Serial Killers - VISIONARY TYPE
This category of serial killers includes those serial killers whose homicides are committed in response to “voices” or “visions” that demand that a person or category of persons be destroyed. For some, the voice or vision is perceived to be that of a demon or evil force; for others, their killing is in response to a directive from God. Directed by a vision of God, Herbert Mullin set out to save the world from eminent destruction (a deadly earthquake which he believed he could ward off by killing). In the process, he lethally “sacrificed” 13 people to propitiate the God whose commands he obeyed. The “Red Demon” killer decapitated or stabbed four elderly women because a red demon within would give him peace of mind only if he killed.
Whatever the particular content or perceive source of the “vision”, the end behavioural product for the serial killer is homicide. The perpetration of lethal violence is legitimized by the vision that the killer has experienced. Unlike most other serial killers, the visionary type is sometimes definitely out of touch with reality. Since the visionary hears voices or sees visions, this type of killer is often adjudged psychotic.
An important aspect of investigating a violent crime is an understanding of the victim and the relation that their lifestyle or personality characteristics may have contributed to the offender choosing them as a victim. Please do not misunderstand the previous statement. In no way are victims being blamed for becoming a victim of a violent crime. Even high risk victims (to be described shortly) have the right to live how they wish without becoming a victim of the type of offenses described on this site. Yet the fact remains, that to understand the offender, one must first understand the victim.
Victims are classified during an investigation in three general categories that describe the level of risk their lifestyle represents in relation to the violent crime that has been committed. The importance of understanding this in an investigation is directly related back to the level of risk to the offender during the commission of the crime. This information is important to the investigation to better understand the sophistication or possible pathology of the offender.
High Risk Victims - Victims in this group have a lifestyle that makes them a higher risk for being a victim of a violent crime. The most obvious high risk victim is the prostitute. Prostitutes place themselves at risk every single time they go to work. Prostitutes are high risk because they will get into a stranger’s car, go to secluded areas with strangers, and for the most part attempt to conceal their actions for legal reasons. Offenders often rely on all these factors and specifically target prostitutes because it lowers their chances of becoming a suspect in the crime. Therefore, in this example, the prostitute is a high risk victim creating a lower risk to the offender.
Moderate Risk Victims - Victims that fall into this category are lower risk victims, but for some reason were in a situation that placed them in a greater level of risk. A person that is stranded on a dark, secluded highway due to a flat tire, that accepts a ride from a stranger and is then victimized would be a good example of this type of victim level risk.
Low Risk Victims - The lifestyle of these individuals would normally not place them in any degree of risk for becoming a victim of a violent crime. These individuals stay out of trouble, do not have peers that are criminal, are aware of their surroundings and attempt to take precautions to not become a victim. They lock the doors, do not use drugs, and do not go into areas that are dark and secluded.
After all the information has been gathered, a timeline of events leading up to the crime should be created in order to better understand how this specific individual became a victim of a violent crime.
“The First Profile”: Jack the Ripper
Dr. Thomas Bond, a surgeon who participated in the autopsies of some of Jack the Ripper’s victims is often credited with creating the first profile of an unknown offender.
Five victims are attributed to Jack the Ripper, though there is debate about there possibly being more victims. Jack was famous for eviscerating his victims - an aspect of his crimes which readily connected his string of murders.
On November 10, 1888 (two days after the last known Ripper murder, and after the famous “From Hell” note) Dr. Thomas Bond provided his assessment of who could have committed these crimes. He wrote:
“In each case the mutilation was inflicted by a person who had no scientific nor anatomical knowledge…the murderer must have been a man of physical strength, and great coolness and daring. There is no evidence that he had an accomplice. He must, in my opinion, be a man subject to periodic attacks of homicidal and erotic mania…the murderer in external appearance is quite likely to be a quiet, inoffensive looking man, probably middle-aged, and neatly and respectably dressed…he would probably be solitary and eccentric in his habits, also he is most likely to be a man without regular occupation.”
Dr. Bond also believed that the Ripper was responsible for the 1889 murder of Alice McKenzie.
Unfortunately, the killer was never caught, so we cannot know how accurate Dr. Bond’s assessment was or was not.
(taken from K. Ramsland class notes)
Ritualistic (Signature) Behavior of sexual murderers
Many sexual murderers, particularly serial murderers, exhibit repetitive ritualistic behavior at the crime scene that goes beyond what is necessary to carry out the homicide. Thus, the offender injects an aspect of his personality by leaving his own unique “signature,” or “calling card,” or psychological imprint (Keppel, 1995, 1997). Unlike an offenders modus operandi (MO), which can change and develop as he learns and perfects techniques to carry out an abduction, rape, or murder, the signature - or, at least, its underlying theme - remains relatively constant (Douglas, Burgess, Burgess & Ressler, 1992; Keppel, 2000). In such cases, committing a murder is not enough to satisfy the offender’s psychosexual needs: such murderers “must often act out fantasies in some manner over and beyond inflicting death-producing injuries” (Keppel, 1995). For example, Krafft-Ebing (1886) noted that one offender was compelled “to pull the hairpins out of the hair of my victims” (p. 67); another, to press the hands of victims together; and yet another, to fill the mouth of victims with dirt. Other examples of signature behavior include:
(an excerpt from Potential Sex Murderer, Ominous Sings, Risk Assessment by Louis B. Schlesinger, 2001)
“Every single sexual deviation is overwhelmingly dominated by white males. And most sexually related ritualistic crimes are committed by white males.”
