In the last three decades the USA has been troubled by an approaching problem, the serial killer. A serial killer is a person who kills a number of people, usually considered over five, with a cooling off period between each murder, usually one murder at one given time). Two murders at one time occasionally happen and these murders may go on for a period of months or years until the killer is caught.
Throughout the last three decades the US serial killer rate has risen 94% and it is estimated that by the next millennium it will claim an average of 11 lives a day. Serial Murder is an epidemic; there are at least 35 serial killers active in the USA today who claim one third of the annual murder rate.
The USA has 6% of the world’s population yet it has three quarters of all serial killers. Not only are serial killers appearing in more numbers in the US but also all over the world countries are terrorized by serial killers, which are appearing in more numbers year and year after.
A serial killer is a typical white male, 20-30, and most of them are usually in the USA. Their main motives are sex (even though the act of sex may or may not take place), power, manipulation, domination and control. The sex motive is usually rape for an organized killer and sadism for a disorganized killer.
They act in a series of 5 or more murders with a cooling off period between each murder. Serial killers can go on for months and years before they are usually caught. The victim is usually the same for every killer – prostitute, hitchhiker etc.
Their victims may also have the same or similar attributes in gender, age, race, general look, residence etc. Serial killers also stick by their modus operandi very closely and may change it with experience. Most murders occur by strangulation, suffocation, stabbing etc.
Serial killers act by a sex-murder fantasy based with their control, they usually live in this dream world in their teens until they act it out for real when they get into the adult stage. As each murder occurs a serial killer may be disappointed by his murder fantasy and may act it out again to achieve it to there own satisfaction.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A SERIAL KILLER:
1. Killings are separate (‘serial’), occurring with greater or less frequency, often escalating over a period of time, sometimes years, and will continue until the killer is taken into custody, dies, or is himself/herself killed.
2. In common with normal homicides, killing tends to be one on one. There are instances however where a serial killer has struck down more than one victim in a single incident.
3. There is no (or very little) previous connection between the perpetrator and the victim; the persons involved rarely being related.
4. Although there may be a ‘pattern’ or ‘victim trait’, individual murders within a series rarely display a clearly defined or rational motive.
5. An increasingly greater spatial mobility (since the advent of the automobile) has enabled killers (if they wish) to move rapidly from one place to another, often before a murder has even been discovered.
6. There is usually a high degree of redundant violence, or an ‘overkill’, where the victim is subjected to a disproportionate level of brutality.
These are the motives a serial killer might display (some killers display various motives):
? Visionaries – Acts in response to voices and is instructed by these voices to perform the act of murder. These killers are usually schizophrenic and psychotic.
? Missionaries – They think it is their responsibility to rid society of unwanted elements.
? Hedonists – Kill because murder causes them pleasure.
? Lust Killers – Kill for sexual gratification with acts that are usually sadistic.
? Thrill Killers – Kill because of a desire for a thrill or experience.
? Gain Killers – Kill for personal gain. The killer premeditates the act to require financial gain or materialistic goods. While gain is not the main motive in a murder some serial killers have took the opportunity to steal from their victims for their own personal gain.
? Power Seekers – Kill for the desire to have control over the life and death of others.
These are the classifications for the stable killer and the transient killer:
The Stable Killer (eg. Gacy, Dahmer) –
? Lives and works in one location for an extended period.
? Hunts and kills within the local area.
? Disposes of bodies in the same or similar areas.
? Disposal site selected for concealment.
? May return to the crime scene or burial site.
? Seldom travels, but when forced to travel it is usually for business, family visits, or personal recreation.
The Transient Killer (eg. Bundy, Lucas) –
? Seldom stays in one spot more than a few weeks.
? Kills are spread out over a large area.
? Disposes of bodies in random locations.
? Disposal site selected for convenience.
? Seldom returns to the region of the crime.
? Travels continuously either for pleasure, to confuse law enforcement or for new hunting grounds.
