|Part of a series on|
Note: Varies by jurisdiction
Note: Varies by jurisdiction
|By victim or victims|
A serial killer is typically a person who murders three or more people, usually in service of abnormal psychological gratification, with the murders taking place over more than a month and including a significant period of time between them. Different authorities apply different criteria when designating serial killers. While most set a threshold of three murders, others extend it to four or lessen it to two. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines serial killing as "a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone".
Although psychological gratification is the usual motive for serial killing, and most serial killings involve sexual contact with the victim, the FBI states that the motives of serial killers can include anger, thrill-seeking, financial gain, and attention seeking. The murders may be attempted or completed in a similar fashion. The victims may have something in common, for example, demographic profile, appearance, gender or race. A serial killer is neither a mass murderer, nor a spree killer, although there may be conceptual overlaps between serial killers and spree killers.
- 1 Etymology and definition
- 2 History
- 3 Characteristics
- 4 Motives
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 Investigation
- 7 Memorabilia
- 8 See also
- 9 Footnotes
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Etymology and definition
The English term and concept of serial killer are commonly attributed to former FBI Special agent Robert Ressler who used the term serial homicide in 1974 in a lecture at Bramshill Police Academy in Britain. Author Ann Rule postulates in her book, Kiss Me, Kill Me (2004), that the English-language credit for coining the term goes to LAPD detective Pierce Brooks, who created the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) system in 1985.
There is ample evidence the term was used in Europe and the United States earlier. The German term and concept were coined by criminologist Ernst Gennat, who described Peter Kürten as a Serienmörder ('serial-murderer') in his article "Die Düsseldorfer Sexualverbrechen" (1930). The earliest usage attested of the specific term serial killer listed in the Oxford English Dictionary was from a 1960s[clarification needed] German film article written by Siegfried Kracauer, about the German expressionist film M (1931), portraying a pedophilic Serienmörder.[clarification needed]
In his book, Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters (2004), criminal justice historian Peter Vronsky notes that while Ressler might have coined the English term "serial homicide" within law in 1974, the terms serial murder and serial murderer appear in John Brophy's book The Meaning of Murder (1966). The Washington DC newspaper Evening Star, in a 1967 review of the book:
There is the mass murderer, or what he [Brophy] calls the "serial" killer, who may be actuated by greed, such as insurance, or retention or growth of power, like the Medicis of Renaissance Italy, or Landru, the "bluebeard" of the World War I period, who murdered numerous wives after taking their money.
This use of "serial" killer to paraphrase Brophy's serial murderer does not appear to have been influential at the time.
In his more recent study, Vronsky states that the term serial killing first entered into broader American popular usage when published in The New York Times in the spring of 1981, to describe Atlanta serial killer Wayne Williams. Subsequently, throughout the 1980s, the term was used again in the pages of The New York Times, one of the major national news publication of the United States, on 233 occasions. By the end of the 1990s, the use of the term had escalated to 2,514 instances in the paper.
When defining serial killers, researchers generally use "three or more murders" as the baseline, considering it sufficient to provide a pattern without being overly restrictive. Independent of the number of murders, they need to have been committed at different times, and are usually committed in different places. The lack of a cooling-off period (a significant break between the murders) marks the difference between a spree killer and a serial killer. The category has, however, been found to be of no real value to law enforcement, because of definitional problems relating to the concept of a "cooling-off period". Cases of extended bouts of sequential killings over periods of weeks or months with no apparent "cooling off period" or "return to normality" have caused some experts to suggest a hybrid category of "spree-serial killer".
In 2005, the FBI hosted a multi-disciplinary symposium in San Antonio, Texas, which brought together 135 experts on serial murder from a variety of fields and specialties with the goal of identifying the commonalities of knowledge regarding serial murder. The group also settled on a definition of serial murder which FBI investigators widely accept as their standard: "The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s) in separate events." The definition does not consider motivation for killing nor define a cooling-off period.
Historical criminologists have suggested that there may have been serial murders throughout history, but specific cases were not adequately recorded. Some sources suggest that legends such as werewolves and vampires were inspired by medieval serial killers. In Africa, there have been periodic outbreaks of murder by Lion and Leopard men.
Liu Pengli of China, nephew of the Han Emperor Jing, was made Prince of Jidong in the sixth year of the middle period of Jing's reign (144 BC). According to the Chinese historian Sima Qian, he would "go out on marauding expeditions with 20 or 30 slaves or with young men who were in hiding from the law, murdering people and seizing their belongings for sheer sport". Although many of his subjects knew about these murders, it was not until the 29th year of his reign that the son of one of his victims finally sent a report to the Emperor. Eventually, it was discovered that he had murdered at least 100 people. The officials of the court requested that Liu Pengli be executed; however, the emperor could not bear to have his own nephew killed, so Liu Pengli was made a commoner and banished.
In the 15th century, one of the wealthiest men in Europe and a former companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc, Gilles de Rais, sexually assaulted and killed peasant children, mainly boys, whom he had abducted from the surrounding villages and had taken to his castle. It is estimated that his victims numbered between 140 and 800. The Hungarian aristocrat Elizabeth Báthory, born into one of the wealthiest families in Transylvania, allegedly tortured and killed as many as 650 girls and young women before her arrest in 1610.
In his 1886 book, Psychopathia Sexualis, psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing noted a case of a serial murderer in the 1870s, a Frenchman named Eusebius Pieydagnelle who had a sexual obsession with blood and confessed to murdering six people.
The unidentified killer Jack the Ripper, who has been called the first modern serial killer, killed at least five women, and possibly more, in London in 1888. He was the subject of a massive manhunt and investigation by the Metropolitan Police, during which many modern criminal investigation techniques were pioneered. A large team of policemen conducted house-to-house inquiries, forensic material was collected and suspects were identified and traced. Police surgeon Thomas Bond assembled one of the earliest character profiles of the offender.
The Ripper murders also marked an important watershed in the treatment of crime by journalists. While not the first serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper's case was the first to create a worldwide media frenzy. The dramatic murders of financially destitute women in the midst of the wealth of London focused the media's attention on the plight of the urban poor and gained coverage worldwide. Jack the Ripper has also been called the most infamous serial killer of all time, and his legend has spawned hundreds of theories on his real identity and multiple works of fiction.
H. H. Holmes was one of the first documented modern serial killers in the United States, responsible for the death of at least nine victims in the early 1890s. Here as well, the case gained notoriety and wide publicity through possibly sensationalized accounts in William Randolph Hearst's newspapers. At the same time in France, Joseph Vacher became known as "The French Ripper" after killing and mutilating 11 women and children. He was executed in 1898 after confessing to his crimes.
76% of all known serial killers in the 20th century were from the United States.
Some commonly found characteristics of serial killers include the following:
- They may exhibit varying degrees of mental illness or psychopathy, which may contribute to their homicidal behavior.
- For example, someone who is mentally ill may have psychotic breaks that cause them to believe they are another person or are compelled to murder by other entities.
- Psychopathic behavior that is consistent with traits common to some serial killers include sensation seeking, a lack of remorse or guilt, impulsivity, the need for control, and predatory behavior. Unlike people with major mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychopaths can seem normal and often quite charming, a state of adaptation that psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley called the "mask of sanity".
- They were often abused—emotionally, physically, or sexually—by a family member.
- Serial killers may be more likely to engage in fetishism, partialism or necrophilia, which are paraphilias that involve a strong tendency to experience the object of erotic interest almost as if it were a physical representation of the symbolized body. Individuals engage in paraphilias which are organized along a continuum; participating in varying levels of fantasy perhaps by focusing on body parts (partialism), symbolic objects which serve as physical extensions of the body (fetishism), or the anatomical physicality of the human body; specifically regarding its inner parts and sexual organs (one example being necrophilia).
- A disproportionate number exhibit one, two, or all three of the Macdonald triad of predictors of future violent behavior:
- They were frequently bullied or socially isolated as children or adolescents. For example, Henry Lee Lucas was ridiculed as a child and later cited the mass rejection by his peers as a cause for his hatred of everyone. Kenneth Bianchi was teased as a child because he urinated in his pants, suffered twitching, and as a teenager was ignored by his peers.
- Some were involved in petty crimes, such as fraud, theft, vandalism, or similar offenses.
- Often, they have trouble staying employed and tend to work in menial jobs. The FBI, however, states, "Serial murderers often seem normal; have families and/or a steady job." Other sources state they often come from unstable families.
