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Criminal Profiling. LECTURE/DISCUSSION #12-13 Serial Murderers. Media, Pop Culture, and Serial Murder as Moral Panic.

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criminal profiling

Criminal Profiling

LECTURE/DISCUSSION #12-13

Serial Murderers

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

media pop culture and serial murder as moral panic
Media, Pop Culture, and Serial Murder as Moral Panic
  • The “serial killer” is one of the most popular criminal types in media and pop culture. However, in reality serial murder is an extremely rare phenomenon that has not increased in proportion to the pace at which the phenomenon appears in the news media, TV, movies, etc.
  • Much of what we know about serial murder is based on myth construction and misinformation generated through through a moral entrepreneurial process that creates moral panic (See Jenkins, 1994 for a book-length discussion of this).

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

what do academics and law enforcement have to say about serial murder
What do Academics and Law Enforcement Have to Say About Serial Murder?
  • Definitions of serial murder (law enforcement, academic) do not exist independently of media and pop culture constructions. A synthesis of the many definitions is the best we can do.
  • Extent of Serial Murder
    • 35-100 serial killers may be active in any given year.
    • Since 1975 there have been about 8 cases per year with 6-9 victims (49-70 victims per year).
    • The serial murder rate is approx. 0.02 per 100,000.

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

definitions of serial murder
Definitions of Serial Murder
  • There are many different definitions of serial murder – see Keeney & Heide (1995) (Supp. Readings) and Hickey (1997). Some examples:
    • FBI (Douglas et al): “three or more separate events in three or more separate locations with an emotional cooling-off period between homicides” (p. 21)
    • Hickey (1997): “. . . Any offenders, male or female, who kill over time” (p. 12). Minimum of 3-4 victims, pattern associated with method, motive, victim type.
    • Keeney & Heide (1995): “. . . The premeditated murder of three or more victims committed over time, in separate incidents, in a civilian context, with the murder activity being chosen by the offender.”

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

definitions of serial murder some examples continued
Definitions of Serial Murder (Some Examples, continued)
  • Egger (1998, p. 5): A serial murder occurs when:
    • one or more individuals commits a send and/or subsequent murder.
    • there is (generally) no prior relationship between victim and attacker.
    • subsequent murders have no apparent connection to first murder and are at different times.
    • Usually committed in a different geographical location.
    • The murder is not for material gain and is for power and dominance over victim.
    • Victims may have symbolic value and/or are perceived as prestigeless and powerless (homeless, prostitutes, single women out by themselves, missing children, homosexuals, college students, hospital patients, etc.)

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

problems with existing definitions of serial murder
Problems with Existing Definitions of Serial Murder
  • Most definitions exclude women and offenders whose motives are instrumental (e.g., profit) rather than expressive (e.g., “lust”/sexual sadism).
  • There have been many more female serial killers throughout history than many writers/definitions suggest -- but many kill with poison, lure rather than stalk, do not torture, and are motivated by profit (insurance, inheritance).
    • Jenkins (1994) argues that feminist writers have obscured participation of women in serial murder to advance the ideological platform of women as victims.
    • A different twist to this argument is that male and female (“non or anti-feminist”) writers refuse to believe that women can be/are serial killers – In other words, this is not some feminist attemt to hide all of the female serial killers to protect the rights of all women.

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

research findings on the nature and dynamics of sexual homicide from meloy 1999 in supp readings
Most sexual homicides are committed by males.

Most victims are female strangers or casual acquaintances.

Variations in real events/crime scenes are continuous rather than dichotomous (i.e., mixed organized/disorganized)

Sexual murderers usually possess more than one paraphilia and as a group have a high frequency of genital and gender dysphoria.

Fantasy plays a central role in sexual homicide (and fantasy can be inferred from offender productions -- photos, videos, dolls, narratives, drawings).

Sexual homicides usually evidence M.O. and signature.

Disorganized sexual homicide may involve a catathymic process (p. 6).

Organized sexual homicide usually involves an obsessive-compulsive pattern of behavior and sexual sadism.

Sexual homicides are opportunistic rather than impulsive acts.

Adolescents commit sexual homicide at approx. the same rate as adults.