There is the disorganized killer and the organized killer. Most serial killers (about 3/4) are organized and their victim counts seem to be higher, that is also because they are usually above average intelligence.
The disorganized offender is lonely and his murders usually display his anger, most are of a low IQ and suffer from some mental disorder, the killing is not planned and is a usually spur of the moment thing.
It should also be noted that some serial killers display both the characteristics of a disorganized and organized killer, these killers are typed as being ‘mixed’. These are the basic typologies:
Organized Killer (eg. Gacy, Bundy) –
? Plans out the murder (may become accustomed to using it quickly).
? Will bring a ‘rape kit (rope, handcuffs, chloroform etc) if desired.
? Personalizes himself with the victim (talks, leads, captures etc. the victim into/for planned murder situation).
? Rape, torture etc. may take place before murder, for the killers own gratification.
? Kills victim with awareness of evidence at crime scene (which may cleaned destroyed etc).
? Might move the body to hide, bury it etc. in an attempt to evade/delay discovery.
? Killer will not be involved further with the victim’s body, but may take articles, jewelry etc. for trophy or gain.
Disorganized Killer (eg. Berkowitz, Chase) –
? Murder usually happens at the spur of the moment (with no planning but the one simple objective to kill).
? Does not bring any tools (‘rape kit’) to the kill except maybe murder device.
? No contact with the victim prior to spur of the moment murder.
? No rape, torture etc. will take place before murder.
? Kills victim but does not care for evidence usually left at the crime scene (high degree of violence takes place at murder).
? Will not move body in an attempt to hide, bury it etc., unconcerned of its discovery.
? Killer might be involved further with the dead victim (mutilation, necrophilia, cannibalism, etc) and may also take souvenir.
Robert K. Ressler (a FBI Behavioral Science Unit agent) coined the term serial killer in 1975. Before it was known as being a ‘serial killer’ it was referred to as a ‘stranger killer’ because the killers victims were usually unknown to him. Ressler concluded that sometimes the killer did kill people he knew so the word serial (by meaning series) applied to this sort of killer; the term serial killer was then adopted to and used.
The first cases of serial killers probably go back into early times of history with no or few records. Some of the oldest recorded serial killers are Gilles De Rais and Elisabeth Countess Bathory who go back into the 1500’s(most of these old century killers were thought to be vampires or werewolves!).
Jack the Ripper is widely seen as the first serial killer because the nature of the crimes (with the typical sexual motive) line up more with the more recent common ones, therefore serial killers are widely accepted to be only 125 years old.
In the late 1970’s the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) of the FBI took a bigger step to battling serial offenses by undertaking profiling and larger behavioral studies.
Profiling is understanding the offender, looking at a crime scene and judging by the evidence there what the possible killer is like and what he has done, to achieve this the FBI established the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC).
VICAP is a program used to evaluate unsolved crimes and is used to evaluate similarities in crimes; most of these have been done by putting certain information into a computer database. NCAVC is a department in the FBI, which pools in such resources as behavior studies, profiling, research etc. and using specially trained agents to operate it and assist in investigations around the US.
It must be said now that the FBI’s purpose is not to solve a case but to aid police with a profile and/or information to help the police solve it.
One man at the forefront of the activity is now retired FBI agent Robert K. Ressler. Ressler played a major part in the BSU in the late 1970’s by undertaking the Criminal Personality Research Project (CPRP) which was interviewing known killers such as Speck, Berkowitz, Kemper, Manson and many other killers known and unknown; this helped with the basis of profiling and other behavioral research.
Ressler then took on profiling and other behavioral projects such as doing lectures, studies, psychology etc; he also helped establish VICAP and NCAVC. The FBI plays a crucial part in serial murder and perhaps without their assistance serial killers would be more rampant.
