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Lecture 5 Mass Murder and Signature Serial Killers

Mass Murder and
Signature of Serial Killers
*The F.B.I. defines mass murder as-the
killing four or more persons at one time.
*Over ½ of mass murders or attempted mass
murder in the United States involves
domestic homicide.
*Other cases involve offenders killing persons
at; schools, work places, shopping malls,
restaurants or government agencies.
* Family slayer-a person who kills his family and then commits
* Murder for profit-a person who kills to gain materially
* Murder for sex-primary goal is to sexually torture, rape and
murder victims, a rare typology
* Pseudo-commando-a person with an obsession for guns and
fantasy for murder
* Set-and-run-a person who plans an escape route following the
killing aftermath. Time delayed events (bombs, poisons, fire)
* Psychotic killer-a person suffering from acute or chronic
psychosis (legally insane)
* Disgruntled employees-a person who seeks revenge for real or
imagined wrongs at the hands of employer/coworkers
* Disciple type-a person who commits murder at the behest of a
charismatic leader
* Ideological-a person, especially a cult leader, who is able to
persuade others to kill themselves or each other
* Institutional-a person who commits mas murder as a crime of
obedience when ordered by his/her leader (genocide)
* Jared L. Loughner, a 22 year-old pot-
smoking army and college reject, was
considered by police to be angry and
mentally unstable when he entered a
shopping center in Tucson, Arizona, in
2011 and shot twenty people, killing
six. His primary target was
congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords,
who was also critically wounded.
* Dr. Amy Bishop, a
Harvard trained
neurobiologist, shot six
faculty members in a
department meeting at
the University of
Alabama in 2010,
killing three of them.
She had been denied
*Dr. Nidal M. Hasan, a
psychiatrist and
major in the military,
shot over 40 military
personnel, killing 13,
at Fort Hood, Texas,
in 2009. He had
become a radicalized
Muslim who viewed
the United States as
an aggressor nation.
*Omar Thornton, 2010
shot and killed eight
coworkers and himself at
a beer distribution
company in Manchester,
Connecticut. He had
just been terminated for
stealing beer from the
* Often have serious mental health issues
* Are not usually motivated by exposure to videos, movies, or television
* Are not using alcohol or other drugs at the time of the attacks
* Are often unemployed
* Are sometimes female
* Are not usually Satanists or racists
* Are most often white males
* Sometimes have college degrees or some years of college
* Often have military experience
* Give pre-attack warnings
* Often carry semiautomatic weapons obtained legally
* Often do not attempt escape
* Half commit suicide or are killed by others
* Most have a death wish
*Most mass murders occur at one
location, such as school, an office or
workplace. In some mass murder cases
an offender begins his/her murders in
one location and then moves to another
building or location to continue the
*The largest sub-category of serial killers is
signature killers. The signature of this type
killer is his/her psychological “calling card”
or “personal stamp” at the crime scene.
This personal expression is primal
psychologically compelled to leave in order
to satisfy him sexually.
*Different killers leave different signatures,
these may fall into sexual sadism-control,
humiliations, progression, posing, torture,
overkill, necrophilia and cannibalism. The
signature does not answer what the killer
does but instead what he wants, seeks and
drives him psychologically. Bundy says
“it’s what the killer gets his rocks off on.”
The method used to control the
The type of wounds inflicted.
The method of disposing of the
Any postmortem activity with the
victim’s body.
*Anger-retaliatory killer-most victims are
strong women who they perceive as being
responsible for the problems in their lives.
The most common victim is the prostitute.
*Anger-excitation killer-these killers do not
see their deeds as crimes but instead only
administering revenge.
*The nature of the signature is the
person’s violent fantasies. The
signature elements do not change
over time; they just become more
fully developed. Serial killers have
been living with these violent
fantasies years before they first start
*A killer’s method of operation or modus operandi
(MO) is simply the way the offender operates.
This includes type of crime, property involved,
victim type, time, place, tools, props, disguises,
associates, distinguishing trademarks left, and
when they like to operate. M.O. can and does
change over time because the offenders learn
from their mistakes.
This is a technique used by
offenders to confound
investigations because “they
have read our books.”
*Anger that is totally abnormal
*Anger that is constant, not situational
*Anger that the child and then adults perceives
as beyond their control
*Anger that increases as the child matures into
*Anger that can only be satisfied by deviant
violent acts which only temporarily release
* Anger drives first the initial deviant act of violence and then this
violence turns into violent sexual behavior
* Anger progressively gets worse which may begin with violent
sexual crimes but my morph into violent murders
* Anger incites predatory behavior to surrogate people of that group
* Even when anger is at a low ebb, use of drugs, alcohol or
pornography is used
* Anger becomes imprinted psychologically in the child, then the
adult-this in turn develops into the signature behavior through the
rest of his life and performed in his dreams and behavior
*Little or very low self-esteem
*The diphasic personality formation, split into two
* Normal life-real world
* Fantasy world-safe, complete control
* *Anger develops because of stress in maintaining this diphasic
*Diphasic personality tend not to fit in
*During adolescents anger maturates into newly found
sexual urges
*Anger and revenge are one form of control
*The killer then acts out, usually knows the victim, but
the victim does not know the killer
*Diphasic personalities retreat to a world of fantasy and
develop a camouflage personality
*Diphasic killers move back and forth from the real
world to the fantasy world, and with time and practice,
can do this with more ease, sometimes bringing back
mental and physical trophies from their fantasy lives.
*To help the solvability of murder Dr.
Keppel examined over 1300 murder cases
from 1981-1986 in Washington State.
Five components were examined in the
*The location where the victim was last seen
*The point of contract between the offender and the victim
*The initial assault on the victim by the offender
*The actual death producing injuries or murder site
*The location where the body was discovered
*If these locations are separated by more than 50
miles, the probability of solvability is reduced to
less than 5%.
*Serial signature killers can’t be
rehabilitated and can’t be cured,
they are habitual killers. They
gain extreme sexual pleasure by
humiliating, defiling, and
ultimately destroying their
*Bondage-the ritualized practice of compression and
incapacitation of a person with the use of ropes,
chains, handcuffs, suffocation, drowning, and a
number of improvised methods conditional only to the
limits of the killer’s imagination.
*Picquerism-jabbing, stabbing, cutting and gouging
through the use of a knife or other sharp pointed
instrument for the purpose of sexual gratification.
Knives are both a sexual weapon psychologically as
well as weapons of combat.
*Understanding the signature of serial
killers will not only help capture
these human hunters hopefully
reducing the number of victims they
create but also sheds light on the
psychological motivations and
behaviors of these offenders.
*We have traveled up a river of blood
into the very heart of darkness, the
deep-frozen center of a signature killer’s
soul. We must travel to this soul to fully
understand and recreate the last few
hours of his victims life in order to stop
this human hunt.
*Thanks you!
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