Forensic Psych 2 - Simpson County Schools

Origins of Criminal Profiling
Act-Focused vs. Process-Focused
Male vs. Female
Childhood Indicators Study
Holmes Typology
Psychological Phases
Genetics and Biology
Mrs. McCracken
AP Psychology
Spring 2012
The origins of criminal profiling:
The psychiatrist Dr James A. Brussel is widely credited with undertaking the first systematic offender profile within a
criminal investigation. It was a profile of the person responsible for a series of indiscriminate bombing attacks spanning
16 years in New York.
Background to the case:
The first bomb was left at the business premises of the energy utility Consolidated Edison in November 1940. The pipe
bomb did not detonate (arguably by design) as when it was discovered it was found to be wrapped in a note stating
A year later a very similar device was discovered. The bomb investigation team concluded that it had been constructed
by the same person. The location of the device indicated that the bomber was probably en route to the Consolidated
Edison building once again but for some reason he had to abandon his plan and the device was just left on the street.
Up to this point neither incident had been reported in the press.
Three months later as US involvement in the Second World War began the bomber sent a type set letter to the police.
In case you can’t make it out, it read. ‘I will make no more bomb units for the duration of the war – my patriotic feelings
have made me decide this – later I will bring the Con Edison to justice – they will pay for their dastardly deeds.’
In fact he didn’t make another bomb for nine years.
It was March 1950 when a third unexploded bomb was discovered and it was felt that it was never intended to go off.
This was merely the calm before the storm, a fourth bomb exploded at the New York Public Library followed by another
shortly afterwards at Grand Central station.
In the next six years over 30 bombs would be planted, the vast majority of which detonated.
Despite the remarkable fact that no one had been killed there was a genuine sense of fear that it was merely a matter of
time. Public and political pressure on the police force to apprehend the bomber intensified the longer he remained at
large. As a result of this pressure Dr James A. Brussel was asked to generate a profile of the bomber in the hope that it
would help focus the investigation.
The Criminal profile:
Male, former employee of Consolidated Edison, injured while working there so seeking revenge, paranoid, 50 years old,
neat and meticulous persona, foreign background, some formal education, unmarried, living with female relatives but
not mother who probably died when he was young, upon capture he will be wearing a buttoned up double breasted
The logic behind the profile:
Most of the observations were based on common sense e.g. male (like the vast majority of bombers).
The profile data relating to his former employer Consolidated Edison were obvious from the content of the letters he
Other aspects of the profile were Sherlock Holmes like, take for example the claim that the bomber was foreign.
Brussel theorised that this was because the suspect wrote in an over formal way e.g. ‘dastardly deeds’ and he never
used contemporary slang.
However, in terms of its lasting legacy, the most significant parts of the profile were based on Brussel’s psychiatric and
psychoanalytical interpretations.
Brussel believed that the bomber had an ‘Oedipal complex’ and most Oedipal sufferers tend to be unmarried and live
with female relatives, hence it’s inclusion in the criminal profiling. He formulated this observation on what he saw as the
phallic construction of the bombs and the way in which he wrote ‘breast-like’ W’s in the hand written letters he posted.
Also when he planted bombs in movie theatres, Brussel noted that he would often ‘slash’ and ‘penetrate’ the seats.
Criminal profiling based recommendations:
Brussel suggested that the police publicize their investigation along with the profile description of the bomber. In
Brussel’s opinion the bomber wanted credit for his work and this arrogance was likely to be his downfall as he may well
be tempted to reveal details that would lead the police to his door.
Every major newspaper in New York gave details of the profile and although this resulted in a number of false leads the
real bomber phoned Brussel warning him against any further involvement. At the same time administrative staff at
Consolidated Edison had been instructed to search their employee files for anyone who appeared to match the bombers
A member of staff came across the file of George Metesky. Metesky had an accident at work and had filed an
unsuccessful disability claim against the company. In response to the failed disability claim Metsky wrote a series of
letters to the company, one of which referred to their ‘dastardly deeds’.
George Metesky was arrested shortly afterwards and immediately confessed. As he was being escorted to the police
station it didn’t go unnoticed that he was wearing a buttoned up
double breasted jacket.
"It was an urge. ... A strong urge, and the longer I let it go the
stronger it got, to where I was taking risks to go out and kill
people — risks that normally, according to my little rules of
operation, I wouldn't take because they could lead to arrest."
— Edmund Kemper
Where does this urge come from, and why is so powerful? If we all
experienced this urge, would we be able to resist?
Is it genetic, hormonal, biological, or cultural conditioning? Do serial
killers have any control over their desires? We all experience rage and inappropriate sexual instincts, yet we have some
sort of internal cage that keeps our inner monsters locked up. Call it morality or social programming; these internal
blockades have long since been trampled down in the psychopathic killer. Not only have they let loose the monster
within, they are virtual slaves to its beastly appetites. What sets them apart?
Serial killers have tested out a number of excuses for their behavior. Henry Lee Lucas blamed his upbringing; others
like Jeffrey Dahmer say that they were born with a "part" of them missing. Herbert Mullin, Santa Cruz killer of thirteen,
blamed the voices in his head that told him it was time to "sing the die song."
They must be insane — what normal person could slaughter another human, for the sheer pleasure of it? Yet the most
chilling fact about serial killers is that they are rational and calculating. As the "British Jeffrey Dahmer" Dennis Nilsen put
it, "a mind can be evil without being abnormal."
"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he doesn't become a monster." (F. Nietzsche)
The US has 76% of the world's Serial Killers
Europe, in second, has 17%
73% of American killers are Caucasian
22% are Black
Men make up at least 90%
Yet 65% of victims are female
89% of victims are Caucasian
44% of all killers start in their 20's
26% in their teens
24% in their 30's
Out of all the killers, 86% are heterosexual
Psychological profiling involves investigating an offender's behavior, motives and background in an attempt to further
guide an investigation. Research shows that offender's that repeatedly rape or kill are driven by a heightened public fear
for their actions and media attention, which could eventually lead to their arrest. Analyzing the criminal's habits and
rituals allows investigators to trace similarities between previous crimes. When these details of their lifestyle are made
public, friends, neighbors and colleagues may recognize them.
The FBI defines serial murder as:
 A minimum of three to four victims, with a "cooling off" period in between;
 The killer is usually a stranger to the victim — the murders appear unconnected or random;
 The murders reflect a need to sadistically dominate the victim;
 The murder is rarely "for profit"; the motive is psychological, not material;
 The victim may have "symbolic" value for the killer; method of killing may reveal this meaning;
 Killers often choose victims who are vulnerable (prostitutes, runaways, etc.)