There is no evidence of biological anomalies, psychological factors, or social deviancies that predict sexual homicide.

Research Findings on the Nature and Dynamics of Sexual HomicideFrom Meloy (1999) in Supp. Readings

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

theories that help to explain serial murder
Theories That Help to Explain Serial Murder
  • Psychobiology and biochemical theories (allergies, chemical imbalance, chromosomal abnormalities, hormones, neurotransmitters, genetics, etc.)
  • Psychological, psychodynamic, personality theories (Mental Disorders and Personality Disorders (Axis I, Axis II Diagnoses, psychopathy)
  • Sociological theories (techniques of neutralization, social control, labeling)

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

the trauma control model hickey 2002 p 107
The Trauma Control ModelHickey (2002, p. 107)

Predispositional

Factors

Facilitators

Low

Self-esteem

fantasies

Increasingly

Violent

fantasies

Homicidal

behavior

Trauma

event(s)

Dissociation

Trauma

reinforcement(s)

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

the fractured identity syndrome holmes et al 1999
The Fractured Identity SyndromeHolmes et. al (1999)
  • Authors apply Cooley’s (1902) “Actual Social Identity” and Goffman’s (1963) “Virtual Social Identity” to the serial killer literature to explain how the serial killer “mentality” develops.
    • An incident(s) causes a small “fissure” in the personality and subsequent incidents cause the fissure to explode into a “fractured identity personality.”
    • The serial killer hides and manages his/her “stigma” presenting only the virtual identity to everyone except his/her victims - to whom the actual identity is presented and then quickly hidden through murder.
    • If the social events leading to the fracture can be identified early this could be a first step in intervention and prevention.

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

linkage analysis in sex crimes from hazelwood warren 2003
Linkage Analysis in Sex Crimes(From Hazelwood & Warren (2003))
  • LINKAGE ANALYSISis a form of behavioral analysis that integrates information from three distinct but interrelated aspects of crime pattern: M.O., ritual or fantasy-based behaviors, signature.
    • Ritual and signature are distinguished in that signature is “a unique combination of behaviors that emerges across two or more offenses. It is a pattern that may include aspects of both the MO and ritual” (p. 591)
  • Linkage analysis involves five activities:
    • Gathering necessary documentation
    • Reviewing documentation and identifying significant crime features
    • Analyzing the crimes and identifying M.O. and ritual behavior
    • Determining if signature exists across crimes
    • Preparing the opinion

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

linkage analysis in sex crimes continued from hazelwood warren 2003
Linkage Analysis in Sex Crimes(Continued)(From Hazelwood & Warren (2003))
  • LINKAGE ANALYSIS EXAMPLE:(in which testimony was offered regarding signature):
    • Prosecutor asked: (1) What was themotive for the attacks? (2) Was there a signature that existed across crimes?
    • Testimony was offered regarding features that linked cases (p. 595/next slide)

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

slide13
J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University
slide14
Linkage Analysis in Sex CrimesDissimilar Features in Sanchez-Johnson Cases(Continued)(From Hazelwood & Warren (2003))

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

applying theories
Applying Theories . . .
  • A large part of criminal profiling involves understanding offender M.O., motive, and fantasy. Thus, it is important to acquire knowledge about the theories of serial murder, sexual homicide, serial rape, and other crimes most suitable for profiling.
  • Theories that can enhance understanding of offender motive include: Hickey’s “trauma control model,” Meloy’s “catathymic/compulsive” typology, Holmes et al’s “fractured identity syndrome,” and other interdisciplinary theories that provide an integrative understanding of these extreme criminal behaviors.

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

eric hickey s serial murderers and their victims
Eric Hickey’sSerial Murderers and Their Victims
  • Presents data from a sample of 431 serial killers 1800-2004
    • 367 male and 64 female
    • Responsible for 2,760-4,340 homicides
  • Data collected from:
    • Prison visits
    • Police departments
    • University libraries
    • Interviews with several serial murderers and their families and friends
    • Communication with family members of victims

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

hickey s mobility typology of serial killers
Hickey’s Mobility Typology of Serial Killers
  • TRAVELING: Murder while traveling through or relocating to other areas in the United States.
  • LOCAL: Remain in certain state or urbanized area to seek out victims
  • PLACE-SPECIFIC: Murder in own homes, place of employment, institutions, or other specific sites.

