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What You Did Not Know About Serial Killers

Updated on November 28, 2018
Pamela99 profile image

I'm interested in social issues, good relationships, problems of daily living, jobs and advances for safer living conditions for many years.

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What is a Serial Killer

A serial killer has commited 2 or more murders in separate events over a period of time. The time frame may range from a few days to several months. The common view of serial killers in the US is often based on movies and TV shows as a hedonistic, psychotic murderer, which is not realistic. The public became more interested in serial killers after the movie “Silence of the Lambs” was featured.

They are not all hedonistic, which would totally be focused on personal violence and sexual gratification. However, many want to dominate and humiliate their victims. Another thing that links them together is once they make the first kill a serial killer is going to kill again and again.

Serial Killer Facts

Serial killers mirror the overall racial diversification of the US population, which means they are white, African-American, Hispanic and Asian. Also, some are also women. These murders are not all sexually-based.

Other motivations include:

  • Thrill seeking
  • Anger for a variety of reasons
  • Financial gain
  • Attention seeking

Serial killers often live in plain sight with decent jobs, homes and even families. Most of them are not reclusive, social misfits that live alone They appear to be normal citizens in a community, and some even attend church. People that blend into the community may be overlooked by police for this very reason.

Serial killers tend to have very defined geographic areas of operation, as they like to conduct their murders within their comfort zone. They often have a specific anchor point, such as a place of residence, employment or the residence of a relative. Some keep an item from the victim or they take a photo. They may even visit the corpse. It is not typical for a serial murderer to kill while traveling on an interstate.

Personality disorders are common and include the antisocial personality, psychopathy and other psychiatric disorders. They are not typically adjudicated as insane under the law. The serial killers are not extremely intelligent either in many cases. When offenders commit their first murder they are inexperienced. It may not have even been planned. However, as they gain experience their confidence grows with each new kill, which sometimes leads to mistakes. After several successful murders they may believe they will never get caught.

Exploring the Mind of a Killer - Jim Fallon

What Causes Someone to Become a Serial Killer?

Serial killers, like all people, are are product of heredity and environment. Our behavior is always influenced by our life experiences. Many people grow up in a poor area, are abused or neglected, but they do not all commit serial murders.

When a serial killer thinks about committing a murder a number of steps are necessary. They will select and target the chosen victim. They have to plan the approach, how to get control, commit the murder then, dispose of the body without getting caught. The logistics of carrying out each of these steps can become complex as multiple geographical sites are usually involved.

Life experiences certainly do influence us, and a serial killer has often grown up without the development of healthy social coping mechanisms, which may develop into violent behavior. Contributing factors that may cause violence include: a pattern of alcoholism or drug abuse in the family, parental cruelty, rejection, neglect or family violence.

This still does not explain why one child becomes a serial killer and another does not. Some reports indicate that boys being born with an extra chromosome (XYY) instead the normal XY are likely be violent. There are also head injury cases that have caused a person to become violent when the individual had no history of violence before the injury. Further study is necessary to determine the relevance of these conditions.

The bottom line is there is no genetic template or any set of traits in particular that indicate an individual will become a serial killer.

Criminal Profiling

In 1970, criminal profiling began by the FBI, and Agent Teton gave his first FBI profile in Amarillo, Texas. In 1972, the FBI Academy opened in Quantico, VA.

There is a nationwide FBI database called VICAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) that aids in determining if there is a particular pattern or signature that can link separate homicides. The routine steps after a homicide occurs include a thorough investigation, collection of evidence and completing the autopsy. Once all the evidence is gathered it is entered into VICAP database to look for those common patterns.

Investigators look at the modus operandi (MO) of the crime. The MO will include the whole crime, which includes luring the victim and how they were restrained. A serial killer’s signature may be the way they pose their victims following the murder, or perhaps they alway leave their victims in a specific place. The mutilation or the method of torture can also be a signature.

Are Serial Killers Similar?

FBI Agency Support

The National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) is another component of the FBI’s Criminal Incident Response Group (CIRG) that is also located in Quantico, VA. Their mission is to provide behaviorally-based support to all law enforcement agencies. Specifically, they aid in “the investigation of repetitive or unusual crimes, from the perspective of law enforcement, behaviors and motivations”.