In the United States at least, serial killers are most often white males (Vronsky, 8-37). Other ethnicities that have been
involved include: African American, Hispanic, Native American, Arab, African, and Asian. Females have consistently
only accounted for 16% of all serial killers known since 1800. The African American incidence is rising, from 10% of the
total in 1975 to 21% of the total in 2004. Most frequently, but not always, serial murder is intra-racial - whites killing
whites, blacks killing blacks. Victims are often robbed, and many are raped before or after being killed, and bondage,
torture, dismemberment, and cannibalism are not uncommon. Motives speculated upon include profit, ritual, political
factors, social factors, moral factors, attention (mothers killing their children), and compassion (frequent in medical-type
serial murders).
According to Hinkey’s 1997 study of approximately 399 serial killers, the average age of the murderer at the time of the
first killing was 27.5 years, and they typically were white males. Criminologists James A. Fox and Jack Levin (2001)
found that males made up more than 90 percent of the sample. Seventy-three percent of male offenders were white,
22% were African-American, and the remainder were of different ethnic groups. Fox and Levin report that the
researcher Grover Godwin's 1999 database of 107 serial killers revealed an average age of thirty. Ninety-five percent
were males, 5% were females, and 16%
were African-American. Godwin also
found that only 4 percent of his sample
graduated with a bachelor's degree,
while most were employed in blue-collar
jobs. Victims were 67% female, with
children, prostitutes, and the elderly as
other preferred victim categories,
although 20% of Godwin's sample were
males who had additionally been raped
by their attackers.
1. Serial killers are the same as mass
Confusion often arises regarding the
difference between a serial killer and
mass murderer. The difference is a
temporal one. Serial killers kill several people over a period of days, weeks, months, and even years. It is not a one-time
event. The serial killer kills in cycles, shifting between an active period and a cooling off period. A mass murderer,
conversely, kills several people in a matter of hours at most, murdering in an outburst without a cooling off period.
Usually mass murderers take all of their victims from one location, as in the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech.
2. Serial killers are complete losers who cannot function in society
Actually, this is the exception with serial killers and the reason why so many serial killers are successful in their
endeavor to get away with multiple murders. Ted Bundy is a perfect example of such a serial killer. He was considered
to be very charming, quite the lady's man. He seemed to lead a very normal life, being someone that no one would have
suspected to be the monster that he was. It is for this reason that so many serial killers are successful in their endeavor
to get away with multiple murders.
We think we can spot lunacy, that a maniac with uncontrollable urges to kill will be unable to contain himself. On the
bus, in the street, it is the mentally ill we avoid, sidestepping the disheveled, unshaven man who rants on over some
private outrage. Yet if you intend to avoid the path of a serial killer, your best strategy is to sidestep the charming, the
impeccably dressed, polite individuals. They blend in, camouflaged in contemporary anonymity. They lurk in churches
and malls, and prowl the freeways and streets. "Dress him in a suit and he looks like ten other men," said one attorney
in describing Dahmer. Like all evolved predators, they know how to stalk their victims by gaining their trust. Serial killers
don't wear their hearts on their sleeves. Instead, they hide behind a carefully constructed facade of normalcy.
Because of their psychopathic nature, serial killers do not know how to feel sympathy for others, or even how to have
relationships. Instead, they learn to simulate normal behavior by observing others. It is all a manipulative act, designed
to entice people into their trap. Serial killers are actors with a natural penchant for performance. Henry Lee Lucas
described being a serial killer as "being like a movie-star ... you're just playing the part." The macabre Gacy loved to
dress up as a clown, while the Zodiac suited up in a bizarre executioner's costume that looked like something out of
Alice in Wonderland. In court, Bundy told the judge, "I'm disguised as an attorney today." Bundy had previously
"disguised" himself as a compassionate rape crisis center counselor.
The most coveted role of roaming psychopaths is a position of authority. Gacy was an active, outgoing figure in
business and society; he even became a member of the Jaycees. Many joined the military, including Berkowitz, who
was intensely patriotic for a time. Playing police officer, however, is
the most predictable. Carrying badges and driving coplike vehicles
not only feeds their need to feel important, but also allows them
access to victims who would otherwise trust their instincts and not
talk to strangers.
Yet, when they are caught, serial killer wills suddenly assume a
"mask of insanity" — pretending to be a multiple personality,
schizophrenic, or prone to black-outs — anything to evade
responsibility. Even when they pretend to truly reveal themselves,
they are still locked into playing a role.
"What's one less person on the face of the earth anyway?" Ted
Bundy's chilling rationalization demonstrates the how serial killers
truly think. "Bundy could never understand why people couldn't
accept the fact that he killed because he wanted to kill," said one FBI
They don't identify with their victims or feel any sympathy toward them. As
they see it, they've been victims all their lives, dominated and controlled by
other people. This is their chance to call the shots -- to decide who lives or dies and how someone should die.
Serial killers can be act-focused (who kill quickly), OR process-focused (who kill slowly), they cannot be both. For actfocused killers, killing is simply about the act itself. Within this group, there are two different types: the visionary and the
missionary. The visionary murders because he hears voices or has visions that direct him to do so. The missionary
murders because he believes that he is meant to get rid of a particular group of people.
Process-focused serial killers get enjoyment from torture and the slow death of their victims. These include three
different types -- lust, thrill and gain -- and power-seeking killers. Lust killers derive sexual pleasure from killing. Thrill
killers get a "kick" from it. Gain killers murder because they believe they will profit in some way. Power killers wish to
"play God" or be in charge of life and death.
For example, Jack-the-Ripper is one of the best known historical examples of a
serial killer. He terrorized the Whitechapel area of London in 1888. Unsolved,
Jack the Ripper brutally butchered at least 5 victims, all prostitutes. The surgical
removal of organs and a letter written to Scotland Yard, accompanied with a half
a kidney from a victim, created a media frenzy. The letter, Jack writes, is
coming “From hell”. Jack was believed to have killed the women quickly,
making him an act-focused killer, most likely of the missionary type as he is
believe to have hated women in general or prostitutes in particular.
Ted Bundy, the classic serial killer, was a process-focused, lust killer. He chose
women with long dark hair parted down the middle, feigning injury by wearing a
cast and asking for assistance. Once alone with them, he quickly incapacitated
them by bludgeoning. In a secluded location, he raped his victims then brutally
killed them, dumping their bodies.
There are six main types of serial killers, based on motive, as well as further
subdivisions based on organization and methodology. We will begin though with
an understanding of the different motives:
ACT-FOCUSED: They kill quickly
1. The Visionary Motive Type: Serial killers of this type are considered to be insane, even psychotic. It is not uncommon
for this type of killer to report that they committed the crime because voices in their head told them to.