JEFFREY DAHMER – THE MILWAUKEE CANNIBAL
Jeffrey Dahmer was born in Milwaukee in 1960. When he was a child he took an interest in chemistry and mutilating animals, a boy also reportedly molested him at the age of eight.
He joined the US Army in 1979 and got stationed in Germany. In 1981 he was discharged for disorderly behavior and alcoholism. While Dahmer was serving in Germany there were three unsolved murders near his base.
When Dahmer returned to Milwaukee he was soon arrested for exhibitionism. In 1988 he was sentenced to 10 months jail for fondling a minor.
Upon his release from prison he got a job at a local candy factory and rented a small apartment, which later became the famous apartment 213. Dahmers neighbors soon complained of an overpowering bad smell and the noise pollution that emitted from his power saw. Dahmers excuses was that his refrigerator broke down and the meat spoiled and that he was building bookcases.
In 1991 police responded to a neighbors call who discovered a 14-year-old Asian boy, Konerak Sinthasomphone, bleeding and naked who had escaped from Dahmer. Police who called it a homosexual lovers spat ignored this incident. Dahmer killed the boy later that night.
Another one of Dahmers victims, Tracy Edwards, escaped and flagged down a police car. The police went back to Dahmers apartment where they discovered photos of dismembered bodies, a head in the refrigerator, a kettle on the stove full of hands and male genitalia, a heart in the fridge with the words ‘to eat later’ carved in it and the list goes on.
Dahmer admitted killing a number of young Asian and African-American boys. After getting his victims drunk or drugged Dahmer photographed, strangled and dismembered his victims. Dahmer committed acts of necrophilia on his victims and was also a cannibal; this was evident by no other food in Dahmer’s apartment except the body parts of his victims. Dahmer had killed a total of 17 males.
In 1992 Dahmer was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to death. While waiting on death row Dahmer was murdered by a fellow inmate and was found with a mop handle stuck in his eye.
JACK THE RIPPER
Known as one of the most infamous killers in history, Jack the Ripper carried out 5 sadistic murders in the Londons East End Whitechapel in the space of four months in 1888.
His victims were all prostitutes, their throats cut and their bodies mutilated. The murders seemed as most usually are, sexually motivated.
Jack the Ripper frustrated Scotland Yard, as they had little to no clues to the killers identity. One thing that was obvious was that the killer was familiar with East End streets.
At the time of the murders letters were sent to the police and media claiming to be that from the Ripper. One such letter was sent to George Lusk, attached was half a kidney, the writer said ‘I send you half the kidney I took from one woman. The other piece I fried and ate’.
The Ripper struck two times on the 30 September, killing Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, unusually Stride was not mutilated suggesting the Ripper had been interrupted. On a building near the crime scene someone had written – ‘The juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing’. But this was wiped clean on order of the police commissioner.
The last victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was the only one to be mutilated indoors. After the death of Kelly, the murders suddenly stopped.
No one is nearer to finding the identity of Jack the Ripper. Such suspects include known killers George Chapman, Neil Cream and Frederick Bailey Deeming. Other theories suggest midwives, Freemasons, Royalty, plus ranks of other suspects.
PEDRO LOPEZ- THE MONSTER OF THE ANDES
Pedro Lopez, AKA ‘The Monster of the Andes’ killed more than three hundred girls in Peru, Ecuador and Columbia in the late seventies and early eighties until he was caught.
When he was young he was molested by a pedophile and deserted by his family. Getting into theft, at 19 he went to prison where 4 other inmates sodomized him, he killed three of them as pay back.
When released he traveled from Peru to Columbia, by this time he had killed over 150 girls. He would usually pick up prostitutes whom he strangled and later dumped their bodies in a river.
Lopez was finally arrested after suspicion of murder in 1980. He told police of his amazing 300+ tally, and he led them to gravesites. Lopez was sentenced to life imprisonment.
H. H. Holmes
Holmes, properly known as Herman Webster Mudgett, killed twenty-seven people at his house in Chicago. Like Ted Bundy he was a handsome man and a favorite with the ladies.
