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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.

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.

Victimology
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.

Victimology

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)

“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:  
mutilation of the body
overkill
carving on the body
leaving messages
rearranging or positioning the body
engaging in postmortem activity
or making the victim respond verbally in a specified manner (Douglas, et al., 1992). 
(an excerpt from Potential Sex  Murderer, Ominous Sings, Risk Assessment by Louis B. Schlesinger, 2001)

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:  

  • mutilation of the body
  • overkill
  • carving on the body
  • leaving messages
  • rearranging or positioning the body
  • engaging in postmortem activity
  • or making the victim respond verbally in a specified manner (Douglas, et al., 1992). 

(an excerpt from Potential Sex  Murderer, Ominous Sings, Risk Assessment by Louis B. Schlesinger, 2001)

Fantasy
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.
The offender’s commitment to the fantasies deepens as he becomes a loner in adolescence, subject to the onset of puberty and sexual arousal. Aggressive, and with a feeling of having been cheated by society, he may channel his hostility into fantasies, which are characterized by strong visual components, and by themes of dominance, revenge, molestation, manipulation, and control. The other person is depersonalized, made into an “object”.
Deviants feel the sexual urge without having learned that it has anything to do with affection.
The cognitive mapping process is almost complete by now, It is the development of thinking patterns that affect how the person relates to himself and to his environment, it determines how the individual gives meaning to the events that happen in his world.
He views the world as a hostile place. He becomes almost incapable of interacting properly with the outside world, because his thinking patterns are all turned inward, designed only to stimulate himself in an attempt to reduce tensions, which only reinforces his isolation: a loop has developed. The effects of his antisocial acts (i.e. cruelty to animals and other children, arson) become incorporated into his fantasies, which are pushed to a more intensively violent level.
More retreat from society follows, and, eventually, so do more experiments with actualizing the fantasies
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.

Fantasy

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.

  • The offender’s commitment to the fantasies deepens as he becomes a loner in adolescence, subject to the onset of puberty and sexual arousal. Aggressive, and with a feeling of having been cheated by society, he may channel his hostility into fantasies, which are characterized by strong visual components, and by themes of dominance, revenge, molestation, manipulation, and control. The other person is depersonalized, made into an “object”.
  • Deviants feel the sexual urge without having learned that it has anything to do with affection.
  • The cognitive mapping process is almost complete by now, It is the development of thinking patterns that affect how the person relates to himself and to his environment, it determines how the individual gives meaning to the events that happen in his world.
  • He views the world as a hostile place. He becomes almost incapable of interacting properly with the outside world, because his thinking patterns are all turned inward, designed only to stimulate himself in an attempt to reduce tensions, which only reinforces his isolation: a loop has developed. The effects of his antisocial acts (i.e. cruelty to animals and other children, arson) become incorporated into his fantasies, which are pushed to a more intensively violent level.
  • More retreat from society follows, and, eventually, so do more experiments with actualizing the fantasies

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.

Leslie Mahaffy
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.

Leslie Mahaffy

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.

Kristen French
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.

Kristen French

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.

Creating a Criminal Profile
Profiling units examine criminal behaviour to discover the characteristics of the offender and the causes of their crimes. Profilers look at three areas of the criminal’s behaviour: verbal, physical, and sexual interaction with victims. To create a criminal profile, profilers consider statistics, basic psychological principles, crime scene behaviour, victimology, location, timing, and their own experience. Profilers will also look for any indication of violence, intelligence, or composure under stress. Typologies also play a large role in creating a criminal profile.
Materials used by profiling units are dependent on the crime scene, but the most common information sought is the:
Synopsis of the investigation
Relevant and any supplementary reports
Witness statements
Victimology
Maps
Photography and videos of crime scene
Exhibit lists
Forensic analysis
Crime scene analysis and diagrams
Media releases
Theories that the investigators may have
Medical and autopsy results
Demographic information about the community
After pouring over crime scene materials the profiling unit will create what is known as an unknown offender profile. Unknown offender profiles include, if possible, the following information:
Age
Race
Sex
Intelligence, including scholastic achievement
Occupation and work habits
Area of residence
Criminal history
Sexual orientation
Demeanour
Hobbies and skills
Signs of mental illness or mental disorder
Grooming and appearance