This particular research yields valuable insight into the investigative techniques that improve the effectiveness in capturing these dangerous criminals. The motivation of the murderer is the perspective that is evaluated, because the “why” part of the investigation is so important.

Gary Ridgeway


Some Well-Known US Serial Killers

  1. Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, murdered at least 49 women, and many were found along the Green River in Washington state. They were primarily prostitutes or teenage runaways. He was married for the third time when he was captured. He worked as a truck painter and attended church regularly while often reading the Bible at home. He also frequently picked up prostitutes for sex at the same time he was killing others. He admitted to 70 murders during his interrogation.
  2. Jeffrey Dahmer is considered to be one of the most heinous serial killers in US history. He raped, dismembered the bodies of those he murdered, which was at least 17 young men. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1995, but he was murdered by a fellow inmate in Wisconsin.
  3. Robert Yates killed 17 prostitutes while he was married and had five children. Plus, he was a decorated Army National Guard helicopter pilot. He actually buried one of the women he murdered is his yard just under his bedroom window. When he was caught he took a plea deal and was sentenced to 408 years in jail.
  4. Richard Ramirez “The Night Stalker” killed 14 women in the 1980s. He killed people near and in their homes. His picture was in the newspaper, so people recognized him. People physically attacked him, and the police came to his rescue. He was given the death sentence but died of cancer.
  5. Carl Eugene Watts, “Sunday Morning Slasher”, was an African-American serial killer who was believed to have murdered his first woman at age 15. He said he began to fantasize about torturing and killing girls and young woman at age 12. He received life without parole but died of prostate cancer.

Jeffery Dalmer


In Summary

Despite the myth about serial killers wanting to get caught, very few willingly turn themselves in. Some have been caught in unique ways. For instance, Robert Joseph Zani wrecked his car while carrying his tenth victim, and a highway patrol officer stopped Randy Kraft for suspected drunk driving, and he had a dead man next to him.

Serial killers have been tough to catch at times, and they can surely terrorize the area where they commit their horrendous murders. Fortunately profiling has evolved over the past few decades and the VICAP database is very helpful in finding these serial killers.


Submit a Comment

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 days ago from Sunny Florida

    cheaptrick, Yes, I thought serial killers looking so average and sometimes having families was unexpected in my research. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • cheaptrick profile image


    4 days ago from the bridge of sighs

    Here for my 'Once in a blue moon' visit and saw this in the feed.I think it's funny how the comment you always hear when a serial killer is caught runs along the lines of...he looked so average,or normal,or he didn't Look like a serial killer.

    You clearly put a lot of time and work into this piece;It shows in your presentation...well done Pam.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Flourish. I have the same wish, and I appreciate your comments.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 days ago from USA

    I don't know how I missed this terrifying article, but I'm glad to have read it now. I hope that with the development of big data techniques federal law enforcement is even more adept at profiling suspects so they can be caught and brought to justice.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Genna, I can't imaging getting inside one of their heads. I would not want to do that either. I was more interested in what law enforcement was doing to catch them. I did not know you wrote a book about a serial killer. Have you written other books as well?

    I appreciae your comments.

  • Genna East profile image

    Genna East 

    6 days ago from Massachusetts, USA

    Hi Pamela. Chilling article but very interesting. A character in one of my stories (Neptune's Cradle) was a serial, and I had a very difficult time writing him and his motivations. A friend of mine who is a clinical therapist gave me some wonderful advice: You'll never get into his head -- don't even try. You can describe what he does, but not the why of it. Picture Hannibal Lecter behind the glass...take the passive, clinical approach, as if observing the movements of a spider. She was right, and the end result was a bit more chilling. Still, I will never attempt that again.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, I wish they could be identified and helped also. It is a difficult problem to say the least. Thanks for your comments.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    9 days ago from Houston, Texas

    I agree with Linda's comment. It is surely a gruesome subject. Too bad these types of people cannot be identified and helped prior to them becoming killers.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Linda, I tried not to focus too much on the victims so I could write a factual article about the advances in capturing them. Serial killers are so horrible as they seem to have no compassion at all for their victims. I appreciate your commens.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    10 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

    You've written about a gruesome topic, but you've covered it well. It's so sad to think of all the victims of the crimes that you've described.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Todd, Stalin's view is a a quick end to any murderer without saying this person was a serial murderer. That is very interesting. I know this has happened throughout the centuries. I was not aware of the super rich murderers. Obvoulsly Jack the Rippr in England is well known, yet they never caught him. Thanks Todd for this added information.

