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  Discussion board #1 Motives of A Serial Killer

Discuss the various strategies for determining the appropriate qualitative research method for a particular study. If you were to do a qualitative study for your dissertation, what approach/design would you choose, and why? Provide specific examples from the required reading and other credible sources.

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Assignment 1: Due by 10am Sunday August 28, 2022 (NO LATE WORK!)

Discuss the various strategies for determining the appropriate qualitative research method for a particular study. If you were to do a qualitative study for your dissertation, what approach/design would you choose, and why? Provide specific examples from the required reading and other credible sources


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Page 1 of 2

European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015

ISSN (online): 2183-1904
ISSN (print): 2183-3818


Nine Types of Childhood Environment That

Actually Produced Mass Murderers Based on the

Information in Lay Literature and on the Internet

Department of Biomedical Engineering, Toin University of Yokohama.

1614 Kurogane, Aoba, Yokohama 225-8503, JAPAN


Abstract: Mass murderers have received relatively little academic interest compared with serial murderers. Although a solid

basis set for understanding mass murderers already exists, there seem to

be certain inconsistencies in the understanding of the

environmental backgrounds of mass murderers, especially from the viewpoint of the presence or absence of abuse, bullying,

and isolation. This study examines the environmental backgrounds of 28 mass murderers to see if there are some patterns that

appear repeatedly. In particular, this study focuses on clarifying whether these patterns are neglect-oriented, abuse-oriented,

or both and whether various factors are of equal importance in creating mass murderers. This preliminary research

intentionally used lay literatures on true crimes and Internet-based information that are normally overlooked in academic


Keywords: etiology of mass murder, childhood backgrounds, family environment, environmental factors, neglect, pattern


1. Introduction
Mass murderers have received relatively little scholarly

interest compared with serial murderers [1]. Fox and Levin

suggest that this could be because mass murderers are either

found dead at the crime scene or ready to surrender after

their mission, their crimes lack sexual/sadistic

characteristics, and they do not cause the same degree of

anxiety or media sensation as serial killers due to their short

acting period [2]. Nonetheless, they are of great interest to

behavioral scientists and mental health professionals [3],

and there is already a solid basis set for understanding mass


Mass murder is defined as the slaughter of four or more

victims by one or a few assailants within a single event,

lasting for a few minutes to several hours [4]. Mass

murderers have a clear-cut motive most of the time, which

is often revenge for what the victims have done or represent

[5], [6]. According to Bowers et al. [3], some of their traits

are antisocial personality, narcissism, oversensitivity,

rigidity, obsession, self-righteousness, grandiosity, and

impulsivity. For mass murderers, every day is a constant

battle with surrounding influences and their own negative

thoughts. Mullen coined the term autogenic massacre to

describe the actions of those who “indiscriminately kill

people in pursuit of a highly personal agenda arising from


European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015


their own specific social situation and psychopathology” [7,

p. 311]. In 1986, Dietz grouped mass murderers into three

categories [8]. The head of the family who murders his

entire family out of jealousy, revenge, or loyalty is a family

annihilator. A pseudocommando is the type who takes

anger out on society to draw attention to himself or to teach

society a lesson. A set-and-run killer bombs buildings or

vehicles, sets fires, or tampers with foods or products,

escaping before the murder actually takes place [8]. In place

of the set-and-run killer categorized by Dietz, Holmes and

Holmes added the disgruntled employee, someone who

takes revenge on his former work-place to right a perceived

injustice [9].

2. Research questions
However, despite these basic understandings, there seem to

be certain inconsistencies in the understanding of the

environmental backgrounds of mass murderers, which seem

to need clarification. Levin and Madfis argue that many

school shooters had experienced chronic strain for years at

home and were quite hostile toward their parents and other

members of their family [10]. They claim that almost half

of the school shooter sample in their study came from

homes wrought with conflict. Harper and Voigt and Fox and

Levin also seem to agree that parental abuse is a part of the

family backgrounds of homicide-suicide subjects [11], [5].

On the contrary, Kimmel and Mahler claim that almost all

the adolescent shooters came from intact and relatively

stable families, with no history of child abuse [12]. Others

point out that social isolation and bullying experiences are

key factors in the development of the mass murder

personality. Knoll asserts that pseudocommandos were

bullied or isolated as children, turning into loners who felt

despair over being socially excluded [13], [14]. Ferguson,

Coulson, and Barnett also describe the popular image of a

school shooter as a socially inept loner experiencing

constant bullying [15]. Mullen seems to support this

position, characterizing offenders as: “(i) male, (ii) under 40

years of age, (iii) a social isolate, (iv)unemployed or

marginal work, (v) bullied and/or isolated as a child, (vi)

fascinated with weapons, and (vii) a collector of guns” [7, p.

319]. Based on their view that mass murderers are from

abusive family backgrounds, Levin and Madfis further

hypothesized five stages by which school shooters develop

[10]. First, the subject experiences long-term negative

experiences at home, school, work, or in his neighborhood

early in life or in adolescence (chronic strain). This leads to

the subject’s lack of bonds with family and society, and he

is less restricted by conventional standards of behavior

(uncontrolled strain). A particularly devastating short-term

event then occurs, which triggers the desire to carry out a

murderous act (acute strain). After this, the subject actually

starts planning his actions. Finally, he acts out his school

massacre. Levin and Madfis called this whole

developmental process cumulative strain, in which each

stage builds on the previous stages. Although their model

was originally designed to describe school massacres, Levin

and Madfis indicate the possibility of extending this process

to mass murders in general, comparing each stage with the

corresponding stage in the development of adult mass

murders. They characterize school massacres “as one

particular subset of the mass murder phenomenon” [10, p.


Thus, regarding what happens at the chronic strain stage,

there are stances which assert abuse, no abuse, and bullying

and isolation. However, these inconsistencies are

significant; neglect, physical abuse, and psychological

abuse each have a different psychological effect on a child’s

development. Although physical abuse produces aggression

toward others, psychological attacks and criticism by

parents appear to be specifically associated with low

self-evaluation [16, pp. 360–361]. Neglect, on the other

hand, is associated with more severe cognitive and

academic deficits, social withdrawal and limited peer

acceptance, and internalization of problems than physical

abuse [17, p. 690]. Thus, it seems necessary to look into the

details of mass murderers’ environmental backgrounds to

clarify what exactly caused their chronic strain, including

whether the chronic, acute, and uncontrolled strains are

indeed of equal importance in generating mass murders,

which Levin and Madfis seem to imply.

European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015


3. Data source

Unlike serial murders, there are official data sources

available for mass murders. However, they are mainly used

to assess prevalence and patterns, such as offender age, race,

sex, weapon use, and the nature of the victim/offender

relationship [2]. These do not necessarily cover offenders’

upbringings. Thus, it is highly difficult to obtain official

records of the detailed personal backgrounds of a wide

range of mass murderers. Family problems are also not

directly perceptible by traditional measures


In general, lay literatures and the internet have been

considered unreliable and thus inappropriate sources of

information for academic research, and as such, these

sources have never been turned to. The authors of these

sources often tend to emphasize shocking details to attract a

larger number of readers. In addition, their sources are often

suspicious, and their factuality is not fully confirmed.

However, despite the lower credibility of these source, the

information they offer is also obtained through some level

of research conducted by the authors and could include

some accurate information. Thus, if a wide range of such

information is gathered and compared to discover

commonalities, there is a possibility that untruthful

information could be discovered and eliminated, leaving

only limited true information. Considering the current

official tendency to largely ignore mass murderers’

backgrounds, such research could serve as pilot research,

which could inspire further research on this subject.

Furthermore, in this age of information, information from

lay literatures and the web cannot simply be ignored. Thus,

in this research, we made the very first attempt to utilize lay

literatures and on-line information as the sources to look

into mass murderers’ backgrounds. At the least, this

research could reveal the patterns of what authors who have

a strong interest in this field consider important to the cause

of mass murders, which influence the formation of public

views on this subject. Because mass murder develops

unintentionally, often due to environmental factors beyond

control, and because a strong body of research on which

this research could build is absent, it was also considered

more desirable to—as much as possible—avoid any special

conditions in the selecting process of subjects.

4. Methodology

In this study, the environmental backgrounds of 28 mass

murderers were examined to see if there are some patterns

that appear repeatedly. We particularly focused on

clarifying the types of chronic strains, specifically whether

they are neglect-oriented or abuse-oriented or both, and

whether the chronic, acute, and uncontrolled strains are of

equal importance in generating mass murders. The

information used in this preliminary research was mainly

derived from lay literatures on true crimes and internet sites

such as Murderpedia, Crime Library on truTV, Wikipedia,

radford.edu, YouTube, and so forth, which contain a great

deal of information from sources directly connected to the

subjects. The subject was included as long as ample

information was available from either of the two types of

sources to help clarify the above questions. As a result,

most of the cases included turned out to be those that were

once most extensively reported on by the media. Because

this research was qualitative, we avoided examining too

many cases, for this might hinder a careful examination of

each case. At the same time, too few cases would not

produce the credible common patterns we discussed.

Considering the limited availability of information on mass

murderers compared to that available for serial killers [1],

we initially set the number of the cases that we would

examine at around 30. (All the lay literatures referred to are

listed after the references.)

Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the

collected data. Because this research was preliminary in

nature, specific assumptions were not set in advance, as in

deductive qualitative analysis [18]-[20]. We first extracted

from the sources all the information pertaining to mass

murderer subjects’ childhood backgrounds. First, the

outstanding features that characterize the backgrounds of

half of the cases were underlined. They were condensed by

European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015


deleting all unnecessary words and paraphrased into a short

form. These short forms were transcribed on a coded sheet,

and common categories were generated. These categories

were then checked with the remaining half of the cases and

revised, when necessary, to assure inter-coder consistency.

Finally, the one category that best represents the

environmental background of each case was decided by

comparing it with similar cases. Although each case

actually involves multiple factors, the subject was placed

under this one category.

