Serial Killers

“We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere”

SERIAL KILLERS CASEBOOK

A serial killer is defined as a person who murders three or more people, over the course of a certain period of time, with an indeterminate amount of time in between each victim. The murders usually follow a pattern, and motives for these crimes can vary, with psychological gratification, sexual intent, thrill seeking, financial gain and revenge often cited as the most common factors. Serial murder is considered a distinct classification, differing from mass murderers, who murder many victims at the same time, to contract killers who murder for financial gain rather than a desire, and spree killers, who can commit several murders during a shorter period of time and in multiple locations. In many important aspects, however, these can also interchange and there is much debate about the specific qualifications for what constitutes a serial killer.

The characteristics of a serial killer can define how and why they commit such crimes. When a person suffers abuse as a child, it can in some cases have a significant effect on subsequent criminality, and is cited as a contributing factor in their crimes. Edmund Kemper suffered an abusive childhood at the hands of his mother, something that shaped his pathology into a deep rooted hatred for women. After murdering young female hitchhikers, the necrophile and cannibalistic Kemper murdered his mother and one of her friends before turning himself in. He would eventually be found sane and stood trial for his crimes. Cannibalism and necrophilia are two of the more deviant acts that some of the most infamous serial killers demonstrate in their crimes, with Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee Cannibal, indulging in both during his murder spree.

Mental illness and psychopathy are often mentioned as possible explanations for the homicidal behaviour of some criminals. Richard Chase, who suffered from schizophrenia, was nicknamed the Vampire of Sacramento after he murdered six people, and drank the blood his victims, believing it was cure his mental illness. The necrophile Chase would often torture animals, and eventually progressed onto to killing people. Sadistic activity towards animals in particular is part of the Macdonald triad, which also includes bed wetting and setting fires as the three predictors of future violent behaviour, although not all serial killer exhibit these. Some will undertake a life-time of petty crime before moving on to more serious crimes that involve murder. Other factors such as biological and sociological and even post traumatic stress suffered by ex-military can also contribute towards the development of a serial killer.

Lust or sex murders are possibly the most common motive for a serial killer, with fantasy playing a large role in the crimes. Ted Bundy was a sex killer, and would often engage in necrophilia with the bodies of the young women he strangled, and by doing so exerted the ultimate control over his victims. Bundy had been jilted by his successful and beautiful girlfriend, and then sought out women who resembled his first love, essentially killing her over and over again. The Original Night Stalker, also known as the Golden State Killer began terrorizing Northern California during the mid-1970’s, and would enter the homes of lone female victims to commit rape. He later became more brazen and began to target couples, subduing the men before attacking the women. He eventually escalated to murder, after he was almost caught when two prospective victims managed to escape, and would bludgeoning his victims to death.

Such lust killers are considered a subgroup of the hedonistic killer, along with thrill killing, who murder for enjoyment and comfort killers, who kill for financial gain and are most often usually women. Compared to their male counterparts, female serial killers are rare, with vastly different motivations for their killing sprees. Elizabeth Bathory was a prolific killer during the 17th century who displayed vampiric qualities and was accused of murdering upwards of 650 people. She allegedly killed her servants in rituals and bathed in their blood in order to achieve eternal youth. Many female killers are often described as “Black Widows”, who use poison to murder either family members, such was the habit of Mary Ann Cotton, or against complete strangers for financial gain or other such motives.

Much like their Doctors of Death counterparts, Angels of Death is a term used to describe female medical practitioners, often nurses, who murder their patients for a variety of reasons. Beverley Allit worked as nurse at a children’s ward in England, where she was responsible for murdering four children, and attempting to murder another three in 1991. She claimed to be suffering from Munchausen syndrome, a disorder in which she would have caused pain to those under her care to attract attention onto herself. Aileen Wournos is an example of a female killer who claimed to have murdered in self-defence. Working as a prostitute, Wournos shot several of her customers at point-blank range after they attempted to rape her, however, this line of defence did not save her from being executed by lethal injection.

Female serial killers are also sometimes part of the team killers classification, where a man and woman, usually a couple, commit murderous crimes together. Definitive examples of this type are the Lonely Hearts Killers, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, or the Canadian husband and wife killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. The female is usually the submissive partner in these types of crimes, with the male holding influence over and directing her actions, but they can sometimes prove to be the instigator. Women such as Rose West, who along with her husband Fred, was very much an equal and responsible for the murders of several young women, including that of Fred’s own daughter. These murders involved bondage and torture and were extremely sadistic, which would place the West’s into a very feared category of killer.