Creating a Criminal Profile

Profiling units examine criminal behaviour to discover the characteristics of the offender and the causes of their crimes. Profilers look at three areas of the criminal’s behaviour: verbal, physical, and sexual interaction with victims. To create a criminal profile, profilers consider statistics, basic psychological principles, crime scene behaviour, victimology, location, timing, and their own experience. Profilers will also look for any indication of violence, intelligence, or composure under stress. Typologies also play a large role in creating a criminal profile.

Materials used by profiling units are dependent on the crime scene, but the most common information sought is the:

  • Synopsis of the investigation
  • Relevant and any supplementary reports
  • Witness statements
  • Victimology
  • Maps
  • Photography and videos of crime scene
  • Exhibit lists
  • Forensic analysis
  • Crime scene analysis and diagrams
  • Media releases
  • Theories that the investigators may have
  • Medical and autopsy results
  • Demographic information about the community

After pouring over crime scene materials the profiling unit will create what is known as an unknown offender profile. Unknown offender profiles include, if possible, the following information:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Intelligence, including scholastic achievement
  • Occupation and work habits
  • Area of residence
  • Criminal history
  • Sexual orientation
  • Demeanour
  • Hobbies and skills
  • Signs of mental illness or mental disorder
  • Grooming and appearance
One study of the motives of Necrophiliacs showed that:
68% were motivated by a desire for an unresisting and unrejecting partner;
21% by a want for reunion with a lost partner;
15% by sexual attraction to dead people;
15% by a desire for comfort or to overcome feelings of isolation; and
11% by a desire to remedy low self-esteem by expressing power over a corpse
(Roman and Resnick, 1989)

One study of the motives of Necrophiliacs showed that:

  • 68% were motivated by a desire for an unresisting and unrejecting partner;
  • 21% by a want for reunion with a lost partner;
  • 15% by sexual attraction to dead people;
  • 15% by a desire for comfort or to overcome feelings of isolation; and
  • 11% by a desire to remedy low self-esteem by expressing power over a corpse

(Roman and Resnick, 1989)

Former FBI man John Douglas on violent childhoods impacting adult behavior: "What always is a debate, is it nature or nurture"

The former chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Science unit, Douglas discussed the role such an upbringing might play in the adult future of those raised within an abusive environment:

"What always is a debate, is it a nature or nurture thing?" he noted. "I can say from the people who I have interviewed, on death row or in prisons around the country, most of them will have some type of violence, psychological, physical violence, sexual violence in the background."

The man who served as the inspiration for the character of Jack Crawford in the well-known “Silence of the Lamb” film, Douglas was careful to avoid holding one’s childhood entirely responsible for later behavior:

"However, I’m kind of tough on this because I still don’t believe it should be a mitigating factor," he told Piers Morgan. “They still have the ability to make choices and [use] free will and they’re making these choices and it’s the wrong choices.”