5. Results

The results are shown in the tables below:

Table 1 Nine Types of Environmental Backgrounds That Produced Mass Murderers

Type Subjects under Category

Type 1a

Left alone unattended due to parental unconcern/financial


Thomas Hamilton, Ronald Simmons,

Joseph Wesbecker, James Huberty

Type 2a

Intentionally left out of the family/scapegoated

One Goh, James Ruppert, Eric Borel,

Andrew Kohoe

Type 3b

Postnatal neglect/no skin contact due to peculiar

personality/mental disorder of mother

Martin Bryant, Anders Breivik,

Howard Unruh, Adam Lanza, Dylan


Type 4

No normal communications between parents due to their cold


James Holmes, Seung-Hui Cho

Type 5c

Highly rigid parent(s)

Baruch Goldstein, Nidal Hasan

Type 6d

Overprotective mother

Michael Ryan

Type 7e

Cannot express true feelings due to insecure/demanding family


Timothy McVeigh, Charles Whitman,

Julian Knight, Jacob Roberts, Mark

Lepine, George Hennard, Eric Harris

Type 8f

Highly intoxicated secondary psychopath

Richard Speck, George Banks

Type 9

Drug-induced schizophrenia

Jared Loughner

European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015


Note. aThe difference between type 1 and type 2 is whether there is malicious intention by parent(s)/parental figure(s). bIn

type 3, the subjects were deprived of basic care after birth. This type was separated from other types of neglect that occur

after the neonatal stage due to its even greater damage [21], [22]. cType 5 killers often take on religious/philosophical

outlooks. However, it is the parent’s inflexible personality that contributes to the violent urges, and not the religious or

philosophical viewpoint itself. dThe overprotective mother is highly intrusive and does not allow the child to behave

independently. As a result, the child becomes depressed. In the worst case scenario, the child could even develop

schizophrenia [23]. eIn the family that “cannot express true feelings,” the subject acts as an ideal child, being afraid of his

parents’ divorce or losing his own niche at home. f“Secondary psychopath” refers to those who cannot stop their habitual

offenses despite the guilty feelings they experience each time [24].

Table 2 Experience of Isolation and Bullying at School

The subjects suspected of having been isolated at

school (9)

Marc Lepine, Martin Bryant, Adam Lanza,

Howard Unruh, Seung-Hui Cho, James Ruppert,

Michael Ryan, George Banks, George Hennard

The subjects suspected of having been bullied at

school (8)a

Timothy McVeigh, Martin Bryant, Adam Lanza,

James Ruppert, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold,

Michael Ryan, George Banks

Table 3 Major Incident(s) in Mass Murderers’ Childhoods and their Age at that Time

Subject Incident Age

Timothy McVeigh Parents divorced 10 years

Julian Knight Adopted

Parents divorced

10 days


2 years

James Huberty Contracted polio

Mother abandoned family

3 years

8 years

Ronald Simmons Father died

Mother remarried

3 years

4 years

Marc Lupine Parents separated (lived with

other families, seeing mother

only on weekends)

7 years

Eric Borel Sent to mother’s parents after



5 years

Joseph Wesbecker Father died (passed from place

to place, including orphanage for

almost a year)

13 months

Andrew Kehoe Mother died (a family of 13

children/fought with


5 years

Jacob Roberts Mother died (later lived with


2 years

European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015


Adam Lanza Parents divorced (diagnosed

with Asperger’s syndrome/judge

ordered a parenting education


16 years

Seung-Hui Cho Immigrated to U.S. 8 years

Anders Breivik Parents divorced

Two reports filed concerning his

mental health to instruct removal

from his parents

1 year

4 years

Richard Speck Father died 6 years

6. Discussion

There were nine types found from the environmental

backgrounds of 28 mass murderers. Almost one third of

these 28 subjects were isolated or bullied at school,

including those who felt they were bullied. In regard to the

type of maltreatment, neglect is clearly prevalent, at least

from type 1 to type 4.

Some of the confusing cases are discussed below. Some

researchers point out that Adam Lanza’s mother doted on

him. This could be true. However, from the fact that she

was shot four times in the head before his rampage at

school, it seems that Lanza harbored some anger toward his

mother. An unidentified witness reported that Lanza, who

had Asperger’s syndrome, thought that his mother loved her

students at Sandy Hook elementary (where she volunteered)

more than him. The witness also stated that Lanza hated his

mother because he was jealous of her students (Mail

Online). Considering this, it is more likely that, at least in

Lanza’s own mind, his mother neglected him. It is also

pointed out that Nancy Lanza was rigid, indicating her strict

and emotionally distant disposition (Yahoo News) and that

Lanza did not allow anyone to enter his room; he and his

mother communicated only via e-mail. Nancy allegedly

stayed at a New Hampshire hotel for two days before the

shooting as part of an experiment in letting her son stay

home alone to be independent (Mail Online). Considering

Nancy’s trial to leave Adam alone before the incident, it is

quite likely that this type of rigid attitude toward him

started very early. Abe and Kato suggest that environmental

factors might facilitate symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome,

such as dissociation, anxiety, depression, persecutory

delusions, and antisocial behavior [25]. Thus, Lanza was

placed under postnatal neglect/no skin ship.

The true backgrounds of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold

of the Columbine High School Massacre seem unclear.

Some researchers point out that they were the bullies rather

than the bullied. Indeed, there are cases suggesting that

those once bullied later turn into bullies [26]. However,

when considering the etiology of their criminal acts, their

initial “bullied” aspect better shows their original

personalities. Eric, who was considered the principal

offender of the two, called himself a “God of Sadness,” and

once said, “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many

fun things.” Dylan likewise wrote down in his journal, “I

have always been hated by everyone and everything”[27].

Princeton sociologist Katherine Newman points out that

they were not loners; they were just not accepted by the

kids who counted. The parents of his then close friend

Brook Brown stated, “[Dylan’s parents] weren’t touchy,

feely parents… It was more clinical, but they cared about

their kid” (YouTube). It is also pointed out that, although

Dylan enjoyed getting dirty, Sue Klebold was an intellectual

and a stickler for cleanliness, and the Klebold house was

always orderly [28]. Because of his mother’s academic

orientation, Dylan was placed in a special elite course

during his elementary school years. Dylan later developed a

quick temper.


European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015


Eric’s father was in the army, and he moved around

frequently. Eric was a solitary boy who could not put down

his roots anywhere. A minister later testified that although

the Harris family was a great family—friendly, outgoing,

and caring—Eric’s father did not tolerate misbehavior in his

home, and punishment was swift and harsh, which

happened all in his family undiscernible from outside [28].

A little league team mate commented that Eric was the

shyest of the group. His coach added that he was not afraid

of the ball, but he just did not want to fail. Principal Frank

DeAngelis described Harris as a deceptively polite teen,

saying “Eric was the type of kid who, when he was in front

of adults, would tell you what you wanted to hear” [27].

Around age 12, Eric walked around burning things [28].

There was also an episode in which Eric’s father turned a

deaf ear when the mother of Eric’s friend Brook informed

him that Eric intentionally broke the front shield of her

son’s car. Eric’s father allegedly disregarded her claim,

saying that it was just a trifling thing between kids. Eric

himself later confessed that he was forced to be railed to be

an angel [29], hinting that he was forced to pretend to be an

obedient child under the unspoken family pressure.

Considering all these pieces of information, Eric was placed

under “cannot express true feelings,” and Dylan under

“postnatal neglect/no skin ship” under the suspicion that his

mother’s cold attitude started right after Dylan’s birth.

There are some researchers who claim that Seung-Hui Cho

spoke with his family weekly, and that they were an integral

part of his life. However, according to a child psychiatrist

who counseled Cho’s family, he did not talk much about his

life, even with his sister, who was supposedly one of the

very few people that Cho felt comfortable with (YouTube).

His dormitory roommate testified—based on interactions he

observed, such as when Cho’s mother dropped Cho off at

campus—that there was unusual coldness between Cho and

his parents, and there were no normal family interactions.

Cho’s psychiatrist also disclosed that his father described

himself as being an introvert. Both of Cho’s parents worked

long hours—sometimes seven days a week—and were

rarely at home. Cho was diagnosed with selective-mutism;

thus, he was placed under “no normal communication.”

After losing his father—with whom he was very close—to a

heart attack at the age of six, Richard Speck was

psychologically abused by his stepfather. George Banks was

constantly bullied because of his mixed-racial status as the

son of a white woman and a black man. Both of them seem

to have developed normal affects: Speck also had caring

sisters, while Banks had a close relationship with his

mother and some friends. However, because of their

adverse environments, they developed secondary

psychopathy; they got into fights and repeated petty crimes.

At the time of each crime, Speck was high on both alcohol

and drugs, and Banks on a mixture of prescription drugs

and straight gin, which he took the night before. In both

cases, the ingestion of the substances was believed to play a

major role in triggering the mass murder. Thus, Speck and

Banks were labeled specifically as highly intoxicated

secondary psychopath, although they share characteristics

with other categories.

Jared Loughner’s family was described by his neighbor as

being very private. Loughner also kept to himself, not even

responding to others. His girlfriend when he was 15 also

points out that he had a difficult relationship with his

parents; his father “picked on him” [30]. Loughner’s

girlfriend also stated that his parents never let her come into

his house, and she claimed that he had definite dysfunction

in his family; his parents rarely acted as parental figures.

Eventually, she left him because of his anger management

problem. His close friend at high school testifies that there

was a change in his personality after he broke up with his

girlfriend. Loughner began to abuse alcohol and other drugs,

specifically LSD and Salvia divinorum (a natural

hallucinogen illegal in some states), and his life began to

unravel. Thus, although he shares traits of “intentionally left

out of family,” taking into account that his drastic

personality change happened after his drug abuse, Loughner

was labeled specifically as drug-induced schizophrenia.





European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015


After carefully examining the types—except for the last two,

which include abuse of alcohol and drugs—one can

conclude that “highly rigid parent(s),” “overprotective

mother,” and “cannot express true feelings” also seem to

belong to neglectful environment type as with type 1

through type 4. Rigid parents do not respond to—and thus

neglect—their child’s needs. Both maternal overprotection

and psychological control are known to lead to depression

because they do not allow the subject to develop

psychological independence [31], [23]; lack of independent

development is also caused by neglect. It is reported that

out of all other forms of abuse and childhood trauma,

neglect produces the unhappiest and dependent children,

who suffer from the lowest degree of self-confidence/ego

control and are the most preoccupied with negative

relational dynamics [17]. It is possible that the negative

influences of neglectful environments caused mass

murderers to have difficulty with relationships, which lead

to their later isolation and bullying experiences [32].