- Studies have suggested that serial killers generally have an average or low-average IQ, although they are often described, and perceived, as possessing IQs in the above-average range. A sample of 202 IQs of serial killers had a median IQ of 89.
There are exceptions to these criteria, however. For example, Harold Shipman was a successful professional (a General Practitioner working for the NHS). He was considered a pillar of the local community; he even won a professional award for a children's asthma clinic and was interviewed by Granada Television's World in Action on ITV. Dennis Nilsen was an ex-soldier turned civil servant and trade unionist who had no previous criminal record when arrested. Neither was known to have exhibited many of the tell-tale signs. Vlado Taneski, a crime reporter, was a career journalist who was caught after a series of articles he wrote gave clues that he had murdered people. Russell Williams was a successful and respected career Royal Canadian Air Force Colonel who was convicted of murdering two women, along with fetish burglaries and rapes.
Many serial killers have faced similar problems in their childhood development. Hickey's Trauma Control Model explains how early childhood trauma can set the child up for deviant behavior in adulthood; the child's environment (either their parents or society) is the dominant factor determining whether or not the child's behavior escalates into homicidal activity.
Family, or lack thereof, is the most prominent part of a child's development because it is what the child can identify with on a regular basis. "The serial killer is no different from any other individual who is instigated to seek approval from parents, sexual partners, or others." This need for approval is what influences children to attempt to develop social relationships with their family and peers, but if they are rejected or neglected, they are unable to do so. "The quality of their attachments to parents and other members of the family is critical to how these children relate to and value other members of society."
Wilson and Seaman (1990) conducted a study on incarcerated serial killers, and what they concluded was the most influential factor that contributed to their homicidal activity. Almost all of the serial killers in the study had experienced some sort of environmental problems during their childhood, such as a broken home caused by divorce, or a lack of discipline in the home. It was common for the serial killers to come from a family that had experienced divorce, separation, or the lack of a parent. Furthermore, nearly half of the serial killers had experienced some type of physical or sexual abuse, and even more had experienced emotional neglect. When a parent has a drug or alcohol problem, the attention in the household is on the parents rather than the child. This neglect of the child leads to the lowering of their self-esteem and helps develop a fantasy world in which they are in control. Hickey's Trauma Control Model supports how the neglect from parents can facilitate deviant behavior, especially if the child sees substance abuse in action. This then leads to disposition (the inability to attach), which can further lead to homicidal behavior, unless the child finds a way to develop substantial relationships and fight the label they receive. If a child receives no support from those around him or her, then he or she is unlikely to recover from the traumatic event in a positive way. As stated by E. E. Maccoby, "the family has continued to be seen as a major—perhaps the major—arena for socialization".
Chromosomal make up
There have been recent studies looking into the possibility that an abnormality with one's chromosomes could be the trigger for serial killers. Two serial killers, Bobby Joe Long and Richard Speck, came to attention for reported chromosomal abnormalities. Long had an extra X chromosome. Speck was erroneously reported to have an extra Y chromosome; in fact, his karyotype was performed twice and was normal each time. Hellen Morrison, an American forensic psychiatrist, said in an interview that while researchers have not identified a specific causal gene, the fact that the majority of serial killers are male leads researchers to believe there is "a change associated with the male chromosome make up."
Children who do not have the power to control the mistreatment they suffer sometimes create a new reality to which they can escape. This new reality becomes their fantasy that they have total control of and becomes part of their daily existence. In this fantasy world, their emotional development is guided and maintained. According to Garrison (1996), "the child becomes sociopathic because the normal development of the concepts of right and wrong and empathy towards others is retarded because the child's emotional and social development occurs within his self-centered fantasies. A person can do no wrong in his own world and the pain of others is of no consequence when the purpose of the fantasy world is to satisfy the needs of one person" (Garrison, 1996). Boundaries between fantasy and reality are lost and fantasies turn to dominance, control, sexual conquest, and violence, eventually leading to murder. Fantasy can lead to the first step in the process of a dissociative state, which, in the words of Stephen Giannangelo, "allows the serial killer to leave the stream of consciousness for what is, to him, a better place".
Criminologist Jose Sanchez reports, "the young criminal you see today is more detached from his victim, more ready to hurt or kill ... The lack of empathy for their victims among young criminals is just one symptom of a problem that afflicts the whole society." Lorenzo Carcaterra, author of Gangster (2001), explains how potential criminals are labeled by society, which can then lead to their offspring also developing in the same way through the cycle of violence. The ability for serial killers to appreciate the mental life of others is severely compromised, presumably leading to their dehumanization of others. This process may be considered an expression of the intersubjectivity associated with a cognitive deficit regarding the capability to make sharp distinctions between other people and inanimate objects. For these individuals, objects can appear to possess animistic or humanistic power while people are perceived as objects. Before he was executed, serial killer Ted Bundy stated media violence and pornography had stimulated and increased his need to commit homicide, although this statement was made during last-ditch efforts to appeal his death sentence. However, correlation is not causation (a disturbed physiological disposition, psychosis, lack of socialization, or aggressiveness may contribute to both fantasy creation and serial killing without fantasy creation generally contributing to serial killing for instance). There are exceptions to the typical fantasy patterns of serial killers, as in the case of Dennis Rader, who was a loving family man and the leader of his church.
Organized, disorganized, and mixed
The FBI's Crime Classification Manual places serial killers into three categories: organized, disorganized, and mixed (i.e., offenders who exhibit organized and disorganized characteristics). Some killers descend from being organized into disorganized as their killings continue, as in the case of psychological decompensation or overconfidence due to having evaded capture, or vice versa, as when a previously disorganized killer identifies one or more specific aspects of the act of killing as his/her source of gratification and develops a modus operandi structured around those.
Organized serial killers often plan their crimes methodically, usually abducting victims, killing them in one place and disposing of them in another. They often lure the victims with ploys appealing to their sense of sympathy. Others specifically target prostitutes, who are likely to go voluntarily with a stranger. These killers maintain a high degree of control over the crime scene and usually have a solid knowledge of forensic science that enables them to cover their tracks, such as burying the body or weighing it down and sinking it in a river. They follow their crimes in the news media carefully and often take pride in their actions, as if it were all a grand project. Often, organized killers have social and other interpersonal skills sufficient to enable them to develop both personal and romantic relationships, friends and lovers and sometimes even attract and maintain a spouse and sustain a family including children. Among serial killers, those of this type are in the event of their capture most likely to be described by acquaintances as kind and unlikely to hurt anyone. Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are examples of organized serial killers. In general, the IQs of organized serial killers tend to be near normal range, with a mean of 94.7. Organized nonsocial offenders tend to be on the higher end of the average, with a mean IQ of 99.2.
Disorganized serial killers are usually far more impulsive, often committing their murders with a random weapon available at the time, and usually do not attempt to hide the body. They are likely to be unemployed, a loner, or both, with very few friends. They often turn out to have a history of mental illness, and their modus operandi (M.O.) or lack thereof is often marked by excessive violence and sometimes necrophilia or sexual violence. Disorganized serial killers have been found to have a slightly lower mean IQ than organized serial killers, at 92.8.
Some people with a pathological interest in the power of life and death tend to be attracted to medical professions or acquiring such a job. These kinds of killers are sometimes referred to as "angels of death" or angels of mercy. Medical professionals will kill their patients for money, for a sense of sadistic pleasure, for a belief that they are "easing" the patient's pain, or simply "because they can". Perhaps the most prolific of these was the British doctor Harold Shipman. Another such killer was nurse Jane Toppan, who admitted during her murder trial that she was sexually aroused by death. She would administer a drug mixture to patients she chose as her victims, lie in bed with them and hold them close to her body as they died.
Another medical profession serial killer is Genene Jones. It is believed she killed 11 to 46 infants and children while working at Bexar County Medical Center Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. She is currently serving a 99-year sentence for the murder of Chelsea McClellan and the attempted murder of Rolando Santos, and became eligible for parole in 2017 due to a law in Texas at the time of her sentencing to reduce prison overcrowding.
A 21st-century example is Canadian nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer who murdered elderly patients in the nursing homes where she worked.
Female serial killers are rare compared to their male counterparts. Sources suggest that female serial killers represented fewer than one in every six known serial murderers in the United States between 1800 and 2004 (64 females from a total of 416 known offenders), or that around 15% of U.S. serial killers have been women, with a collective number of victims between 427 and 612. The authors of Lethal Ladies, Amanda L. Farrell, Robert D. Keppel, and Victoria B. Titterington, state that "the Justice Department indicated 36 female serial killers have been active over the course of the last century." According to The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, there is evidence that 16% of all serial killers are women.
