The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a serial killers as: those who have a history of having multiple victims, most often unknown to them beforehand. Their murders are committed as a result of a craving that often has its base in the killer's (usually dysfunctional) youth, as opposed to those who are motivated by financial gain such contract killers, or ideological/political motivations such as Bin Laden and other terrorists. Many times, this compulsion is linked to the individual's warped sexual drives.
The term "serial killer" was coined by FBI agent Robert Ressler and by Dr. Robert D. Keppel in the 1970s. "Serial Killer" entered the popular vernacular in large part due to the well-publicized killings by Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz in the mid 1970s.
Criminologists distinguish between several types of multiple killers:
· A Serial Killer is someone who commits three or more murders over an extended period of time with cooling-off periods in between. In between their crimes, they appear to be quite normal, a state which is called the "mask of sanity." There is frequently—but not always—a sexual element to the murders.
· A Mass Murderer, is an individual who kills three or more people in a single event and in one location. The perpetrators sometimes commit suicide, meaning knowledge of their state of mind and what triggers their actions is often left to more speculation than fact. Mass murderers who are caught sometimes claim they cannot clearly remember the event.
· A Spree Killer commits multiple murders in different locations over a period of time that may vary from a few hours to several days. Unlike serial killers, however, they do not revert to their normal behavior in between slayings.
A few simple facts about Serial Killers:
- The killings are usually carried out by solitary individuals.
- Serial killers are generally, but not always, male.
- They will commit a murder and temporarily feel sated until they feel their homicidal urges resurface.
- Serial killers are specifically motivated by a variety of psychological urges, primarily power and sexual compulsion.
- They feel inadequate and worthless, often owing to humiliation and abuse in childhood or the pressures of poverty and low socioeconomic status in adulthood, and their crimes give them a feeling of power, both at the time of the actual killing and also afterwards.
- The knowledge that their actions terrify entire communities and often baffle police adds to this sense of power.
- Serial killers frequently have extreme sadistic urges.
- The time period between murders can vary between a few days to several years and will often decrease the longer the offender goes uncaught. For example, Jeffrey Dahmer murdered his second victim nine years after his first, but his last eight victims were murdered in a span of just seven months.
- In many cases, a serial killer will plead “not guilty by reason of insanity” in a court of law. This defense is almost uniformly unsuccessful.
- The element of fantasy in serial killer's development cannot be overemphasized. They often begin fantasizing about murder during—or even before—adolescence.
- Their fantasy lives are very rich and they daydream compulsively about dominating and killing people, usually with very specific elements to the murderous fantasy that will eventually be apparent in their real crimes.
- Many use pornography, frequently the violent type involving bondage, although they may also read "detective magazines" that feature stories of real-life homicide cases.
- Most serial killers claim their first victim when they are in their early to mid-twenties, although this can vary, with one killer claiming the first of his victims when he was 38, and another who was just 15 when he admitted to murdering four people during the previous two years.
- Once serial killers start that they cannot (or only rarely) stop
Prostitutes or people who lead transient anonymous lives are usually not reported missing in a timely manner and receive little police or media attention.
Serial Killers often make big headlines in newspapers and on TV news. Some of those who “hit it big” that we will look at over the next several days are:
- Richard Ramirez, a.k.a. The Night Stalker
- The East Area Rapist
- The Son of Sam
- Theodore Robert Bundy
- And perhaps a few others
Check back again tomorrow for our first entry and keep an open mind and remember to keep walking in this big Weird World of ours.
I’m Average Joe