Serial Killers have long fascinated the general public, not only because their crimes are so heinous, but also because they embody the extremes to which psychological disorders can take a person. In the name of psychological insight, the lives of serial killers are dissected down to the most minute detail in the hopes of understanding what factors contribute to making a 'monster'. The Crime Classification Manual defines serial murder as "three or more separate events in three or more separate locations with an emotional cooling off period in between the homicides." (Douglas et al., 1992). What motivates the serial killer is an area of much research. Whether we are any further ahead in our understanding of the psychotic personality is debatable, however. The question of environment vs. genetics is a matter of contention in the study of serial killers, as is the question of power vs. pleasure motive. By looking at such serial killers as John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz and Jeffrey Dahmer, we hope to gain a clearer understanding of the many influences in developing the antisocial, or psychotic personality. "Antisocial personalities feel little and fear little, and in extreme cases, the results can be horrifyingly tragic." (Myers, 2001,p562).
One of the main considerations that goes into the study of antisocial (or psychotic) personalities, is the question of causality. Is someone born to be a serial killer, or does the extreme (often abusive) environment of childhood shape them into what they will later become? Like most nature vs. nurture dichotomies, the answer appears to lie somewhere in between. While it is true that most serial killers suffered through an abusive childhood, there is evidence of a biological influence as well. Studies done with adopted siblings and twins show a genetic component in the prevalence of criminal behavior. (Myers, 2001). Furthermore, brain patterns differ between violent offenders and the normal brain, indicating some contribution of biology to the violent crimes carried out by serial killers.
Genetic influences help wire the brain. Adrian Raine compared PET scans of 41 murderers' brains with those from people of similar age and sex. Raine found…… [Read More]
Serial killers are not common, but they are fascinating because of the need to understand the phenomenon.
There is no one definition of a serial killer, but there are some defining characteristics that set them apart from other murderers.
Serial killers present serious issues for law enforcement, due to the tendency for serial killers to blend in easily and appear "normal."
There is no one exact definition of a serial killer, from a legal, historical, psychological, or sociological viewpoint.
"In the past thirty years, multiple definitions of serial murder have been used by law enforcement, clinicians, academia, and researchers," (Blackwelder, 2010).
"There has yet to be a universally accepted definition for serial murder," Nelson (2004)
Definitions have differed over time, and differ according to context and culture (Nelson, 2004).
B. Definitions of serial killer differ on the grounds of:
Minimum number of murders: in some cases is 2, in others 3, and yet others the minimum number is 4. These discrepancies that can make a difference in crime statistics and how to approach theories of criminology and psychology. Right now the FBI sets the minimum number of kills to 2 but that is not always the case; Nelson (2004) notes that many definitions require 3 or more kills.
2. Types of motive/motivation classification. Sometimes they are defined as sexually deviant: as in the "offender's behavior and the physical evidence observed at the scene will reflect sadistic, sexual overtones," (cited by Nelson, 2004). However, "all serial murderers are not sexually based. There are many other motivations for serial murders including anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking," (Blackwelder).
3. Temporal and geographic characteristics of the crimes. Blackwelder (2010) claims, "Most serial killers have a very defined geographic area of operation. They conduct their killings within comfort zones that are often defined by an anchor point." However, some serial killers might move around due to their lifestyle choice.
4. Psychological characteristics of the killer, including predilection for sexual fetish. However, some experts believe that the psychological characteristics of the killer are not important at all; that what is important is the pattern or behavior. The term serial killer is…… [Read More]
Currently the DSM-IV refers to both these as antisocial personality disorder with the following criteria:
A. Pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15 as indicated by at least three of the following: 1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior. 2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure. 3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead. 4. Irritability and aggressiveness. 5. Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others. 6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain work behavior or honor financial obligations. 7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by indifference to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
B. Individual is at least 18 years of age
C. The occurrence of the behavior is not exclusively during the course of a schizophrenic or manic episode
D. Evidence of conduct disorder onset before age 15 (Giannangelo 8)
There is also a similarity in the childhoods of serial killers. Many demonstrate early aggression toward animals and people. The literature is full of animal torture and killing in this stage, as well as forced sexual activity and incident of arson. These are all symptomatic of conduct disorder. Lack of remorse is also a prevalent element of this cadre and while few serial killers do admit some empathy for their victims, it is not enough to prevent them from killing again, hence also the similarity with addiction (Jenkins).