Kelleher and Kelleher (1998) created several categories to describe female serial killers. They used the classifications of black widow, angel of death, sexual predator, revenge, profit or crime, team killer, question of sanity, unexplained, and unsolved. In using these categories, they observed that most women fell into the categories of black widow or team killer. Although motivations for female serial killers can include attention seeking, addiction, or the result of psychopathological behavioral factors, female serial killers are commonly categorized as murdering men for material gain, usually being emotionally close to their victims, and generally needing to have a relationship with the victim, hence the traditional cultural image of the "black widow." In describing murderer Stacey Castor, forensic psychiatrist James Knoll offered a psychological perspective on what defines a "black widow" type. In simple terms, he described it as a woman who kills two or more husbands or lovers for material gain. Though Castor was not officially defined as a serial killer, it is likely that she would have killed again.
One "analysis of 86 female serial killers from the United States found that the victims tended to be spouses, children or the elderly". Other studies indicate that since 1975, increasingly strangers are marginally the most preferred victim of female serial killers, or that only 26% of female serial killers kill for material gain only. Sources state that each killer will have her own proclivities, needs and triggers." A review of the published literature on female serial murder stated that "sexual or sadistic motives are believed to be extremely rare in female serial murderers, and psychopathic traits and histories of childhood abuse have been consistently reported in these women." A study by Eric W. Hickey (2010) of 64 female serial killers in the United States indicated that sexual activity was one of several motives in 10% of the cases, enjoyment in 11% and control in 14%, and that 51% of all U.S. female serial killers murdered at least one woman and 31% murdered at least one child. In other cases, women have been involved as an accomplice with a male serial killer as a part of a serial killing team.Wilson & Hilton 1998, pp. 495–498 A 2015 study published in The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology found that the most common motive for female serial killers was for financial gain and almost 40% of them had experienced some sort of mental illness.
Peter Vronsky in Female Serial Killers (2007) maintains that female serial killers today often kill for the same reason males do: as a means of expressing rage and control. He suggests that sometimes the theft of the victims' property by the female "black widow" type serial killer appears to be for material gain, but really is akin to a male serial killer's collecting of totems (souvenirs) from the victim as a way of exerting continued control over the victim and reliving it. By contrast, Hickey states that although popular perception sees "black widow" female serial killers as something of the Victorian past, in his statistical study of female serial killer cases reported in the United States since 1826, approximately 75% occurred since 1950.
The methods that female serial killers use for murder are frequently covert or low-profile, such as murder by poison (the preferred choice for killing). Other methods used by female serial killers include shootings (used by 20%), suffocation (16%), stabbing (11%), and drowning (5%). They commit killings in specific places, such as their home or a health-care facility, or at different locations within the same city or state. A notable exception to the typical characteristics of female serial killers is Aileen Wuornos, who killed outdoors instead of at home, used a gun instead of poison, killed strangers instead of friends or family, and killed for personal gratification. The most prolific female serial killer in all of history is allegedly Elizabeth Báthory. Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (Báthory Erzsébet in Hungarian, August 7, 1560 – August 21, 1614) was a countess from the renowned Báthory family. Before her husband's death, Elizabeth took great pleasure in torturing the staff, by jamming pins under the servants fingernails or stripping servants and throwing them into the snow. After her husband's death, she and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls and young women, with one witness attributing to them over 600 victims, though the number for which they were convicted was 80. Elizabeth herself was neither tried nor convicted. In 1610, however, she was imprisoned in the Csejte Castle, where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later.
A 2010 article by Perri and Lichtenwald addressed some of the misperceptions concerning female criminality. In the article, Perri and Lichtenwald analyze the current research regarding female psychopathy, including case studies of female psychopathic killers featuring Münchausen syndrome by proxy, cesarean section homicide, fraud detection homicide, female kill teams, and a female serial killer.
Juvenile serial killers are rare. There are three main categories that juvenile serial killers can fit into: primary, maturing, and secondary killers. There have been studies done to compare and contrast these three groups and to discover similarities and differences between them. Although these types of serial killers are less common, oftentimes adult serial killers may make their debut at an early age and it can be an opportunity for researchers to study what factors brought about the behavior. Though it is rare, the youngest felon on death row is in fact, a juvenile serial killer named Harvey Miguel Robinson.
Ethnicity and demographics in the United States
The racial demographics regarding serial killers are often subject to debate. In the United States, the majority of reported and investigated serial killers are white males, from a lower-to-middle-class background, usually in their late 20s to early 30s. However, there are African American, Asian, and Hispanic (of any race) serial killers as well, and, according to the FBI, based on percentages of the U.S. population, whites are not more likely than other races to be serial killers. Criminal profiler Pat Brown says serial killers are usually reported as white because serial killers usually target victims of their own race, and argues the media typically focuses on "All-American" white and pretty female victims who were the targets of white male offenders; that crimes among minority offenders in urban communities, where crime rates are higher, are under-investigated; and that minority serial killers likely exist at the same ratios as white serial killers for the population. She believes that the myth that serial killers are always white might have become "truth" in some research fields due to the over-reporting of white serial killers in the media.
According to some sources, the percentage of serial killers who are African American is estimated to be between 13% and 22%. Another study has shown that 16% of serial killers are African American, what author Maurice Godwin describes as a "sizeable portion". A 2014 Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database annual statistics report indicated that for the decades 1900–2010, the percentage of white serial killers was 52.1% while the percentage of African American serial killers was 40.3%. In a 2005 article Anthony Walsh, professor of criminal justice at Boise State University, argued a review of post-WWII serial killings in America finds that the prevalence of minority serial killers has typically been drastically underestimated in both professional research literature and the mass media. As a paradigmatic case of this media double standard, Walsh cites news reporting on white killer Gary Heidnik and African-American killer Harrison Graham. Both men were residents of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; both imprisoned, tortured, and killed several women; and both were arrested only months apart in 1987. "Heidnik received widespread national attention, became the subject of books and television shows, and served as a model for the fictitious Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs", writes Walsh, while "Graham received virtually no media attention outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, despite having been convicted of four more murders than Heidnik".
The motives of serial killers are generally placed into four categories: visionary, mission-oriented, hedonistic, and power or control; however, the motives of any given killer may display considerable overlap among these categories.
Visionary serial killers suffer from psychotic breaks with reality, sometimes believing they are another person or are compelled to murder by entities such as the Devil or God. The two most common subgroups are "demon mandated" and "God mandated".
Herbert Mullin believed the American casualties in the Vietnam War were preventing California from experiencing the Big One. As the war wound down, Mullin claimed his father instructed him via telepathy to raise the number of "human sacrifices to nature" in order to delay a catastrophic earthquake that would plunge California into the ocean. David Berkowitz ("Son of Sam") may also be an example of a visionary serial killer, having claimed a demon transmitted orders through his neighbor's dog and instructed him to commit murder. Berkowitz later described those claims as a hoax, as originally concluded by psychiatrist David Abrahamsen.
Mission-oriented killers typically justify their acts as "ridding the world" of certain types of people perceived as undesirable, such as the homeless, ex-cons, homosexuals, drug users, prostitutes, or people of different ethnicity or religion; however, they are generally not psychotic. Some see themselves as attempting to change society, often to cure a societal ill.
This type of serial killer seeks thrills and derives pleasure from killing, seeing people as expendable means to this goal. Forensic psychologists have identified 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 killings. Their sexual gratification depends on the amount of torture and mutilation they perform on their victims. The sexual serial murderer has a psychological need to have absolute control, dominance, and power over their victims, and the infliction of torture, pain, and ultimately death is used in an attempt to fulfill their need. They usually use weapons that require close contact with the victims, such as knives or hands. As lust killers continue with their murders, the time between killings decreases or the required level of stimulation increases, sometimes both.
Kenneth Bianchi, one of the "Hillside Stranglers", murdered women and girls of different ages, races and appearance because his sexual urges required different types of stimulation and increasing intensity. Jeffrey Dahmer searched for his perfect fantasy lover—beautiful, submissive and eternal. As his desire increased, he experimented with drugs, alcohol, and exotic sex. His increasing need for stimulation was demonstrated by the dismemberment of victims, whose heads and genitals he preserved, and by his attempts to create a "living zombie" under his control (by pouring acid into a hole drilled into the victim's skull). Dahmer once said, "Lust played a big part of it. Control and lust. Once it happened the first time, it just seemed like it had control of my life from there on in. The killing was just a means to an end. That was the least satisfactory part. I didn't enjoy doing that. That's why I tried to create living zombies with … acid and the drill." He further elaborated on this, also saying, "I wanted to see if it was possible to make—again, it sounds really gross—uh, zombies, people that would not have a will of their own, but would follow my instructions without resistance. So after that, I started using the drilling technique." He experimented with cannibalism to "ensure his victims would always be a part of him".