2. The Missionary-Oriented Motive Type: Although not apparent to the community around them, killers of this type are
on a mission to rid the world of those whom they deem unacceptable for whatever reason.
PROCESS-FOCUSED: They kill more slowly
3. The Lust Killer: The lust killer is sexually motivated, killing for the pure turn on. These killers derive pleasure from
torturing their victims. Most serial killers are of this type. Unfortunately, this type of serial killer is very difficult to
distinguish from the average person as they are quite apt at maintaining relationships and functioning in society.
4. The Thrill-Oriented Motive Type: These guys kill for the joy of it...They get a high from killing. Of the six types, this
one is the one who enjoys killing very sadistically. He is into the killing for excitement, the chase, and as he gets better
and better, the crimes continue to escalate.
5. Power-seeking Motive Type: They believe they are “God” and play with people as if they are toys. Their main
objective for killing is to gain and exert power over their victim. Many power/control-motivated killers sexually abuse
their victims, but they differ from lust killers in that rape is not motivated by lust but as simply another form of dominating
the victim. They may kill and resuscitate the victim over and over again, controlling the power of life and death.
6. Gain Motive Type: Very rare, they believe they will somehow profit from killing. Most criminals who commit multiple
murders for material ends (such as organized crime hit men) are not classed as serial killers, because they are
motivated by economic gain rather than psychopathological compulsion. There is a fine line separating such killers,
however. For example, Marcel Petiot, who operated in Nazi-occupied France, could be classified as a serial killer. He
posed as a member of the French Resistance and lured wealthy Jewish people to his home, claiming he could smuggle
them out of the country. Instead he murdered them and stole their belongings, killing 63 people before he was finally
In determining the overarching motive of a serial killer, he or she is EITHER act-focused OR process-focused-NOT BOTH. One cannot kill quickly and slowly at the same time! Hence, there one only ONE overarching
motive for a serial killer; however, sexual involvement may occur outside the Lust killer
Victimology: In many cases, the killer and victims are strangers who just recently met. Hickey (2002) reports that 70%
of serial killing is stranger crime (at one time called "stranger-on-stranger" crime), and 87% had at least one stranger in
their death count. Serial killers prey on strangers for unknown reasons (and there are sufficient exceptions to the
stranger pattern to say serial killers will also turn on those near them if necessary). In almost all cases, the perpetrator
carefully covered their tracks, reassumed a normal-looking facade (e.g., farmer, doctor, businessman, harmless drifter,
schoolteacher, law school student, deputy sheriff, office manager), and waited days, weeks, or months before killing
again. Some studiously read police investigative manuals and familiarized themselves with all aspects of police
procedure. About a third are highly mobile and travel thousands of miles a year.
Experts argue with the FBI definition over how many victims (3) are required to define a serial killer. Most agree that the
"cooling-off" period and/or the fantasy reenactment cycle are the most important component of definitions. Some killers
get caught while others "burn out" or reach a point where killing no longer satisfies them. Estimates vary over how many
serial killers there are; Giannangelo (1996) estimating 6,000 a year. Various authors have suggested that cooling off
periods should be defined as 15 days or 30 days, but this does not fit all known types of serial killers.
Serial killing has been on the increase since 1970 (between 1950 -1995, 80% of all known serial killers made their
appearance) presently accounting for at least part of the 11,800 unsolved, "motiveless" murders every year by persons
unknown in the U.S. Worldwide, it occurs on every continent, and appears to be rising more slowly in the Third World
than in industrialized nations. Nations with the most serial killings are the U.S.A, England, Germany, France, Italy,
Denmark, and Belgium. In Latin America, the nations are Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador mostly; in South Asia, Pakistan;
in Asia, China; in Africa, South Africa. Serial killing appears to be incurable: neither time nor prison, convicted serial
killers report, fully relieves the desire to kill.
Males are more likely to kill strangers, be geographically mobile, torture or mutilate more often when killing, and report a
sexual motive. Male serial killers brutally kill their victims and desecrate the bodies. When committing their crimes,
men’s methods include; firearms mainly (41%), suffocation (37%), stabbing (34%), bludgeoning (26%), firearms only
(19%), poison (11%), drowning (3%), and other (2%). These men usually seek attention for their crimes and do not try
to hide them. Often, the crime scenes are manipulated to provide clues for authorities and to entice the media. More
often than not, the body count of a male serial killer is higher than that of most women serial killers. Some killers have
murdered over three hundred victims.
Hickey’s research results show female serial killers are more likely to kill husbands, relatives, or people in hospitals or
nursing homes where they work; murder in one specific place; poison the victims; and report money to be a motive.
Most females thus meet the definition of the National Institute of Justice as serial murderers but do not meet FBI’s
definition with its additional parameters of the killer and victim being unrelated and a murder not committed for material
gain but for fantasy gratification.
Women, on the other hand, are less visible and use methods such as poisoning in order to be discrete and keep under
the radar. This accounts for eighty percent of the methods used to kill their victims. Women can be termed ‘gentle
killers’; however, their methods are still gruesome, just less graphic in nature (Newton 237). Other methods used by
women include: shootings (20%), bludgeoning (16%), suffocation (16%), stabbing (11%), and drowning (5%).
Research on female serial killers is limited; however, one of the main studies on them has produced what was named
the Kelleher Typology, which divides these killers into five groups: Profit Killers, Black Widows, Revenge Killers, Sexual
Predators, and Angels of Death.
Female serial killers are a much more complex criminal with wide ranging motivations. However, in Profit Killers, money
is the motivation for 74% of their killings. Other motives include: control, enjoyment, sex, drugs, cult involvement,
feelings of inadequacy, and cover-up. Many are usually diagnosed with a psychological disorder called Munchausen
Syndrome by Proxy. This illness involves the fabrication of symptoms or the infliction of injuries by the serial killer on
dependent individuals, such as children, to gain attention or sympathy.
A prime example is Mary Beth Tinning, who realized after the natural death of her first child, that she received a lot of
attention from others as a result. After that, she decided to kill her other eight children. These serial killers are
commonly called “Black Widows” because they kill family members, friends, and anyone with whom they have created a
close personal relationship. This type of killing is common for women. They prey upon people who are dependent upon
them and those with whom they are acquainted.
The Revenge Killer is another common type of female serial killer who murders people who have wronged them out of
hate and jealousy. Unlike the Black Widow, these killers do not seek attention and sympathy. They act and kill purely
for personal satisfaction.
There is only one member of the Sexual Predator category. Her name is Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who murdered
seven men in Florida.