Some of the worst serial murderers fall into this category, one that is considered the most dangerous of sexual predators, those who are sadists who torture their victims before death. The BTK Strangler began terrorizing the city of Wichita in Kansas during the 1970’s, and was responsible for the deaths men, women and children. BTK, which stood for Bind, Torture, Kill, would suffocate his victims over and over, and relished in this sadism and their suffering. Richard Cottingham tortured and murdered several prostitutes in New York during the 1970’s, leaving their mutilated bodies in hotel rooms. Dayton Leroy Rogers also targeted prostitutes, but took them out to the Molalla forest in Oregon, where he indulged in bondage and foot fetishism before torturing and murdering his victims, burying their bodies in the surrounding hillside.

Other serial killers do not attempt to hide their crimes, and revel in the attention such murders generate through the media, and even communicate with the police in an attempt to gain even more satisfaction from their anonymity. The Zodiac killer is a prime example of such a media sensation killer because of the amount of letters he wrote demanding attention and recognition for his crimes. David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam, was another killer who wrote to the press, and although his letters were somewhat rambling and incoherent, he is similar to that of the 3-X killer, who sent equally incomprehensible missives to investigators in an effort to sensationalise his crimes. Such killers can also fall into the category of visionary killer, who can suffer from psychotic breaks from reality, or the mission-orientated killer, those such as the Green River Killer, who wished to clean up the streets of prostitutes.

Much like the female Black Widow killers, there are male serial killers who murder for financial gain. H.H. Holmes, who went by numerous aliases, was one such killer who is suspected of killings 27 people at his Chicago hotel that became known as “Murder Castle”. Holmes was involved in several different crimes, from insurance fraud, to selling human remains on the black market to medical schools. The English doctor John Bodkin Adams was a perfect example of a medical practitioner who administered lethal injections to his patients, after convincing them to sign over their estates and belongings to him in their wills. Some contract killers can exhibit serial killer traits, such as the Iceman, Richard Kuklinski, who killed for money but who also enjoyed and perfected the art of murder, taking great pride in his ability to murder without being caught.

Historical criminology suggests that serial murder has existed throughout history, even before the term serial killer was first used by criminal investigators. Serial murder can be classified into three distinct categories, organized killers, disorganized and those who exhibit both. The crimes of organized killers are premeditated, most often planning their crimes methodically, and usually involve kidnapping their victims and disposing of their bodies leaving little if any links between themselves and the crime. These type of killers are often difficult to apprehend, primarily because they cover their tracks, display above average intelligence and are forensically aware so they leave little in the way of evidence.

Disorganized killers are, in contrast, not well planned and as such these types of criminals tend to leave fingerprints, blood and other evidence at the scene of the crime. They make little attempt to remove evidence or even conceal the body after the murder. Killers who have below average intelligence, alcohol or drugs dependency or some form of mental illness usually fall into the disorganized category. Both of these types of killer can display a mix or organized and disorganized traits, and can sometimes occur when there are multiple offenders, such as a group of killers, or when a lone offender is undergoing a transformation. An example of such a metamorphosis is Joseph James DeAngelo, who progressed from being a serial burglar known as the Visalia Ransacker, to then becoming the East Area Rapist and finally the Original Night Stalker.

A serial killer of both the organized and disorganized dichotomy may also manifest certain behavioural characteristics. The first is known as the modus operandi, which is essentially the method of operation, or the particular method of committing their crimes. The second is the signature, or personal mark or imprint of the killer. A case in point of this would be the Texas Eyeball Killer removing the eyes of his female victims, for his own personal pathological need. While every crime has a modus operandi, not all criminals leave a signature. Despite the long established Hollywood image of serial killers as axe-wielding lunatics, most serial murderers hold down decent jobs, have families, friends and on the surface lead perfectly respectable lives.