Regarding whether the chronic, acute, and uncontrolled

strains are of equal importance, the fact that the

environmental backgrounds of mass murderers seem to

have certain clear patterns suggests that chronic strain plays

the major role in generating mass murders. Uncontrolled

strain can follow once certain mentalities are established by

chronic strain, with acute strain being only a trigger. The

age at which such negligent conditions began for the

subjects should also be discussed. As Table 3 shows, some

incidents, such as parental divorce, happened at relatively

older ages (e.g., 8, 10, and 12). However, the negative

impacts of troubled marriages on children start taking place

well before actual divorce [33]. Negligent conditions due to

parental preoccupation with spousal quarrels are more

likely to have started at very early ages. A child is known to

develop a cognitive framework called an internal working

model around the age of three [34], [35]. A person’s later

interactions with others are guided by memories and

expectations from this internal working model [36]. If the

child’s basic needs for comfort, affection, and nurturing are

not met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others

are not established, the child develops a rare but serious

condition called reactive attachment disorder, in which an

infant/young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments

with parents and caregivers [37]. Furthermore, it is known

that five sixths of the human brain grows postnatally, and

this growth lasts well into the second postnatal year [38]. If

necessary early bonding experiences do not occur during

this time period due to parental neglect, prewired synaptic

connections are pruned, which could even lead to

permanent deficits [39]. Taking all these factors into

consideration, it is hypothesized that neglected children at

the least develop a distorted internal working model. In the

worst case scenario, they develop reactive attachment

disorder or a neurologically impaired brain, which all result

in their preoccupation with negative relation dynamics,

psychological isolation, and even avoidant attitudes toward

others [17], [39]. It could be this mental state that later leads

to their violent urges, which are represented by pathological

envy, revenge fantasies, and unexplained anger [13], [14],

[40],[41]. Their chronic strains accumulate and are later

ignited by acute strains, resulting in acts of mass murder


As was mentioned in the beginning of this paper, this

research is utterly preliminary, with its information based

on lay literatures and web sites. Nevertheless, the fact that

several clear environmental types surfaced out of the 28

subjects’ childhood backgrounds suggests that there is a

good possibility of producing similar, more reliable patterns

by utilizing more credible official records of mass

murderers’ backgrounds. As Lee et al. states, “genetic

aberration per se is not the sole reason leading to violence;

environmental factors such as childhood adversities play a

significant part in the development of violent behavior” [42,

p.445]. Further research is highly recommended.

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working models revisited. In J. Cassidy & P.R. Shaver

(Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and

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theory in clinical practice with maltreated children, part II:

treatment. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 12(1), 13-22.

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brain—a review. Journal of Child Psychology and

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Offender and offense characteristics of a nonrandom sample

of mass murderers. Journal of the American Academy of

Psychiatry and the Law, 27(2), 213–225.

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characteristics of a nonrandom sample of adolescent mass

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List of Lay Literature

All the lay literature referred to is listed here only in a brief manner to avoid unnecessary extension of References section.

Timothy McVeigh (Aitken, 2001)

Charles Whiteman (Lavergne, 1997)

Julian Knight (Haddow, 1998)

Jacob Roberts (La Corte, 2012)

Marc Lepine (Gagne & Lepine, 2008)

Martin Bryant (Wainwright & Totaro, 2009)

Adam Lanza (Lysiak & Shapiro, 2013)

Jim Jones (Reiterman, 1982)

Howard Unruh (Albright, Rose, & Kniss, 2011)

James Holmes (Castillo, 2012)

Seung-Hui Cho (Ferenc, 2007)

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (Cullen, 2009)

Anders Breivik (Orange, 2012)

Eric Borel (Karacs, 1995)

David Koresh (Haldeman, 2007)

Joseph Wesbecker (Ames, 2005)

Andrew Kehoe (Bernstein, 2009)

James Huberty (Kavanagh, 2009)

Jared Loughner (Berger, 2011)

One Goh (Ames, 2012)











European Journal of Academic Essays 2(7): 45-55, 2015


George Hennard (Hayes, 1991)

Ronald Simmons (Marshall & Williams, 1991)

James Ruppert (Wayne, 1995)

Michael Ryan (Josephs, 1993)

Baruch Goldstein (Greenberg, 1999)

Richard Speck (Altman & Zoporyn, 1967)

George Banks (Sisak, 2011)

Thomas Hamilton (Cullen, 1996)

Nidal Hasan (Dao, 2009)

Author Profile

Kenji Abe, Ed.D. researches into environmental impacts on

the development of antisocial personalities from the

perspective of understanding the globalization and social



Aggression and Violent Behavior

19 (2014) 1–11


lists available at ScienceDirect

Aggression and Violent Behavior

  • Serial killers: I. Subtypes, patterns, and motives
  • Laurence Miller ⁎
    Royal Palm Medical Centre 1599 NW 9th Ave., Ste. 206 Boca Raton, FL 33486 United States

    ⁎ Tel.: +1 561 392 8881.
    E-mail address: docmilphd@aol.com.

    1359-1789/$ – see front matter © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All ri

    a b s t r a c t

    a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:
    Received 8 July 2013
    Received in revised form 5 October 2013
    Accepted 8 October 2013
    Available online 14 November 2013

    Criminal profiling
    Forensic psychology
    Mass homicide
    Serial homicide
    Serial killers

    Part I of this two-part article outlines the history of serial killing and describes the varying patterns and motives
    for this type of crime. It reviews the assorted typologies of serial killers that have been elaborated by different
    researchers and offers an integrative classification of primary serial killer subtypes. In addition to the commonly
    cited male, heterosexual, solitary sadistic sexual homicide offender, this article describes a number of subpopu-
    lations of serial killers, including sadist–masochist, female, couple, homosexual, and professional serial killers.
    Part II will examine the developmental factors, neuropsychodynamics, and forensic applications of serial killing.

    © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All ri

    ghts reserved.


    1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
    2. History and concept of serial killing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
    3. Definition and description of serial killing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
    4. Characteristics of serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

    4.1. Demographic and descriptive features . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
    4.2. Criminal history . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
    4.3. Characteristics of the crime . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

    5. Typologies of serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
    5.1. Deitz typology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
    5.2. Holmes typology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
    5.3. Rappaport typology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
    5.4. Sewall and colleagues typology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    5.4.1. Competitively disadvantaged offenders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
    5.4.2. Psychopathic offenders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
    5.4.3. Sadistic offender . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    5.5. Serial killer typologies: conceptual commonalities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
    5.6. Organized–disorganized dichotomy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    5.6.1. Organized serial killer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
    5.6.2. Disorganized serial killer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

    6. Special populations of serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
    6.1. Sadist–masochist serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
    6.2. Female serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
    6.3. Couple serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
    6.4. Solo versus couple-based female serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

    6.4.1. Solo, purpose-oriented serial homicide offenders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
    6.4.2. Partnered, pleasure-oriented serial homicide offenders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

    6.5. Homosexual serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
    6.6. Homosexual serial killer typologies: conceptual commonalities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    ghts reserved.






    2 L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 1–11

    6.7. Professional serial killers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
    7. Summary and conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
    References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    1. Introduction

    Question: how is a great white shark like a serial killer? According to
    a study by Martin et al. (2009) in the Journal of Zoology, except for the
    water, it might be hard to tell them apart. In an interesting twist on
    ethological research, marine biologists teamed up with a criminal profil-
    er and applied the investigative methodology of geographic profiling to
    the study of shark predation. The researchers found that the sharks do
    not attack their prey at random, but stalk specific victims, lurking out
    of sight. The sharks hang back and observe from a not-too-close,
    not-too-far base, and hunt strategically. They prefer prey animals that
    are young and alone, then typically strike from below, and try to attack
    when no competing sharks are in their territory. Older sharks are
    stealthier and more successful than younger sharks, indicating that
    these oceanic predators, like their human counterparts, learn from
    experience and improve their hunting technique over time.

    In the United States, homicide accounts for approximately 20,000
    deaths annually (Flowers, 2002). In ordinary civilian life, most people
    do not kill, but we may enjoy watching others do it on television and
    at the movies, or by reading about it in books or on websites. Scholars
    busy themselves studying murder and other crimes, which is a way of
    intellectually objectifying and emotionally detoxifying these uncom-
    fortable subjects. Perhaps some of us have secret fantasies that resemble
    those of the murderer; yet, we retain control of our actual behavior and
    remain law-abiding members of society. For serial killers, however, such
    fantasies outgrow their vicarious function and become a cognitive
    staging ground for the actual commission of their crimes (Hickey,
    1997; Simon, 1996).

    The serial killer watches the same spy movies and police shows we
    do, cultural narratives where street detectives or glamorous interna-
    tional agents doggedly and cleverly pursue malfeasors (the lead charac-
    ter of one such popular 1980s TV detective series was actually named
    “Hunter”), for the greater good of society. At the same time, the nascent
    killer also absorbs society’s fascination with media portrayals of the con-
    scienceless power of rogues and outlaws who “don’t play by the rules,”
    and he feels the same tingle of exhilaration at the opportunity to vicar-
    iously track down and destroy those who “have it coming.”

    However, whereas our involvement in such mayhem begins and
    ends at the level of fantasy, the perpetrator of serial killing, or serial
    murder, or serial homicide (the most common terms) goes further. For
    the serial killer, such fantasies are not cathartic, but facilitative, the first
    step, not the last. His fantasies build, along with a neuropsycho-
    dynamically driven hunger that only the orgiastic release of torturing
    and murdering another human being will provide. What for most people
    (typically men) may constitute a momentary journey into cruelty during
    the “heat of battle,” as, for example, in military service, becomes for the
    serial killer his life’s guiding purpose and mission. That is why he is so
    relentless. That is why he will always continue to kill until he is dead
    or securely confined.

    2. History and concept of serial killing

    Ancient Roman emperors, such as Caligula, indulged their sadistic
    inclinations at will, as no doubt did many a despot with a cruel streak,
    who could exert state-sanctioned power over other people. In the
    1400s, the French nobleman Gilles de Rais raped, tortured, and killed
    several hundred children, reportedly deriving more pleasure from
    their agonies – which included dismemberment, neck-breaking, and
    decapitation – than from the act of sex with them (Benedetti, 1972).

    In 16th-century Europe, the brutal mutilations inflicted on some serial
    homicide victims led to the deaths being blamed on werewolves, since
    only a supernaturally and bestially malevolent being could possibly be
    responsible for killings of such savagery (Schlesinger, 2000).

    In 1866, Richard von Krafft-Ebing published his classic text,
    Psychopathia Sexualis, which contained the first comprehensive
    tract on serial sexual homicide in the modern era, presenting a care-
    ful description of many of the characteristics that serial homicide in-
    vestigators still use today to profile crimes. These include the
    tendency to lie and manipulate, take souvenirs from the crime
    scene, use ligatures, prolong torture for increased sexual arousal
    and pleasure, engage in an escalation of sadistic behavior, use por-
    nography, humiliate and degrade victims, and carefully plan the
    murders to avoid detection. von Krafft-Ebing also noted that these
    offenders often displayed no obvious signs of major psychopatholo-
    gy. Finally, he described signature aspects of the crime, which repre-
    sent the killer’s idiosyncratic touches on the crime scene believed to
    reflect his personality and psychopathology, and which is often used
    as a key datum in modern criminal profiling (Geberth, 1996; Hicks &
    Sales, 2006; Palermo & Kocsis, 2005).