Building a Profile
Profilers use information from the crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the offender. 
It is important to distinguish organized and disorganizedcharacteristics at the crime scene:
If the crime scene suggests the murder was carefully planned and executed, then the killer may be a man of average to high intelligence who has a stable social network. He may be married with a family. He may also be employed. Living a “normal” life on the surface requires a degree of self-control, which manifests itself in the way the crime is carried out. Sometimes, though, the organized offender does lose control in the actual attack when the fantasy motivation takes over. In such cases, a violent or frenzied attack may occur, yet there may also be careful attempts to conceal or destroy evidence.
The disorganized offender leaves a mess at the crime scene. He may use any weapon that is available to strike out and makes little effort to cover his tracks. This lack of planning and control often suggests low intelligence. He is likely to be unemployed and may be a bit of a loner with few friends. The attack may be marked by excessive violence and could also include sexual contact with the victim after death. The disorganized serial killer often turns out to have a history of mental illness.
A number of other factors can be added to the profile. Many serial killers are young adults in their twenties or thirties. Some crimes show a high level of experience and skill, and this could mean the killer is older and has had practice.
It used to be thought that serial killers were mostly white and that serial killers picked victims of their own race. We are currently noticing that more and more often, racial lines are being crossed.
Many start out killing close to their home or work, ie. in their comfort zone, an area they know well. Organized killers are likely to start to move farther away, and may be highly mobile, which can make the logistics of catching them difficult. Disorganized killers are more likely to stay close to home.
Of particular interest to those investigating serial killers is what is taken from the scene or from the victim. In most crimes, the perpetrator will take items of monetary value, like cash or jewelry. They may also take evidence, such as a weapon. The serial killer often takes something known as a trophy or souvenir, of no obvious value except to him in his fantasy world. The item is known as a trophy if it is seen as a symbol of achievement and a souvenir if it is to remind the killer of the crime.
Victimology, the study of the victim, can be crucial in tracking down a serial killer. The investigators need to know what it was about that particular person that attracted the killer. Was the victim truly chosen at random or had the person been stalked previously? The killer may have been searching for the one person who fit his fantasy and, if a common link can be found between the victims, this may be very revealing. For instance, nearly all of the victims of serial killer Ted Bundy had dark hair parted in the center.
The location of the serial killer’s crimes is also of significance. Geographical profiling is based on the premise that the killer will operate in a zone where he feels comfortable. This may be near home or, alternatively, far away from it, depending on his psychological make-up. Location is not just where the crime was committed, but is also where the victim was abducted and where the body was taken and left after the crime. Establishing a geographical profile can be challenging if the victim was a prostitute, for instance, or someone who might not be missed by relatives or co-workers for a while.
Source: World of Forensic Science, ©2006 Gale Cengage
(photo AND don’t even complain to me that Charles Manson is not a serial killer! It is still a cool montage!)

Building a Profile

Profilers use information from the crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the offender. 

It is important to distinguish organized and disorganizedcharacteristics at the crime scene:

  • If the crime scene suggests the murder was carefully planned and executed, then the killer may be a man of average to high intelligence who has a stable social network. He may be married with a family. He may also be employed. Living a “normal” life on the surface requires a degree of self-control, which manifests itself in the way the crime is carried out. Sometimes, though, the organized offender does lose control in the actual attack when the fantasy motivation takes over. In such cases, a violent or frenzied attack may occur, yet there may also be careful attempts to conceal or destroy evidence.
  • The disorganized offender leaves a mess at the crime scene. He may use any weapon that is available to strike out and makes little effort to cover his tracks. This lack of planning and control often suggests low intelligence. He is likely to be unemployed and may be a bit of a loner with few friends. The attack may be marked by excessive violence and could also include sexual contact with the victim after death. The disorganized serial killer often turns out to have a history of mental illness.

A number of other factors can be added to the profile. Many serial killers are young adults in their twenties or thirties. Some crimes show a high level of experience and skill, and this could mean the killer is older and has had practice.

It used to be thought that serial killers were mostly white and that serial killers picked victims of their own race. We are currently noticing that more and more often, racial lines are being crossed.

Many start out killing close to their home or work, ie. in their comfort zone, an area they know well. Organized killers are likely to start to move farther away, and may be highly mobile, which can make the logistics of catching them difficult. Disorganized killers are more likely to stay close to home.

Of particular interest to those investigating serial killers is what is taken from the scene or from the victim. In most crimes, the perpetrator will take items of monetary value, like cash or jewelry. They may also take evidence, such as a weapon. The serial killer often takes something known as a trophy or souvenir, of no obvious value except to him in his fantasy world. The item is known as a trophy if it is seen as a symbol of achievement and a souvenir if it is to remind the killer of the crime.