- Roy Hazelwood, retired FBI profiler.
He reports that Dennis Rader engaged in more types of paraphilic behavior than any other serial killer. Rader liked to take pictures of himself tied up, and posed in ways he depicted in his drawings.
A single bullet to the head on Valentine’s Day, 1994 and Andrei Chikatilo was dead. The Russian Ripper had not just been a killer, but an eviscerator and cannibal whose life was ended in a soundproof room in a Russian prison. His victims did not have the luxury of having their lives ended in such a swift manner.
ALL of the murderers interviewed by the FBI, during their Criminal Personality Research Project had compelling fantasies where they could control their world.
They overcompensated for the aggression in their early lives by repeating the abuse in fantasy, but this time, with themselves as the aggressors. Fantasy is defined as a happenstance unattainable in normal life. “Normal” people learn to accept social control and moderation as limits on their behavior. The deviant person, having had very few true restraints on his behavior since childhood, believes he can act out his fantasy and that nobody will be able to stop him.
After rehearsals, and minor attempts at acting out the fantasy -all it really takes is a stressor for him to try and make the fantasy a reality.
On April 16, 1992, Kristen French was abducted while walking home from school, on a busy street, with many people driving by. She walked by the church parking lot where Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo were parked, waiting for a victim. Karla asked Kristen for directions, and Paul came up behind her with a knife and forced her into the vehicle. The couple kept Kristen at their home for three days, where they raped, beat and degraded the 15-year-old girl, and videotaped the attacks and humiliation. They forced her to drink large quantities of alcohol while she was with them. Apparently, Paul wanted to keep her longer but Karla argued that they couldn’t leave her alone in the house while they went to Easter dinner at Karla’s parents, and Karla did not think it was acceptable to miss the dinner. While Kristen was kept in their home, Paul left the house to go pick up food and Karla did not take the opportunity to free Kristen.
Kristen was killed and they dumped her body out of town, just one mile from their previous victim’s gravesite.
Although Karla had the chance to set Kristen free, or flee to the police with her, she did not. Karla claimed she was too afraid of Paul, and she made a fabulous bargain which had her do a few years in prison. After the deal was made, the police became aware of the existence of all the videotapes of attacks on their victims. They were apparently appalled to see the extent of Karla’s involvement in the attacks and her claims of being a scared battered wife were ferociously attacked by the community. However, the crown refused to alter her deal, even after the videotapes showed more rape victims that the Karla had not told them about. During Kristen French’s abduction and three days of rape and torture, Paul Bernardo’s DNA was sitting in a police lab, waiting to be tested.
Early in the morning of June 15, 1991, Leslie Mahaffy arrived home past curfew and the door was locked. The 14-year-old did not want to wake up her parents so she walked to a corner store where she called a friend and asked if she could sleep over. The friend said no and Leslie told her she would go home and wake up her mother. Before she made it home, Leslie Mahaffy met Paul Bernardo, and he told her he had been breaking into a house. He offered her a cigarette and when she walked over to his car, he abducted her. He took her home where he and his wife, Karla Homolka, raped and abused the girl (and videotaped it) for more than a day. Karla states that Paul then killed her, however, there has been speculation that it was Karla who had done the actual killing. It was Father’s Day so they put Leslie’s body in the basement while they entertained Homolka’s parents. They then dismembered her body and encased the pieces in cement and threw her in Lake Gibson, Ontario.
Serial Killers and their sexual deviations
In the FBI’s study of serial killers, the Criminal Personality Research Project, each of the following categories describes a type of sexual behaviour engaged in by one or more of the serial killers:
1. Animal Torture: stabbing or chopping animals to death (especially cats for some reason) and dissecting them.
2. Anthropophagy: Eating the victim’s flesh or slicing off parts of flesh from the body.
3. Autoeroticism: Sexual arousal and gratification through self-stimulation (masturbating to pornography or violent fantasies, asphyxia, while cross-dressing, etc.)
4. Coprophilia: An interest in feces whereby the offender may receive some sexual gratification from touching or eating excretement and/or urine (urophilia). Although rare among serial killers, at least one of the killers in the study was known to have eaten his own excretement.
5. Exhibitionism: Exposing one’s genitals to an unsuspecting stranger.
6. Fetishisms: Finding sexual gratification by substituting objects for the sexual partner.
7. Gerontophilia: Seeking out elderly persons of the opposite sex for sexual purposes.
8. Klismaphilia: Sexual arousal through the administration of enemas.
9. Infibulation: Self-torture, for example piercing one’s own nipples, scrotum, labia with sharp objects such as needles and pins.
