Investigating Four Types of Serial Killers

In my Emily Stone Thriller Series, Emily Stone goes up against a ruthless, diabolical and somewhat eccentric serial killer in my thriller Dead Game.  This serial killer “Samuel” uses his unique signature as a “voyeuristic” serial killer to commit his crimes.  I created Samuel to be a “power and control” and perhaps a bit of “hedonistic” type of serial killer.  In Dark Mind, the serial killer known to readers as “Keo” has a much different approach that would be considered to be a “mission” or “visionary” type of killer.

Serial killer is defined by the act either of two or more separate murders, acting alone or with another, during a period of time with breaks in between each murder or what has been referred to as a cooling off period.  They are a unique breed of individuals that make special efforts to elude detection of being caught from law enforcement.

It is not exactly known how many are practicing at any given time across the US.  The FBI has given an estimate of 200 serial killers roaming in the US, but according Joel Norris, author of Serial Killers, he suggests that there are three to four times more.  We do not really know the exact count with any certainty until we catch these elusive killers.

These are the four basic types of serial killers:

1.      Power & Control

This type of serial killer experiences complete sexual gratification from the domination and humiliation of the victim.  This killer is a true sociopath and lives by his own personal set of rules and guidelines.  Many of the famous serial killers we have seen in history would fall under his type of serial killer.

2.      Visionary

This type of serial killer is compelled by voices or visions they experience and are considered psychotic.  These voices and visions compel them to kill certain kinds of people.

3.      Mission

This type of serial killer feels a “need” or duty to kill certain types of people or “class” of people such as religious or racial groups or prostitutes.  This type of serial killer is not considered psychotic.

4.      Hedonistic

This type of serial killer makes a strong connection between personal violence and sexual gratification.  This type of killer can also be described as a “lust” or “thrill” killer.  This killer receives pleasure from the act and has eroticized the experience.  They generally take the time to torture or mutilate their victims.

I feel that these descriptions are a fair assessment of the types of serial killers.  It gives us a reasonable description that begins to help law enforcement investigators to piece together the motivations and clues of serial killings.

Recently, I have found some honest, thought-provoking comments made by professionals from:

Behavioral Analysis Unit-2
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
Critical Incident Response Group
Federal Bureau of Investigation

There were several additional observations made by the attendees regarding causality of serial killers:

• Predisposition to serial killing, much like other violent offenses, is biological, social, and psychological in nature, and it is not limited to any specific characteristic or trait.

• The development of a serial killer involves a combination of these factors, which exist together in a rare confluence in certain individuals. They have the appropriate biological predisposition, molded by their psychological makeup, which is present at a critical time in their social development.

• There are no specific combinations of traits or characteristics shown to differentiate serial
killers from other violent offenders.

• There is no generic template for a serial killer.

Serial killers are driven by their own unique motives or reasons.

Serial killers are not limited to any specific demographic group, such as their sex,
age, race, or religion.

• The majority of serial killers who are sexually motivated erotized violence during development. For them, violence and sexual gratification are inexplicably intertwined
in their psyche.

• More research is needed to identify specific pathways of development that produce serial killers.

I have also thought that perhaps these four basic types of serial killers could also benefit from “degrees” similar to how we define many of our laws, such as 1st degree, 2nd degree, etc.  In other words, the level of violence, locations, and frequency should be documented into subgroups for further study in each of these types.  By separating some of these cases into subgroups, we can begin to see subtle details in each of the cases that might prove to be helpful in future investigations.

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