Most female serial killers slay victims weaker than themselves, but a special subset of their milieu murder those least
able to defend themselves. Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who murder their patients, usually for “fun”
and occasionally for profit, have been given the sinister subset “Angel of Death”. It usually takes a long time for their
crimes to even be recognized, let alone punished. Genene Jones, a licensed vocational nurse, probably ended the lives
of at least 47 children at hospitals and a private pediatric clinic in Texas. Her actions were hushed up repeatedly, partly
over fear of lawsuits, but partly due to the inability of investigative boards to see her for what she truly was.
The most common types of female serial killers are the Black Widows and Angels of Death. Revenge Killers that are
repeat offenders are rare because most are one time crimes of true passion. Profit Killers are also rare, but they are
considered to be the most intelligent and resourceful. Often they are contract killers or have set up localized scam
operations to cheat victims from their assets and lives.
Female multiple murderers typically kill intimates, husbands and lovers, black widow-style for monetary gain, or babies
or the weak and infirm. Following are the significant differences between male and female serial killers.
Female serial killers have long killing sprees, lasting up to 8 years (males' sprees almost never last longer than
4 years and usually end after several months).
Female serial killers kill more quietly and less "violently", with poison or other less undetectable methods, like
suffocation. Males tend to batter, strangle, stab, and shoot.
Female serial killers kill for profit most of the time, while male serial killers kill for sexual reasons about half the
Female serial killers generally kill people close to them, such as husbands, family members, or people
dependent on them. Males kill strangers more often.
They look, act, and sound normal – which makes people trust them.
They are psychopaths, but they're not insane.
Neither male nor female serial killers have a conscience.
The following are environmental factors, psychiatrists say, which create a sociopath:
Studies show that 60% of psychopathic individuals had lost a parent;
Child is deprived of love or nurturing; parents are detached or absent;
Inconsistent discipline: if father is stern and mother is soft, child learns to hate authority and manipulate mother;
Hypocritical parents, who privately belittle the child, while publicly presenting the image of a "happy family".
Ask a woman what her greatest fear is, and she'll tell you it's finding herself in a situation where she's alone and
under attack. Ask a man the same question -- his greatest fear is of being humiliated, especially in front of
others. When a young boy feels disgraced, rejected or backed into a corner, you may see a fight break out in
the playground. It might be over something silly, like a Twinkie or marbles, but it's really more about trying to
recoup after losing face.
As we examine childhood abuse as a possible key to the serial killer's behavior, we must remember that many children
have suffered horrible abuse at the hands of their parents, but did not grow up to be murderers. Childhood abuse is not
a direct link to a future in crime; it is not a case of cause-effect. Childhood abuse may not be the sole excuse for serial
killers, but it is an undeniable factor in many of their backgrounds.
In his book Serial Killers, Joel Norris describes the cycles of violence as generational: "Parents who abuse their
children, physically as well as psychologically, instill in them an almost instinctive reliance upon violence as a first resort
to any challenge." Childhood abuse not only spawns violent reactions, Norris writes, but also affects the child's health,
including brain injuries, malnutrition, and other developmental disorders.
In some cases, the abuse of children by their parents is barbaric, and it seems little wonder that anything but a fledgling
serial killer would come from such horrible squalor. As a child, the "Boston Strangler" Albert DeSalvo was actually sold
off as a slave by his alcoholic dad. Many sadistic murderers portray their childhood as an endless chain of horrifying
abuse, torture, and mayhem. Some stories of torture may be exaggerated for sympathy but some have been
corroborated by witnesses. Even families that appear healthy on the outside may be putting on an act. Children can
learn the "Jekyll and Hyde" routine from parents who are outgoing and social with neighbors and co-workers, but who
scowl at their kid's inadequacies when they get home.
Some parents believed that by being authoritarian disciplinarians, it would "toughen" the child. Instead, it often creates a
lack of love between parent and child that can have disastrous results. If the child doesn't bond with its primary
caretakers (insecure attachment), there is no foundation for trusting others later in life. This can lead to isolation, where
intense violent fantasies become the primary source of gratification. "Instead of developing positive traits of trust,
security, and autonomy, child development becomes dependent on fantasy life and its dominant themes, rather than on
social interaction," writes Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Ressler, Ann Burgess and John Douglas in
Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives. When the child grows up, according to these authors, all they know are their
fantasies of domination and control. They have not developed compassion for others. Instead, humans become
flattened-out symbols for them to enact their violent fantasies.
In looking to the parents for explanations, we see both horrifying mothers and fathers. The blame usually falls on the
mother, who has been described as too domineering or too distant, too sexually active or too repressed. Perhaps the
mother is blamed more because the father has often disappeared, therefore "unaccountable." When the father is
implicated, it is usually for sadistic disciplinarian tactics, alcoholic rants, and overt anger toward women.
ADOPTION: Adoption as a potential contribution to the serial killer's motivation is fascinating because it creates two
questions. The first one is that the biological parents may have left their child with deviant genes. Finding out that one
was adopted may also undermine the sense of identity in a fragile youth, and make the child prone to fantasizing an
identity of his "true" parents, either good or bad. Was the mother a prostitute? A nun? Was the father a gangster? A
hero? And why did they "reject" their child? This sense of rejection can have profound consequences on an already
unstable psyche. If the child actually meets his biological parent and is again rejected, the damage is worse. According
to serial killer Ted Bundy biographers, Michaud and Aynesworth, Ted's emotional growth was stopped in its tracks after
he learned that he was illegitimate at age 13. "It was like I hit a brick wall," Bundy had said. Of course, he tried out every
excuse he could rummage, so it's difficult to take his word on this when his family life appeared otherwise healthy.
It goes without saying that adoption does not create serial killers. At worst, it may dislodge a child's self-identity. But that
does not mean that finding oneself in multiple murders is the only option available to adopted children.
In Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives. Ressler, Burgess, and Douglas examined the childhood traits of 36 serial
killers for commonalities collectively expressed by the group. The following information summarizes the main findings
from this study examining the serial killers' childhood backgrounds.
As a child, future serial killers exhibit certain behavioral traits or tendencies that are not considered "normal." Taken
separately, such tendencies may not be indicative of a problem. That is, bed wetting is not only common to future serial
killers. However, such a behavior expressed with many other indicator behaviors increases the correlational validity
between reported childhood behavior indicators and serial murder.
Although some of the listed behaviors are quite disturbing, including cruelty to children and animals, convulsions, and
self-mutilation, the three indicators reported with highest frequency are daydreaming, compulsive masturbation, and
isolation. Additionally, fantasy has emerged as a major component of the psyche of the serial killer.
