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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Serial Murder: A sequence of unsolved murders

One of the main factors in 'serial murder' is that many killings that are similar remain unsolved long enough for a pattern to become clear.

You might think that serial killings should be easier to solve because you have several crimes scenes, more evidence, and possible more witnesses. But if the police aren't considering the possibility of a serial crime spree, they may ignore or not follow as fervently pursue leads that don't have an obvious connection with the crime.

The Basic Investigation
Investigators usually begin their search for suspects in two steps:
1. They examine the crime scene for evidence of victim's life just before their death, such as clues as to the relationship      to his or her killer and the killer's motives
2, Then they attempt to find and interview witnesses.
Detectives usually begin looking for the killer among the victim's acquaintances.

Investigators must go well beyond these basic steps in searching for a typical serial killer.  He may be mobile. His victims are usually strangers or he has no motive. Some serial killers are socially isolated. Others may lead dual lives. The police may have to seek information from other jurisdictions.  All these issues create difficulties in gathering information to identify a serial killer.

The Disorganized Killer

The term disorganized, is based on the same factors that defined organized offender: victim and crime scene analysis, forensic evaluation, and assessment of the act itself. The unplanned, spontaneous nature of the disorganized offender's crime is reflected in each of these factors. The disorganization may be the result of youthfulness, lack of criminal sophistication, drug/alcohol use, and/or mental deficiency.

The victim of a disorganized offender may be know t the offender because he often selects a victim of opportunity near his residence or employment. The victim is often from his own geographic area because this type of offender acts impulsively under stress and also because he derives confidence in familiar surroundings.

The crime scene of a disorganized offender may reflects the spontaneous or impulsiveness of this offender. It is random and sloppy with great disarray. Sudden violence may be evident. a blitz style attack. Depersonalization maybe evident by the victim's face being covered or rolled on the stomach. There is no or minimal attempts to conceal the body.

Disorganized offenders are often of below-average intelligence. The body may be positioned or discarded in a way that has special significance to the offender.

Disorganized offenders are often:

-socially inept
-have strong feelings of inadequacy.
-usually lives alone/or with parental figures.
-lives or works close to the crime scene.
-history of inconsistent or poor work performance.
-lack of interpersonal skills.
-those that know him consider him odd.
-sloppy and disheveled.
-nocturnal habits.

Crime Scene and Profile Characteristics of Organized and Disorganized Murders

The Organized Offender
-often the firstborn son
-father with stable work history.
-average to better than average IQ
-skilled occupation with uneven work history, but prefers skilled occupation
-socially adept and usually lives with a partner

There is usually a precipitating stressor before the murder occurs. These stresses could include marital, relationships with females, financial and employment difficulties. The organized offender may report a state that he was depressed or in an angry frame of mind. He is likely to have a car in good condition.  There is evidence of fantasy seen in his taking of souvenirs. News clippings are often found during searches.

The crime scene of an organized offender suggests a semblance of order that was there prior to, during, and after the offense. A methodical organization that suggests a carefully planned crime that is aimed at deterring detection. Even though the crime maybe planned, the victim is usually a stranger. Victims of serial murderers have been noted to share common characteristics. The offender often has a preference for a particular type of victim.

The organized offender is socially adept and may strike up conversations or false relationships with the victim. They may impersonate another person to gain access to the victim.

Control over victims is also seen in the use of restraints. Some restraints include tape, belts, clothing, ropes, chains, handcuffs, gags, and blindfolds. The way weapons or restraints are used may suggest a sadistic element in the offender's plan. The killing is eroticized, as in torture where death comes in a slow, deliberate manner.

Fantasy and ritual dominate in the organized offender. Obsessive, compulsive traits surface in the behavior and/or crime scene patterns. The offender often brings a weapon with him to the crime, taking it with him when he leaves. Although sexual acts are part of the fantasy planning of the crime, murder may not be a conscious intent until a triggering cue occurs.

As in my first book Twisted Desires my killer is a sadistic serial killer. He is a sadist who enjoys his victim's suffering. If you have read the first book you know there is a sequel in the works.  I am on chapter 12 of the sequel. I intend to get ideas for the titles from you who have read the book. So if you have any ideas just put them in the reader's comment section.