    Probably the most famous serial murderer of all time, Jack the Rip-
    per, terrorized Victorian England in the late 1800s (Begg, Fido, &
    Skinner, 1991). Like many modern serial killers, Jack specialized in mur-
    dering prostitutes, stabbing, disemboweling, sexually mutilating the
    victims and, in some cases, carefully removing their internal organs
    and arranging them around the victim or taking them from the crime
    scene. The surgical precision with which these eviscerations were per-
    formed led to speculation that the Ripper may have been a practicing
    surgeon at one of the local hospitals in the Whitechapel district of
    London; such a “double life” is not uncommon in the histories of
    many serial killers today. A further similarity to some modern cases
    was Jack’s proclivity for sending taunting letters to the press, threaten-
    ing to continue and escalate his crimes. As with many modern unclosed
    files, the Ripper case remains unsolved to this day: Jack’s killing spree
    apparently ended as abruptly as it began and his identity was never

    Resembling more a milquetoast than a monster, Albert Fish was a
    bow-tied sadist, masochist, pedophile, serial murderer, and cannibal
    who operated from the 1920s to the 1930s in New York (Schechter,
    1990). In one instance, he abducted a schoolgirl under the guise of tak-
    ing her to a birthday party, strangled her, cut up her body, made a stew
    of her remains (complete with potatoes and vegetables), and consumed
    this dish over the next several days. As a final sadistic touch, six years
    after the murder, Fish sent a letter to the child’s mother, detailing how
    he had killed and eaten her daughter. This led to his arrest shortly
    after the letter was traced to his home. In addition to serial murder,
    Fish engaged in a variety of sadomasochistic behaviors, including eating
    his own excrement, inserting rose stems in his penis, and inserting 29
    sewing needles into his groin, clearly visible on X-ray years later. As
    discussed further below, the Albert Fish case illustrates the heterogene-
    ity and versatility of sadomasochistic behaviors displayed by serial
    killers that appear to involve the common intertwined phylogenetic
    themes of sex, death, and eating.

    One of the more famous serial killers of modern times was Albert
    DeSalvo, commonly known as the Boston Strangler, who killed 13
    women over an 18-month period in the early 1960s (Rae, 1967).
    DeSalvo displayed the kind of escalation in violence often seen in serial
    homicide careers, first as a voyeur, then progressing to burglary, later
    becoming a rapist, and finally a serial murderer. Also typical of many

    3L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 1–11

    serial killers was his penchant for using charming seduction to gain
    entry to his victims’ homes, often posing as a repairman or a scout for
    a modeling agency. The victims were strangled and stabbed, and
    broomsticks and other objects were inserted into their bodies. His sig-
    nature behavior often consisted of placing a bow made from the victims’
    stockings around their necks.

    The term serial murderer was coined by FBI Special Agent Robert
    Ressler during the “Son of Sam” killings (which were actually shootings
    of young women, not sexual homicides per se) in New York City in the
    1970s. Up to that time, there were probably less than 10 serial mur-
    derers identified in the United States. By the 1980s, the FBI calculated
    that approximately 35 serial killers were active in the U.S., and in recent
    years that estimate has swelled to between 200 and 500, accounting for
    2000 to 3500 murders a year, more than 10% of all murders in the U.S. In
    fact, with only 5% of the world’s population, some authorities believe
    that the U.S. may have up to 75% of the world’s serial killers, perhaps
    due to the open, mobile nature of American society. The increase in
    the number of serial killers captured and recorded may be due an actual
    surge in the rate of this crime or to better profiling and crime-solving
    techniques. However, despite the singular successes glorified in the
    popular media, the case clearance rate (proportion of crimes that are
    solved) of serial murders is fairly low. Thus, serial killers are precisely
    so dangerous and frightening because they rarely stop killing unless
    they die or are apprehended (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003; Chan
    & Heide, 2009; Flowers, 2002; Hickey, 1997, 2003; Holmes, 1989;
    Holmes & Holmes, 1994, 1996; Johnson & Becker, 1997; Miller, 2000;
    Palermo & Kocsis, 2005; Simon, 1996; Volavka, 1999).

    Since the late 1970s, the media and the public have become increas-
    ingly fascinated by serial killers (Table 1). However, because human na-
    ture and behavior are relatively stable across time and place, virtually all
    of the contemporary offenders chronicled in modern clinical case histo-
    ries and media narratives could find familiar chapters within the pages
    of Krafft-Ebing’s 1866 treatise. For example, prostitutes continue to be
    a favored target of serial killers, either because of psychodynamic preoc-
    cupation with the sins of tainted womanhood, or because they are con-
    veniently disenfranchised victims (Miller, 2008b; Miller & Schlesinger,
    2000; Spungen, 1998) who are easy to find, isolate, and kill without
    arousing too much of a public outcry—as opposed, for example, to
    preppie college students or young urban professionals.

    Also recently seen are cases of vampirism and cannibalism: Jeffrey
    Dahmer could trade recipes with Albert Fish on their mutual taste for

    Table 1
    Some famous American serial killers.

    Albert Fish: Active 1928–1935. Kidnapped, tortured, mutilated, and ate children. For at least som
    and ate human feces. In one case, he sent a detailed letter to a murdered little girl’s parents,

    Henry Lee Lucas: Active 1960–1983. Initially boasting of mutilating and killing up to 500 peo
    Albert DeSalvo: Active 1962–1964. The “Boston Strangler” sexually assaulted and strangled wo
    in the 1969 Rolling Stones’ song, Midnight Rambler.

    John Wayne Gacy: Active 1972–1978. Posed as a police officer, detained boys and young men

    Arthur Shawcross: Active 1972–1990. Strangled or beat to death young women, mainly pros
    Ted Bundy: Active 1974–1982. Charming and seductive, he raped, killed, and mutilated his f
    Unsuccessfully tried to feign multiple personality disorder as an insanity defense.

    David Berkowitz: Active 1976–1977. Terrorized the New York City area as the “Son of Sam,”
    from his neighbor’s dog. Stalked young, brunette, long-haired women and shot them to de

    Dennis Rader: Active 1976–1986. Called himself the “BTK Killer” for “Bind-Torture-Kill.” Tortur
    18 years, then re-emerged, with new media messages, which led to his arrest.

    Wayne Williams: Active 1979–1982. Convicted of murdering 21 African-American children in
    research has shown this not to be the case.

    Jeffrey Dahmer: Active 1987–1991. Lured boys and young men to his apartment, drugged the
    body parts around his home. Also experimented with making “sex slave zombies” out of s

    Aileen Wuornos: Active 1989–1991. A rare female serial killer, she shot seven men to death, cl
    her was titled, Monster, although it could be argued that her crimes were considerably less

    John Allen Muhammad: Active 2002. Teaming up with a young protégé, Lee Boyd Malvo, thes
    9–11 terrorist attacks. The duo killed a total of 10 people with a single hunting rifle from t
    might be wrought if a dozen or a hundred dedicated snipers were to coordinate such attac

    anthrophagy, that is, eating of humans. Children also continue to be vic-
    timized: John Wayne Gacy would feel right at home in the 1400 s with
    Gille de Rais. Many contemporary offenders are highly intelligent and
    outwardly charming, yet often with histories of fire-setting and
    animal cruelty, and some still send taunting letters to the press. In the
    popular imagination, extraterrestrial aliens have now replaced
    werewolves as suspects in particularly gruesome livestock mutilations
    which may in reality represent training exercises for a few disturbed
    individuals who might later go on to carve up humans. And like their
    predecessors, many modern serial murderers have had seemingly
    stable relationships with girlfriends or wives, many of whom claim
    ignorance when their mate’s double life is exposed or who, in some
    cases, may be complicit in the crimes (see below).

    Indeed, so great is the public’s fascination with the kind of con-
    scienceless power embodied by the serial killer, so great is the thrill
    that many people get from momentary vicarious identification with
    such pure remorselessness, that some serial killers – much like
    gangsters – have achieved the status of criminal rock stars, appearing
    in numerous crime anthologies, on T-shirts, in song lyrics, and especially
    in movies and on TV (Table 1). For example, Ed Gein wore the skin of his
    victims during his autoerotic transvestite rituals: this became the inspi-
    ration for the “Buffalo Bill” character in Silence of the Lambs (LaBrode,

    But at the same time that we are enthralled by the serial killer, we
    are also afraid of him. Surveys have shown that the public puts their
    fear of serial killers second only to the fear of terrorism (Schlesinger,
    2000). Again, this reflects the fact that one’s idiosyncratic notions of
    “good” and “bad” human behavior are often determined by individual
    personalities, circumstances, ideology, and culture (Miller, 1990,
    2012). Vegetarians think meat-eaters are barbarians. Steak-lovers
    chomp on their juicy morsels with gusto, but would retch at the thought
    of eating the flesh of another human being. Fore Islanders of New
    Guinea eat the brains of their recently deceased relatives as a religious
    ritual and would regard as profoundly disrespectful any family member
    who declined. The patriarchs of the Old Testament routinely practiced
    animal sacrifice as a devotion to God, but regarded as an abomination
    the human child sacrifice practiced by contemporaneous worshippers
    of Baal. Eating one’s enemy to assimilate his strength and power, or
    the taking of body parts as trophies, has characterized victorious war-
    riors in every age; as recently as September, 2010, U.S. Army soldiers
    were charged with keeping leg bones, finger bones, and teeth from

    e of his crimes, he claimed he was ordered by God to carry them out. Also self-mutilated
    describing in sadistic detail what he did to the child; this, fortunately, led to his capture.
    ple, he later recanted many of these claims and was convicted of murdering 11 victims.
    men from 19 of 85 years of age. Once of the first “celebrity serial killers,” he was lyricized

    at his home, sexually assaulted them, strangled them, and buried their bodies under his

    titutes, and dumped their bodies along a river in upstate New York.
    emale victims, displaying trophies, including severed heads, in his apartment.

    based on his letters to the press claiming to receive demonic messages and commands
    ath with a handgun, leading to another moniker, the “44-Caliber Killer.”
    ed and murdered his victims and sent letters and packages to the media. Disappeared for

    the Atlanta area. At the time, black serial killers were thought to be a rarity; subsequent

    m, sexually assaulted, murdered, mutilated, and cannibalized them, and stored multiple
    ome of his victims by performing crude lobotomies on their brains.
    aiming they had tried to rape her while she was working as a prostitute. The movie about
    monstrous than those of many of the male serial killers described here.
    e “Beltway Snipers” paralyzed the Washington DC area, which was still reeling from the
    he trunk of an old car, leading pundits to speculate nervously about what kind of havoc
    ks around the country.

