have had that since then, but I can't. If you read this, please, please make sure that no matter what, always drive safely. If you don't, if you make the choices that I made, then those actions may have consequences as well."
"I was a resident in a hospital, my second year. I was leaving work, walking through the parking lot when a car almost ran me over. They 'parked' and a woman started yelling for help. I ran to her and, in the back seat, there was her 13-year-old son. He had been hit by a bus.
Now, I had my training, I had studied, I had all the knowledge, but when I heard a mother begging for the life of her son, I was dumb. I tried to pull the boy out of the car. I immediately felt my arm sinking into his ribcage. I knew it was over. The broken ribs perforated his lung and a major artery. It was discovered upon his autopsy and a few other injuries that would've made recovery very difficult.
When help arrived, I explained what had happened. The whole thing took no more than 30 seconds, but it felt like forever. My boss told me to stick around and see what I had done. They tried, they tried really hard, and I saw it from the corner of the room, covered in blood. I had to tell that woman her son wasn't coming home and it was my fault. She sat down and looking at the wall in silence, empty.
I went home and drank everything I could get my hands on. I left the hospital a couple months after that. I couldn't get myself in a position where I could hurt anyone else and I was self-medicating constantly. I couldn't sleep, eat, or sit still. When I wasn't wasted, I was on something. It's been seven years and with therapy and the support of my friends, I've been getting over it, but sometimes when I'm about to fall asleep I can still feel my arm sinking into that boy's ribcage."
"I was 17 or 18 at the time. I was going to school at my local community college to get my high school diploma. I didn't do well in high school so this was a good alternative. Illegal substances, drinks, and friends got in the way at my high school. I was always looking for ways to get high or wasted.
I had a pretty good supply of prescription medications I was able to get my hands on as well. At the time, pills were hitting the scene pretty heavily in my neighborhood and with all my friends. Before too long, I became interested. So, with a way to get the money for the $70 pill, I got a bunch of the 'meds' and sold them to an adult acquaintance. I went through with buying the pills and so began my downward spiral of addiction. That's a story of its own.
I went and got high with friends and went on as normal. Sometime in the following days, I was at school and I got a call from an old girlfriend at my old high school saying that the person I had sold the 'meds' to had died and there were texts from me in his phone. She had told me that word was going around that I was going to go to jail for manslaughter. I was instantly in shock.
The worst thing is that I had a presentation that would determine if I could continue with the program to get my diploma. I could hardly gather myself to finish the day. I barely made it through, but I was able to get it done. After I got home, I spent the next month or two avoiding everyone. Every time I heard a car drive by my house, my heart would drop and I knew I was going to jail or prison. No one ever came. I was never contacted by anyone to this day. I slowly started to leave my house again and see my friends. A friend from my high school was best friends with the guy. I avoided him at all costs. Until one day, it was unavoidable.
He came up and we started talking about the situation. I couldn't even look at him. After all of my worry, he told me he held no hard feelings toward me. He told me that this guy was an adult who decided to get high on these 'meds' and drink extensively, then got behind the wheel. I still don't know all the details, but that whole ordeal messed me up for a long time. I continued to use for a long time. Like I said, that's a story of its own. I now have 5-plus years clean and live a great family life with my girlfriend and child."
"I live in a pretty safe area with little violent crime. It's not uncommon to see women jogging down the road late at night unattended by the company of another person. Almost never see the police racing to the scene of a crime and no large news stories of violence ever come out about my town. It's a safe area. That being said, I always have been and still am confident in walking around by myself late at night or going places on my own without giving it any second thought.
I was walking home from a convenience store near my house around 10 p.m. one night. It was a pleasant night out and I had been cooped up in the house all day, so I figured it would be nice to get some fresh air and exercise. I was nearing the exit of the shopping plaza when I heard a muffled crying coming from the shadows over by a dumpster. Remember, this is a normally very safe area of town, so I had no reason to see this sound as suspicious. I walked over to the dumpster and poked my head around to see what was making the sound and when I looked around the corner, there was some dude squatting down while making the sound.
As soon as he saw me poke my head around, he lunged at me and tackled me to the ground. I managed to wrestle him off of me and yell, 'What the heck, dude?!' Before I could gather my bearings about what had just happened, he lunged at me again and tackled me once more. I kicked him off me again, but this time noticed he was holding something sharp in his hand. It didn't look like a knife but more like a sharp piece of broken glass. I was sitting on the ground and leaned back with my hands supporting me when I felt stinging in my palms. He had apparently tried stabbing me and ended up slicing my palms with whatever it was he had in his hands. That's when the adrenaline kicked in.
I don't know if this guy was crazy or desperate or what, but he rushed towards me again and, not having time to roll to the side or act quick enough to stand up, I shoved both of my feet forward as he was lunging toward me. I ended up kicking his hands in a way that pushed the sharp object into into his lower stomach/upper groin area. He groaned in pain and stumbled back a bit, so I used that opportunity to get up and bolt. I turned around and the guy kept chasing me. Given how close I was to my house, I knew I couldn't just lead him to where I lived since I could tell he wasn't going to let up. I fumbled for my phone to call 911, but the blood on my palms made me drop my phone before I could.
I led him to the sidewalk that ran along the main road so that any cars in the area could see me and see what was going on. I ended up getting into a wrestling match with the guy on the side of the road while hoping a good Samaritan saw the scene and called the cops. I don't know if anybody saw or not since I was caught up in the heat and adrenaline of the fight, but I ended up getting into a position where I picked the guy up over my shoulders, stood up then dropped him on his head WWE style. All I heard was a loud crack and his body went limp. I collapsed, exhausted, and just sat there for a second trying to process what just happened while waiting for the adrenaline to wear off and my body to stop shaking.
A car did end up driving by about two minutes later and the lady in the car yelled from the driver seat if 'my friend' and I were OK. I told her no and to call the cops. Cops showed up and I told them what happened. They got my statement and whatnot, examined my wounds, examined the other guy, etc. It turns out he was a known violent homeless man in the area with severe mental problems. Apparently, he had a track record of attacking people with broken bottles and stealing their wallets. I kept reassuring them it was all in self defense and the cops seemed to not even question my story. They did say, however, they would check the CCTV footage from the surrounding shops just in case and I told them to go right ahead. I went to the ER to get my hands sewn back up, was taken to the police station for some questioning, and was ultimately released a few hours later. There were a couple follow up interviews in the weeks following, but that was it.
How did it feel in the moment? Survival. Nothing else. I was simply protecting myself and the shock and adrenaline combined made me feel nothing more than raw survival instinct. The initial shock after the adrenaline wore off was pretty heavy since I had a hard time wrapping my head around what I had just done, but once I accepted the fact I had killed the guy, I moved on pretty quick. I don't lose sleep over it. I never had, nor have, nightmares about it. I didn't fall into a spiral of self-loathing or depression or substance abuse like a lot of other people when facing a situation like this. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I did not develop PTSD or anything of the like.
I don't want to come off as callus or psychopathic, but I really just didn't care that I killed someone else. Not in the sense that I enjoyed it, but in the sense that ending another person's life just didn't matter to me once it happened. It didn't upset or disturb me in the slightest that I killed someone. Did I want to kill him? Of course not. I would have much rather not been in that situation at all or at least gotten him in a subdued position where the police could have just arrested him without me doing what I did. I consider it both a blessing and a curse that it doesn't bother me. A blessing since I don't need therapy or anything like that, but a curse because it makes me question myself and how I perceive others to a degree."