A Search for the Motive behind a Serial Killer’s Actions

On the night of Sunday, October 30, 1966, Cheri Jo Bates was at the Riverside College Library in California, studying for her classes. Unbeknownst to her, when dark fell, a man found his way to her car and disabled It. After disconnecting the distributor from the rest of the engine so that the vehicle would refuse to start, he waited In the shadows of the Library Annex for his victim. Bates attempted to start the car, but failed. She was stranded when the killer approached under the guise of a helpful tranger. He is believed to have pretended to work with her engine, and then offer her a ride in his car.

He managed to lure her to a dark, unpaved drive between two empty houses. The killer slashed her once on the back, three times across the chest, and seven times across the throat with a small knife, later found at the scene. Her body was discovered In the morning, and It was observed that she had been beaten, choked, and nearly decapitated, but she was not raped and her purse was intact. The killer had no monetary or sexual motivation. The Zodiac had struck (Wark) . This was a an’s first murder in a string of murders, estimated at somewhere between eight and forty-nine kills (“Zodiac Killer”) .

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A serial killer was born. A serial killer is a person who has a history of multiple slayings of individuals, usually unknown to them beforehand, over a long period of time (“Serial Killer”) . This definition may not Inspire any thoughts, but one must realize that at any given time, between twenty and five hundred serial killers are active in the united States, killing up to three thousand people a year (Burns). With a danger like that prowling anywhere one may be, one might have a sudden sense of fear. To catch the killers, one must be able to discover why it is that these people kill.

One must delve into their pasts and break down their personalities to find their driving force. Serial killers come In many shapes and forms and can be broken down again and again Into types of killers, but they all kill for one underlying reason: control. Serial killers are complex. Contrary to popular belief, they are not insane (“Serial Killer”). As retired FBI agent Greg O. McCrary, a man who spent most of his career investigating serial killings, said, “The reality is they are not crazy, the are not insane in the terms of being legally sane.

They understand very well that what they are doing is wrong, but they do it anyway and they try very hard to get away with it” (qtd. In Wuebben) . However, the killers are classified as sociopathic. A sociopath Is defined as a person with a clear perception of reality except for the individual perception of social and moral obligations. A sociopath is characterized by a pursuit of immediate gratification in criminal acts, drug addiction, or sexual perversion (“Serial Killer”) It would seem that a person with these traits would be easily identifiable, yet such a person remains nearly indistinguishable from an average person.

As McCrary said, “There Is no one profile of a serial murderer” (qtd. in Wuebben) . Nothing necessarily will give all of them away. The killers normally wear a mask of a different personality. Ted Bundy even commented on how well a sociopath may hide when he told an interviewer, “We are your sons, and we are your husbands and we grew up in regular families” (qtd. in “Criminal Psychology”) . Every serial killer ever identified was regularly abused as a child, be it physically, sexually, psychologically, or a combination there of (“Serial Killer) .

The primary caretakers of the young killers, whether they are the parents, randparents, or legal guardians, are essentially “bad” at their Jobs. They leave the children unprotected from the world. The caretakers either change Jobs or locations often, leaving the children with a sense of insecurity and having no real home. They are expected to act as adults when they are as young as five years old. The discipline and punishment they receive is hostile, abusive, and very inconsistent, which creates a distorted set of morals within the children (Genesis) .

The young murderers are sexually abused either by a family member or family friend in nearly every case known. It has been discovered that this is actually one of the most important factors in the development of the serial killer. The abuse gives the children a feeling of being used and dominated, which in turn creates aggressive tendencies. An excellent example is Clifford Olson. As a child, Clifford Olson started off fairly normal. However, his uncle sodomized him habitually.

Olson became introverted and socially unaccepted, and later in his life he went on to murder eight young girls and three young boys before he was caught (Genesis) . The children are never able to bond with their parents. They simply lack the emotional depth to hold a meaningful relationship with them. Before long, they gain a tendency to despise either one or both of the parents and do whatever they can to lower the quality of life for them. This inability to bond and hold relationships causes the young killers to become isolated, and this isolation grows with them throughout life.

They use aggression to seek acceptance and dominance, often failing and therefore becoming more isolated in a vicious cycle of frustration and angst (Genesis) . Mentally, the children have a difficult time developing. Often, along the ways of destruction and creating, the killer’s never gain any more than a child’s perception. And as Sigmund Freud once said, “A child would destroy the world if it had the power” (qtd. in “Evaluating a Psychological Profile”) . As adolescents, fantasy takes the place of reality in the minds of serial killers (“Evaluating a Psychological Profile”) .