    4 L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 1–11

    slain Afghanis. Thus, the study of serial killers – by whom we are simul-
    taneously fascinated and repelled – must be interpreted in the context
    of our own clinical and cultural environment.

    3. Definition and description of serial killing

    By the FBI’s operational definition, serial murderers are those who,
    either alone or with an accomplice, kill at least three people over a peri-
    od of time, with “cooling-off” periods between the murders, indicating
    premeditation of each killing. When serial killers are identified, it is
    sometimes because, in acting out their fantasies, they leave their charac-
    teristic signatures on their victims’ bodies or at the crime scene.

    Serial murderers are distinguished from mass murderers, who kill
    multiple victims in a single incident, and whose fantasies tend to
    involve revenge against actual or imagined persecutors. Whereas the
    torture and murder activities of serial killers tend to be slow and
    close-up, involving low-tech weapons that gouge, flay, or strangle, the
    typical goal of mass murderers is to kill many as many victims as possi-
    ble, quickly, efficiently, and at once, using the highest level of lethal
    technology available to them to do the most damage — handguns,
    assault weapons, explosives, or arson (Dietz, 1986; Fox & Levin, 1994,
    1998; Holmes & Holmes, 2001a, 2001b; Meloy, 1997; Miller, 1999,
    2006a, 2006b, 2007, 2008a; Palermo, 1997; Simon, 1996).

    4. Characteristics of serial killers

    Although heterogeneity exists within any psychological or crimino-
    logical category (also see below), certain common features characterize
    serial killers.

    4.1. Demographic and descriptive features

    The typical serial murderer is a white male in his 20s to 40s, although
    older cases are seen, especially for killers who have escaped detection
    for many years. Minority groups are becoming increasingly represented.
    The individual is often a loner, although many are married or live in
    relatively stable relationships. He often appears to others as intelligent
    and charming. He may be stably housed and employed or he may
    change jobs and residential locales frequently (Chan & Heide, 2009;
    Fox & Levin, 2003; Hazelwood, Dietz, & Warren, 1992; Holmes & De
    Burger, 1985; Lester, 1995; Palermo & Kocsis, 2005; Rappaport, 1988).

    4.2. Criminal history

    Although many serial killers, when apprehended, are found to have
    no prior criminal record, other studies have found that more than half of
    serial killers and other multiple homicide offenders have a past criminal
    history, and a few have shown a lifelong, often escalating, pattern of
    antisocial and criminal behavior (DeLisi, 2001, 2003, 2005; DeLisi &
    Scherer, 2006; Farrington, 2000; Fox & Levin, 2003; Harbort & Mokros,
    2001; Nagin & Farrington, 1992; Piquero et al., 2003).

    A frequent association appears between serial homicide and two
    other crimes: burglary and rape (DeLisi & Scherer, 2006; Douglas &
    Olshaker, 1998; Hazelwood & Douglas, 1980; Prentky et al., 1989;
    Ressler, Burgess, & Douglas, 1983; Ressler, Burgess, Douglas, Hartman,
    & D’Agostino, 1986). While the reasons for this particular association
    are not settled, it seems evident that both of these crimes involve the
    willful violation of another person’s intimate self, either their home or
    their physical body. Burglaries and rapes are, in essence, both invasions
    of another person who has been dehumanized, much as past and pres-
    ent armies of conquest have engaged in rape and pillage of a conquered
    enemy’s home territory, and so-called moralistic street robbery is often
    used by urban gangs to demoralize rivals (Jacobs & Wright, 2008). It
    should not be surprising, therefore, that this pattern of behavior may
    frequently escalate to the ultimate violation of a person’s body: murder.

    4.3. Characteristics of the crime

    The victims of serial murder are predominantly female, white, and
    young adults, although same-sex murders are not uncommon, and
    some serial killers target children (see below). The majority of crimes
    are intraracial in nature, although a few serial killers have targeted
    ethnic groups different from themselves. As a notable exception to the
    general rule that we are most likely to be killed by someone we know,
    serial sexual homicides are twice as likely as other homicides to involve
    strangers (Flowers, 2001; Schlesinger, 2004, 2007).

    Many serial killers collect trophies from the crime scene that they
    keep as mementos of the kill. These can range from articles of jewelry
    or clothing to internal organs or other body parts. Other serial killers
    engage in necrophilia, having sex with the dead body, some even pre-
    serving the body, or parts of it, for later use, or returning to the hidden
    crime scene to have repeated sexual contact with the decomposing
    corpse (LaBrode, 2007; Schlesinger, 2000; Schlesinger & Miller, 2003;
    Stein, Schlesinger, & Pinizzotto, 2010).

    A significant number of serial killers engage in some form of post-
    mortem manipulation, mutilation, and/or cannibalism of their victims,
    some drinking the blood or eating parts of their victims at the crime
    scene or later, a practice called anthropophagy. Albert Fish made stew
    from at least one of his victims. Jeffrey Dahmer cannibalized several of
    his victims, storing the remains in his freezer like cuts of meat from
    the deli. He described the experience of eating his victims as sexually
    exhilarating (Ressler & Schactman, 1997).

    In Reinfield’s syndrome, also known as clinical vampirism, the killer
    feels a compulsion to drink the victim’s blood. A number of researchers
    have commented on the similarity of these behaviors to the activities of
    predatory animals, including the common house cat, as well as to the
    customs of some preindustrial human societies, where drinking the
    blood or eating a body part (e.g., the heart) of a slain adversary is
    believed to convey the dead foe’s power to the victor and to protect
    the warrior from vengeance by the victim’s spirit. Examples include
    Maori warriors who taste the blood of their slaughtered enemies and
    executioners in Niger who lick the blood of their victims from the
    knife (Reiwald, 1950). In the contemporary movie and TV series,
    Highlander, a fictional secret race of immortals battle one another for
    supremacy, assuming their adversaries’ knowledge and power by
    decapitating them.

    Indeed, this fusion of killing, dismemberment, sex, and eating high-
    lights the primal interaction of these life and death forces in the
    survivalistic world that ancestral humans evolved in. In this sense, the
    serial killer frightens us all the more because his behavior strips away
    the veneer of civilized behavior and starkly illustrates the dark places
    our human natures can go (Miller, 1990, 2000, 2012).

    As noted earlier, when serial killers are identified, it is often because,
    in acting out their fantasies, they leave their characteristic signature on
    the victims’ bodies or at the crime scene. These are unique traces of
    behavior, thought to be idiosyncratic for that particular offender, that
    are often used as clues in profiling serial crimes. These may include pat-
    terns of attack, forms of bondage and torture, such as piquerism (intense,
    focused injury to the breasts of the victim), type of killing, postmortem
    body positioning, dress or undress, postmortem mutilation or dismem-
    berment (necrosadism), and trophy-taking.

    Recent evidence suggests that such signatures do not necessarily re-
    main uniform for any single serial killer and that patterns of attack and
    crime scene characteristics can change over time (Schlesinger, Kassen,
    Mesa, & Pinozzotto, 2010). However, most authorities agree that serial
    sexual murderers act out an intense fantasy relationship with their
    victims, and thereby require the victims to be essentially anonymous
    props on whom they can inflict torment and death to achieve the
    exhilaration of sexual gratification. In this conceptualization, the selec-
    tion, stalking, and capturing of their victims are essentially their version
    of foreplay, with the torture and killing culminating in the orgasmic
    climax (Arrigo & Purcell, 2001; Chan & Heide, 2009; Geberth & Turco,

    5L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 1–11

    1997; Hickey, 2003; Holmes & Holmes, 2001a, 2001b; Johnson &
    Becker, 1997; LaBrode, 2007; Langevin, 2003; Malmquist, 1996;
    Purcell & Arrigo, 2006; Schlesinger et al., 2010; Simon, 1996; Starr
    et al., 1984).

    Some of the characteristic behaviors of serial killers may involve one
    or more paraphilias, such as fetishism (sexual preoccupation with body
    parts, inanimate objects, or bizarre activities); transvestism (dressing
    in the opposite sex’s clothing); exhibitionism (public sexual displays),
    and voyeurism (surreptitious watching of others’ sexual activity)
    (Arrigo & Purcell, 2001; Kerr, Beech, & Murphy, 2013; Myers, Husted,
    Safarik, & O’Toole, 2006).

    One common fetish is the tendency for many serial killers to blind-
    fold their victims (Holmes, 1989). This probably has little to do with
    fear of identification, since the perpetrator intends to kill his victim
    eventually. More commonly, the motive involves injecting additional
    terror into the victim who cannot see what is happening to her, as
    well as effecting a further dehumanization of the victim by avoiding
    her gaze; for similar reasons, enucleation (gouging out of the eyes) is a
    common signature practice of serial killers, premortem or postmortem.
    Some authorities (e.g., Malmquist, 1996) also believe that blotting out
    the victim’s eye contact is a means of counteracting the shame that
    may occasionally threaten to break through the serial killer’s defenses,
    although the general consensus seems to be that most of these
    perpetrations have far too little conscience for shame to be a significant

    The serial killer devotes a tremendous amount energy and intelli-
    gence to the planning and execution of his attacks, becoming more pro-
    ficient each time he kills. Many serial killers are fascinated by police and
    detective work, and educate themselves in police procedures by reading
    books, taking courses, watching detective shows, doing online research,
    and speaking with local law enforcement officials. Some serial killers
    have impersonated police officers, and in some cases, have even
    inserted themselves into the investigations of the very crimes they
    have committed. John Wayne Gacy kept a police radio in his home;
    Wayne Williams photographed crime scenes; Ted Bundy once worked
    for the King County Crime Commission; Dennis Nilssen served a year
    on the London Police Force; and Edmund Kemper hung out at a bar
    near police headquarters, pestering off-duty officers with questions
    about the very murders he had committed (Simon, 1996; Starr, 1984).

