Dr. Gary Kaniuk Consultation Triage & Testimony Case Study

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Dr. Gary Kaniuk Consultation Triage & Testimony in Forensic Psychology

Yvette Riley

Female Serial Killers -- An Introduction

The heinous act of murder has been outlawed by various authorities, states, jurisdictions, and by many religions for thousands of years. One of the best known of the Ten Commandments ("Thou Shalt Not Kill") is explicitly clear on killing. But when the perpetrator kills more than one person, and continues the killing at intervals, it is called serial killing and that is the subject of this research.

given that only one out of every six serial killers is female, there has been a lack of understanding and also a lack of empirical research that leads to a better understanding of these hideous crime sprees by females. That dearth of knowledge should be supplemented with more research.

Female Serial Killers -- Data & Histories in the Literature

The...

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Those five are: a) "black widow" (she kills "multiple spouses, partners and relatives"; b) "angel of death" (in order to gain "medical attention" she kills people that are in her care; for example she may be a caregiver or nurse); c) "sexual predator" (this female kills others in sexual homicides); d) "revenge" (hate and/or jealousy motivates this killer); and e) "profit or crime" (this female seeks money, profit) (Taylor, et al., 2012).
A scholarly article in the journal Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health provides a literature review of existing studies on female serial killers, and the most common motive in this investigative piece was found to be "material gain" or gratification that runs along the lines of material gain (which is linked to "e" in the paragraph above) (Frei, et al., 2006, p. 167). The next…

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In their research the authors reference Hickey (1986) who studied 34 cases of female serial killers between the years 1795 and 1988; half of those serial killers had a male accomplice and the average age of the women was 33 years. Six of the 34 women were nurses, which fits the FBI category "angel of death" (Frei, 169). The authors also reference studies by Wilson and Hilton (1998), who analyzed 105 female serial killers; they found that the "preferred means of killing was poisoning" (Frei, 169). Meanwhile a study of 86 cases in the U.S. (Kelleher and Kelleher, 1998) found that the most common victims were "...children, the elderly or spouses"; the majority of women doing the killing in these cases were "black widows" and they had active killing sprees that lasted more than ten years (Frei, 169). Why do women become serial killers? "Psychopathic traits and grossly abusive childhood experiences" have consistently been described as reasons for these crimes in both male and female serial murderers (Frei, 169).

The Case of Aileen Wuornos

Aileen Wuornos is a notorious serial killer whose story can be found in many journals and law enforcement documents. In the Journal of Criminal Justice Research & Education the authors describe Wuornos as the "first predatory female serial killer" who was a Florida prostitute and killed the men she picked up as "Johns" (Weatherby, et al., 2008). In a twelve-month period -- from December, 1989 to November, 1990 -- it was reported that Wuornos killed seven male "johns" (Weatherby). After being charged with six


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