In response to the rise of sexual assault and homicide cases in the early 1970’s, the FBI established the Behavioral Science Unit in 1972, and began to investigate, study and analyse serial murderers in an effort to understand the mindset and motivations of such offenders. FBI Supervisory Special Agents John E. Douglas and Robert Ressler, members of the Behavioral Science Unit, began work in 1976 on compiling a centralized database of such serial offenders. They interviewed incarcerated serial killers and questioned them at length about their crimes and the motivations behind their individual pathologies. In 1984, Ted Bundy offered his help to FBI agents in their search for the Green River Killer. During these interviews Bundy offered unique understanding of the potential motives of the killer, as well as a rare insight into his own twisted crimes.

Serial killers can, ultimately, become the most difficult type of murderer to catch, specifically because in most cases, the victim and their killer have no connection. Some of the most notorious of serial killers are those whose crimes have remained unsolved, and the perpetrators have escaped justice, disappearing forever to linger as an enduring mystery. Cases such as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, the Axeman of New Orleans and the Monster of Florence have continued to capture the public’s imagination because they have remained unsolved for many years and are unlikely to gain closure. The Victorian murderer Jack the Ripper is considered to be the most elusive and well-known serial killer, fundamentally because of his gruesome crimes, taunting letters to the press and apparent ability to remain one step ahead of the police despite a lengthy and thorough investigation, all of which has contributed to Jack becoming the most written about serial killer in history.

Written by Nucleus

Serial Killers Casebook

3-X Murders

Was the mysterious 3-X part of a clandestine organization, or merely a deranged serial killer who wanted attention for his crimes.

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I-70 Killer

The I-70 killer is believed to be responsible for the shooting deaths of at least six people during a vicious killing spree from Wichita to Indianapolis.

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Atlanta Ripper

Much like the killer who stalked the streets of London's East End who the press called Jack, the Atlanta Ripper was as equally lethal and elusive.

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Lonely Hearts Killers

Martha Beck was a lonely, overweight mother of two, who was desperate for a man. When she met Raymond Fernandez, it proved to be a lethal union.

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John Cannan

A suspect in numerous unsolved crimes, John Cannan is a rapist and serial killer whom police suspect was involved in the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh.

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Route 40 Killer

One of the most sadistic of serial killers, the Route 40 Killer was responsible for the torture murders of several women and would eventually be ensnared by a female police officer.

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Zodiac Ciphers

The infamous Zodiac Killer sent ciphers to the police with hidden messages that described his murderous intentions. Most have now been deciphered, but some remain unsolved.

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Leather Apron

Was Jack the Ripper a Jewish cobbler from the East End, or was the sinister Leather Apron merely a scapegoat for the Whitechapel murder?.

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Monster of Florence

The still unsolved story of the Monster of Florence is one of murder, mutilation, cults and mystery.

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Pennsylvania Swamp Murders

The Swamp Murders of Pennsylvania are strikingly similar to the Cleveland Torso Murders, and could possibly have been committed by the same killer.

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Angus Sinclair

The prime suspect in the Glasgow Three murders is Angus Sinclair, a rapist and serial killer who was responsible for similar crimes at the same time,

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The Collector

The John Fowles Novel that would become the inspiration for the crimes of kidnappers and serial murderers.

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L.A. Ripper

In 1944, two horrific murders committed within hours of each other must have been perpetrated by a homicidal madman.

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George Hodel

Was the sinister Dr. Hodel behind the Black Dahlia murder, or a much more prolific serial killer?

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Peter Moore

Known as the 'Man in Black', Peter Moore was a vicious serial killer who preyed on men in North Wales.

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Sawney Bean

The infamous Cannibal Clan of Sawney Bean have passed into Scottish legend, but is there any historical fact to their murderous exploits.

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Montague Druitt

Druitt was one of the Ripper suspects named in the Macnaughten Report, and the suspicious timing of his death has only increased his candidacy.

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Ted Bundy

The good-looking law student Ted Bundy was one of the most prolific serial killers of the 20th Century.

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The Red Spider

The Polish serial killer Lucian Staniak... was he real or the figment of an author's imagination?

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Lawrence Kane

Lawrence Kane was never charged with murder, but he is a suspect in the deaths of two women and a prime suspect in the Zodiac case.

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Robert Hansen

Businessman Robert Hansen was well-liked by his community, but no-one knew he was a serial killer who liked to hunt women.

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Jack the Stripper

Much like his namesake the Ripper, Jack the Stripper preyed on prostitutes who were found strangled throughout London.