The primary motive of a thrill killer is to induce pain or terror in their victims, which provides stimulation and excitement for the killer. They seek the adrenaline rush provided by hunting and killing victims. Thrill killers murder only for the kill; usually the attack is not prolonged, and there is no sexual aspect. Usually the victims are strangers, although the killer may have followed them for a period of time. Thrill killers can abstain from killing for long periods of time and become more successful at killing as they refine their murder methods. Many attempt to commit the perfect crime and believe they will not be caught. Robert Hansen took his victims to a secluded area, where he would let them loose and then hunt and kill them. In one of his letters to San Francisco Bay Area newspapers in San Francisco, California, the Zodiac Killer wrote "[killing] gives me the most thrilling experience it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl". Coral Watts was described by a surviving victim as "excited and hyper and clappin' and just making noises like he was excited, that this was gonna be fun" during the 1982 attack. Slashing, stabbing, hanging, drowning, asphyxiating, and strangling were among the ways Watts killed.
Material gain and a comfortable lifestyle are the primary motives of comfort killers. Usually, the victims are family members and close acquaintances. After a murder, a comfort killer will usually wait for a period of time before killing again to allow any suspicions by family or authorities to subside. They often use poison, most notably arsenic, to kill their victims. Female serial killers are often comfort killers, although not all comfort killers are female. Dorothea Puente killed her tenants for their Social Security checks and buried them in the backyard of her home. H. H. Holmes killed for insurance and business profits. Professional killers ("hitmen") may also be considered comfort serial killers. Richard Kuklinski charged tens of thousands of dollars for a "hit", earning enough money to support his family in a middle-class lifestyle (Bruno, 1993).
Some, like Puente and Holmes, may be involved in or have previous convictions for theft, fraud, non-payment of debts, embezzlement and other crimes of a similar nature. Dorothea Puente was finally arrested on a parole violation, having been on parole for a previous fraud conviction.
In 2016, the oldest prosecution and conviction of a suspected serial killer (Felix Vail) took place in Louisiana. He was convicted of murder 54 years after his wife's death in 1962, which had originally been ruled an accidental drowning, and which occurred only months after Vail took out two life insurance policies on her. He is a suspect in the disappearances of two other women – his girlfriend in 1973 and his second wife in 1984. The prosecutors were allowed to present evidence of the two disappearances under the Doctrine of chances.
The main objective for this type of serial killer is to gain and exert power over their victim. Such killers are sometimes abused as children, leaving them with feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy as adults. Many power- or control-motivated killers sexually abuse their victims, but they differ from hedonistic killers in that rape is not motivated by lust (as it would be with a lust murder) but as simply another form of dominating the victim. Ted Bundy is an example of a power/control-oriented serial killer. He traveled around the United States seeking women to control.
Many serial killers claim that a violent culture influenced them to commit murders. During his final interview, Ted Bundy stated that hardcore pornography was responsible for his actions. Others idolise figures for their deeds or perceived vigilante justice, such as Peter Kürten, who idolized Jack the Ripper, or John Wayne Gacy and Ed Kemper, who both idolized the actor John Wayne.
Killers who have a strong desire for fame or to be renowned for their actions desire media attention as a way of validating and spreading their crimes; fear is also a component here, as some serial killers enjoy causing fear. An example is Dennis Rader, who sought attention from the press during his murder spree.
In popular culture
Many movies, books, and documentaries have been created, detailing serial killers' lives and crimes. For example, the biographical movie Bundy (2002) focuses on serial killer Ted Bundy's personal life in college, leading up to his execution, and Dahmer (2002) tells the story of Jeffrey Dahmer.
Serial killers are also portrayed in fictional media, oftentimes as having substantial intelligence and looking for difficult targets, despite the contradiction with the psychological profile of serial killers.
Biological and sociological
The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (May 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Theories for why certain people commit serial murder have been advanced. Some theorists believe the reasons are biological, suggesting serial killers are born, not made, and that their violent behavior is a result of abnormal brain activity. Holmes and Holmes believe that "until a reliable sample can be obtained and tested, there is no scientific statement that can be made concerning the exact role of biology as a determining factor of a serial killer personality." The "Fractured Identity Syndrome" (FIS) is a merging of Charles Cooley's "looking glass self" and Erving Goffman's "virtual" and "actual social identity" theories. The FIS suggests a social event, or series of events, during one's childhood or adolescence results in a fracturing of the personality of the serial killer. The term "fracture" is defined as a small breakage of the personality which is often not visible to the outside world and is only felt by the killer.
"Social Process Theory" has also been suggested as an explanation for serial murder. Social process theory states that offenders may turn to crime due to peer pressure, family, and friends. Criminal behavior is a process of interaction with social institutions, in which everyone has the potential for criminal behavior. A lack of family structure and identity could also be a cause leading to serial murder traits. A child used as a scapegoat will be deprived of their capacity to feel guilt. Displaced anger could result in animal torture, as identified in the Macdonald triad, and a further lack of basic identity.
The "military theory" has been proposed as an explanation for why serial murderers kill, as some serial murderers have served in the military or related fields. According to Castle and Hensley, 7% of the serial killers studied had military experience. This figure may be a proportional under-representation when compared to the number of military veterans in a nation's total population. For example, according to the United States census for the year 2000, military veterans comprised 12.7% of the U.S. population; in England, it was estimated in 2007 that military veterans comprised 9.1% of the population. Though by contrast, about 2.5% of the population of Canada in 2006 consisted of military veterans.
There are two theories that can be used to study the correlation between serial killing and military training: Applied learning theory states that serial killing can be learned. The military is training for higher kill rates from servicemen while training the soldiers to be desensitized to taking a human life. Social learning theory can be used when soldiers get praised and accommodated for killing. They learn, or believe that they learn, that it is acceptable to kill because they were praised for it in the military. Serial killers want accreditation for the work that they have done.
In both military and serial killing, the offender or the soldier may become desensitized to killing as well as compartmentalized; the soldiers do not see enemy personnel as "human" and neither do serial killers see their victims as humans. The theories do not imply that military institutions make a deliberate effort to produce serial killers; to the contrary, all military personnel are trained to recognize when, where, and against whom it is appropriate to use deadly force, which starts with the basic Law of Land Warfare, taught during the initial training phase, and may include more stringent policies for military personnel in law enforcement or security. They are also taught ethics in basic training.
FBI: Issues and practices
In 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) published a handbook titled Serial Murder which was the product of a symposium held in 2005 to bring together the many issues surrounding serial murder, including its investigation.
According to the FBI, identifying one, or multiple, murders as being the work of a serial killer is the first challenge an investigation faces, especially if the victim(s) come from a marginalized or high risk population and is normally linked through forensic or behavioral evidence (FBI 2008). Should the cases cross multiple jurisdictions, the law enforcement system in the United States is fragmented and thus not configured to detect multiple similar murders across a large geographic area (Egger 1998). The FBI suggests utilizing databases and increasing interdepartmental communication. Keppel (1989) suggests holding multi-jurisdictional conferences regularly to compare cases giving departments a greater chance to detect linked cases and overcome linkage blindness. One such collaboration, the Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database Project was proposed at the 2012 FDIAI Annual Conference. Utilizing Radford's Serial Killer Database as a starting point, the new collaboration, hosted by FGCU Justice Studies, has invited and is working in conjunction with other Universities to maintain and expand the scope of the database to also include spree and mass murders. Utilizing over 170 data points, multiple-murderer methodology and victimology; researchers and Law Enforcement Agencies can build case studies and statistical profiles to further research the Who, What, Why and How of these types of crimes.
Leadership, or administration, should play a small or virtually non-existent role in the actual investigation past assigning knowledgeable or experienced homicide investigators to lead positions. The administration's role is not to run the investigation but to establish and reaffirm the primary goal of catching the serial killer, as well as provide support for the investigators. The FBI (2008) suggests completing Memorandums of Understanding to facilitate support and commitment of resources from different jurisdictions to an investigation. Egger (1998) takes this one step further and suggests completing mutual aid pacts, which are written agreements to provide support to each other in a time of need, with surrounding jurisdictions. Doing this in advance would save time and resources that could be used on the investigation.