10. Lust Murder: Murdering sadistically and brutally, including the mutilation of body parts, especially the genitalia.
11. Necrophilia: Having sexual relations (or fantasies about sex) with dead bodies. A subcategory is necrofetishism, which is having a fetish for dead bodies, and these offenders may keep corpses in their home.
12. Pedophilia: Having sexual relations with children (generally child refers to a pre-pubescent individual)
13. Pederasty: Adults have anal intercourse with children. This is a common act among serial killers who target children.
14. Pyromania: Intentional setting of fires. Although some pyromaniacs report sexual gratification in setting or watching fire scenes, the role of sexuality in fire-setting does not appear as the primary reason for such behaviour.
15. Rape: Having forced sexual intercourse with another person.
16. Sadomasochism: Inflicting mental/physical pain on others (sadism) or oneself (masochism).
17. Scatolophilia or Telephone Scatologia: Sexual gratification through the making of obscene phone calls.
18. Scoptophilia or Voyeurism: Receiving sexual gratification by peeping through windows and so forth to watch people.
19. Torture: Resorting to a large variety of sadistic acts.
Exceptions to the Rule
The majority of serial killers are males, kill members of their own race, and begin murdering as adults. Some exceptions:
“Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi terrorized this city for several months, haunting the community like the ultimate in evil spirits as they abducted children and young women, torturing, raping and sodomizing them, and finally depriving their families and friends of them forever…and all for what? The momentary sadistic thrill of enjoying a brief perverted sexual satisfaction, and venting their hatred of women.”
Judge Ronald George,
who presided over the Hillside Stranglers trials
Murdering sadistically and brutally, including the mutilation of body parts, especially the genitalia. One killer, who chopped off the penis of a young boy with a pair of wire cutters, still expresses a strong desire to mutilate sexual organs. Another would sometimes shoot his victims in the head while they performed oral sex, and another enjoyed crushing his victims’ nipples with pliers and mutilating their breasts. Others have torn off the nipples of their victims with their teeth. On several occasions offenders have completely dismembered their victims’ bodies, then tossed the parts onto highways or into wooded areas, shallow graves, or sometimes left them for animals to consume. Some offenders have been discovered with body parts stashed in their refrigerators. A few offenders drank the blood of their victims.
Example: Lydia Trueblood killed five husbands, her brother in-law, and her baby daughter.
Example: Genene Jones killed between 11 and 46 terminlly ill infants by injecting them with digoxin and pretending to try to save them. Jones continued to kill even while under investigation.
Example: Aileen Carol Wuornos worked as a prostitute and killed 7 male clients. She would claim that they tried to rape her and would shoot or stab them during sex.
Example: Martha Wise killed family members and a pastor and also burnt down a church because she viewed them as barriers that kept her from marrying the man she loved. She later claimed that the devil made her do it.
Example: Charlene and Gerald Gallego raped, tortured and buried alive over 20 girls. Charlene helped Gerald because he claimed that taking virgins would cure his impotency.
Example: Madame Popova was a Russian hit woman that hired herself out to women who had cruel and abusive husbands. She killed more than 300 men.
Building a psychological profile:
Necessary items for a psychological profile include:
1) Complete photographs of the crime scene, including photographs of the victim if it is a homicide. Also helpful is some means of determining the angle from which the photographs were taken and a general description of the immediate area. One enterprising police officer developed the excellent technique of photocopying his crime scene sketch, attaching one copy to each photo, and then outlining in red the area which was included in the photograph.
2) The completed autopsy protocol including, if possible, any results of lab tests which were done on the victim.
3) A complete report of the incident to include such standard details as date and time of offense, location (by town as well as by actual site of incident), weapon used (if known), investigative officers’ reconstruction of the sequence of events (if any), and a detailed interview of any surviving victims or witnesses. These items are usually a part of all investigations and do not generally require extra report writing or extra written material. Also included in most investigative reports is background information on the victim(s). Yet, this seems to be the area where the least amount of information is available to the profiler. Usually, this is because the investigative officer cannot possibly write down all of the many details concerning the victim which he collects while investigating the crime.
When the investigator provides information concerning a victim to a profiler, some items which the officer should include are:
1) Occupation (former and present).
2) Residence (former and present).
3) Reputation, at work and in his neighborhood.
4) Physical description, including dress at the time of the incident.
5) Marital status, including children and close family members.
6) Educational level.
7) Financial status, past and present.
8) Information and background of victim’s family and parents, including victim’s relationship with parent.
9) Medical history, both physical and mental.
12) Social habits.
13) Use of alcohol and drugs.
15) Friends and enemies.
16) Recent changes in lifestyle.
17) Recent court action.
The primary psychological evidence which the profiler is looking for is motive.
(From: A Psychological Assessment of Criminal Profiling; Ault&Reese)