What You Did Not Know About Serial Killers
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.
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.
Some Well-Known US Serial Killers
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.