Organization of the structure of an investigation is key to its success, as demonstrated by the investigation of Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer. Once a serial murder case was established, a task force was created to track down and arrest the offender. Over the course of the investigation, for various reasons, the task force's organization was radically changed and reorganized multiple times – at one point including more than 50 full-time personnel, and at another, only a single investigator. Eventually, what led to the end of the investigation was a conference of 25 detectives organized to share ideas to solve the case.
The FBI handbook provides a description of how a task force should be organized but offers no additional options on how to structure the investigation. While it appears advantageous to have a full-time staff assigned to a serial murder investigation, it can become prohibitively expensive. For example, the Green River Task Force cost upwards of $2 million per year, and as was witnessed with the Green River Killer investigation, other strategies can prevail where a task force fails.
A common strategy, already employed by many departments for other reasons, is the conference, in which departments get together and focus on a specific set of topics. With serial murders, the focus is typically on unsolved cases, with evidence thought to be related to the case at hand.
Similar to a conference is an information clearing-house in which a jurisdiction with a suspected serial murder case collects all of its evidence and actively seeks data which may be related from other jurisdictions. By collecting all of the related information into one place, they provide a central point in which it can be organized and easily accessed by other jurisdictions working toward the goal of arresting an offender and ending the murders.
Already mentioned was the task force, FBI 2008, Keppel 1989 which provides for a flexible, organized, framework for jurisdictions depending on the needs of the investigation. Unfortunately due to the need to commit resources (manpower, money, equipment, etc.) for long periods of time it can be an unsustainable option.
In the case of the investigation of Aileen Wournos, the Marion County Sheriff coordinated multiple agencies without any written or formal agreement. While not a specific strategy for a serial murder investigation, this is certainly a best practice in so far as the agencies were able to work easily together toward a common goal.
Finally, once a serial murder investigation has been identified, utilization of an FBI Rapid Response Team can assist both experienced and inexperienced jurisdictions in setting up a task force. This is completed by organizing and delegating jobs, by compiling and analyzing clues, and by establishing communication between the parties involved.
During the course of a serial murder investigation it may become necessary to call in additional resources; the FBI defines this as Resource Augmentation. Within the structure of a task force the addition of a resource should be thought of as either long term, or short term. If the task force's framework is expanded to include the new resource, then it should be permanent and not removed. For short term needs, such as setting up road blocks or canvassing a neighborhood, additional resources should be called in on a short term basis. The decision of whether resources are needed short or long term should be left to the lead investigator and facilitated by the administration (FBI 2008). The confusion and counter productiveness created by changing the structure of a task force mid investigation is illustrated by the way the Green River Task Force's staffing and structure was changed multiple times throughout the investigation. This made an already complicated situation more difficult, resulting in the delay or loss of information, which allowed Ridgeway to continue killing (Guillen 2007). The FBI model does not take into account that permanently expanding a task force, or investigative structure, may not be possible due to cost or personnel availability. Egger (1998) offers several alternative strategies including; using investigative consultants, or experienced staff to augment an investigative team. Not all departments have investigators experienced in serial murder and by temporarily bringing in consultants, they can educate a department to a level of competence then step out. This would reduce the initially established framework of the investigation team and save the department the cost of retaining the consultants until the conclusion of the investigation.
The FBI handbook (2008) and Keppel (1989) both stress communication as paramount. The difference is that the FBI handbook (2008) concentrates primarily on communication within a task force while Keppel (1989) makes getting information out to, and allowing information to be passed back from patrol officers a priority. The FBI handbook (2008) suggest having daily e-mail or in person briefings for all staff involved in the investigation and providing periodic summary briefings to patrol officer and managers. Looking back on a majority of serial murderer arrests, most are exercised by patrol officers in the course of their every day duties and unrelated to the ongoing serial murder investigation (Egger 1998, Keppel 1989). Keppel (1989) provides examples of Larry Eyler, who was arrested during a traffic stop for a parking violation, and Ted Bundy, who was arrested during a traffic stop for operating a stolen vehicle. In each case it was uniformed officers, not directly involved in the investigation, who knew what to look for and took the direct action that stopped the killer. By providing up to date (as opposed to periodic) briefings and information to officers on the street the chances of catching a serial killer, or finding solid leads, are increased.
A serial murder investigation generates staggering amounts of data, all of which needs to be reviewed and analyzed. A standardized method of documenting and distributing information must be established and investigators must be allowed time to complete reports while investigating leads and at the end of a shift (FBI 2008). When the mechanism for data management is insufficient, leads are not only lost or buried but the investigation can be hindered and new information can become difficult to obtain or become corrupted. During the Green River Killer investigation, reporters would often find and interview possible victims or witnesses ahead of investigators. The understaffed investigation was unable to keep up the information flow, which prevented them from promptly responding to leads. To make matters worse, investigators believed that the journalists, untrained in interviewing victims or witnesses of crimes, would corrupt the information and result in unreliable leads (Guillen 2007).
Notorious and infamous serial killers number in the hundreds, and a subculture revolves around their legacies. That subculture includes the collection, sale, and display of serial killer memorabilia, dubbed "murderabilia" by one of the best-known opponents of collectors of serial killer remnants, Andrew Kahan. He is the director of the Mayor's Crime Victims Office in Houston and is backed by the families of murder victims and "Son of Sam laws" existing in some states that prevent murderers from profiting from the publicity generated by their crimes.
Such memorabilia includes the paintings, writings, and poems of these killers. Recently, marketing has capitalized even more upon interest in serial killers with the rise of various merchandise such as trading cards, action figures, and books such as The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers by Harold Schechter, and The A-Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers by Schecter and David Everitt. Some serial killers attain celebrity status in the way they acquire fans, and may have previous personal possessions auctioned off on websites like eBay. A few examples of this are Ed Gein's 150-pound stolen gravestone and Bobby Joe Long's sunglasses.
- List of horror film villains
- List of serial killers before 1900
- List of serial killers by country
- List of serial killers by number of victims
- List of songs about or referencing serial killers
- Offender profiling
- Serial crime
- Son of Sam law
- A serial killer is most commonly defined as a person who kills three or more people for psychological gratification; reliable sources over the years agree. See, for example:
- "Serial killer". TheFreeDictionary.com. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
A person who murders 3+ people over a period of > 30 days, with an inactive period between each murder, and whose motivation for killing is largely based on psychological gratification.
- Holmes & Holmes 1998, Serial murder is the killing of three or more people over a period of more than 30 days, with a significant cooling-off period between the murders [...] The baseline number of three victims appears to be most common among those who are the academic authorities in the field. The time frame also appears to be an agreed-upon component of the definition.
- Petherick 2005, p. 190 Three killings seem to be required in the most popular operational definition of serial killing since they are enough to provide a pattern within the killings without being overly restrictive.
- Flowers 2012, p. 195 in general, most experts on serial murder require that a minimum of three murders be committed at different times and usually different places for a person to qualify as a serial killer.
- Schechter 2012, p. 73 Most experts seem to agree, however, that to qualify as a serial killer, an individual has to slay a minimum of three unrelated victims.
- "Serial killer". TheFreeDictionary.com. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- Burkhalter Chmelir 2003, p. 1.
- Hough & McCorkle 2016, p. 73 Serial killing has been defined by different researchers or groups as either two or more, three or more, or even four or more people killed over at least one month with a cooling off period between each of the murders.
- Burkhalter Chmelir 2003, p. 1, Morton 2005, pp. 4, 9
- Morton 2005, p. 4, 9.
- Scott, Shirley Lynn. "What Makes Serial Killers Tick?". truTV. Archived from the original on July 28, 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
- Ressler & Schachtman 1993, p. 29, Schechter 2003, p. 5
- Rule 2004, p. 225.
- Gennat 1930, pp. 7, 27–32, 49–54, 79–82.
- Vronsky 2004
- "Review: The Meaning of Murder". Evening Star. Washington DC. May 30, 1967. p. 12, col. 4.
- Vronsky 2013.
- Petherick 2005, p. 190.
- Flowers 2012, p. 195.
- Morton 2005
- Schlesinger 2000, p. 5.
- "Tanganyika: Murder by Lion". Time. November 4, 1957. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- Qian 1993, p. 387.
- Vronsky 2004, p. 45-48.
- Vronsky 2004, p. 47.
- Vronsky 2007, p. 78.
- Rubinstein 2004, pp. 82–83.
- Newton 2006, p. 117.
- Norder, Vanderlinden & Begg 2004.
- "Jack The Ripper: The First Serial Killer".
- Canter 1994, pp. 12–13.
- Canter 1994, pp. 5–6.