Causal factors for an antisocial personality include a possible biological predisposition (Andreasen, 1984, p. 252), childhood trauma (shared by the vast majority of serial killers), possible neurological factors in the control of impulsivity regarding serotonin levels in the brain, and heredity. Those diagnosed with antisocial personalities also share deep-seated doubts regarding their own adequacy (Havens, 1992). Most antisocials are men, again reflecting serial killer demographics. (Giannangelo 8)
While rare, this gender bias in serial killers is occasionally bypassed. Often falling into their own separate category, female serial killers are more often than not associated with therapeutic settings in hospitals or nursing homes. These are nurturing settings that also allow them to be…… [Read More]
A lot of the serial killers recognize that killing these people are wrong, this is true because when they are finished with their crime, they find some kind of way to dispose of the body.
In the end, it is a scary fact is that the United Sates is the most leading serial killing country in the entire world. It appears that no other country can even match the U.S. It is obvious that new serial killers or cases seem to be popping up every year which can cause quite a bit of a panic from people. It is also a slightly scary thing that there are more serial killers running around that there are police that would actually admit it. . As Pat Brown makes the point earlier in the essay, serial killers actually believe that they cannot get caught. There is an arrogant side to all of them. Most of them like to show up to the crime scene and even at times like Jack the Ripper, like to toy with the police. It can be concluded that these killers want to be in control of the game and some of them actually want to be caught. To a serial killer this is all like a sport much like playing a game of hockey or tennis.
Works… [Read More]
Serial killers have struck fear in the hearts of people, yet the public remains fascinated and intrigued by the crimes perpetrated by these individuals. There are several theories and factors that have been attributed to serial killers in an attempt to explain their behaviors. Furthermore, by identifying the behaviors that are exhibited by serial killers, law enforcement professionals are able to gather information about these serial killers that will assist in the apprehension of the criminal.
In the majority of serial homicides, a motivating factor, in addition to domination and manipulation of a victim, is the sexual gratification and desire that is experienced by the serial killer. Serial killers murder individuals because they believe, and feel, that the act will fulfill them and they will continue to murder people as long as they can (Douglas 191). The definition of serial killer may be distinguished from that of a spree killer and/or mass murderer through variety of factors. Whereas a spree killer will murder a number of victims at different locales over a short period of time and a mass murderer will play an endgame strategy in which he or she does not expect to survive, a serial killer will hunt humans primarily for the sexual thrill that they derive from the act (14). It is not often that law enforcement officials and behavioral scientists are able to get a first-hand glimpse into the world of a serial killer at the time that the attacks are taking place (Arrigo 98). One of the factors that may prevent law enforcement officials and behavioral scientists from observing serial murders at the time they occur is the cooling off period often exhibited by the criminals perpetrating the crime. Because a serial killer commits murders on at least three separate and distinct occasions, the cooling off period between each crime may last days, weeks, months, or even years (Douglas 190).
Serial killers may also be divided into three different categories including the serial murders of patients by nurses and doctors, the…… [Read More]
This is in direct contrast to male serial killers, who more often select random, unknown individuals as their victims (Mouzos & West, 2007). In fact, it is estimated that around 70% of female serial killers select family members or someone who is dependent on them as a victim. An example of this is both filicide and infanticide, which are crimes most commonly committed by women (Aki, 2003, cited in Mouzos & West, 2007). In addition to this, cases of health care professionals murdering their patients are women in around half of all cases, both in the U.S. And other countries (Yorker et al., 2006). The majority of these cases have occurred where the female in question was a nurse, murdering either children or elderly victims in their care. The explanation of this pattern is not clear, given that there is little in terms of extrinsic gains achieved. There is also little in terms of qualitative evidence available with which to interpret these patterns.