Victimology, the study of the victim, can be crucial in tracking down a serial killer. The investigators need to know what it was about that particular person that attracted the killer. Was the victim truly chosen at random or had the person been stalked previously? The killer may have been searching for the one person who fit his fantasy and, if a common link can be found between the victims, this may be very revealing. For instance, nearly all of the victims of serial killer Ted Bundy had dark hair parted in the center.

The location of the serial killer’s crimes is also of significance. Geographical profiling is based on the premise that the killer will operate in a zone where he feels comfortable. This may be near home or, alternatively, far away from it, depending on his psychological make-up. Location is not just where the crime was committed, but is also where the victim was abducted and where the body was taken and left after the crime. Establishing a geographical profile can be challenging if the victim was a prostitute, for instance, or someone who might not be missed by relatives or co-workers for a while.

Source: World of Forensic Science, ©2006 Gale Cengage

(photo AND don’t even complain to me that Charles Manson is not a serial killer! It is still a cool montage!)

Psychological Linkage Analysis: Joseph Vacher, “The French Ripper”
An important aspect of profiling is that the profiler can often use the behavioral-psychological clues an offender leaves behind at a crime scene to link crimes together that are committed by the same offender. Sometimes it’s fairly obvious, and sometimes the clues are much more discreet.
A series of sexual homicides began in France in 1894. They were not immediately connected to one offender because of the distance between the incidents. Some people have offered that the offender was Jack the Ripper, having fled England to continue his crimes in France.
Most of these assaults occurred in rural areas. The victims were young men or women who were walking alone or tending to their sheep.
After the murder of a 17-year old girl in his district, a French magistrate, Louis-Albert Fonfrede began gathering information about reports of similar murders throughout France. He postulated that it was not a single offender responsible for the crimes (because of distance between the murders), but rather, it was a new crime epidemic.
Another French magistrate, Emile Fourquet, was passionately interested in police work. Fourquet heard about one of the murders, and then learned that Fonfrede had gathered information on multiple murders. Fourquet saw a connection between the crimes: the victims had been young shepherds, and all had been mutilated with a razor or knife and sodomized antemortem. A series of “hacking” type neck wounds was present on the victims, indicating that the killer had blitz-attacked the victim from behind. Witnesses from two scenes reported a vagrant with a twisted lip and droopy eye, but this man eluded police.
Fourquet organized the files, dividing them into two charts; one keeping track of information about victimology and Modus Operandi. He analyzed autopsy reports and police reports. Using this method, he determined that there were 8 connected murders, with the bodies being disposed of in the same way, the same type of weapon being used, the same wound patterns on the victims, and the presence of mutilation and a sexual attack. To him, the distance between crime scenes did not matter, the similarities were too many for there to be more than one killer.
Fourquet’s second chart contained his ‘profile’ of the killer. He based this information on eyewitness reports after interviewing as many witnesses as he could find. He extracted the common elements from the accounts to make a list of behavioral patterns, which he called the killer’s signature.
The attacks continued until one potential victim, a young woman, fought off the attacker and her husband was able to detain him until police arrived. The man’s name was Joseph Vacher. He was 29 years old and he apparently fit Fourquet’s profile, who arrived to interview Vacher  - and who was able to obtain a confession.
Vacher was apparently a former soldier who was discharged from the military due to “psychic disturbances.’ He admitted to all the crimes that Fourquet attributed to him - as well as a few more. Vacher reported that he had experienced these homicidal urges since he was a young teenager. He offered an excuse - that his blood was poisoned by a rapid dog bite he received as a child.
Vacher became known as the French Ripper, and was executed.
The Vacher crimes also prompted criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne to advance the field of forensic science by using evidence gathered at the crime scenes (such as molds of foot prints, using bone growth and teeth to determine the age of victims, and blood spatter analysis) to help convict Vacher.

Psychological Linkage Analysis: Joseph Vacher, “The French Ripper”

An important aspect of profiling is that the profiler can often use the behavioral-psychological clues an offender leaves behind at a crime scene to link crimes together that are committed by the same offender. Sometimes it’s fairly obvious, and sometimes the clues are much more discreet.