    5. Typologies of serial killers

    Considering the amount of clinical and criminological attention that
    has been devoted to serial killers, it should not be surprising that a
    plethora of typologies has been developed to classify different types of
    perpetrators. The more well-known typologies are described below
    to illustrate the commonalities in observations among different re-
    searchers studying the same phenomenon.

    5.1. Deitz typology

    Dietz (1986, 1987) has proposed a typology that divides multiple
    murderers into five categories:

    Psychopathic sexual sadists kill for the sheer pleasure of torturing and
    murdering their victims in a sexual way. This has also been termed
    lust murder or erotophonophilia (Hickey, 2003; Schlesinger, 2004).
    This is probably closest to the classic serial sexual homicide perpe-
    trator that is the subject of most descriptions. Examples include
    Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.
    Crime spree killers embark on one or more jaunts of murder, usually
    in association with other crimes, most commonly robbery, but they
    also derive a thrill from the power and opportunity to flaunt author-
    ity that their acts entail. An historical example would be Bonnie and
    Clyde. A fictionalized cinematic portrayal appears in the 1994 film,
    Natural Born Killers.

    Organized crime functionaries consist of professional or semiprofes-
    sional “hit men,” individuals who kill primarily for money, although
    they almost certainly enjoy a sense of power and control from being
    in this line of work. Other examples would include political assassins
    and territorial dispute killings by rival criminal gangs (Schlesinger &
    Miller, 2003).
    Custodial killers murder vulnerable victims who are supposed to be
    in their care. The most common examples include “angel of death”
    cases involving nurses in hospitals or nursing homes who surrepti-
    tiously murder ill or elderly patients, usually by asphyxiation or
    medication overdose. This group is likely to contain the highest
    number of female serial killers. An historical example is “Jolly” Jane
    Toppan, a nurse who, from 1895 to 1901, killed at least 31 hospital
    patients in Massachusetts (Raine, 2013).
    Psychotic killers murder under the influence of some form of delu-
    sion, such as defending themselves against malevolent pursuers
    (persecutory delusion) or receiving a divine command to rid the
    world of certain types of people (grandiose delusion).

    5.2. Holmes typology

    Another widely-used typology of serial killers (Holmes & De Burger,
    1985, 1988; Holmes & Holmes, 1996) uses the following descriptors:

    Spatial mobility killer. This typology maintains a clinical and forensic
    distinction between geographically stable serial murderers who live
    in one area and kill in that same or a nearby area, and geographically
    transient murderers who travel to other locales to commit their
    Visionary serial killer. This type of killer is induced to murder by delu-
    sions and/or command hallucinations which impel him to act. His
    victims are typically strangers, and his psychotic state at the time
    of his crimes sometimes results in the invocation of an insanity
    defense. This type appears closest to one variety of Dietz’s (1986,
    1987) psychotic killer, discussed above.
    Mission serial killer. This may represent another type of Dietz’s
    psychotic killer, who is following a religious or political imperative
    to eradicate a certain group of people. In the Holmes classification,
    the mission killer need not be grossly psychotic, but simply affected
    by what would be described as a delusional disorder in DSM-5 (APA,
    2013), or he may have no diagnosable mental disorder at all and may
    simply be acting on an extreme ideological belief that it is necessary
    to eliminate some identifiable class of “bad” people.
    Comfort-oriented serial killer. This killer’s motive for murder contains
    at least some utilitarian purpose. It may include the hired assassin
    who kills purely for profit or the individual who murders family
    members for financial gain, in which case the profit motive may be
    admixed with feelings of hatred and revenge.
    Hedonistic serial killer. This is the type of serial murderer who derives
    sexual pleasure from the act of killing, which is usually prolonged
    and contains acts of mutilation, torture, dismemberment, and/or
    necrophilia. This is probably closest to Dietz’s psychopathic sexual
    sadist, as well as to the classic description of the serial sexual homi-
    cide perpetrator.
    Power/control serial killer. Similar to the above type, this murderer
    derives pleasure from the prolonged torture and killing of another
    human being, but here the emphasis is more on the control and
    domination aspects of the killing than the sexual component per
    se. Of course, there is likely to be a great deal of overlap between
    these two categories.

    A empirical study of the Holmes serial murderer typology was
    carried out by Canter and Wentink (2004), based on an analysis of
    crime scene evidence from 100 U.S. serial murders. They found limited
    support for aspects of the lust, thrill, and mission serial killer categories,
    and features of the power/control serial killer were found to generalize
    to serial killers as a whole, rather than forming a distinct type. The

    6 L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 1–11

    findings suggested that more attention should be paid to styles of inter-
    actions with victims, such as use of restraints, torture, mutilation and
    theft of property, rather than just inferring the motivations of individual

    5.3. Rappaport typology

    Rappaport’s (1988) typology describes five types of serial killers:

    Spree killers kill a series of victims during a continuous span of mur-
    der and are basically similar to Dietz’s and others’ descriptions of the
    crime spree killer.
    Functionaries of organized criminality are the contact killers, assas-
    sins, and hit men familiar from previous descriptions.
    Custodial killers are medical personnel, foster parents of disabled
    children, or other caretakers who poison or asphyxiate victims for
    financial gain, revenge, ideology, or twisted altruism (“angels of
    mercy/angels of death”).
    Psychotic killers murder under the influence of delusions and/or
    hallucinations, familiar from above descriptions.
    Sexually sadistic killers are murderers who derive sexual pleasure
    through inflicting pain on their victims, which describes both Dietz’s
    psychopathic sexual sadist and Holmes’ hedonistic serial killer.

    5.4. Sewall and colleagues typology

    Recently, Sewall, Krupp, and Lalumiere (2013) have pointed out
    that the crimes of sexual homicide perpetrators frequently occur in
    the context of a long and varied criminal history, involving an assort-
    ment of petty and violent crimes. Incorporating this data, these authors
    propose a serial killer typology containing the following three offender

    5.4.1. Competitively disadvantaged offenders
    These are life-long offenders whose criminal careers begin early,

    often in childhood or adolescence, and involve numerous and sundry
    crimes, ranging from petty theft to sexual assault and murder. They
    frequently are developmentally and cognitively impaired, socially dis-
    advantaged, and lead a marginalized, criminal lifestyle. They would
    probably correspond to the definition of antisocial personality disorder
    described in DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5 (APA, 2000, 2013). When it occurs,
    sexual homicide is characterized by an impulsive, angry sexual attack,
    often in response to sexual rejection, and may begin as an attempted
    sexual assault that then escalates to murder.

    5.4.2. Psychopathic offenders
    These offenders also begin their variegated criminal careers early,

    but they are more neurodevelopmentally intact and able to maintain
    relatively stable lifestyles coexisting with their criminality. Cold and re-
    morseless, their crimes are likely to involve far more cunning and con-
    ning than the previous type, and they would probably correspond to
    the classic psychopath in criminological literature (Cleckley, 1941;
    Hare, 1993, 2006). Their primary motivation is the quest for thrills and
    excitement, which they obtain by manipulating, exploiting, and domi-
    nating other people. At times, this may include various forms of sexually
    sadistic behavior, but deliberate murder is likely to be the exception
    and, again, may occur in response to sexual rejection or in the course
    of a sadistic sexual act that gets out of hand.

    5.4.3. Sadistic offender
    For this perpetrator, preoccupation with sexual torture and murder

    has become a lifestyle, at first nurtured by fantasies and pornography,
    later perhaps practiced on animals, and finally expressed in acts against
    human beings. Intriguingly, this individual may have little or no crimi-
    nal history beyond his sexual homicides, and he is also likely to possess

    the controlled predation characteristics of the psychopath, here focused
    exclusively and intently on his pursuit of gratification through sexual
    domination, torture, and murder.

    5.5. Serial killer typologies: conceptual commonalities

    The commonalities of typological descriptions coming from different
    observers in different times and places attests to a certain construct
    validity of the categories described by each. These appear to boil down
    to a basic set of common serial or multiple murderer subtypes:

    Sexual sadists who kill for the intense pleasure derived from the
    domination, control, torture, humiliation, and murder of another
    human being.
    Delusional killers who are on a mission, either frankly psychotic or
    more ideologically-driven, to rid the world of persons they consider
    Custodial killers who murder helpless or dependent persons under
    their care. Note that this group may overlap with the above, e.g.
    the health care worker who believes that society should not waste
    resources on sick or disabled people or that God has commanded
    that it would be more merciful to put them out of their misery.
    Utilitarian killers whose motive at least partly involves some practical
    financial or other material gain, although the motive may be mixed
    with anger or revenge, as in the aggrieved spouse who wants to
    put a final end to the wrangling over a bitter divorce.

    5.6. Organized–disorganized dichotomy

    Probably, the best-known, and increasingly controversial, classifica-
    tion scheme of serial killers is the one developed by the FBI’s Behavioral
    Science Unit (BSU), which divides serial killers into organized vs. disor-
    ganized subtypes (Geberth, 1990; Geberth & Turco, 1997; Hazelwood &
    Douglas, 1980; Hickey, 1997; Palermo & Kocsis, 2005; Ressler, Burgess,
    & Douglas, 1988; Ressler et al., 1986).

    5.6.1. Organized serial killer
    This perpetrator is above average in intelligence and considers him-

    self superior to other people. He is meticulous in most aspects of his life
    and takes great care with personal appearance, grooming, and belong-
    ings. His crime is well thought out and carefully planned. The crime is
    usually committed away from his area of residence or work and he is
    quite mobile, often traveling long distances to commit his crimes. Fanta-
    sy and ritual are important to the organized killer, and he typically
    selects a stranger whom he considers the “right” type of victim in
    terms of age, physical appearance, behavior, and other qualities. The
    killer often carries a carefully prepared “torture kit” containing his pre-
    ferred implements of bondage and mutilation. He may follow and stalk
    this victim for hours or days, and he may take great pride in verbally
    manipulating his target into a position of vulnerability. His capture
    and control of the victim are calculated to afford him maximum
    power over his hapless prey. Alcohol is often used during the murder.
    He often takes a souvenir or trophy from his victim that he may
    later use to relive the event or enhance his fantasies surrounding the

    The organized serial killer is often familiar with police procedures
    and takes great pride in thwarting investigations and taunting law
    enforcement officials by the careful placement or concealment of evi-
    dence. In some cases, he is currently or has formerly worked in some
    branch of law enforcement or security, or aspired to do so. He may be
    a “student” of previous or contemporaneous serial killers, reading up
    on their exploits and even corresponding with them in prison. He
    typically learns from each of his own crimes and becomes increasingly
    sophisticated in his predatory and elusive tactics. Although casual
    observers may describe some serial killers as solitary and strange in

    7L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 1–11

    their daily behavior, just as commonly he may appear normal and a
    “regular guy” to coworkers, family, and neighbors.