If we can correlate the childhood behavioral indicators with the fantasy component of the adult serial killer, what remains
to be determined is at what time, and at what point, do such fantasies begin. The key may be isolation, one of the three
most reported behaviors of a serial killer at childhood. For a child who is commonly left alone, a way to adapt and cope
might be to fantasize- to opt to live in a dream world. Thus, inattention may lead to fantasy. Fantasy may, in turn, lead
to serial murder. Of course, this is a gross overgeneralization and simplification of what might occur. The third major
behavior indicator, compulsive masturbation, may also play a role in fantasy.
Childhood # of
Compulsive masturbation
Chronic lying
Enuresis (bed wetting)
Destroying property
Fire setting
Cruelty to children
Poor body image
Temper tantrums
Sleep problems
Assaultive to adults
Running away
Cruelty to animals
Accident prone
Destroying possessions
Eating problems
Table 1. Frequency of Reported Behavior Indicators in Childhood. This table was modified from: Ressler RK, Burgess AW, and Douglas JE. Sexual
Homicide Pattern & Motives , (pg. 29); Lexington Books
Strange and bizarre fantasies thrive in isolation and anger. For the fledgling serial killer, fantasies of violence prompt
further isolation, which in turn creates a greater reliance on fantasy for pleasure, according to Robert Ressler (et al) in
Sexual Homicide. "As I grew up I realized, though imperfectly, that I was different from other people, and that the way of
life in my home was different from that in the homes of others. ... This stimulated me to introspection and strange mental
questionings," said serial killer John Haigh.
PEER REJECTION: Many multiple murders are isolation for differing reasons as children. However, they are also
rejected by their peers. Serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who was already a shy child, was ridiculed because of his
artificial eye. He later said that this mass rejection caused him to hate everyone.
Kenneth Bianchi, of the Hillside Strangler case, was also a child loner, with many problems. One clinical report said that
"the boy drips urine in his pants, doesn't make friends very easily and has twitches. The other children make fun of him."
Dahmer was antisocial as a kid, laughing when he saw a fellow classmate injured. He later became an alcoholic
teenager, routinely ignored by his peers.
Additional research has identified a “Triad of Behavior”.
A secret compulsion, this is seen as one of the seeds to greater mayhem. "Violent acts are reinforced, since the
murderers either are able to express rage without experiencing negative consequences or are impervious to any
prohibitions against these actions. Second, impulsive and erratic behavior discourages friendships," increasing
isolation." "Furthermore, there is no challenge to the offenders' beliefs that they are entitled to act the way they do."
(Ressler, et al, Sexual Homicide) "All learning, according to Ressler, has a "feedback system." Torturing animals and
setting fires will eventually escalate to crimes against fellow human beings, if the pattern is not somehow broken.
Torturing animals is a disturbing red flag. Animals are often seen as "practice" for killing humans. Ed Kemper buried the
family cat alive, dug it up, and cut off its head. Dahmer was notorious for his animal cruelty, cutting off dogs heads and
placing them on a stick behind his house. Yet not all serial killers take their aggressions out on pets. Dennis Nilsen
loved animals, particularly his dog Bleep, whom he couldn't bear to face after being arrested for fear that it would
traumatize the dog. Murderer of eight, Christopher Wilder, had made donations to Save The Whales and the Seal
Rescue Fund.
German serial killer, Peter Kurten, loved to watch houses burn, and Berkowitz, who abused his mother’s parakeet,
became a prolific pyromaniac, keeping record of his 1,411 fires. Pyromania is often a sexually stimulating activity for
these killers. The dramatic destruction of property feeds the same perverse need to destroy another human. Because
serial killers don't see other humans as more than objects, the leap between setting fires and killing people is easy to
Bed wetting is the most intimate of these symptoms, and is less likely to be willfully divulged. By some estimates, 60%
of multiple murderers wet their beds past adolescence. As previously mentioned, Kenneth Bianchi spent many a night
marinating in urine-soaked sheets.
Thus, as the isolation of a child grows more severe, the reliance on fantasies, especially destructive ones, can grow.
These fantasies of violence often reveal themselves when the child engages in these other ‘at risk’ triad of behaviors;
animal cruelty, starting fires, and bed wetting. In identifying these behaviors in children, it may be possible to predict
criminal behavior in the future, a goal worthy of additional research.
Thus, it may be concluded that the formative years may play a role in the molding of a serial killer, but they cannot be
the sole reason in every case. Many killers blame their families for their behavior, seeking sympathy. In true
psychopathic fashion, serial killers are blaming someone else for their actions. If their bad childhood is the primary
reason for their homicidal tendencies, then why don't their siblings also become serial killers? And if these conditions
truly created them, serial killers would probably be unionized by now, there would be so many of them (a sad
commentary on our continuing neglect of children.) We must look at other components to see what pushes a serial killer
over the edge.
From birth to age 6/7, studies have shown, the most important adult figure in a child's life under traditional
circumstances is the mother, and it is this period that the child learns what love is. Attachment and the relationships
between the researched subjects (serial killers) and their mothers were uniformly cool, distant, unloving, neglectful, with
very little touching, emotional warmth - the children were deprived of love. Sometimes the mother, even when nurturing,
cannot balance out or offset the destructive behavior of the father.
More than 70% said they had witnessed or been part of sexually stressful events when young. This percentage is many
times greater than in the general population. The abuse that the children endured was both physical and mental. These
children grew up in an environment in which their own actions were ignored, where there were no limits set on their
behavior. The task of the first half-dozen years of life is socialization. Those who grow up to murder never truly
comprehended the world in other than egocentric terms. It is true that most children who come from dysfunctional early
childhoods don't go on to murder or to commit other violent antisocial acts - the reason might be that the majority are
rescued by strong hands in the next phase of childhood--- preadolescence.
From ages of 8 to 12, all the negative tendencies present in their early childhoods were exacerbated and reinforced. In
this period, a male child really needs a father, and it was in just this time period that the fathers of half the subjects
disappeared in one way or another, which can also be embarrassing for the child in front of his peers. Potential
murderers became solidified in their loneliness first during the age period of 8 to 12; such isolation is considered the
single most important aspect of their psychological makeup. His preadolescent sexual activity, rather than being
connected to other human beings, starts as autoerotic (more than 3/4; more than half reported rape fantasies between
the ages 12 to 14;, more than 80% admitted to using pornography, and to tendencies toward voyeurism.
As the psychologically harmed boys get closer to adolescence, they find that they are unable to develop the social
skills that are precursors to sexual skills and that are the coin of positive emotional relationships. Loneliness and
isolation don't always mean that the potential killers are introverted and shy, some are but others are gregarious with
other men, and good talkers. The outward orientation of the latter masks their inner isolation.
