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Serial Killers in the Us

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Serial Killers in the U.S

Before we can discuss what serial killers do, we must first define what a serial killer is. Some people might place serial killers into the same group as mass murderers. This would be incorrect because they are two totally different types of killers. While both of these individuals may kill many people, the difference lies in the reason they kill and the period over which they kill their victims. An event or a build up of circumstance triggers mass murderers and causes them to act. This may be the result of a stressful situation or frustration either at work or in their private lives. For whatever reason, they may choose to use a weapon and kill people that they feel are responsible for their problems. They may also kill total strangers in a bid to get even with whomever or whatever they feel wronged them. Whatever their reason, they are usually cooperative and quite often docile if they survive the episode. It seems that this one-time outburst of violence, once enacted, puts an end to any future events of this type for that individual. While the mass killer may kill many people in one attack, when the attack is over, their mission is complete. The mass killer's victims may not be chosen for any other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Serial killers are a totally different and more dangerous threat to society. They may not kill many people at one time, but they may kill for many years without being detected. They are able to kill again and again without being caught because they are careful in their choices of victims. They typically pick victims who are vulnerable and un-able to defend themselves such as children, the elderly or women. They also pick victims who will not be missed by society, such as migrant workers, prostitutes, hitchhikers or homosexuals. They may even pick victims based on specifics such as physical build or hairstyle.

Because of the fact that many serial killers may be mobile; similarities in crime scenes may go undetected by law enforcement agencies. The nation's police departments often lack the modern equipment and technology needed to track and recognize connections between cases. It is generally accepted that many cases of serial murder have not been reported because of lack of evidence or the person murdered is never noticed to be missing.

The U. S. has had more than 150 documented cases of serial killers since 1800. Retired FBI analyst John Doug-las believes that at any one time, there may be from 30 to 50 serial killers active in the U. S. Good locations for serial killers include any city or area large enough to support prostitution, drug cultures, runaway children or street people. They can and do operate successfully in rural areas.

Serial killers were once considered a rarity. Even though reports in Europe go back as far as the fifteenth century, only a few were written about prior to the mid twentieth century. One of the most widely written about was Jack the Ripper, who claimed only 5 victims in a three-month period. This would put him in the bottom of the class by to-day's standards. During the past twenty years, serial killings have become more frequent. We have even seen up to a half dozen of their cases on the news simultaneously. Cases such as San Francisco's Zodiac

Killer; New York City's Son of Sam; Atlanta's child murderer, Wayne Williams; Los Angeles's Hillside Strangler; and Milwaukee's own, Jeffrey Dahmer for example. Many times, they fit into a pattern, but sometimes there is no pattern. The phenomenon is world-wide, from England's Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe's killing of 13 women prior to 1981, to Russia's Rostov Cannibal, Anderei Chikatilo, who slaughtered and partially consumed at least 53 men and women over

a 12 year period prior to 1990.

It is hard to predict whether a person will become a serial killer. A set of childhood characteristics believed by many to be symptoms of violent behavior has been named the "McDonald Triad". Named after psychiatrist John M. McDonald, it speculates that three factors in a person's childhood may determine violent behavior. These three factors presumably linked to homicidal behavior are bedwetting, setting fires, and torture of small animals. There is evidence that many serial killers have some or all of these factors in their past. The fact remains, there are many people with symptoms of the McDonald Triad who do not become serial killers; unfortunately some do. One of the Hillside Stranglers, Kenneth Bianci, had a bedwetting problem and had killed a cat before as a prank. The Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, had set many fires, kept a diary and even nicknamed himself the "Phantom Fireman". Alaska's Robert Hansen, murderer of at least 17 women, was convicted of arson as a youth. An important fact is the "McDonald Triad" is not believed to be a cause of violence, but only a set of


The typical serial killer is a white male in his late 20s or 30s and murders his victims by beating or strangulation. He may appear cold, show no remorse for his actions and might deny responsibility for his crimes, but psychosis or severe mental illness is rarely present. Only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of serial killers are women. Males are much more likely to use extreme violence such as bludgeoning, beating, strangling, or torture. Women on the other hand favored poisoning or smothering their victims. Where men would normally stalk their victims, the female se-rial killer would lure her victim to their death. Researchers Anne Moir and David Jessel believe that serial killers lack the voice of conscience that prevents most of us in doing things we should not. Their research made them to believe that serial killers usually have a sexual motive and an inability to appreciate the feelings of others. They only survive because they are able to conceal their identities and appear to be normal. "Most unexpectedly, in back-ground, in personality, and even in appearance, the mass murderer is extraordinarily ordinary. This may be the key to his extraordinary "talent" for murder: After all, who would ever suspect him."

Dr. Donald Lunde, a psychiatrist who studied 42 murderers over a 5-year period, determined that there are two types of mentalities involved with these types of crimes. The first of these is paranoid schizophrenia which may be characterized by an aggressive, suspicious demeanor, hallucinations (usually, hearing voices in their minds), or delusions of grandeur or persecution. The second type is sexual sadism, which is distinguished by killing, torturing, or mutilating victims for



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