    5.6.2. Disorganized serial killer
    This killer is average or below average in intelligence. He is often a

    loner and a recluse. He is typically an underachiever, feels sexually
    and interpersonally inadequate, has a poor self-image, and is considered
    “weird” or “creepy” by acquaintances. He typically engages in such sex-
    ual activities as voyeurism, exhibitionism, lingerie thefts, and fetish bur-
    glaries, and uses sadistic and fetishistic fantasy and pornography in
    autoerotic activities. He is less careful about planning, and his crime
    scenes typically display more haphazard behavior. The violent offense
    is more impulsive and spontaneous, and the victim is often a target of
    opportunity. The disorganized killer’s crimes lack the manipulation
    and cunning of the organized killer, and typically consist of “blitz
    attacks” that are intended to silence the victim quickly through blunt
    force trauma, following which, death usually follows quickly. Some
    attacks may be characterized by overkill, with multiple stabs and
    blows. Postmortem activities with the corpse may include biting, ex-
    ploratory dissection, mutilation, insertion of foreign objects, or mastur-
    bation onto the body, and there may or may not be actual penile
    penetration of the body. As the name implies, the crime scene is sloppy
    and disorganized, with minimal effort to conceal the evidence. Trophies
    are less frequently taken, but there may be a secondary robbery of

    As with most classificatory systems, intermediate types are fre-
    quently found, and sometimes a crime scene has elements of both orga-
    nized and disorganized categories, in which case it is called mixed
    (Geberth, 1990; Geberth & Turco, 1997; Hickey, 1997; Ressler et al.,
    1986, 1988). And, as with most psychological and criminological de-
    scriptors that deal with the untidy realities of human nature, authorities
    are coming to agree that the organized–disorganized system should be
    thought of more as a continuum than as a rigid dichotomy, and that this
    information should be utilized as one set of data, along with the other
    information collected in the course of an investigation (Hicks & Sales,
    2006; Palermo & Kocsis, 2005; Schlesinger et al., 2010).

    6. Special populations of serial killers

    As described earlier, most serial killers, especially perpetrators of
    serial sexual homicide, are heterosexual males; however, like any gen-
    eralization about human nature, there are exceptions, and this section
    will consider some atypical varieties of serial killers and multiple homi-
    cide offenders.

    6.1. Sadist–masochist serial killers

    For a subset of serial killers, sadism is suffused with masochism, and
    these individuals derive pleasure from both giving and receiving pain
    (Hill, Habermann, Berner, & Briken, 2006; Knoll, 2009; Myers et al.,
    2006, 2008), often engaging in acts of self-mutilation, genital self-
    torture, or autoerotic asphyxiation (choking oneself almost to the point
    of unconsciousness during masturbation) (Everitt, 1999; Newton,
    1990). Theories to explain the origin of these sadist–masochist serial
    offenders include: (1) identification with an earlier parental figure
    who has been both an aggressor and a victim (Macgregor, 1991; Stein,
    2004); (2) being raised by a sexually provocative and punitive mother
    (Fox & Levin, 1994; Meloy, 2000); (3) becoming a “substitute victim”
    to vicariously experience the victims’ pain, so as to heighten the
    offender’s enjoyment of inflicting further pain (“Wow — if this is what
    it feels like, she must really be suffering…”) (Knoll, 2009); and (4) the
    grandiose sadism theory, in which the serial offender assumes the very
    identity of the victim by such actions as wearing her clothes, using her
    scalp as a wig, or even donning her skin as a jacket or shawl in order
    to extend his control over the victim beyond her death (Knoll, 2009;
    Warren, Hazelwood, & Dietz, 1996).

    6.2. Female serial killers

    As with violent crimes generally, male serial killers far outnumber
    female serial killers; however, over the past two centuries, about 15 per-
    cent of multiple homicide offenders have been women (Hickey, 1997;
    Kelleher & Kelleher, 1998; Malmquist, 1996; Perri & Lictenwald,
    2010). There are several features of female serial killers that distinguish
    them from their male counterparts (Arrigo & Shipley, 2001; Flowers,
    2001, 2002, 2006; Flowers & Flowers, 2001; Gurian, 2011; Kelleher &
    Kelleher, 1998; Palermo & Kocsis, 2005; Seagrave, 1992; Vronsky,

    Unlike most male offenders, who kill out of compulsive rage and/or
    predatory lust, the motives behind serial homicides committed by
    women tend more toward monetary gain or histrionic attention-
    seeking. One exception may have been Eileen Wournos, who appears
    to have targeted male victims for motives of revenge and control. Fe-
    male serial killers tend to start somewhat later than males, usually
    around age 30. With regard to methodology, males use more brute
    force, and are more likely to shoot, strangle, suffocate, stab, or bludgeon
    their victims, who are usually strangers. Female serial killers are more
    likely to use poison as a lethal tool and to kill people they know,
    including family members, spouses (“black widow” cases), or depen-
    dent persons under their care (“angel of death” cases). Female serial ho-
    micides rarely require the kind of behavioral profiling applied to more
    traditional male cases.

    Holmes and Holmes (1994) have elaborated a typology of female
    serial killers that parallels their typology for men:

    Visionary serial killers: women who murder in response to delusional
    beliefs and/or hallucinated voices or visions. These women often
    suffer from a severe psychotic illness or mood disorder.
    Comfort-oriented serial killers: women who murder for financial or
    material gain. These are the “black widows” who may be highly mo-
    bile and skilled at changing their identities to lure unsuspecting vic-
    tims in diverse locations over time, thereby racking up a string of
    wealthy (and soon to be deceased) husbands, before being
    Power-seeking serial killers: females who kill for the thrill and power
    gained through having full control over life and death of the victim.
    These include the “angel of death” cases that occur in health care
    facilities, although the killer may also target disabled family mem-
    bers, in which case the motive may be intertwined with material
    Hedonistic serial killers: women who kill for sexual gratification. Un-
    like for men, this is typically rare as a primary motive in female serial
    killers. However, many of these women may derive gratification
    through their association with a male serial killer (see below).
    Disciple serial killers: women who kill under the command of a
    charismatic leader. Also rare, this may occur in a religious cult,
    more commonly out of personal allegiance to a charismatic male.
    The women who participated in the Tate-LaBianca murders in
    1969 were under the thrall of Charles Manson, who remains in
    prison for the crimes. One of his disciples, Leslie Van Houton, was
    recently denied parole for the 13th time (Yahoo Voices, 2013).

    6.3. Couple serial killers

    Isn’t it romantic when two homicidal lovers find each other? Cine-
    matically dramatized in the 1994 film, Natural Born Killers, these couple
    killers, partner killers, team killers, or tandem killers, as they are variously
    called, commit their murders as a duo, one member typically baiting,
    befriending, or seducing the victim into a position of submission, with
    the other member then perpetrating or joining in the killing. The
    motives may range from pure robbery–murder for profit to prolonged
    torture–murder for sexual gratification, with various gradations in
    between (Flowers, 2002; Flowers & Flowers, 2001; Owen, 2004).

    8 L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 1–11

    Jenkins (1990) has described four types of partner or group serial

    Dominant–submissive pairs. In this group, one member, usually the
    male, is the dominant partner. The woman participates in the
    murders mostly to please the man and often to act as the bait to
    lure victims. She may or may not participate in the actual torture
    and murder of the victim, but may observe it. These women may
    later describe themselves as reluctantly willing participants, but
    more commonly claim that they were “brainwashed” by the man,
    especially when facing serious legal charges.
    Equally dominant teams. Here, both members of the couple derive
    satisfaction from the killings, and both members are willing partici-
    pants in the crime. The woman may participate in the capture and
    binding of the victim, more rarely in the torture and murder itself.
    She may enjoy witnessing the crime. The couple may subsequently
    use their recollections of the crime, aided by photographs, videos,
    and even objects or body part trophies, to enhance their sexual
    Extended family or group. These may range from actual biological fam-
    ilies who collaborate in serial murders to cult-families, such as the
    original Charles Manson group in the 1960s, in which unrelated peo-
    ple come together to form a small commune or tribal group that par-
    ticipates in homicide, typically for reasons ranging from robbery, to
    sexual gratification, to loosely-articulated philosophical/ideological
    reasons, sometimes with all of these motives combined.
    Organized or ceremonial social groups. Here, the ideological or politi-
    cal aspect has become more crystallized and systematic. These are
    often quasi-religious cults who commit mass murder, as in the
    1995 Aum Shinrykio sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway; however,
    in some cases, individual victims may be targeted as well. Sexual
    motives are far less common in these groups.

    Mention should also be made of couples in which the woman may
    not actually participate in the crimes, but may herself be subjected to
    physical and sexual torture by her mate, as part of a consensual sadomas-
    ochistic relationship (Knoll, 2009; Warren & Hazelwood, 2002). In some
    of these cases, the man has also been a violent sexual offender outside of
    the relationship, including committing serial sexual homicide. The
    woman may or may not have known about her mate’s crimes, reminis-
    cences of which are sometimes overtly or surreptitiously used to
    enhance the sexual pleasure of the man or both partners during their
    own sexual activities.

    6.4. Solo versus couple-based female serial killers

    The research of Gurian (2011) has led to a classification of female se-
    rial homicide offenders into two groups, based upon whether their
    crimes occur predominantly solo or in collaboration with a male

    6.4.1. Solo, purpose-oriented serial homicide offenders
    These women act alone and typically have some utilitarian motive

    for their murders, even though they may be driven by psychopatholog-
    ical forces. These may include: (1) medical murderers (custodial killers,
    “angels of death”); profit murderers (“black widows” who kill husbands
    or other family members for money); and infanticides (multiple mur-
    ders of babies or young children; this may overlap with the custodial
    killer category).

    6.4.2. Partnered, pleasure-oriented serial homicide offenders
    These women operate as part of a male–female serial murder team,

    and their motives are typically more for personal gratification or to
    accommodate their partner’s pleasure, including: (1) sexual sadists
    (the woman directly obtains pleasure from sexually torturing and mur-
    dering the victim); spree murderers (these usually occur in connection
    with other crimes, such as robbery, e.g. Bonnie and Clyde in the

    1930s); profit murderers (similar to solo profit murderers, but here
    with the help of a male collaborator); cult or religious murderers (the
    killings are evoked by a charismatic male figure, e.g. the Tate-Labianca
    murders by the Charles Manson cult in 1969); male serial murderer–
    female accomplice (the woman serves primarily to aid and abet the
    male partner’s depredations, such as luring victims or disposing of

    6.5. Homosexual serial killers

    Another minority group in the serial killer universe consists of men
    who kill men. To date, there have been two main typologies developed
    to characterize this subgroup.