The ability to distinguish between what is real and true and what is not comes and goes at this point in their life. The youths become constant liars, telling people what they perceive, not what may have happened. They daydream nearly constantly (Genesis) . Although they tend to be clever, their lies and daydreams cause them to fail or simply scrape by in school. This mindset leads the youths to become aroused by what is generally considered “disagreeable material” as teenagers (“Serial Killer”) .

Hardcore pornography, bloody scenes of violence and gore, and bestiality all sexually excite the young killers. At least one of the three symptoms of the Triad is shown in serial killers as adolescents. The Triad, being a common way to evaluate the likelihood of a youth becoming a serial killer, consists of fire starting, cruelty to animals, and bedwetting ast the age of twelve (“Serial Killer”) . Edmund Kemper is an excellent illustration of the Triad. As a child, he displayed all three signs of the Triad.

As a youth, he killed the family cat and put its head on pointed stick, he wet himself into his early teens, and he started fires in random places that he usually tried to later lie about (“Index”) . Before serial killers take the life of others, there is usually an event called a “pre- crime stresser” (“Evaluating a Psychological Profile”) . Basically, this is an event that causes a large amount of stress for a killer. This can be the loss of a Job, the end of a elationship, a heated argument, or anything else that may cause the killer to become very aggressive and uneasy.

The first kill in a murderer’s life is most important. The killer does it out of curiosity (“Serial Killer”) . He wants to see what it feels like to drain the essence out of another human. He finds that it releases his stress and makes him feel good about himself (“Evaluating a Psychological Profile”) . During a “cool off period afterwards, that can last for hours, days, or months, he becomes depressed and a new tension grows inside of him until he lashes out and kills again (“Serial Killer”). The killers are classified as either organized or disorganized categories of serial killer.

The organized types are normally highly intelligent and plan their work methodically. They kill in one place and dispose the bodies in another. They have high degrees of control over the crimes scene with at least an amateur knowledge of forensics. They tend to work until captured, and they are generally quiet and unsuspected. They hunt their victims like animals and perform their kills quickly (“Serial Killer”). One well-known organized killer was Ted Bundy. Between 1974 and 975 he killed between 35 and 50 women in 5 states.

An intelligent and cold man, he is known for putting his arm in a cast and tricking his unsuspecting victim into helping him to his car where he would bludgeon her to death with the cast (“Index”) . The organized killers are then again broken down into three sub-categories: visionaries, mission-oriented killers, and personal gain killers. Visionaries are the rarest type of killer as they are the only type that is actually insane. They are compelled by delusions to do their deeds (“Serial Killer”) . A famous visionary was Harvey Carignan, the “Want-Ad Killer”.

He committed a violent sex murder in the army, but was acquitted on a technicality. He was discharged and began his career at age 39 in Seattle. Between 1972 and 1975, he raped, sodomized, and murdered at least seven young women, later saying that God came to him in a hood, which concealed his face, and that God told him to “kill girls who were whores” (qtd. in Male Serial Killers) . Mission-oriented killers are the type that feels Justified in their crimes because they are eliminating a certain type of people (“Serial Killer”) . Often racist and sexist, they feel they know what is right for the world.

One such murderer would be Joseph Franklin, a former Klansman and neo-nazi that killed fifteen people between 1977 and 1981. He targeted interracial couples because he believed they were a sin against God. He wanted to teach the proper ways to deal with blacks to the justice system he felt was too lenient on them (Male Serial Killers). Personal gain killers see gaining possessions from the deaths of their victims as a bonus to taking lives. They are broken again into two types: hitmen and women. Hitmen, or freelance assassins, are paid to kill (“Serial Killers”) .

One example of a hitman would be Donald Peewee” Gaskins. Gaskins was a contract killer from South Carolina. Between 1970 and 1975, he charged his employers a small disposal fee plus the price of a hit to bury the bodies of his victims on his property. Suspicions arose and the police dug up the bodies. Ironically, he was supposed to receive the death sentence but has remained alive in prison reportedly by gaining favor with the wardens and guards in return for performing hits on other inmates (Male Serial Killers) . In general, the only reason female serial killers kill is for profit.

One female serial killer would be Anna Marie Halm. Halm was an immigrant from Germany who offered her services as a live-in attendant for elderly men in Cincinnati. Over the years of 1932 to 1937, she drained five victims of all their assets and poisoned them, with a different poison for each victim. She was caught and became Ohio’s first woman in history to be killed in the electric chair in 1938 (Female Serial Killers) . Unlike organized killers, disorganized killers tend to have average to low levels of intelligence and commit their crimes impulsively.