- Davenport-Hines 2004, Woods & Baddeley 2009, pp. 20, 52
- Bardsley, Marilyn. "Jack the Ripper – the most famous serial killer of all time". truTV.com. Archived from the original on June 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- Ramsland, Katherine. "The Werewolf Syndrome: Compulsive Bestial Slaughterers. Vacher the Ripper". truTV.com. Archived from the original on July 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- "French "Ripper" Guillotined – Joseph Vacher, Who Murdered More Than a Score of Persons, Executed at Bourg-en-Bresse". The New York Times. 1899-01-01. p. Page 7. Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- Newton 2006, p. 95.
- Morton 2005, Skeem et al., pp. 95–162
- Bartol & Bartol 2004, p. 145.
- Morse, Stephen J. "Psychopathy – What Is Psychopathy?". Law Library – American Law and Legal Information. Crime and Justice Vol 3. Archived from the original on 2008-09-25. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
- Silva, Leong & Ferrari 2004, p. 794.
- Singer & Hensley 2004, pp. 48, 461–476.
- Mount 2007, pp. 131–133.
- Holloway, Lynette. Of Course There Are Black Serial Killers Archived 2013-10-13 at the Wayback Machine. The Root.
- Serial Killer Information Center: Serial Killer I.Q. Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
- "UK | Harold Shipman: The killer doctor". BBC News. 2004-01-13. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "CrimeLibrary.com/Serial Killers/Sexual Predators/Dennis Nilsen – Growing Up Alone – Crime Library on". Trutv.com. 1945-11-23. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Testorides, Konstantin (2008-06-24). "'Serial murder' journalist commits suicide". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Mellor 2012.
- Holmes & Holmes 2000, p. 107.
- Tithecott 1997, p. 38.
- Hale 1993, p. 41.
- Hasselt 1999, p. 166.
- Wilson & Seaman 1992.
- Hasselt 1999, p. 162.
- Hickey 2010, p. 107.
- Maccoby 1992, pp. 1006–17.
- Rodgers, Abby. "A Terrifying Glimpse into The Mind of a Serial Killer". Business Insider. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
- Giannangelo 1996, p. 33.
- Silva, Leong & Ferrari 2004, p. 790, Tithecott 1997, p. 43
- Vronsky 2004, pp. 99–100.
- Ressler & Schachtman 1993, p. 113.
- Aamodt, Dr. Mike. "Serial Killer Statistics" (PDF). Radford University/FGCU Serial Killer Database. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- "Serial Killers". Archived from the original on March 9, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2009.
- Sitpond 2000, p. [page needed], Whittle & Ritchie 2000, p. [page needed], Linedecker & Burt 1990, p. [page needed], Hickey 2010, p. 142
- Wires, Linda (2015). "Angels of Death". New Scientist. 225 (3007): 40. Bibcode:2015NewSc.225...40W. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(15)60268-8. Archived from the original on December 18, 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
- Holmes & Holmes 1998, p. 204.
- Ramsland, Katherine (2007-03-22). "When Women Kill Together". The Forensic Examiner. American College of Forensic Examiners Institute. Archived from the original on 2010-08-29. Retrieved 2009-08-02.
- "Genene Jones Biography".
- "Your Questions Answered About Black Widow Case. Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. James Knoll Answers Viewers' Questions About Stacey Castor". ABC News. April 27, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2009.
- Kelleher & Kelleher 1998, p. 12, Wilson & Hilton 1998, pp. 495–498, Frei et al. 2006, pp. 167–176
- Hickey 2010, pp. 187, 257,266, Vronsky 2007, p. 9, Farrell, Keppel & Titterington 2011, pp. 228–252
- Farrell, Keppel & Titterington 2011, pp. 228–252
- Newton 2006
- Frei et al. 2006, pp. 167–176
- Educated attempt to provide specific information about a certain type of suspect. Department of Psychology, Concordia University. 2008. Archived from the original (PPT) on April 26, 2012. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
- Vronsky 2007, p. 41.
- Hickey 2010, p. 267.
- Wilson & Hilton 1998, pp. 495–498, Frei et al. 2006, pp. 167–176
- Hickey 2010, p. 265.
- Harrison et al., pp. 383–406.
- Vronsky 2007.
- Eric W. Hickey, (2010).
- Wilson & Hilton 1998, pp. 495–498, Frei et al. 2006, pp. 167–176, Holmes & Holmes 1998, p. 171, Newton 2006
- Vronsky 2007, pp. 1, 42–43, Schechter 2003, p. 312
- Schechter 2003, p. 31, Fox & Levin 2005, p. 117
- Schmid 2005, p. 231, Arrigo & Griffin 2004, pp. 375–393
- Yardley & Wilson 2015, pp. 1–26.
- Vronsky 2007, p. 73.
- Perri & Lichtenwald 2010, pp. 50–67
- Kirby 2009.
- "Youngest Serial Killer on Death Row". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
- Brown 2008, p. 12.
- N. R. Kleinfield And Erica Goode (2002-10-28). "RETRACING A TRAIL: THE SNIPER SUSPECTS; Serial Killing's Squarest Pegs: Not Solo, White, Psychosexual or Picky". The New York Times. Montgomery County (Md); Washington (Dc). Retrieved 2011-03-05.
- Schechter 2012, p. 42.
- Godwin 2008, p. 60.
- Walsh 2005, pp. 271–291.
- Holmes & Holmes 1998, pp. 43–44, Bartol & Bartol 2004, p. 284
- Holmes & Holmes 1998, p. 62.
- Ressler & Schachtman 1993, p. 146.
- Schechter 2003, p. 291.
- Abrahamsen, David (1 July 1979). "The Demons of 'Son of Sam'". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 101 (168). pp. 2G, 5G.
- Holmes & Holmes 1998, p. 43.
- Holmes & Holmes 2002, p. 112.
- Bartol & Bartol 2004, p. 146.
- Myers et al. 1993, pp. 435–451.
- Bartol & Bartol 2004, p. 146, Holmes & Holmes 2001, p. 163, Dobbert 2004, pp. 10–11
- Dobbert 2004, p. 10-11.
- Giannangelo 2012, Fulero & Wrightsman 2008, Dvorchak & Holewa 1991
- MacCormick 2003, p. 431.
- Dobbert 2004, p. 11.
- Bartol & Bartol 2004, p. 146, Howard & Smith 2004, p. 4
- Howard & Smith 2004, p. 4.
- Graysmith 2007, pp. 54–55.
- "A Deal With the Devil?". 60 Minutes. October 14, 2004. Retrieved June 28, 2008.
- Mitchell 2006, pp. 207–208.
- Bartol & Bartol 2004, p. 146, Schlesinger 2000, p. 276, Holmes & Holmes 2000, p. 41
- Holmes & Holmes 2000, p. 44.
- Holmes & Holmes 2000, p. 43.
- Holmes & Holmes 1998, p. 7.
- Bruno 1993, p. 142.
- "Dorothea Puente, Killing for Profit – Easy Money – Crime Library on". Trutv.com. Archived from the original on January 14, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Andrews, Travis M. (2016-08-12). "Felix Vail guilty in first wife's 1962 La. murder. For over 50 years, his romantic partners have died or vanished". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
A jury found Felix Vail guilty Friday in the 1962 homicide of his first wife, Mary Horton Vail.
- Mitchell, Jerry (2016-07-08). "Oldest prosecution of serial killer suspect is Aug. 8". Clarion Ledger. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
The Louisiana Supreme Court is allowing the disappearances of these two women as evidence in the trial.
- McConnaughey, Janet (August 8, 2016). "Trial: Man, 76, accused of killing 1st wife in October 1962". Associated Press. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
- Egger, Steven A. (2000). "Why Serial Murderers Kill: An Overview". Contemporary Issues Companion: Serial Killers.
- Peck & Dolche 2000, p. 255.
- "Dennis Rader". Biography. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
- Goldberg & Crespo 2003.
- Holmes & Holmes 2010, p. 55-56.
- "SERIAL KILLERS". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on May 20, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
- Hickey 2010, p. [page needed].
- Claus & Lindberg 1999, pp. 427–435.
- Castle & Hensley 2002, pp. 453–465, DeFronzo & Prochnow 2004, pp. 104–108
- Richardson, Christy; Waldrop, Judith (2003). "Veterans: 2000" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau: 5. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
- Woodhead et al. 2009, pp. 50–54.
- "Estimated population of Canada, 1605 to present". Statistics Canada. July 6, 2009. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "The Veteran Population and the People We Serve". Veterans Affairs Canada. 2003. Archived from the original on October 1, 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
- Castle & Hensley 2002.