    Geberth (1996) has offered a six-fold typology of homosexual serial

    Interpersonal violence-oriented disputes. These are essentially “lover’s
    quarrels” between homosexual partners or ex-partners that escalate
    to violence and murder. Unless they occur in a repeated pattern, it is
    unlikely that these acts meet the definition of serial homicides,
    per se.
    Forced sodomy. Here the gratification occurs through the act of sexu-
    al domination; death in these cases is usually accidental from exces-
    sive force used to brutalize or restrain the victim, most often either
    blunt force trauma or asphyxiation. Again, unless repeated, whether
    this meets the definition of serial homicide is questionable.
    Lust murder. This homosexual serial killing pattern probably comes
    closest to its heterosexual correlate described more commonly in
    the literature. In these crimes, the act is carefully premeditated and
    reinforced by sadistic fantasies. A certain type of victim may be
    stalked and seduced or overpowered into submission. Death is
    sadistically prolonged by torture and genital mutilation, trophies
    may be taken, and there may be concealment or crime scene staging
    of the body.
    Power murder. This is similar to the above category (and the two may
    well overlap), except that here, the sexual motivation is thought to
    be secondary to the thrill of power and domination. The victims
    are likely to be chosen for their physical vulnerability or social mar-
    ginality, such as children, teens, homeless men, drug addicts, or
    prostitutes. Although torture may be a feature of these killings,
    mutilation and dismemberment are just as likely to occur postmor-
    tem to create “shock value” for whoever discovers the body. Anger,
    more than lust, appears to drive this kind of homosexual serial
    Robbery–homicide. Here, the offender cruises the gay scene, often
    posing as a prostitute, looking for vulnerable victims to rob. Either
    deliberately as part of the plan, or inadvertently, some of these
    robberies end in murder.
    Homophobic murder. Episodes of gay-bashing may escalate to mur-
    der, again, either deliberately or accidently. The offenders may be
    self-repudiating homosexuals or homophobic heterosexual males.

    More recently, Beauregard and Proulx (2007) have presented a ty-
    pology of homosexual serial homicide consisting of three categories.

    Avenger. These individuals can be found among the ranks of homo-
    sexual, heterosexual, or bisexual prostitutes, whose lifestyles often re-
    volve around drug and alcohol consumption. Many have criminal
    records, including property crimes and violence. Psychological, physical,
    and/or sexual abuse during childhood appear to form the core dynamic
    of this pattern. The victim is often an older man (parental figure?).
    When a particular sex act is requested by this partner, pickup, or prosti-
    tution patron, it purportedly triggers a traumatic memory and violence
    erupts, which may eventuate in murder. Psychodynamically the offend-
    er is violently avenging himself on the hapless sex partner for past griev-
    ances and abuses he’s suffered at the hands of others. The murder scene
    is characterized by signs of intense rage, and death usually occurs by

    9L. Miller / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 1–11

    strangulation or by use of a weapon of opportunity (sharp utensil, heavy
    object, belt or cord).

    Sexual predator. This is the homosexual lust murderer, motivated by
    sadistic sexual fantasies, and on the prowl for vulnerable victims, often
    children or adolescents, who may be homosexual or not. There is often a
    prior criminal history. The killing is premeditated, the victim is stalked
    and abducted, and acts of torture, sodomy, and mutilation are typically
    performed in the course of the sadistically prolonged murder. This type
    most closely resembles the classic heterosexual serial sexual homicide

    Nonsexual predator. This type of murderer is not motivated by anger
    or by sadistic sexual fantasies, and the homicide is usually accidental or
    impulsive, occurring in the course of a robbery which is the primary mo-
    tive for the encounter. Often, the offender chooses his victim at a gay
    cruising venue, gains access to the victim’s residence under the guise
    of a sexual liaison, attempts to rob the place, and when confronted by
    the victim, feels compelled to overpower him, killing him in the process.
    The attempted robbery may also occur in an alleyway, car, or other se-
    cluded locale. Sex may occur prior to the crime to pacify the victim,
    but the motive for the encounter is not primarily sexual. The offender
    may act alone or with an accomplice, and alcohol or drugs are frequent-
    ly involved. The perpetrator usually has a varied criminal history with
    an emphasis on property crimes.

    6.6. Homosexual serial killer typologies: conceptual commonalities

    The commonalities between these typologies appear to involve the
    following basic subtypes, which may overlap:

    Profit. The motives are primarily to rob the victim, and sex is used as
    a lure or for pacification.
    Sadistic sexual gratification. Like many heterosexual sadistic sexual
    homicide perpetrators, the homosexual serial killer derives intense
    pleasure from the torture and murder of another human being.
    Power. The sexual component is ancillary to the motive of power and
    Homophobia. The killer destroys that which he is most afraid of or
    disturbed by in himself or others.

    6.7. Professional serial killers

    Some people make their living killing other people. Their crimes can
    be said to be “serial” in the sense that these assassinations and contract
    killings are repeated, in the same way as anyone’s job activities are
    carried out on a regular basis; however, these acts may be far removed
    psychologically from the type of sexually sadistic serial killer usually
    associated with this term. Schlesinger and Miller (2003) have explored
    the characteristics and psychological dynamics of what they terms
    contract murderers, which are classified into three types:

    Amateur. These actually comprise the majority of murderers for hire,
    largely because of their low cost and relatively easy availability with-
    in the criminal subculture. This subject frequently has a history of
    petty crimes and of addiction, psychopathology, and a marginal life-
    style. The most common scenario involves a small-time crook who is
    hired by either an associate or a stranger to eliminate a no-longer-
    wanted spouse, lover, or personal rival for purposes of jealousy,
    money, or revenge. Although initially motivated by cash, many of
    these minor-league hitmen eventually come to enjoy the thrill and
    power associated with taking another person’s life.
    Semiprofessional. The semiprofessional contract murderer is more
    technically savvy and has had more on-the-job training than the
    amateur. His criminal history is more lengthy and has involved
    more serious crimes, and he may have served terms in prison. Semi-
    professionals are less likely to show major psychopathology, but
    frequently display traits of antisocial personality and have histories

    of violence in their background. The semiprofessionals plan their
    contract murders with a higher level of sophistication and attention
    to detail than do amateurs. The typical target of a semiprofessional
    contract murderer is the hirer’s business associate or rival criminal,
    but in some cases, the semiprofessional is hired to eliminate a
    spouse or other family member. Because he is more expensive
    than the amateur, the clientele of the semiprofessional tend to be fi-
    nancially comfortable individuals with something substantial to
    gain from the target’s elimination.
    Professional. As the name implies, the professional contract killer
    takes his vocation seriously, actually studying and training himself
    in the art and science of killing. He often has prior military, law en-
    forcement, or security experience and carries his lethal skills over
    into his criminal trade. Most of these professional assassins are on
    retainer with organized crime cartels, although some freelance
    their services to various criminal and political organizations as need-
    ed, commanding stiff fees for a professional job which typically in-
    cludes the efficient elimination of the target and cleaning up of
    evidence that could tie the crime to either the assassin or the hirer.
    The target is usually a prominent functionary in a rival criminal orga-
    nization or a political figure. The job may also involve multiple tar-
    gets, in which case, bombing or arson may be involved, in which
    case it may overlap with terrorism (Miller, 2006a, 2006b). In some
    cases, certain government agencies may retain the professional’s
    services when they want to carry out a military or political assassina-
    tion that cannot be traced back to them.

    Serious psychopathology is uncommon in these individuals and, in-
    deed, the best of them must possess keen intelligence and the ability to
    think quickly and flexibly and to restrain impulsive action. While con-
    tract killers by definition could be said to harbor antisocial personality
    traits, many of these individuals rationalize their actions as being on a
    par with paramilitary mercenary soldiers and, as noted above, some of
    them may actually have had this experience. However, it is not unrea-
    sonable to speculate that some degree of narcissistic power thrill under-
    lies these assassins’ motivation for continuing in this line of work.

    7. Summary and conclusions

    Part I of this two-part article illustrates that serial killers have been
    around for as long as people have lived in aggregated societies. Although
    the most common type of serial killer discussed by law enforcement and
    featured in the popular media is the sadistic serial sexual homicide of-
    fender, there is a wide range of serial killer subtypes, each with differing
    and overlapping motives. However, there appears to be a general con-
    sensus on the following basic categories: (1) sexual sadists who kill
    for the intense pleasure derived from the domination, control, torture,
    humiliation, and murder of another human being; (2) delusional killers
    who are on a psychotic or ideologically-driven mission to rid the world
    of “undesirable” persons; (3) custodial killers who are often health care
    professionals and who murder helpless or dependent persons in their
    charge; (4) utilitarian killers whose motive at least partly involves
    some practical financial or other material gain, although this motive
    may be mixed with anger or revenge. Finally, although most serial
    killers are single heterosexual males, research has documented the
    presence of female, homosexual, couple, and professional serial killers.
    Part II will examine the developmental factors, neuropsychodynamics,
    and forensic applications of serial killing.


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      Serial killers: I. Subtypes, patterns, and motives
      1. Introduction
      2. History and concept of serial killing
      3. Definition and description of serial killing
      4. Characteristics of serial killers
      4.1. Demographic and descriptive features
      4.2. Criminal history
      4.3. Characteristics of the crime
      5. Typologies of serial killers
      5.1. Deitz typology
      5.2. Holmes typology
      5.3. Rappaport typology
      5.4. Sewall and colleagues typology
      5.4.1. Competitively disadvantaged offenders
      5.4.2. Psychopathic offenders
      5.4.3. Sadistic offender
      5.5. Serial killer typologies: conceptual commonalities
      5.6. Organized–disorganized dichotomy
      5.6.1. Organized serial killer
      5.6.2. Disorganized serial killer

      6. Special populations of serial killers
      6.1. Sadist–masochist serial killers
      6.2. Female serial killers
      6.3. Couple serial killers
      6.4. Solo versus couple-based female serial killers
      6.4.1. Solo, purpose-oriented serial homicide offenders
      6.4.2. Partnered, pleasure-oriented serial homicide offenders
      6.5. Homosexual serial killers
      6.6. Homosexual serial killer typologies: conceptual commonalities
      6.7. Professional serial killers
      7. Summary and conclusions

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