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

victims of serial killers
Victims of Serial Killers
  • Population density rather than region is associated with higher rates of victimization. New York and California have the highest # of cases.
  • Serial murderers predominantly target strangers
    • 61% killed strangers only with male offenders 3x more likely to do so, 76% murdered at least one stranger
    • white female or child victims (73% offenders are also white), and do not target a specific age group.
  • The victim precipitation model does not apply to serial murder victims (Only 11-13% facilitative in their own deaths)

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

male serial killers
Male Serial Killers
  • Men are involved in over 90% of the serial murder cases.
  • Monikers for male serial killers create mystery and reflect cultural fascination (e.g., “The Torture Doctor,” “Night Stalker,” “Sex Beast”).
  • Most (55%) are local killers who killed fewer victims (7-9) than place-specific (10%; 12-20) and traveling (35%; 8-12).
  • Young females alone are the primary targets (followed by children alone).
  • Method of killing varied
  • Sexual motivation found to be the most common explanation for murder, though only 9% of the offenders give it as the only reason for killing (sex may be used as a vehicle to kill/destroy).
  • A high % (28%) (compared to other offender types) receive the death penalty.

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

aileen wuornos the 1 st female serial killer
Aileen Wuornos – The 1st Female Serial Killer?
  • Until Wuornos came along, many female serial killers were not identified as such and were thought of as lessdangerous, less interesting, and amusing. Wuornos was not the first female serial killer, but is an anomaly.
  • Why was Wuornos mistakenly considered the “first” female serial killer?

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

female serial killers continued
Female Serial Killers (Continued)
  • Study includes 62 females (16% of total sample).68% acted alone, 32% with partners. 93% were white. Ranged in age from 15-69.
  • 74% killed for at least partially for money (27% only for money).
  • Less likely to murder strangers.
  • Most likely to use poison.
  • Generally not sexually involved with victims – motives appear to center on financial security, revenge, enjoyment, and sexual stimulation.
  • Less mobile than males.
  • 18% given death sentence (compared to 28% male and 23% team killers).
  • Monikers historically been less frightening (e.g., “Giggling Grandma,” “Old Shoebox Annie,” “Beautiful Blonde Killer,” Damsel of Death”)

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

team killers
Team Killers
  • 47 cases, 110 (28%) offenders in study.
  • Female offenders participated in 17 of the 47 cases.
  • In non-relative category, males almost exclusively assume leadership.
  • Without exception, every group of offenders had one person who psychologically maintained control of other members of the team.
  • Most likely to be local killers and least likely to be place-specific.
  • Predominantly male and female adult stranger victims.
  • Methods similar to solo male killers.

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

male female team killers charles starkweather and caril ann fugate
Male/Female Team killersCharles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

terms to know
Moral Panic

Compulsive

Catathymic

Actual social identity

Virtual social identity

Stigma

Fractured Identity Syndrome

Trauma Control Model

Meloy’s typology of sexual homicide

Linkage analysis

M.O.-Ritual-Signature

Victim precipitation, facilitation

Mobility classification (Local, place-specific, traveling)

Stockholm Syndrome

Terms to Know

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University

recommended reading
Recommended Reading
  • Egger (1998). The killers among us: an examination of serial murder and its investigation. Prentice Hall.
  • Egger, S. (1990). Serial murder: an elusive phenomenon. Preager.
  • Fox & Levin (1994) Overkill: mass murder and serial killing exposed. Plenum.
  • Hazelwood, R.R. & Warren, J.I. (2003). Linkage Analysis: Modus Operandi (MO), ritual and signature in serial sexual crime. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 8(6), 587-598.
  • Holmes, S.T., Tewksbury, R., & Holmes, R.M. (1999). Fractured identity syndrome: A new theory of serial murder. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 15(3), 262-272.
  • Jenkins (1994) The Social Construction of Serial Homicide. Aldine de Gruyter.

J.B. Helfgott Department of Criminal Justice Seattle University