It would appear that while female serial killers are very rare, they do differ significantly from their male counterparts. In response to this, classifications have had to be developed to take account of these differences. Most notably, there appear to be significant differences in motivation behind the killings, and also in the victims and methods selected. Despite this, there is a lack of information which allows for thorough analysis of patterns in these crimes. Silvio et al. (2006) suggest that there are a number of problems which hinder theoretical formation around female serial killers. This includes problems with the qualitative data which is available, predominantly brought about by a lack of access to these serial killers from which interviews can be conducted. Silvio et al. also suggest that there are reliability issues with much of the data available, including that gathered directly from the killer. A further problem which may also lead to discrepancies and uncertainty is the small number of cases on which analysis is based, as female serial killers are far rarer than their male counterparts. This is important, as by understanding the patterns in the crimes it may be possible to take more effective measures in order to reduce and prevent such occurrences.… [Read More]
This is often seen as the most important aspect to focus on. However, it has also been realized that societal and cultural aspects can also influence the development of the serial killer.
Psychological causes that are related to the psyche of the serial killer include the aforementioned Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Genetic predisposition and makeup are also given as a formative developmental cause of this crime. However, psychological and genetic aspects are often inadequate to explain the development of the serial killer. While a convicted killer like Ted Bundy was subject to forms of psychological abuse as a child, yet one of the most notorious serial killers, Jeffery Dahmer, was "..., born to two parents who loved and wanted him. His child hood was a happy one. He loved animals, and did not have a bit of trouble. " However, "When he reached the sixth grade, there was a downfall, when he began to fear others. "(Creekmore)
This would suggest that there are other factors at play in the development of the killer, such as social influences and experiences. For example, one of the main features of this type of criminal is that the serial killer is an individual who does not conform to the common social norms and values in society. This in turn can be related to psychological aspects such as lack of restraint and internal control. Researchers such as Egger state that in most cases the serial killer is not mentally ill in any accepted medical sense but rather that they are sick in a different sense.
Though their crimes may be sickening, they are not sick in either a medical or a legal sense. Instead, the serial killer is typically a sociopathic personality who lacks internal control -- guilt or conscience -- to guide his own behavior, but has an excessive need to control and dominate others. He definitely knows right from wrong, definitely realizes he has committed a sinful act, but simply doesn't care about his human prey.
Egger et al. 5)
There has therefore been an increasing amount of research into the way that societal influences, in combination with…… [Read More]
All of these killers had problem childhoods, often including sexual abuse. Almost all of them had some kind of psychological disorder, and many were declared criminally insane.
All the killers had a compulsion to continue killing. None of them stopped with one or two victims, in fact, the more they killed the more they wanted to kill. In addition, most of the male serial killers became increasingly violent and disturbed as they continued to kill. Authors Fox and Levin state, "It is commonplace for serial killers to increase the level of brutality as they get bored with less vicious behavior and as they grow more comfortable with murder. It is also not unusual for them to branch out to more respectable victims as they become convinced that they are smarter than the police and will never be apprehended" (Fox, and Levin 76). Most of the killers admitted to what they had done and knew how many people they had killed. Some almost seemed to take pride in what they had done. The only killer never to admit what he did is Randy Kraft.
Many of the killers firmly believed their victims "deserved" to die, somehow. Wuornos believed she had been "raped" and killed in self-defense, even though she worked as a prostitute. For some reason, Toppan and Terrell both felt their elderly charges would be better off dead, and Shawcross believed he was doing society a favor by murdering prostitutes. Kraft never admitted his murders, and so, he never took responsibility for the killings or said why he killed. They all tended to dehumanize their victims as well, and seeing them as deserving to die helped in this dehumanization process.
Most of the killers seemed like fairly normal middle class people. They held down jobs and some were homeowners. The women were dysfunctional throughout their lives, although they seemed to have somewhat less abusive childhoods than the men did. The women were also all mentally ill in some way. The men seemed to be mentally ill because of the enormity and depravity of their crimes, as well. Dahmer, Shawcross, and Kraft all used the insanity…… [Read More]
Serial and Mass Murders: Forensic Psychiatry at Its Best
Forensic Psychiatry: Mass Murderers and Serial Killers
The status of Forensic Psychiatry has suffered ignominy regarding its ethical standpoint and pragmatic effectiveness for far too long (Arboleda-Florez, 2006). That it has at all been able to gain significance as a super specialty has been mainly due to the diligent and sustained efforts of a few scattered handfuls of them who chose to brave the convicts and study prison inmates. Today, the contributions of such forensic super specialists in the legal proceedings are proving to have a major influence in lawsuits involving mass murders as well as serial murders.