Holmes first married in 1878 while still a student, and in 1886 contracted a bigamous marriage with Myrta Belknap. He took to fraud as a means of livelihood, and in 1888 worked in Chicago as a drugstore chemist. The female boss disappeared in 1890, leaving Holmes in command of a business that thrived on sales of patent medicine.
Holmes shared a flat above the store with a Jeweller called Icilius Conner and his wife Julia who acted as Holmes’s secretary. Holmes purchased a large vacant plot across the road from the drugstore to build a hotel. The Gothic-style hotel resembled a castle and had 100 rooms. The hotel, aptly named ‘Holmes’s Castle’ was designed by Benjamin F. Pitzel, and completed in 1891. Many people stayed at Holmes’s castle and many disappeared, including Conners’ wife and her daughter.
An insurance fraud by Holmes, which resulted in the death of Pitzel, took police to Holmes’s hotel, but Holmes had fled. He was captured in Philadelphia and charged with embezzlement and later with murder.
The police searched Holmes’s castle and discovered a death house. Some of the rooms had chutes, which led to the basement below, used as a victim cargo route. The basement contained vats of acid, airtight rooms with gas inlets, windowless torture rooms containing trays of surgical instruments. Also found were several female skeletons.
At Holmess trial in 1895, in which Holmes acted as his own defense, a mechanic told of how he had worked for Holmes stripping flesh from bodies which he thought had come from the city mortuary. Holmes was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution Holmes confessed to twenty-seven killings. He was hanged at Philadelphias Moyamensing prison on 7 May 1896.
On 31 January 1974, a student at the University of Washington, in Seattle, Lynda Ann Healy, vanished from her room; the bed sheets were bloodstained, suggesting that she had been badly struck on the head. During the following March, April and May, three more girl students vanished with two more in June. In July, two girls vanished on the same day. It happened at Lake Sammanish. A number of people saw a good-looking young man, with his arm in a sling, accost a girl named Janice Ott and ask her to help him lift a boat on to the roof of his car, she walked away with him and did not return. Later, a girl named Denise Naslund was accosted by the same young man, she also vanished. He had been heard to introduce himself as ‘Ted’.
In October 1974 the killings shifted to Salt Lake City; three girls disappeared in one month. In November, the police had their first break in the case: a girl named Carol DaRonch was accosted by a young man who said he was a detective, he lead her back to his car and he snapped a handcuff on her wrist and pointed a gun at her head; she fought and screamed, and managed to jump from his car. That evening, a girl student vanished on her way to meet her brother. A handcuff key was found near the place from which she had been taken.
Meanwhile, the Seattle police had fixed on a young man named Ted Bundy as a main suspect. For the past six years, he had been involved in a close relationship with a divorcee named Meg Anders, but she had called the relationship off. After the Lake Sammanish disappearances, she had seen a photofit drawing of the wanted ‘Ted’ in the Seattle Times and thought it looked like Bundy. She telephoned the police. They told her that they had already checked on Bundy; but at the suggestion of the Seattle Police, Carol DaRonch was shown Bundys photograph. She tentatively identified it as resembling the man who had tried to abduct her, but was obviously far from sure, as Bundy had been in disguise at the attempted kidnapping.
In January, March, April, July and August 1975, more girls vanished in Colorado. (Their bodies-or skeletons-were found later in remote spots.) On 16 August 1975, Bundy was arrested for the first time. As a police car was driving along a dark street in Salt Lake City, a parked Volkswagen launched into motion; the policeman followed, and it accelerated. He caught up with the car at a service station, and found in the car a pantyhose mask, a crow-bar, an icepick and various other tools; there was also a pair of handcuffs.