By the time a normal youngster is participating in an active social life, the loner is turning in on himself and developing
fantasies that are deviant. The fantasies are substitutes for more positive human encounters, and as the adolescent
becomes more dependent on them, he loses touch with acceptable social values. All the murderers knew that they had
not had normal relationships, and they resented not having them; it was this resentment that fueled their aggressive,
murderous behavior.
Adolescence was dominated by increasing isolation and "acting out" behavior, with lots of daydreaming, compulsive
masturbation, lying, bed-wetting, and nightmares as concomitants of the isolation. The youngsters were now in school,
on the streets, away from home, with more opportunities for antisocial behavior. Cruelty to animals and to other
children, running away, truancy, assaults on teachers, setting fires, destroying the property of others and their own
property - these acts began in adolescence, though the mind-set was present earlier but had been below the surface
because the child had been controlled to a certain extent in his home environment. Many were intelligent, but
underachievers in school; most were incapable of holding jobs, fired often or uable to live up to their intellectual abilities.
Many people survive such enormous difficulties in childhood and don't grow up to be murderers. However, when the
problems of childhood are reinforced by added neglect in the school, the social services system, and the neighborhood,
they steadily worsen. As Robert K. Ressler in Whoever Fights Monsters, p. 93, puts it: "In a situation where you find a
distant mother, an absent or abusive father and siblings, a non-intervening school system, an ineffective social services
system, and an inability of the person to relate sexually in a normal way to others, you have almost a formula for
producing a deviant [not necessarily murderous] personality."
The Holmes typology is based on obsessive-compulsive characteristics of the serial killer as indicated from verbal
interview data on the reasons they kill. It contains an implicit theory of interpersonal (socio-emotional) development,
based upon their position in a cycle of violence. Here, we examine the first part of it -- the distinction between
"disorganized" and "organized" offenders. The labels "disorganized" and "organized" refer to the degree of personality
aberration, which is evident in how chaotic or controlled the crime scene is. The labels "asocial" and "nonsocial" refer to
whether the person is a loner because of weirdness or by choice. It should be noted that mixed types are also
possible, and profilers do not feel constrained to choose between the two types presented here.
IQ below average, 80-95 range
socially inadequate
lives alone, usually does not date
absent or unstable father
family emotional abuse, inconsistent
lives and/or works near crime scene
minimal interest in news media
usually a high school dropout
poor hygiene/housekeeping skills
keeps a secret hiding place in the home
nocturnal (nighttime) habits
drives a clunky car or pickup truck
needs to return to crime scene for reliving memories
may contact victim's family to play games
no interest in police work
experiments with self-help programs
kills at one site, considers mission over
usually leaves body intact
attacks in a "blitz" pattern
depersonalizes victim to a thing or it
leaves a chaotic crime scene
leaves physical evidence
responds best to counseling interview
IQ above average, 105-120 range
socially adequate
lives with partner or dates frequently
stable father figure
family physical abuse, harsh
geographically/occupationally mobile
follows the news media
may be college educated
good hygiene/housekeeping skills
does not usually keep a hiding place
diurnal (daytime) habits
drives a flashy car
needs to return to crime scene to see what police have done
usually contacts police to play games
a police groupie or ‘wanabee’
doesn't experiment with self-help
kills at one site, disposes at another
may dismember body
attacks using seduction into restraints
keeps personal, holds a conversation
leaves a controlled crime scene
leaves little physical evidence
responds best to direct interview
SOCIABILITY – ASOCIAL AND NONSOCIAL: The words "asocial" and "nonsocial" refer primarily to a set of ideas
closely related to the history of prisoner classification systems. Modern prison populations are divided into the following
categories: aggressive, general population, and non-aggressive (protective custody). The reasoning is primarily
inductive. Offenders who are observed to be alone because they are inexperienced and lack basic social skills
(weirdness) are regarded as "asocial" in other ways (note that asocial is not the same as antisocial). Offenders who are
observed to be alone out of choice and preference for solitary confinement are regarded as "nonsocial" in other ways. If
we connect these terms with inadequate socialization -- the most frequently cited variable in criminology -- i.e., "asocial"
with under socialized and "nonsocial" with unsocialized, then we can also make inferences about the abnormality of the
offender's upbringing via the usual broken home literature (Wells & Rankin 1991).
The words "disorganized" and "organized" may be oversimplification by law enforcement by FBI profilers. There are
important differences between a psychotic individual with a diagnosable mental illness and a psychopathic individual
(aka- antisocial personality disorder) with only a character disorder. These differences are inferred via inductive
reasoning from crime scene characteristics.
A "disorganized" (psychotic, mentally ill) individual is inferred from a chaotic, lots of evidence left behind, disorganized
crime scene. An "organized" (psychopathic, knows right from wrong but shows no remorse) individual is inferred from a
controlled, planned, premeditated, little evidence left behind, organized crime scene as indicated by Owen, 2004. Some
serial killers, as they progress through their fantasies and hone their skills, show a mix of disorganized to organized.
Similarly, as a serial killer continues his conquests, he may deteriorate, becoming unglued, manifesting more
disorganization in his methodology.
DISORGANIZED: Victims of disorganized killers are often battered about the face or sometimes blindfolded, reflecting
a need to depersonalize the victim, or because the victim might resemble someone in the killer's life for whom he feels
fear or anger. Any sexually sadistic acts committed will usually be done after the victim is dead, and if the body is left at
the crime scene, it will usually be in plain view, but some disorganized killers take the victim's remains with them as
trophies. Footprints, fingerprints, and sometimes even the weapon are found at the crime scene or discarded nearby.
Often the crime scene itself will be chaotic and in total disarray. FBI research shows such killers are often below
average in intelligence and socially inadequate. Within a family, they are usually among the younger children, with a
father who combines harsh discipline with an unstable employment history. The disorganized killer will himself have a
poor employment record in an unskilled job, after possibly dropping out of school, and will tend to live on his own, or
with an older family member, with minimal contact with people outside the family, and often tend to go out only after
dark. They will have poor hygiene and low self-esteem, showing little to no interest in the news media, and will tend to
live or work near the crime scene. They will either have no personal transport, or the vehicle they have will be old and
badly maintained. Because they commit crime under stress, this can trigger changes in behavior, such as increased use
of drugs, alcohol, or a turn to religion. They often return to the scene of the crime and sometimes turn up at the victim's
funeral or memorial service even occasionally placing "In Memoriam" messages in the local paper. Some keep a
ORGANIZED: There will be signs of planning and care to avoid detection and identification, and the location will be
carefully chosen, by organized killers, as the site(s) the victim is seized and taken. Organized killers usually personify
their victims, selecting them according to a preference by type, age, gender, appearance, occupation, lifestyle, and very
well other details which would seem trivial to anyone else. They will usually be socially confident enough to strike up a
conversation, present themselves as non-threatening, and not appear odd or suspicious. He is usually above average
height and weight, with impressive appearance and clothing. He uses his own vehicle or the victim's vehicle for
transport. In many cases, the victim will be raped before, or even instead, of being killed. Any weapon used will usually
be taken away afterwards, as will any restraints such as chains, ropes, belts, gags, or blindfolds. The body too will often
be taken away, to be disposed of carefully, making discovery less likely.