The journey of Forensic Psychiatric has greatly benefitted in medico-legal adjudications in recent times. From being able to cast an offender solely as a criminal to a mentally abnormal, as well as, that requires a different treatment than being simply banished from social life is an issue that has been highlighted and put across effectively (Arboleda-Florez, 2006). There have been four milestones that provided forensic science the status it has gained as of date. The first and foremost is the understanding by legal community that a mentally sick state of an offender is a possible cause of crime. The second and of far reaching consequence is that of declaring an individual legally insane, conclusively. These landmarks led to the formulation of treating the offender under medical supervision in a very different light as opposed to the other prison inmates. The fourth and most important development involved the societal outlook to such cases and acceptance of the terrifying illness (Arboleda-Florez, 2006).
Forensic Psychiatric practitioners have greatly benefitted as a result of recognition of the co-relation amid mental state and criminal impetus. On different legal planes and levels, the points of contention revolve around the ability to stand prosecution, legal insanity sanctions and the third, dangerous impulses. The ability of accused to fully comprehend the legal proceedings and provide defense appropriately is adjudicated. This may often require the individual to be offered medico-legal assistance, courtesy the Psychiatric Forensic experts. The trial of person in question is nowadays deem fit only if he is fit for trial. The super specialist psychiatrists are entrusted with the task of assuring the court about competency to stand trial upon desired response to psychological and psychiatric treatment (Pinals, 2005). Acquittal of a mentally incompetent or unstable…… [Read More]
Early Signs of a Serial Killer
While every serial killer is different, there are certain signs that tend to be common to them. Many of these signs are seen well before adulthood, some even as early as childhood. Some of the major signs include a tendency for aggressive behavior, a tendency to engage in sadist behavior, an obsession with examples of behavior linked to serial killing, and a lack of empathy for others. Each of these four major signs will now be looked at in more detail.
One aspect of behavior that is common to serial killers is a tendency for aggressive behavior.
Aggression is defined as "behavior intended to injure another person" (Seamon & Kenrick 592). This aggression can be physical, for example, in the form of hitting another person. It can also be non-physical, for example, calling someone a hostile name. Aggression often begins as early as childhood. At this stage, it is normally seen via the way that the child responds to problems. For example, a child with aggressive tendencies will often respond to stressful situations by acting in aggressive ways. This can include shouting, yelling, and hitting. This action can be directed at the person's parents, teachers, or at peers. As children get older aggressive behavior continues. In school, some individuals begin to bully other children, some intentionally hurt others by name-calling or by using physical violence against others. Any of these kinds of actions are a possible sign of the person becoming a serial killer. Another possible sign is linked to the idea that there is an opposite to aggressive behavior, which is known as prosocial behavior. Some individuals at the adolescent age will already have an idea of how their behavior is judged as being wrong by others. This can result in them choosing to hide or repress their aggressive tendencies. For this reason, there may be no obvious signs of aggression. However, the lack of prosocial behavior can still be identified. Prosocial behavior refers to behavior that helps develop social relationships. This is considered to be the opposite of aggressive behavior. One author notes that, "aggression and prosocial…… [Read More]
serial killers and feminism. The writer uses a book and a film to explore what the feminist film contributes to the understanding by society of serial killers. There were two sources used to complete this paper.
Very few things strike fear in the hearts of Americans the way that serial killers do. Serial killers place terror in the hearts of many because of their very unpredictability. They strike without warning and there doesn't seem to be a logical reason for the pattern that they choose initially. Once the pattern begins to emerge there is often a reason or pattern for the choices the killer makes in victims, but initially it seems like nothing more than a crap shoot and people are afraid of their strikes. For many years people have studied the patterns and lives of serial killers in the effort to establish how they are created. Other studies are conducted to discuss the pattern of the victims of the serial killers. Since the 1960's the women's movement has been in full force. The world has watched a metamorphic from housewife and helpmate to equality in the world between the genders. There have been several works published that have examined the feminist role, and reaction to serial killers.
In Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol J. Clover three are several examinations that produce some understanding about the feminist film theory and how that theory has contributed to the world's understanding of serial killers.
