Serial Killers

Serial Killers

Introduction to Psychology

In the past two decades, the creature known as the serial killer has captured the attention of the American culture. With the dozens of books and movies centered around serial killers the term has become a trendy catch phrase, replacing earlier terms such as "homicidal maniac". Fiction and screenwriters use the term "serial killers" with such casual abandon that is seems the meaning of the term escapes them.
I would like to thank my family and friends for encouraging me back to school so I can one day parlay my BIZARRE interest into a bonafide career.

Justification of Problem
Are serial killers born or made? What stops us from killing a disloyal friend or total stranger with nice shoes? Or – to rephrase the question – what fails to stop some people from committing such murders? This question has baffled psychologist, sociologists and criminologists for many years, and is the very essence of trying to establish the nature of this crime. The born or made argument, known as the "Nature versus Nurture" debate, asks whether criminality is due to genetic factors, and therefore unavoidable, or whether it is the product of social situations, environmental surroundings or other external factors. While the debate is a noble one, we must first answer the question – What is a serial killer?

Literature Review

On February 9, 1978, 12 year-old Kimberly Leach disappeared; she was found in the first week of April, her body discovered near Suwanee State Park. In 1609, 25 handpicked daughters of Polish nobles left home to attend instruction in social graces at the Csejthe Castle; none left alive. The body of Rose Ambramovitz was found sprawled across her bed on March 18, 1941. Jessica Cain was last seen alive driving down Interstate Highway 45 between Houston and Galveston in August 1997. None of these people knew each other in life, but their deaths have at least one common factor…they were committed by a serial killer.
The Crime Classification Manual used by the FBI defines serial murder as "three or more separate events in three or more separate locations with an emotional cooling-off period between homicides". The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) defines serial killing as "a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually but not always, by one offender acting alone. The crimes may occur over a period of time ranging from hours to years. Quite often the motive is psychological, and the offender’s behavior and the physical evidence observed at the crime scenes will reflect sadistic, sexual overtones". By avoiding the strict criteria of the FBI and other published definitions, the NIJ undoubtedly rankled a few criminologists, but its broad definition at once closes the FBI loopholes while providing coverage for cases otherwise denied any label at all. Throughout the early annals of criminal history, serial murder was labeled as mass murder. Only since 1950 have criminologists made an effort to distinguish between types of multiple murder. In 1966, author John Brophy coined the phrase "serial murder" in his book The Meaning of Murder. Though the written definitions and diagnosis terminology may differ there are some facts about serial killers that speak for themselves.
Serial killers are divided in two types – disorganized and organized. The first, disorganized killers often appear to have three strikes before they begin. Disorganized killers are at best of average intelligence, sometimes mentally retarded. This type of killer has an unstable work history, mirroring that of his father, in low or unskilled occupations. His birth-order was low, usually the last of a number of siblings. His social life is nonexistent; he lives alone and is usually sexually incompetent, often times a virgin. He usually strikes his victims at random and lives or works near the crime scene. There is little or no interest in the media coverage and seldom any dramatic lifestyle change in attempt to avoid detection. A disorganized crime scene screams spontaneity. The victim is often known to his attacker, because of this, some believe the killer often depersonalizes his prey by disfiguring or covering the face. The victim is seldom bound or tortured; most of the time sexual assault takes place after death. The disorganized killer rarely transports or conceals his kills, leaving bodies to fall where they may.