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES: Both types may return to the scene of the crime!! Both types tend to have few
genuine friends, but the organized type is a loner by choice, because he feels superior to others, has a stable
employment history in skilled or specialist work, also being sexually competent, usually living with a partner in a longterm relationship, being among the older children with a father in stable and well-paid work, with an inconsistent style of
discipline. Organized killers usually have an earlier background history with drugs and alcohol, usually have their own
transport, in good condition and well-maintained, and also tend to keep in touch with the local newspaper and broadcast
coverage of the crime, to enable monitoring of police efforts and keep in close touch with the level of threat to
themselves. After commission of the crime, an organized killer may well decide to change jobs or move as a precaution
against being caught. His better education and greater confidence allows him to transplant himself.
SOUVENIRS AND TROPHIES: Serial killers often keep mementos of their victims. Agent Robert Keppel places these
collections into 2 categories: souvenirs and trophies.
Souvenirs: Personal items allow the killer to enjoy the memories of the crime.
A trophy can become something of a shrine
SIGNATURES: Like everyone else, a killer learns from experience. If you don't catch him right away, he'll begin to
develop his modus operandi, or MO, and probably get better at the crime. Maybe he'll find a more efficient way to kill
someone or a quicker way to abduct a woman from a car. He'll start showing more control over the crime.
The MO is basically the way the predator commits the crime -- if he uses a gun rather than a knife or lures prospective
victims by putting his arm in a fake sling. While the MO tells us something about how he did it, the signature gives us some
insight into why.
The signature is a ritual, something the subject does intentionally for emotional satisfaction -- something that isn't necessary to
perpetuate the crime. Evidence of torture is a signature. Posing -- displaying the victims in a certain way -- is a signature. However,
posing is present in less than 1% of murder cases. Posing is not staging, moving a body to cover the crime and mislead
pursuers. Inserting objects in a body after death is even rarer. Signature is a way of linking cases. Like a real signature, it's a
personal detail that's unique to the individual. Sometimes there's a fine line between an MO and a signature.
Generally, the signature is a more reliable guide to the behavior of serial offenders than an MO. That's because the MO evolves,
while the emotional reasoning that triggers the signature doesn't. The method a killer uses to get women into his van may change,
but the fact that he always tortures them once they're inside stays the same.
One subject covered the faces of his victims. That was his signature. So you look for that in other cases in order to tie them together.
A bomber used to spray black paint over the components inside his bombs. It wasn't necessary -- it didn't make the bombs any
better. I don't know what it meant, but he did it anyway. He felt the need to do it. Unfortunately, you often need more than one case
to determine what the signature is. You don't know if there's a pattern by looking at a single case.
In 1988, the psychologist Joel Norris described the psychological phases that serial killers experience when preparing to
find a victim to the aftermath. Norris worked on the defense teams of several convicted killers from Georgia and
completed 500 interviews with such individuals, during which he identified the following phases.
The killer begins with an aura phase, in which there is a withdrawal from reality and a heightening of the senses. This
phase may last anywhere from several moments to several months prior to actually finding a victim, and can begin as a
prolonged fantasy, which may have been active for a short time or for years. The killer may attempt to medicate himself
with alcohol or drugs.
The trolling phase consists of the behavior patterns that a particular killer uses to identify and stalk his victim. Norris
described how Ted Bundy strapped his arm in a sling and asked for help with books, packages, or even the hull of a
sailboat to lure the victim into his car. Some victims escaped and said he never seemed out of control until the moment
he actually attacked them.
The wooing phase is that time period when most killers win the confidence of victims before luring them into a trap.
The capture phase may include the locking of a door or a blow that renders the victim helpless. The killer savors this
moment. Norris described the murder phase as the ritual reenactment of the disastrous experiences of the killer's
childhood, but this time he reverses the roles.
The next phase Norris described is the totem phase. After the kill, murderers sink into a depression, with many
developing a ritual to preserve their "success." This is why some killers keep news clippings, photographs, and parts of
the victims' bodies, or eat parts of the victims, wear their skin, or show parts of victims' bodies to later victims. The
trophy or souvenir (see above) is meant to give the murderer the same feelings of power he experienced at the time of
the kill.
The last phase is the depression phase. A victim, now killed, no longer represents what the killer thought he or she
represented, and the memory of the individual that tortured the murderer in the past is still there. Ressler compares the
murder to a television serial with no satisfactory ending because the serial killer experiences the tension of a fantasy
incompletely fulfilled. In each subsequent murder, he attempts to make the scene of the crime equal to the fantasy.
Norris notes that there is an absence of the killer's sense of self and, during this phase, the killer may confess to the
police before the fantasies start once more. However, because victims are not seen as people, recollections of murders
may be vague or viewed as the killer having watched someone else. They may have a memory for tiny details about the
murder, which is dissociated from the event as a whole.
Genetics and physiological factors also contribute to the building of a psychopath. One study in Copenhagen focused
on a group of sociopaths who had been adopted as infants. The biological relatives of sociopaths were 4-5 times more
likely to be sociopathic than the average person. Yet, genetics don't tell the whole story; it only shows a predisposition
to antisocial behavior. Environment can make or break the psychopathic personality.
When a psychopath does inherit genetically-based, developmental disabilities, it is usually a stunted development of the
higher functions of the brain. 30-38% of psychopaths show abnormal brain wave patterns, or EEGs. Infants and
children typically have slower brain wave activity, but it increases as they grow up. Not with psychopaths. Eventually,
the brain might mature as the psychopath ages. This may be why most serial killers are under 50 years of age. The
abnormal brain wave activity comes from the temporal lobes and the limbic system of the brain, the areas that control
memory and emotions. When development of this part of the brain is genetically impaired, and the parents of the child
are abusive, irresponsible or manipulative, the stage is set for disaster.
Biological causes of crime were hypothesized by Hans Eysenck, who believed that criminality resulted from a nervous
system distinct from that of most people, and that extroverts were more likely to be involved in antisocial behavior.