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Thames Torso Murders

Special Case File Thames Torso Murders The Embankment Murders Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share…...

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Harvey Glatman

Harvey Glatman The Glamour Girl Slayer Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email Harvey…...

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Aurora Hammer Murders

Aurora Hammer Murders Alexander Christopher Ewing Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email Residents…...

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BTK

The stuff of nightmares... the BTK Strangler terrorized Wichita, Kansas during the 1970's, and was long considered dead, until his re-emerged in 2004...

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Vampire of Sacramento

Vampire of Sacramento Richard Trenton Chase Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email During…...

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Karl Denke

Karl Denke The Cannibal of Münsterberg Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email In

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Skid Row Stabber

Did Satan command the Skid Row Stabber to murder Los Angeles homeless?, and was the right suspect convicted for these serial murders?

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Truro Murders

The deadly Chris Worrell and his hapless accomplice James Miller were responsible for the murders of numerous young woman in Adelaide.

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Stockwell Strangler

Kenneth Erskine was the insidious strangler who stalked the old peoples homes of Stockwell looking for elderly victims to murder and rob.

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Charlie Chop-off

A psychotic maniac was murdering young boys in Manhattan in the most gruesome of ways, and the prime suspect was a former mental patient...

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Blackout Ripper

The devastation caused by air raids conducted by the Luftwaffe during the World War II proved the ideal setting for a vicious strangler to hunt for victims.

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Jack Rackham

The legendary pirate Calico Jack sailed the seas with two women among his crew, both of whom would prove far braver in battle.

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Frederick Deeming

One of the most heartless killers ever to have swing from the end of a rope. But was Deeming the elusive Jack the Ripper?

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Bedroom Basher

A nightmarish home invasion murderer, the Bedroom Basher would claim many victims before he confessed after his capture.

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Pedro López

Pedro López The Monster of the Andes Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email

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Melvin Rees

A sadistic killer who targeted men, women and children. Rees would eventually be capture and spent the rest of his life behind bars.

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Berlin Butcher

Berlin Butcher Carl Grossmann Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email From 1918 to

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Bela Kiss

When the remains of numerous women were found on the grounds of his rented accommodation, the hunt was then on to find the elusive Bela Kiss.

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Heriberto Seda

Had the Zodiac killer returned? Or were New Yorkers being subjected to a horrifying reign of terror by a Zodiac copycat?

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The Psychopath

The Costa Rican El Psicópata was a serial killer who claimed dozens of lives before his own death came under unusual circumstances.

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Visalia Ransacker

The crimes in Visalia were the first stages in the progression of an offender who would go on to be American's most prolific criminal.

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Black Doodler

Police initially suspected three murderers were at work in San Francisco, but soon all the crimes were confirmed to be the work of a single killer.

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Jack the Strangler

When the bodies of prostitutes began turning up in Mexico City, the police suspected more than one killer, until they finally arrested Jack.

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Locusta of Gaul

Locusta of Gaul Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email One of the earliest

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Honolulu Strangler

Honolulu Strangler The Hawaiian Serial Murder Case Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email

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Mohammed Bijeh

A callous killer of children, the Tehran Desert Vampire would suffer a public execution before the families of his many victims.

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Vasili Komaroff

Vasili Komaroff The Wolf of Moscow Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email Known

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Balaclava Killer

A vicious serial killer stalked the Gold Coast, murdering indiscriminately. Did the police finally identify the prime suspect?

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Original Night Stalker

Before Richard Ramirez, there was the original and brutal home invader who progressed from burglary, to rape and finally to serial murder.

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Mr. Kipper

The disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh has been linked to an unidentified man who called himself Mr. Kipper. Was this man her killer?

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Robert Maudsley

Robert Maudsley Hannibal the Cannibal Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on whatsapp Share on reddit Share on google Share on email After suffering

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Rainbow Maniac

This Brazilian serial murder case is one of hate crimes against the countries gay community.

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Flat-Tire Murders

The murders of several women are connected by police through the killers use of flattening tires to ensnare his victims.

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Monster of Udine

A sadistic serial killer targeting prostitutes in Italy's Udine province would prove elusive to the police investigation.

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Freeway Phantom

An unseen sexual predator stalked the highways of Washington state, murdering young black girls and women.

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