Mass and Spree Murder • Mass murder: The killing of several people at one location. • Spree murder: The killing of several people at different locations over a period of several days. • These killers typically commit suicide or are killed by the police.
Mass and Spree Murder Two types of mass murderers: • Those who chose specific targets who the killers believe to have caused them stress. • Those who attack targets having no connection with the killer but who belong to groups the killer dislikes.
Mass and Spree Murder • Most mass murderers are motivated by a hatred that simmers until some specific event provides the flame that brings it to a boil. • Spree killers move from victim to victim in fairly rapid succession. • Spree killing is rare, but spree-killing teams are even rarer and are typically composed of a dominant leader and submissive lover. • Spree and mass murderers have increased steadily in the United States since the middle of the century.
Serial Murder • FBI’s three criteria for defining a killer as a serial killer: • Kill in three or more separate events. • At three or more separate locations. • Engage in an emotional cooling off period between murders. • Serial murder: The killing of three or more victims over an extended period of time.
The Extent of the Problem • Some empirical evidence suggested that roughly 20% of the murders in the United States yearly were committed by serial killers. • However, other data sources contented that the share of serial killers accounted for no more than 300-400 murders each year.
A Typology of Serial Killers • Visionary serial killer: Feels impelled to commit murder by visions or “voices in my head.” • Mission oriented killer: Feel it to be their mission in life to kill certain kinds of people. • Hedonistic serial killer: Kill for the pure thrill and joy of it; the majority of serial killers are hedonistic serial killers. • Power/Control killer: Gains more satisfaction from exercising complete power over his victims, and sexual activity is almost always involved.
Figure 12.1 Estimated Number and Rate per 10 Million of Serial Killers Operating in the United States from 1795 to Mid-2004 Sources: U.S Justice Department figures as reported by Jenkins (1994); updated figures from Hickey (2006) and Walsh (2005). Rates Per 10 million population computed by authors.
Race and Multiple Murder • African Americans are over-represented among serial killers relative to their proportion of the American population. • Jenkins argues that black serial killers do not attain the notoriety of their white counterparts because the media tends to ignore them. • There has been only one known Asian serial killer operating in the United States during the 20th century.
Female Serial Killers • The key distinction between male and female serial killers is that: “There are no female counterparts to a Bundy or a Gacy, to whom sex or sexual violence is a part of the murder pattern.” • Females kill for instrumental reasons or from twisted notions of mercy.
Multiple Murder Overseas • Mass or spree murder is relatively rare in developed countries outside of the United States. • Strict gun controls may help to prevent some of the would-be mass or spree killers overseas, but they do not prevent serial killers.
Theories about the Causes of Serial Killing • Serial killing is not the result of any single cause but of several risk factors interacting in various ways. • Anomie theory has been applied to explain serial killing across the centuries. • Some authors invoke certain aspects of family and developmental theories to explain the phenomenon. • The dramatic increase in the number of serial killers in the last half of the 20th century points to some very important social changes.
Theories about the Causes of Serial Killing • One factor that researchers appear to be unanimous about is that an extreme level of maternal deprivation almost uniformly characterizes the childhood experience of serial killers. • The disinhibited counterculture; ethos of personal satisfaction. • The decarceration movement in the mental health system.
Theories about the Causes of Serial Killing • Two cognitive factors commonly imputed to serial killers are strong feelings of sexual inadequacy and a rich fantasy life. • Extreme sexual dysfunction my result in deeply embedded feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness, the seeds which may have already been implanted by childhood abuse and neglect. • A large percentage of serial killers who have been examined have significant damage to the frontal lobes of the brain.
Theories about the Causes of Serial Killing • One hypothesis is that a combination of genetic factors and abnormal fetal development of the brain and ANS may explain the biological component. • The diathesis-stress model (Giannangelo-1996): All serial killers have a congenital susceptibility to behave and think in ways that lead to serial killing if combined with environmental stressors and traumas in terms of gene/environment correlation and gene/environment interaction.
Figure 12.2 Stephen Giannangelo's Diathesis/Stress Model of Serial Killing
Law Enforcement’s Response to Serial Killing • The Investigative Support Unit (ISU) of the FBI has developed methods of profiling serial killers and other violent offenders through extensive interviewing and formal psychological testing of incarcerated killers in order to develop a typology based on personality and other offender characteristics.
Law Enforcement’s Response to Serial Killing • Offender profiling is augmented by crime scene analysis, which often tells experienced investigators a lot about the perpetrator’s personality. • May serial murders may occur in diverse police jurisdictions without law enforcement being able to not the connections between them. This problem is known as linkage blindness.
Law Enforcement’s Response to Serial Killing • In 1985, the FBI created the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) which was a national clearinghouse that collates information on unsolved violent crimes from different jurisdictions. • Law enforcement now has the ability to link a number of homicides committed in different jurisdictions to a single individual or individuals.