Tests are showing that the nervous system of the psychopath is markedly different — they feel less fear and anxiety
than normal people. One carefully conducted experiment by psychologist Adrian Raine (1999) revealed that "low
arousal levels" not only causes impulsiveness and thrill-seeking, but also showed how dense sociopaths are when it
comes to changing their behavior. A group of sociopaths and a group of healthy individuals were given a task, which
was to learn what lever (out of four) turned on a green light. One lever gave the subject an electric shock. Both groups
made the same number of errors, but the healthy group quickly learned to avoid the punishing electric shock, while
sociopaths took much longer to do so. This need for higher
levels of stimulation makes the psychopath seek dangerous
LEFT: PET scan of normal person; RIGHT: PET scan of murderer (Raine et
al, 1999)
In a 1997 article in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the researcher Daniel Amen reported findings with Single Photon
Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT) brain imaging, which measures metabolic activity and cerebral blood
flow patterns to examine differences in the aggressive brain. He examined forty aggressive adolescents and adults from
a psychiatric population that physically attacked someone or destroyed property within six months of evaluation, and
compared them to an age-, sex-, and diagnosis-matched control group of forty psychiatric patients who had never had
reported problems with aggression. No person was included in the study that had a history of a substance abuse
problem in the last year or a history of head injury involving loss of consciousness.
Amen found aggressive individuals show significant differences from nonviolent individuals. First, there is decreased
activity in the prefrontal cortex; decreased functioning would result in less impulse control, less ability to focus attention,
and poor judgment of highly charged situations. He found increased activity in the left side only of the basal ganglia and
limbic system. Among multiple complex functions, he noticed that over activity in the basal ganglia is associated with
anxiety, and over activity in that part of the limbic system is associated with negative mood and a higher chance of
violent behavior. He found increased activity in the temporal lobes, which, among other functions, have been connected
to temper outburst and rapid mood shifts, especially noted for the left temporal lobe. He found increased activity in the
frontal lobes (anterior cingulate area), which, among other functions, results in obsessive inability to stop thinking about
negative events or ideas.
Violence has also been connected to a variety of serotonin abnormalities as well as reduced glucose metabolism shown
by positron emission tomography. In 1997, psychologist Adrian Raine and colleagues examined glucose metabolism in
41 murderers pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, compared to an equal number of age- and sex-matched control
subjects. The murderers showed reduced glucose metabolism in the prefrontal cortex, superior parietal gyrus, left
angular gyrus, and corpus callosum. The left hemispheres of their brains had lower activity than the right in the
amygdala, thalamus, and temporal lobe.
Research has identified certain brain dysfunctions, parental loss or rejection, and the development of the biphasic
(mania followed by depression) personality and the trauma control model as potential factors in the development of the
serial killer. In the future, identifying the biphasic, emotionally isolated child and helping him or her to connect with
people could potentially occur in the school. Perhaps brain scans as well as school-based behavioral evaluations could
indicate those people who might benefit from psychotherapy, social skills interventions, medication, or some
combination of the above to prevent or control their aggressiveness. A society with the skills and the willingness to
finance such a possibility would have to make careful decisions about the freedoms of the people it labeled as well as
the rights of the public. Yet deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, as flawed as it is, took hundreds of thousands of
people out of hospitals and gave them a less restrictive life. Perhaps a similar, but well-managed, outcome could be the
future of a safe public and of the murderers society must lock away.
In his 1997 publication, Amen discusses how correct medication can improve some of these abnormalities and, along
with therapy, improve problem behavior. He has also found that the use of alcohol results in overall decreased brain
activity, and chronic alcoholism is associated with reduced metabolism, especially in the frontal and temporal regions of
the brain. These are the same regions involved in violent behavior. Interestingly, Ressler and colleagues specifically
listed alcohol use during the murder as one of the characteristics of the organized serial killer.
J.A. Gray proposed a behavioral inhibition system as the neural system underlying anxiety. This system teaches most
people not to make an antisocial response because of anxiety and is called passive avoidance learning. The researcher
Don Fowles continued this concept with the idea that criminal personalities have deficient behavioral inhibition systems,
therefore will proceed to make the anti-social response. The second half of Gray's model is the behavioral activation
system, which causes reward-seeking behavior and active avoidance of punishment, such as running away. Fowles
believes this system is normal in the criminal personality. Gray's theory also says there is a nonspecific arousal system
receiving excitatory inputs from both systems.
Can psychopaths be successfully treated? According to the psychiatrists, "No." Shock treatment doesn't work; drugs
have not proven successful in treatment; and psychotherapy, which involves trust and a relationship with the therapist,
is out of the question, because psychopaths are incapable of opening up to others. They don't want to change.
Profiling the UNSUB is, in the simplest terms, coming up with a reasonable composite of the person, or people, who committed one
or more crimes. Profilers are often called in to assist with investigations of serial offenders. In these instances we have more than just
one crime scene and one set of circumstances to work with. This helps because it gives us the opportunity to "connect the dots" -- to
find patterns by looking at what the UNSUB left behind.
Profiles are not 100% accurate. However, profiles work best when the offender displays obvious psychopathology,
such as sadistic torture, postmortem mutilation, or pedophilia. As said earlier, some killers leave a "signature"—a
behavioral manifestation of an individualizing personality quirk, such as positioning the corpse for humiliating exposure,
postmortem biting, or tying ligatures with a complicated knot. This helps to link crime scenes and may point toward other
types of behaviors to look for.
What a profile can offer that's helpful are the offender's general age range, racial identity, ideas about the modus
operandi, estimates about living situation and education level, travel patterns, the possibility of a criminal or psychiatric
record, and probable psychological traits. A profile may also describe a fantasy scenario that drives the person or even
pinpoint an area where he or she probably resides. This is all based on deductions about the specific crime from what is
already known about offenders and deviancy.
The best profilers have gained their knowledge from experience with criminals and have developed an intuitive sense
about certain types of crime. Their knowledge base is developed from both physical and nonphysical evidence.
Generally, profilers employ psychological theories that provide ways to detect mental deficiency such as delusions, spot
imprints from hostility, recognize criminal thought patterns, and predict the right character defects. They also need to
know about actuarial data such as the age range into which offenders generally fall and how important an unstable
family history is to criminality. Much of that information came from actual cases.
Some serial killers who spent time in mental institutions after committing their crimes or received psychiatric treatment
were deemed "cured" and released. But they went on to kill again. Peter Woodcock spent 35 years in a criminal
psychiatric hospital in Ontario, Canada, after murdering three children. Within a few hours of his release, he killed a
fellow psychiatric patient and was immediately sent back to the institution
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Newton, Michael, Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, Facts on File, New York, New York 2000.
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Scott, Shirley Lynn, “What Makes Serial Killers?”, Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods, CourtTV,
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