- Exploring serial murder from a social learning perspective. (2011, January 3). Retrieved from http://www.deviantcrimes.com/serialmurder_sociallearning.htm.
- Hamamoto 2002, pp. 105–120.
- Atwood 1992.
- "Serial Murder". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- Egger 2002
- Keppel 2000
- Elink-Schuurman-Laura, Kristin. "Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database Project – Justice Studies FGCU". FGCU Department of Justice Studies. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
- "FDIAI 52nd Annual Conference". Archived from the original on October 31, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
- Aamodt, Dr. Mike. "Serial Killer Statistics" (PDF). Radford University. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
- Guillen 2007
- Egger 1990
- Ramsland, Katherine; Karen Pepper. "Serial Killer Culture". Tru.tv Crime Library. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
- Robinson, Bryan (2006-01-07). "Serial Killer Action Figures For Sale". ABC News. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
- Ramsland, Katherine; Karen Pepper. "Serial Killer Culture". Tru.tv Crime Library. Archived from the original on June 1, 2009. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
- Arrigo, B.; Griffin, A. (2004). "Serial Murder and the Case of Aileen Wuornos: Attachment Theory, Psychopathy, and Predatory Aggression". Behavioral Sciences & the Law. 22 (3): 375–93. doi:10.1002/bsl.583. PMID 15211558.
- Atwood, Donald J. (25 February 1992). "Department of Defense Directive AD-A272 176: Use of Deadly Force and the Carrying of Firearms by DoD Personnel Engaged in Law Enforcement and Security Duties" (PDF). DoD.
- Bartol, Curt R.; Bartol, Anne M. (2004). Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4129-5830-1.
- Brown, Pat (2008). Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers. Phoenix Books, Inc. ISBN 9781597775755.
- Bruno, Anthony (1993). The Iceman: the True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9780385307789.
- Burkhalter Chmelir, Sandra (2003). "Serial Killers". In Robert Kastenbaum. Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA/Thomson/Gale. p. 1. Archived from the original on 2008-09-22.
- Canter, David (1994). Criminal Shadows: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780002552158.
- Castle, T.; Hensley, C. (2002). "Serial killers with military experience: Applying learning theory to serial murder" (PDF). International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 46 (4): 453–65. doi:10.1177/0306624x02464007. PMID 12150084. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 27, 2011.
- Claus, C.; Lindberg, L. (1999). "Serial Murder as a 'Shariar Syndrome'". The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry. 10 (2): 427–435. doi:10.1080/09585189908403694.
- Davenport-Hines, Richard (2004). Jack the Ripper (fl. 1888), serial killer. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001 (inactive 2019-02-05).
- DeFronzo, J; Prochnow, J (2004). "Violent cultural factors and serial homicide by males". Psychological Reports. 94 (1): 104–108. doi:10.2466/pr0.94.1.104-108. PMID 15077753.
- Dobbert, Duane L. (2004). Halting the Sexual Predators Among Us: Preventing Attack, Rape, and Lust Homicide. Greenwood. ISBN 9780275978624.
- Dvorchak, Robert J.; Holewa, Lisa (1991). Milwaukee Massacre: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Milwaukee Murders. Dell Pub. ISBN 9780440212867.
- Egger, Steven A. (1990). Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon. Praeger Publishers Inc. ISBN 9780275929862.<
- Egger, Steven A. (2002). The Killers Among Us: An Examination of Serial Murder and Its Investigation. Prentice Hall. ISBN 9780130179159.
- Farrell, Amanda L.; Keppel, Robert D.; Titterington, Victoria B. (August 2011). "Lethal Ladies: Revisiting What We Know About Female Serial Murderers". Homicide Studies. 15 (3): 228–252. doi:10.1177/1088767911415938. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- Flowers, R. Barri (2012). The Dynamics of Murder: Kill or Be Killed. CRC Press. ISBN 9781439879740.
- Fox, James Alan; Levin, Jack (2005). Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. Sage. ISBN 9780761988571.
- Frei, A.; Völlm, B.; Graf, M.; Dittmann, V. (2006). "Female serial killing: Review and case report". Criminal Behavior and Mental Health. 16 (33): 167–76. doi:10.1002/cbm.615. PMID 16838388.
- Fulero, Solomon M.; Wrightsman, Lawrence S. (2008). Forensic Psychology. Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1111804954.
- Geberth, Vernon J. (1995). "Psychopathic sexual sadists: The psychology and psychodynamics of serial killers". Law and Order. 43 (4): 82–86. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
- Gennat, Ernst (1930). "Die Düsseldorfer Sexualmorde". Kriminalistische Monatshefte.
- Giannangelo, Stephen J. (1996). The Psychopathology of Serial Murder: A Theory of Violence. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275954345.
- Giannangelo, Stephen J. (2012). Real-life Monsters: A Psychological Examination of the Serial Murderer. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313397844.
- Godwin, Grover Maurice (2008). Hunting Serial Predators. Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN 9780763735104.
- Goldberg, Carl; Crespo, Virginia (2003). "A psychological examination of serial killer cinema: The case of copycat". Post Script. 22 (2). ISSN 0277-9897.
- Graysmith, Robert (2007). Zodiac (Reissue ed.). Berkley. ISBN 978-0-425-21218-9.
- Guillen, Tomas (2007). Serial Killers: Issues Explored Through the Green River Murders. Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 9780131529663.
- Hamamoto, D (2002). "Empire of death: militarized society and the rise of serial killing and mass murder". New Political Science. 24 (1): 105–120. doi:10.1080/07393140220122662.
- Harrison, Marissa A.; Murphy, Erin A.; Ho, Lavina Y.; Bowers, Thomas G.; Flaherty, Claire V. (2015). "Female serial killers in the United States: means, motives, and makings". The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology. 26 (3): 383–406. doi:10.1080/14789949.2015.1007516.
- Hasselt, V. B. Van (1999). Handbook of psychological approaches with violent offenders: Contemporary strategies and issues. Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers. ISBN 9780306458453.
- Hale, Robert L. (9 January 1993). "The Application of Learning Theory to Serial Murder or "You Too Can Learn to be a Serial Killer"". American Journal of Criminal Justice. 17 (2): 37–45. doi:10.1007/BF02885952.
- Howard, Amanda; Smith, Martin (2004). River of Blood: Serial Killers and Their Victims. Universal. ISBN 978-1-58112-518-4.
- Hickey, Eric W. (2010). Serial murderers and their victims. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
- Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T. (2010). Serial murder (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Sage, California. ISBN 978-1-4129-7442-4.
- Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T. (1998). Serial Murder (Second ed.). Sage. ISBN 978-0-7619-1367-2.
- Holmes, Ronald M; Holmes, Stephen T (2000). Mass murder in the United States. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-934308-7.
- Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T. (2001). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior (Second ed.). Sage. ISBN 978-0-7619-2417-3.
- Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T. (2002). Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. Sage. ISBN 978-0-7619-2594-1.
- Hough, Richard M.; McCorkle, Kimberly D. (2016). American Homicide. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1439138854.
- Kelleher, Michael D.; Kelleher, C.L. (1998). Murder Most Rare: The Female Serial Killer. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-96003-2.
- Keppel, Robert D. (2000). Serial Murder: Future Implications for Police Investigations (1ition ed.). Authorlink Pr. ISBN 9781928704188.
- Kirby, Ashley M. (2009). Juvenile Serial Killers: Descriptive Characteristics and Profiles. Alliant International University, California School of Forensic Psychology, Fresno.
- Linedecker, Clifford L.; Burt, William A. (1990). Nurses who Kill. Windsor. ISBN 978-1-55817-449-8.
- Maccoby, E. E (1992). "The role of parents in the socialization of children: An historical overview". Developmental Psychology. 28 (6): 1006–1017. doi:10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.2066.
- MacCormick, Alex (2003). The Mammoth Book of Maneaters: Over 250 Terrifying True Accounts of Predators from Pre-history to the Present. Running Press. ISBN 9780786711703.
- Mellor, Lee (2012). Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder. Dundurn. ISBN 9781459701243.
- Mitchell, Corey (2006). Evil Eyes. Pinnacle Books. ISBN 9780786016761.
- Morton, RJ (2005). "Serial murder multi-disciplinary perspectives for investigators" (PDF). Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
- Mount, George (2007). "Predicting Dangerousness". Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations. 7: 131–133. doi:10.1300/j173v07n01_11 – via EBSCOhost.