Next time The Disorganized Offender.


There are links between most serial killers and their chosen victims.  Demographically, serial murderers tend to target more women than men, and kill strangers more often than family or acquaintances. This is in opposition to single-homicide offenders. They tend to kill men and women equally, while killing friends and family more often.

Serial murderers' killings are often sexually motivated. The sexual motivation supports the theory that serial murderers tend to have specific criteria and specific sexual interest that motivate their selection of certain victims.

In the US, serial killers prefer to target victims ages 18-50. The majority of victims are white.

For women serial killers, they tend to kill those who they are already intimately familiar with.  For female serial killers husbands and their children are first choice victims  Female serial killers are rare. The most common motive identified for female serial killers was material gain..

Although no two serial killers are exactly alike in method of killing or motive, there are certain profiles which have common similarities.  As summarized by Schurman, "For the serial killer, the fantasy life develops in early childhood and can consume a killer's life. The fantasy serves as an escape for the powerless."

Motives of Serial Killers

The motives of serial killers are generally placed into four categories: "visionary", "mission-oriented", "hedonistic" and "power/control".  There can be overlap among these categories.

This type of serial killer suffer both psychotic breaks with reality, sometimes believing they are another person or are compelled to murder by things such as the devil or cancel.  The two most common subgroups are "demon mandated" and "God mandated."  David Berkowitz is an example of a demon-mandated visionary killer.  He claimed his neighbor's dog told him to murder.


These killers justify their acts on the basis that they are getting rid of a certain type of person whom they find undesirable; such as blacks, Catholics, prostitutes, or homosexuals.  Ted Kaczynski is an example of this type.


This type of serial killer seeks thrills and derives pleasure from killing.  They see people as objects for their pleasure. There are three subtypes of the hedonistic killer: "lust", "thrill", and "comfort".


Sex is the primary motive of lust killers, whether or not the victims are dead, and fantasy plays a large role in their murders.  Their sexual gratification depends on the amount of torture and mutilation they perform on their victims.  As lust killers continue with their murders, the time between killings decreases or the level of stimulation increases or sometimes both.  The Hillside Stranglers and Jeffery Dahmer were this type of killer.


The primary motive of a thrill killer is to induce pain or create terror in their victims.  They seek the adrenaline rush provided by hunting and killing victims.  These killers kill only for the kill itself.  Robert Hansen and the DC Snipers were this type of killer.


Material gain and a comfortable lifestyle are the primary motives of these killers. Dorothea Puente is an example of this type of killer.


This type of killers main objective for killing is to gain and exert power over their victims. Ted Bundy is an example of this type of killer.

Types of Serial Killers


The FBI Crime Classification Manual put serial killers in three categories.
1. Organized/nonsocial offenders:
     These offenders usually have above average intelligence. They often plan quite methodically, usually abducting victims, killing in one place and disposing of the body in another. They often lure victims with ploys. Ted Bundy for example would put his arm in a fake cast and ask women to help him carry something to his car.  Others specifically target prostitutes, who are likely to go willingly.  They maintain high degree of control over the crime scene and have a solid knowledge of forensics that help them escape detection.  They follow their crimes in the news.  The organized killer is usually socially adequate, has friends and lovers, sometimes a spouse and children.  When captured they are usually described as kind and unable to harm anyone.

Examples of Organized Serial Killers: John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy.

2.  Disorganized/asocial offenders:
     These offenders are often of low intelligence and commit crimes impulsively.  The disorganized killer will murder someone when the opportunity arises, rarely disposing of the body.  They usually carry out 'blitz' attacks and will carry out whatever rituals they feel compelled to carry out ie: mutilation, necrophilia, cannibalism, etc. once the victim is dead.  They rarely cover their tracks, but may evade capture due to their need to keep on the move.  Often they are socially inadequate with few friends, may have a history of mental problems and be regarded as 'creepy' by associates.  They also tend to be introverted.