Bundy, 29 years old, seemed an unlikely burglar. He was a graduate of the University of Washington, and was in Utah to study law; he had worked as a political campaigner, and for the Crime Commission in Seattle. In his room there was nothing suspicious – except maps of Colorado, from which five girls had vanished that year. Also strands of hair were found in his car that came from some of the missing girls. Carol DaRonch had meanwhile identified Bundy from a police line-up, and bloodspots on her clothes – where she had scratched her assailant – were of Bundys group. Credit card receipts showed that Bundy had been close to various places from which girls had vanished in Colorado.
The evidence was, admittedly, circumstantial, but taken all together, it formed a powerful case. The central objection to it became apparent as soon as Bundy walked into court. He looked so decent and clean-cut that most people felt there must be some mistake.
The case seemed to be balanced on a knife-edge – until the judge pronounced a sentence of guilty of kidnapping. Bundy sobbed and pleaded not to be sent to prison; but the judge sentenced him to a period between one and fifteen years.
The Colorado authorities now charged him with the murder of a girl called Caryn Campbell, who had been abducted from a ski resort where Bundy had been seen by a witness. After a morning courtroom session in Aspen, Bundy succeeded in wandering into the library during the lunch recess, and jumping out of the window. He was recaptured eight days later, tired and hungry, and driving a stolen car.
Legal arguments dragged on for another six months – what evidence was admissable and what was not. And on 30 December 1977, Bundy escaped again, using a hacksaw blade to cut through an imperfectly welded steel plate above the light fixture in his cell. He made his way to Chicago, then south to Florida; there, near the Florida State University in Tallahassee, he took a room. A few days later, a man broke into a nearby sorority house and attacked four girls with a club, knocking them unconscious; one was strangled with her pantyhose and raped; another died on her way to the hospital. One of the strangled girls nipples had almost been bitten off, and she had a bite mark on her left buttock. Bundy then fled after a neighbour got suspicious.
Three weeks later, on 6 February 1978, Bundy – who was calling himself Chris Hagen – stole a white Dodge van and left Tallahassee; he stayed in the Holiday Inn, using a stolen credit card. The following day a 12-year-old girl named Kimberly Leach walked out of her classroom in Lake City, Florida, and vanished.
At 4 a.m. on 15 February, a police patrolman noticed an orange Volkswagen driving suspiciously slowly, and radioed for a check on its number; it proved to be stolen from Tallahassee. After a struggle and a chase, during which he tried to kill the policeman, Bundy was captured yet again. When the police learned his real name, and that he had just left a town in which five girls had been attacked, they suddenly understood the importance of his capture.
On 7 April, a party of searchers along the Suwanee river found the body of Kimberly Leach in an abandoned hut; she had been strangled and sexually violated. Three weeks later, surrounded by hefty guards, Bundy allowed impressions of his teeth to be taken, for comparison with the marks on the buttocks of the dead student, Lisa Levy.
Bundys trial began on 25 June 1979, and the evidence against him was damning; a witness who had seen him leaving the sorority house after the attacks; a pantyhose mask found in a room of the sorority house, which resembled the one found in Bundys car; but above all, the fact that Bundys teeth matched the marks on Lisa Levys buttocks. The jury took only six hours to find him guilty on all counts. Judge Ed Cowart pronounced sentence of death by electrocution.
Bundy was taken to Raiford prison, Florida, where he was placed on Death Row. On 2 July 1986, when he was due to die a few hours before serial killer Gerald Stano, both were granted a stay of execution.
Time finally ran out for Bundy in January 1989. Long before this, he had recognised that his fatal mistake was to decline to enter into plea bargaining at his trial; the result was a
death sentence instead of life imprisonment. Bundy then made a last-minute attempt to save his life by offering to bargain murder confessions for a reprieve but failed.
On 24 January, 7 a.m., Bundy was executed at the electric chair at Starke State prison, Florida.
It is quite unclear how many people Ted Bundy killed, figures showed he killed at least 23 women although some say it was between twenty and forty. Bundy himself told the police that in ran into double figures.