- Myers, Wade C.; McElroy, Ross; Burton, Karen; Recoppa, Lawrence (1993). "Malignant Sex and Aggression: An Overview of Serial Sexual Homicide". Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 21 (4): 435–51. PMID 8054674.
- Newton, Michael (2006). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9780816069873.
- Norder, Dan; Vanderlinden, Wolf; Begg, Paul (2004). Ripper Notes: Madmen, Myths and Magic. Inklings Press. ISBN 9780975912911.
- Peck, Dennis L.; Dolche, Norman Allan (2000). Extraordinary Behavior: A Case Study Approach to Understanding Social Problems. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-275-97057-4.
- Perri, Frank S.; Lichtenwald, Terrance G. (2010). "The Last Frontier: Myths & The Female Psychopathic Killer" (PDF). Forensic Examiner. 19 (2).
- Petherick, Wayne (2005). Serial Crime: Theoretical and Practical Issues in Behavioral Profiling. Elsevier. ISBN 9780080468549.
- Qian, Sima (1993). "Han Dynasty". Records of the Grand Historian: Han dynasty. I (Revised ed.). Columba University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-08164-1.
- Ressler, Robert K.; Schachtman, Thomas (1993). Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI. New York: Macmillan/St. Martin's. ISBN 978-0-312-95044-6.
- Rubinstein, W. D. (2004). Genocide: A History. Pearson Longman. ISBN 9780582506015.
- Rule, Ann (2004). Kiss Me, Kill Me: Ann Rule's Crime Files. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781416500032.
- Schechter, Harold (2003). The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-47200-7.
- Schechter, Harold (2012). The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781439138854.
- Schlesinger, Louis B. (2000). Serial Offenders: Current Thought, Recent Findings. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-2236-5.
- Schmid, David (2005). Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-73867-3.
- Sitpond, M. (2000). Addicted to murder: The true story of Dr Harold Shipman. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-7535-0445-1.
- Silva, J. Arturo; Leong, Gregory B.; Ferrari, Michelle M. (2004). "A neuropsychiatric developmental model of serial homicidal behavior". Behavioral Sciences & the Law. 22 (6): 787–799. doi:10.1002/bsl.620. PMID 15568202.
- Singer, S.D; Hensley, C (2004). "Learning theory to childhood and adolescent fire-setting: Can it lead to serial murder. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology". International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 48 (4): 461–76. doi:10.1177/0306624X04265087. PMID 15245657. Archived from the original on 2013-01-07. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- Skeem, J. L.; Polaschek, D. L. L.; Patrick, C. J.; Lilienfeld, S. O. (2011). "Psychopathic Personality: Bridging the Gap Between Scientific Evidence and Public Policy". Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 12 (3): 95–162. doi:10.1177/1529100611426706. PMID 26167886.
- Tithecott, R (1997). Of Men and Monsters: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Construction of the Serial Killer. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-15680-0.
- Vronsky, Peter (2004). Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters. Penguin Group/Berkley. ISBN 978-0-425-19640-3.
- Vronsky, Peter (2007). Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters. New York: Berkley Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-425-21390-2.
- Vronsky, Peter (2013). "Serial Killer Zombie Apocalypse and the Dawn of the Less Dead: An Introduction to Sexual Serial Murder Today", in Serial Killers: True Crime Anthology 2014. RJ Parker Publishing. ISBN 978-1494325893.
- Walsh, Anthony (November 2005). "African Americans and Serial Killing in the Media". Homicide Studies. 9 (4): 271–291. doi:10.1177/1088767905280080. ISSN 1088-7679.
- Whittle, Brian; Ritchie, Jean (2000). "Prescription for Murder: The True Story of Mass Murderer Dr Harold Frederick Shipman". Warner.
- Wilson, W.; Hilton, T. (1998). "Modus operandi of female serial killers". Psychological Reports. 82 (2): 495–8. doi:10.2466/PR0.82.2.495-498. PMID 9621726.
- Wilson, Colin; Seaman, Donald (1992). The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence. True Crime. ISBN 9780863696152.
- Woodhead, Charlotte; Sloggett; Bray, Issy; Bradbury, Jason; McManus, Sally; Meltzer, Howard; Brugha, Terry; Jenkins, Rachel; Greenberg, Neil; Wessely, Simon; Fear, Nicola (2009). "An Estimate of the Veteran Population in England: Based on data from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey" (PDF). Population Trends (138). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
- Woods, Paul; Baddeley, Gavin (2009). Saucy Jack: The Elusive Ripper. Ian Allan. ISBN 9780711034105.
- Yardley, Elizabeth; Wilson, David (2015). Female Serial Killers in Social Context: Criminological Institutionalism and the Case of Mary Ann Cotton. Policy Press. ISBN 9781447327639.
- Borgeson; Kristen Kuehnle (2010). Serial Offenders: Theory and Practice. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7637-7730-2.
- Brady, Ian; Colin Wilson (Introduction); Peter Sotos (Afterword) (2001). The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and Its Analysis. Feral House. ISBN 978-0922915736.
- Douglas, John; Mark Olshaker (1997). Journey into Darkness. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-00394-4.
- Douglas, John; Mark Olshaker (1997). Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-01375-2.
- Douglas, John E.; Allen G. Burgess; Robert K. Ressler; Ann W. Burgess (2006). Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes (Second ed.). Wiley. ISBN 978-0-7879-8501-1.
- Haggerty, Kevin D. (2009). "Crime, Media, Culture: Modern Serial Killer". Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal. 5 (2): 1–21. doi:10.1177/1741659009335714.
- Holmes, Ronald M.; Stephen T. Holmes (1998). Contemporary Perspectives on Serial Murder. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0-7619-1421-1.
- Holmes, Ronald M.; Stephen T. Holmes (2000). Murder in America (Second ed.). Sage. ISBN 978-0-7619-2092-2.
- Jensen, Sybil (2014). Top 10 American Serial Killers:Inside The Minds of Psychopaths. Haselton Media Group. ASIN B00KGDUJ2U.
- Kiam, O.M. (2013). The Second One: A Serial Killer's Account of His First Two Kills. Milford Press.
- Lane, Brian (2006). The New Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (2nd ed.). Facts on File. ISBN 978-0816061952.
- Leyton, Elliott (1986). Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer. McClelland & Stewart. ISBN 978-0-7710-5025-1.
- Lukin, Grigory (2013). Madmen's Manifestos: Chris Dorner, Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh and others. ASIN B00BM5L2HW.
- MacDonald, J. M (1963). "American Journal of Psychiatry". American Psychiatric Association. Archived from the original on 2013-06-16. Retrieved 2011-05-31.
- Newitz, Annalee (2006). Pretend We're Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-3745-4.
- Norris, Joel (1990). Serial Killers: The Growing Menace. Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-09-971750-8.
- Panzram, Carl (2002) . Gaddis, Thomas E.; Long, James O., eds. Killer: A Journal of Murder. Amok Books.
- Ramsland, Katherine (2007). Inside the Minds of Healthcare Serial Killers: Why They Kill. Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-99422-8.
- Ramsland, Katherine; Karen Pepper. "Serial Killer Culture". Tru.tv Crime Library. Archived from the original on April 16, 2010. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
- Ramsland, Katherine; Karen Pepper. "Serial Killer Culture". Tru.tv Crime Library. Archived from the original on April 10, 2010. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
- Reavill, Gil (2007). Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home. Gotham. ISBN 978-1-59240-296-0.
- Robinson, Bryan (2006-01-07). "Serial Killer Action Figures For Sale". ABC News. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
- Rosner, Lisa (2010). The Anatomy Murders. Being the True and Spectacular History of Edinburgh's Notorious Burke and Hare and of the Man of Science Who Abetted Them in the Commission of Their Most Heinous Crimes. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-4191-4.
- Roy, Jody M. (2002). Love to Hate: America's Obsession with Hatred and Violence. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-12569-7.
- Rushby, Kevin (2003). Children of Kali: Through India in Search of Bandits, the Thug Cult, and the British Raj. Walker & Company. ISBN 978-0-8027-1418-3.
- Seltzer, Mark (1998). Serial Killers: Death and Life in America's Wound Culture. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-91481-9.
- Vronsky, Peter (2004). Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters. Penguin Group/Berkley. ISBN 978-0-425-19640-3.
- Wilson, Colin (1995). A Plague of Murder. Constable & Robinson. ISBN 978-1-85487-249-4.
- Yudofsky, Stuart C. (2005). Fatal Flaws: Navigating Destructive Relationships with People with Disorders of Personality and Character. American Psychiatric Publishing. ISBN 9781585626588.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Serial killers.|