Clover writes the book as an examination of three different types of horror films. She discusses slasher films, occult films and satanic possession films. In addition she writes about rape/revenge films (Clover, 1992). Clover presents the idea that male spectators of the films often identify with the female victim heroes. When one watches a killer film one sees at least one victim become a hero. She fights with everything she has, she refuses to give up and she brings the killer to justice with…… [Read More]
Female Serial Killers
Investigate criminal profiling used by the F.B.I. Of female serial killers and provide law enforcement with information on identifying them.
While it is a fact that a male serial killer would commit murders based on sex, in other words, sex related crimes, a female serial killer is a much more complicated and complex character, whose motivations in committing the crime of murder is manifold and range over a wide variety of reasons. In most cases, the female serial killer often goes unnoticed and goes on committing her crimes, undetected, over a great number of years. She is quiet, methodical, and is able to plan and execute with precision, so successful at remaining hidden that, in all the years of American history, there has only been a single female serial killer who was identified as a serial killer. In general, a female serial killer rarely, if ever, commits murder over some sexual motive, and her motives are generally subtler, and by their very nature, allow the killer to be hidden from the eyes and the arm of the law for many years. The female serial killer's victims are generally children or the elderly, since it is these people who can be overpowered easily by a single woman. (Kelleher; Kelleher, Female Serial Killers)
Within the age bracket of 14 to 55 years a female serial killer made her first killing. The archetypal female serial killer stated taking lives past the age of 25. The persons behind the killing those who were exclusively part of a team usually started with their deadly profession when they were less than the age of 25. The typical age of the serial killers was significantly different subject to her intention and procedure. Those women who were engaged as contract killers -Black Widow and Profit and Crime were in the killing for an amazingly extended period of time before they were held for killing that has been committed for certain other reason. The two types of Black Widow and Profit and Crime can be strongly linked. On the other end of the spectrum, a killer's professional long life was the categorization of sexual assertion. These executors of crime develop a propensity of…… [Read More]
Ted Bundy -- Serial Killer
Ted Bundy: Serial Killer
Theodore Robert Bundy aka Ted Bundy, was born Theodore Robert Cowell to Louise Cowell on November 24, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers. After spending eight weeks in the home Louise went to her parents house to raise her son in Philadelphia. Ted Bundy, serial killer grew up believing that his mother was his sister and his grandparents were his parents until in 1951 when Louise and Ted moved to Tacoma, Washington where Louise married Johnnie Bundy, a military cook. Ted Bundy was handsome wel liked and a good students. Following school Ted attended the University of Puget Sound and although he achieved academically he felt inferior to his classmates who were mostly a group of wealthy individuals. Ted Bundy's first love was a girl with long brunette hair and this young lady jilted him and he was became obsessed with her and suffered a deep depression. During this time he learned that his parents were his grandparents and that his sister was his mother.
Ted in Politics
Ted Bundy replaced his shyness with a new false front of confidence. Bundy went to work for Washington's Republic Governor, Dan Evans who upon being elected appointed Bundy ot the Crime Prevention Advisory Committee in Seattle, Washington. Ted Bundy was dating a woman, had his old girlfriend once again in love with him and had a strong footing in politics. However, in 1974 young women were coming up missing from college campuses in Washington and Oregon. Among the missing, was Lynda Ann Healy, a radio announcer that was 21-year of age. The women were reported to have been approached by a man named Ted at a Seattle state park and were seen going off with the man never to be seen again. The young women who were missing were slim and had long hair parted in the middle.
Ted the Serial Killer
Bundy enrolled in school at the University of Utah in 1974 and in November of the same year, Carol DaRoach was attacked at a mall in Utah by a man in a police officer uniform. DaRonch managed to escape from…… [Read More]
Doss met third husband Arlie Lanning through the lonely hearts column. Lanning died of apparent heart failure, but the house, which Lanning had left to his sister, burned down, leaving the insurance proceeds for Doss. Before Doss left town, Lanning's mother died in her seat. Doss had gone to her sister Dovie's house, and, shortly after Doss' arrival, Dovie died in her sleep. Doss married fourth husband Richard Morton, poisoned her mother, and then killed Morton. Doss married Samuel Doss, and killed him four months after their marriage. Doss had taken out two life insurance policies on her husband. The doctor ordered an autopsy because of the life insurance policies, and the cause of death was determined to be poison.