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    10 days ago from Kaufman, Texas

    Serial killers have always existed. It's not a new thing at all, and it is by no means an American thing either.

    Serial killers exist throughout human history, and in every culture. The saddest things happen when the killer is super rich, like E. Bathory, or Gilles de Rais.

    ....and then there was the Ripper of Rostov. Stalin had declared that murder only happened in capitalist nations, murder was a capitalist disease, he said.

    So in Stalin's Russia, if someone got murdered, it was TREASON, punishable by DEATH, to even talk about it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Paula, I only listed just a few of these killers as the article would have been huge otherwise. Charles Manson and Ted Bundy are 2 well known killers. The improving skills of our crime fighters is the only way we can get these killer more quickly. I appreciate your comments Paula.

  • fpherj48 profile image


    10 days ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Pam...Interesting and informative. It's safe to say we've all become familiar with the killers you mention here. Serial killing is and will remain a bizarre & frightening blight on our society. The advanced skills and methods of crime investigation as well as in-depth & ongoing study of these warped individuals, will result in better protection and solutions on behalf of the public. Good job, Pam... Paula

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Bill, Yes, I noticed there were serial killers in Washington, something no one wants nearby. I found the research for the article very interesting. I appreciate your comments.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    11 days ago from Olympia, WA

    This has always been a fascinating subject for me; living in Washington State, we are very familiar with serial killers thanks to Bundy and Ridgeway. :)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Victoria, This is an unusual topic choice for me too. Thanks for stoppping by and commenting.

  • VVanNess profile image

    Victoria Van Ness 

    11 days ago from Fountain, CO

    Wow! What a great article! I never thought I would be learning something about serial killers this morning.

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    11 days ago from Kaufman, Texas

    If you're into it, the show MINDHUNTER, by Netflix, was perfectly outstanding. It shows how a couple FBI guys, and a Lady, bucked all conventions and their own superiors, to establish protocols for serial killers.

    There is a book by the same name, and I have not read that, just saw the show.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Clive. You are right. Thanks for your comment.

  • clivewilliams profile image

    Clive Williams 

    11 days ago from Jamaica

    Serial Killers are always mentally unstable.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Readmikenow, I think many people are curious as to what makes a serial killer tick. I stayed out of the real gory details fof this article. Thanks for your comments.

  • Readmikenow profile image


    11 days ago

    Good article.

    I've always had a morbid fascination of serial killers. I know Robert Hansen would take is victims to an island off of Alaska, let them free, and then hunt them down. Really sick.

    There was also the BTK killer in Kansas. A very sick man.

    Enjoyed reading this.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Todd, I know what you mean about the abyss. I probably should have included Bundy in my short list. It sounds like you have more understanding about how the mind of a serial killer works than I do. It sounds like Ann Rule's books were very good. As always, I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Louise, That is exactly what I wanted this article - to provide interesing information. Thanks for your comments.

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    11 days ago from Kaufman, Texas

    The late Anne Rule was a favorite of mine. I read her book about Ted Bundy, who she knew very personally, and used to work side by side with at a suicide hotline.

    Bundy would be one of the ones with a massive IQ, which is strange, as he may well have been the son of his own grandfather.

    Ridgeway was getting lucky time after time, he was borderline mentally disabled. He just kept on getting away with it. Anne Rule did a book about him as well, as she's from that area of the nation.

    It's a fascinating thing, but I dare not stare too deeply into the abyss, as the abyss may well stare into me.

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 

    11 days ago from Norfolk, England

    This was really interesting to read. I like watching programmes and documentaries about people like this. It fascinates me how the human mind work and how people can do such horrible things and not feel any remorse or guilt.


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