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Relationship Between Body and Mind of Serial Killers

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Michael J Averett

Professor Buynak

Philosophy 102

February 23, 2016

Relationship between Body and Mind of Serial Killers

             Serial killers are defined as those that kill at least three people in three different instances, usually with a cooling off period (Aamodt 2005). Serial killers are very different than those that commit murder. People that commit homicide usually have a reason like revenge, some kind of dispute with family or people they are romantically involved with, financial difficulties, or gang violence to name a few. Serial killers on the other hand usually kill complete strangers stemming from sexual, physical, emotional, psychological abuse, and in more recent studies also brain damage. More importantly damage to the frontal lobe which not only controls information to the other lobes of the brain, but is also responsible for the higher-level cognitive functions, such as thinking, perception, and impulse control (Licht, Hull, Ballantyne, 80). Even though most serial killers have abuse in their background that may lead them to commit the atrocities they have committed, and deserve exactly what they have been sentenced to and more, the ones that have actual brain damage should be given the consideration of possibly being hospitalized in a maximum security psychiatric hospital instead of incarcerated in a penal institution that is not equipped to deal with their needs.

            The relationship between body and mind of serial killers differs in many ways, and is very complex. Each serial killer is different, and yet very much the same. All of them have experienced some sort of traumatic event or abuse, usually during childhood. There are several different types of abuse that these people have been subjected to. Physical abuse where they may have sustained physical injury from intentional actions, sexual abuse where family members, family friends, teachers, or even strangers use them for their own sexual gradification, psychological abuse where they were intentionally humiliated or emotionally abused, and then they could have been neglected and refused all things needed to build and sustain a natural level of development. In more recent studies it is possible that brain damage, specifically damage of the frontal lobe, may cause some people to become serial killers as well. There have also been studies to show that people suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of ASD. This is not to say everyone who may be suffering these disorders will become a serial killer, but given these psychological stressors they could be put in a state of mind to commit serious crimes or possibly become a serial killer.

For example, Adam Lanza, the man responsible for the Sandy Hook massacre, was thirteen years old when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of ASD (Rivas 2014). Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, who killed as many as seventy people between them, both suffered from ASD. Another serial killer that is well known is Jeffery Dahmer, who was diagnosed with autism. These three examples of serial killers, even though were suffering from mental disorders at the time, did not deserve any kind of consideration at sentencing. None of them had any brain damage to the frontal lobe, meaning they were capable of their decision making, and had no damage to their impulse control. Each of them was a functioning member of society that could have been anyone of our neighbors.

Jeffery Dahmer was known to be gentle and quite, but also a loner and showed little interest in social activities or hobbies. He usually spent most of his time looking for dead animals and dissecting them, and once even put the head of a dog on a spike. He also craved and liked attention and gained it from those he went to school with by making faces as if he was retarded, clowning around, and flapping his arms wildly. He suffered from not only a mental disorder, autism, but also endured emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse as a child.  Dahmer was neglected by his parents, continually watched his parents argue and fight, sometimes to the point of physical altercations. In 1968 his family moved to rural Bath Township Ohio where a neighbor sexually abused him in the woods near the house. Dahmer’s father believes this is where his son’s troubles began, but it actually started with the abuse he witnessed and neglect endured by him (Berry-Dee 2011).

           Even though he had a very high IQ his grades were usually not up to par. He attended Ohio State University to major in business, but soon lost his will to work and study due to becoming an alcoholic. He used to sell his blood at a blood bank to earn the money to buy alcohol. On one occasion his father visited and found his room littered with empty liquor bottles. Jeffery as also known to drink as he listened to the professor lecture while in class. He was also questioned by the police after $120, a watch, and a radio disappeared from his dorm, but no charges were filed. One student remembers seeing him drunk and passed out in the streets of Cincinnati, and recalls thinking there was nothing that could save him from his path of self-destruction (Berry-Dee 2011).

             After leaving college after only one semester he enlisted for three years in the United States Army. He was stationed in Baumholder, West Germany as a medic in 1979. He continued to drink heavily, and he spent most of his time listening to music and totally withdrawn from society. His fellow soldiers were under the impression that he was on the “skids” (Berry-Dee 2011). As time went on he was discharged with nine months to go on his enlistment. Upon his departure he was quoted as telling his fellow soldiers, “You will hear from me again,” (Berry-Dee 2011).

          Dahmer’s first victim was a hitchhiker, Stephen Hicks, on June 6, 1978. The nineteen year old had spent the day at a rock concert and was on his way home to celebrate his father’s birthday when he encountered Dahmer. The two went back to Dahmer’s home and drank beer, but when the youth decided he had to go, and refused Dahmer’s repeated requests to stay, Dahmer picked up a dumbbell and struck the youth over the head killing him. He then drug the youth’s body under the house and dismembered it, wrapping the body parts in plastic. For nine years after killing Stephen Hicks, Dahmer kept his impulses under control. After a brief stay in Florida he moved to Milwaukee staying with his grandmother Catharine. Shortly after moving to Milwaukee he committed his second murder, the victim being Stephen Tuomi. After killing Stephen Tuomi, Dahmer realized that murder and dismemberment were necessary for him to satisfy his sexual impulses. Four months later on January 14, 1988 he picked up a male prostitute and after having sex with he strangled him to death. He was able to dispose of the body easily in his grandmother’s garage. He would strip the flesh from the bones using acid and smashed the bones with a sledge hammer, disposing of the bones around neighboring houses lawns and gardens. Dahmer continued to look for his victims in known areas of prostitute and gay bars. They were also becoming more frequent, where one of his intended victims was just three days after the last one. Jeffery Dahmer was convicted of fifteen men and boys in 1992. During the trial gruesome details were revealed that he kept some of the body parts in his refrigerator, sometimes eating them. He also built alters out of skulls while disposing the rest of the bodies in drums of acid. Then it was revealed that he attempted to turn several of his victims into “sexual zombies”, by drilling holes in their skulls, injecting battery acid into their brains (Vronsky 2004). While the neglect, abuse, and autism may have contributed to him performing these horrific acts, it is not brain damage. Jeffery Dahmer was able to control his impulse, he proved that with the nine year gap between the first and second murders. He choose to act on these impulses which shows there was no brain damage, and he should not have been given special consideration during his trial and sentencing.



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