When Nannie was arrested, she maintained an eerily cheerful demeanor for the public. She giggled and laughed, not showing remorse for her actions, or even seeming to clearly comprehend what she had done. She confessed to killing her husbands, her mother, her sister, her grandson, and her mother-in-law. She was charged with the murder of Samuel Doss, pleaded guilty to the crime, and received a life sentence. She was never prosecuted for the other murders. Nannie died in prison.
Nannie's story demonstrates several factors that link her to a serial killer. First, unlike Belle, Nannie's motives were not always financial; she did not always profit from her murders. Furthermore, she had a difficult childhood, raised by a stepfather who beat her and her mother. She was most likely the product of an unplanned pregnancy, since her mother was a single mother. Nannie reported receiving a head injury when she was a child, and she blamed it for her violent behavior. Furthermore, Nannie was known to have mood swings, which could have been indicative of a biochemical imbalance. Her father prohibited her from dating, which actually made her different from her peers, and could be described as an outwardly-imposed sexual deviance. Once married, she engaged in several extra-marital affairs, in a pursuit of true love. In fact, her reported…… [Read More]
There is a lot that we do not know about serial killers. There is a lot that we will never know, that no study, psychological evaluation or case study would ever be able to tell people. Criminal and behavior profiling is a start, but there will always be limitations and gaps in any research involving someone's mind, especially a mind as seemingly complex in nature as that of a serial killer. A lack of guilt, a lack of feeling and sensitivity and the ability to derive joy from the pain and suffering of another is the type of thing that psychologists will probably never be able to fully understand.
The next, and most critical step in the field of serial killer profiling may be a behavioral analysis. There are many different types of serial killers out there and only a further evaluation into the brains of different types of killers can even begin to shed a bit of light onto the inner wiring of such dangerous, unpredictable people. While it may be difficult to face the fact that not all killers are psychologically predisposed to being killers, it is the truth in many instances. Only further review and continued research can help drill down to the root and cause as to why those who kill others for sport do the things they do.
Works… [Read More]
Serial Killers - Psychopathic Behavior
One of the most common challenges impacting society, is determining when a person is showing psychopathic behavior. In the world of healthcare, these signs can underscore someone who is a serial killer that will strike out at the most vulnerable patients. This is the case with Kristen Gilbert. She was a respected nurse, who was known for her professionalism. However, between 1995 and 1996 over 40 people died on her watch. This raised concerns about her involvement in these incidents. (Farragher, 2000)
After a lengthy investigation, she was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. It uncovered that Kristen was a very cold and calculating person. This led to her targeting veterans who trusted her and were unable to stand up for themselves. To fully understand the way the investigation evolved requires carefully examining the procedures, the role of the community, the levels of communication between stakeholders, the functions of different programs and the impact on the community / law enforcement. Together, these different elements will highlight the way the investigation was conducted and how various segments worked with one another to arrest her. (Farragher, 2000)
Describe the investigation. How did the investigators proceed? Was there any interaction between the killer and the police? How did investigators finally catch the killer?
The investigation involved law enforcement working with the administration, community, coworkers and friends. It started by examining the number of cases and how the cause of death occurred. At the same time, law enforcement looked at her criminal history and the number of complaints they received. This is showing how she has a violent side that is targeted at white males. These insights can be used to establish a motive and opportunity. Once this takes place, is the point surveillance footage will be collected to place her in the room at the time of death. Each incident will add to the total amounts of evidence against Kristen. This is when they can show how her actions were premeditated and designed to avoid detection. There was some interaction, with the police interviewing her several times. The way they were able to catch her was through…… [Read More]
Dennis Rader (the BTK Killer)
Dennis Rader BTK: The Killer
Serial killers can be defined as people who murder at least three people in at least three separate occasions over a span of time mainly to satisfy themselves psychologically. While many of them suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder, they adapt and present a normal front to people around them - a state Hervey Cleckley refers to as 'mask of sanity'. Some of the murders may have some sexual aspect to them. The murders may have been executed in such a way that there was some common characteristic in them. This could be sex, occupation, race, etc. Nonetheless, the victim's and the serial killer's race is seldom the same (Vronsky, 2004).