3.   Mixed offenders:
      Combination of the both.

Characteristics of A Serial Killer

Well here it is.  I've been promising to get this posted.
Characteristics of Serial Killers:
1.   Majority are single, white males.
2.   Often intelligent, with IQ's in the "bright normal" range.
3.   Despite their high IQ's they do poorly in school, trouble holding down jobs, often work menial jobs.
4.   Tend to come from unstable families.
5.   Abandoned by their fathers as children, raised by domineering mothers.
6.   Often family histories of alcoholic, criminal, and psychiatric histories.
7.   Often mistrustful of their parents.
8.   As children it is common to find they were abused-psychologically, physically and/or sexually-by a family member.
9.   Many spend time in institutions as children and records of early psychiatric problems.
10. From an early age, many are intensely interested in voyeurism, fetishism, and sadomasochistic pornography.
11. More than 60 % wet their beds beyond age 12.
12. Many are fascinated with fire starting.
14. Involved in sadistic activity or torturing small animals.

Next time I'll post the types of Serial Killers.

Sexual Homicide

To understand sexual homicide has five parts: 
1. The murderer's social environment
2. childhood and teenage events
3. responses to those events
4. Actions toward others
5. The killer's reactions to his murders. 
These points deal mostly with psychosocial and cognitive factors and does not cover neurology or genetic factors.

The way that the quality of family and social interactions with the child are important factors in the child's development. The attachment of the child to parents and others is important in how the child as an adult relates to others and how he values other members of society.

In murderers this social bonding fails. The child's caregivers either ignore, rationalize, or normalize various behaviors in the developing child, or through their own problems, support the child's developing distortions and projections. The people who are important to the child do not provide nurturing and protection; rather, they impose adult expectations on the child.

There are three factors that contribute to the formative events:

1. The first is trauma, in the form of physical or sexual abuse.
2.Second, is developmental failure. For whatever reason the child doesn't attach to his adult caregiver.
3. Third, interpersonal failure, the adult caregiver doesn't serve as a role model.

Serial and Multiple Offenders

Serial offenders create special difficulties for law enforcement. Whether they are bombers, rapists, or murderers, the nature of their crimes and the fact that they often have no apparent connection to their victims force law enforcement to develop new ways of dealing with these types of offenders.

Most murderers have visible motives such as revenge, to cover up another crime, or financial gain. For these reasons, the earliest stages of any homicide investigation focus on people who know and could possibly profit from the victim’s death. This is a rational approach since the overwhelming majority of homicides occur between people who know each other.   This isn’t the case with most serial murderers and rapists.

The serial offenders motives may not be apparent. Their motives are more personal and private. Even when a motive is discovered, it may seem totally irrational, but not to the offender.

Mass Murderers: When an offender kills more than four people in one location at one time, they are considered a mass murderer. These killers often want to send a message and a clear agenda. These offenders are the ones who walk into their workplace and shoots several people. The attack often ends with the killer taking his own life or “suicide by cop”. The motive is often some perceived wrong by his victims.

Spree Killers: These offenders kill several people at two or more locations with the killings being linked by motive and with no ‘cooling-off’ period between. This killer goes on a rampage, moving from place to place, even state to state, leaving bodies in his path. It is as if an underlying rage pushes the killer to act, and once he begins, he doesn’t stop or deviate from his goal.

Serial Killers: These offenders kill several people at different times and locations with a cooling-off period, which may be days, weeks, months, even years in duration. This distinguishes serial from spree killers.

How Evil To Make Your Villain?


When you are creating a villain for your book, how evil do you go? I write with serial killers as my villains and I want them to be as true to life as possible. Nothing in my books is gratuitous everything is there for a reason.

When I am reading a suspense or thriller I want to have an uneasy feeling, while I am reading about the villain in the book. I think it’s necessary to make it tense and foreboding. Making the reader hope they would never run into the types of killers I create.
So if you are writing a cozy mystery the villain will not be as evil or you may not describe his attacks as vividly as I would in my books. Whatever type your villain it is important to have a villain that is believable.
What do you think? How do you like your villains?