It is not yet known who exactly coined the term serial killer. Many believe that Robert Ressler, an FBI agent, or Robert D. Keppel may have been the one who coined it. The term came to popular usage due to the infamous criminal activities of David Berkowitzin and Ted Bundy (Vronsky, 2004).
Dennis Rader, alias BTK killer, believed that he had reached an understanding with the Wichita, Kan., police lt. Ken Landwehr, who was then heading the task force that was then making attempts at catching him (Bardsley, Bell & Lohr).
Before Dennis was arrested, he had asked the police whether communications with them made through a floppy disk could be traced to him through any specific computer (Bardsley, Bell & Lohr).
Police's response was through a classified ad in a local newspaper. They told Rader that it would be OK to communicate through a floppy disk (Hansen, 2006).
The following weeks saw BTK send a floppy disk to a local TV station. Police traced the disk to a certain computer at Rader's church and it was discovered that Rader was actually BTK. Testing of DNA samples proved this. He had named himself 'BTK' which was an acronym standing for bind, torture and kill (Hansen, 2006).
The days that followed saw BTK put in custody.…… [Read More]
Allely, C., Minnis, H., Thompson, L., Wilson, P., Gillberg, C. (2014).
Neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in serial killers and mass murderers. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 19(3): 288-301.
The researchers in this study conduct a meta-analysis of relevant literature including academic studies and legal sources in order to assess the "complex interaction of biological, psychological, and sociological factors" that contribute to the making of a serial killer (p. 288). What the study finds is that a "significant proportion of mass or serial killers have had neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder or head injury" (p. 288). This finding indicates that nature plays a distinct role in the motivation of serial killers.
However, it is important to note that correlation does not equate to causation and the study merely depicts a correlation between autism spectrum disorder and serial killing: it does not assert that the former is the cause of the latter, just that it is a common theme. For example, the study notes that out of 239 serial killers analyzed for the study, 28% "had definite, highly probable or possible" autism spectrum disorder. Roughly 20% of the same sample had suffered a head injury. Thus, the conclusion of the researchers is that there is a correlation between a negatively impacted nature and the development of serial killers.
The study calls for more investigation into this correlation and is significant because it draws attention to head trauma and/or biological dysfunction as a role player or facilitator in the serial killer's natural motivation. For this reason, the study makes a supportable claim for the nature side of the debate over whether it is nature or nurture that leads serial killers to act.
Highsmith, J., Mercado, M., Hernandez, J., Madrigal, S. (2015). Nature (MAOA) and Nurture in a Criminal. UC Merced Undergraduate Research Journal, 8(1): 1-10.
Highsmith et…… [Read More]
Some of the 'tools of trade' a killer could incorporate to torture his victims as he seeks to facilitate his perversion include but they are not limited to "leather slave collars, handcuffs, cigarette lighters, whips, and adhesive or duct tape" (Keppel and Birnes, 2008).
Information about Torture: Its Relevance in Understanding a Killer's Signature
Peter Sutcliffe, yet another brutal and sadistic serial killer, can be seen as a classic example of those who went far than it was necessary to kill their victims. In some cases, killers tend to engage in a variety of other actions beyond the actual crime. These actions could include but they are not limited to unnecessary stabbing and some kind of bondage or binding. Peter Sutcliffe for instance was popular for repeatedly stabbing and slashing his victims.
Signature killers in the words of Flowers (2006) "tend to leave behind a 'calling card' or psychological signature unique to them at each crime scene." Information about torture could help investigators understand a killer's signature. Such info could particularly help the said investigators establish links between crimes. Beyond inflicting injuries that bring about the death of their victims, killers driven by the intense need to derive satisfaction from the pain and suffering of their victims go to extreme lengths to act out their fantasies. For instance, prior to their eventual killing, most of Richard Cottingham's victims were subjected to what appeared to be vicious and unusual sexual attacks. Cottingham's sexual arousal largely relied on subjecting his victims to unimaginable pain. In the course of satisfying his perverted desires, he routinely handcuffed his victims, performed anal sodomy upon them, and bit or tore their breasts. This according to Keppel and Birnes (2008) is what Cottingham did to his last would-be murder victim who was however lucky to have her life saved before the killer could torment her further. These aspects of torture and infliction of pain were consistent with Cottingham's…… [Read More]