A series of sexual homicides began in France in 1894. They were not immediately connected to one offender because of the distance between the incidents. Some people have offered that the offender was Jack the Ripper, having fled England to continue his crimes in France.

Most of these assaults occurred in rural areas. The victims were young men or women who were walking alone or tending to their sheep.

After the murder of a 17-year old girl in his district, a French magistrate, Louis-Albert Fonfrede began gathering information about reports of similar murders throughout France. He postulated that it was not a single offender responsible for the crimes (because of distance between the murders), but rather, it was a new crime epidemic.

Another French magistrate, Emile Fourquet, was passionately interested in police work. Fourquet heard about one of the murders, and then learned that Fonfrede had gathered information on multiple murders. Fourquet saw a connection between the crimes: the victims had been young shepherds, and all had been mutilated with a razor or knife and sodomized antemortem. A series of “hacking” type neck wounds was present on the victims, indicating that the killer had blitz-attacked the victim from behind. Witnesses from two scenes reported a vagrant with a twisted lip and droopy eye, but this man eluded police.

Fourquet organized the files, dividing them into two charts; one keeping track of information about victimology and Modus Operandi. He analyzed autopsy reports and police reports. Using this method, he determined that there were 8 connected murders, with the bodies being disposed of in the same way, the same type of weapon being used, the same wound patterns on the victims, and the presence of mutilation and a sexual attack. To him, the distance between crime scenes did not matter, the similarities were too many for there to be more than one killer.

Fourquet’s second chart contained his ‘profile’ of the killer. He based this information on eyewitness reports after interviewing as many witnesses as he could find. He extracted the common elements from the accounts to make a list of behavioral patterns, which he called the killer’s signature.

The attacks continued until one potential victim, a young woman, fought off the attacker and her husband was able to detain him until police arrived. The man’s name was Joseph Vacher. He was 29 years old and he apparently fit Fourquet’s profile, who arrived to interview Vacher  - and who was able to obtain a confession.

Vacher was apparently a former soldier who was discharged from the military due to “psychic disturbances.’ He admitted to all the crimes that Fourquet attributed to him - as well as a few more. Vacher reported that he had experienced these homicidal urges since he was a young teenager. He offered an excuse - that his blood was poisoned by a rapid dog bite he received as a child.

Vacher became known as the French Ripper, and was executed.

The Vacher crimes also prompted criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne to advance the field of forensic science by using evidence gathered at the crime scenes (such as molds of foot prints, using bone growth and teeth to determine the age of victims, and blood spatter analysis) to help convict Vacher.

There are four common typologies of serial killers:
1. Visionary Killer: This killer feels compelled to kill because of ‘voices’ in their heads or visions that tell them to do so. For example, Herbert Williams Mullin claimed to hear voices that told him a disastrous earthquake was imminent, but he could save California through murder. Mullin killed thirteen people in an effort to ‘save California’. It was later determined that Mullin suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
2. Mission Oriented Killer: These individuals feel that it is their duty or mission to kill certain kinds of people. For example, Ted Kaczynski, commonly refered to as the Unabomber, started a bombing campaign in an effort to save the environment, which he felt was being destroyed around him. He targeted places that were creating ‘high technology’ such as universities and airlines. Kaczynski’s bombs killed three people and injured twenty-three.
3. Power-Control Killers: These killers seek complete control over their victims. Seuxal activity is almost always involved in these cases. John Wayne Gacy,“The Clown Killer”, would fall into this category. Gacy murdered and raped 33 teenage boys, burying 26 of them in the crawl space of his home.
4. Hedonistic Serial Killers: This is the most common type of serial killer. These individuals kill for the thrill and enjoyment they get from the act of killing. There are three subtypes of hedonistic killers:
Hedonistic comfort killers: Killing victims provides the killer with some sort of comfort; usually money. Dorthea Puente ran a boarding house in California where she killed her elderly tenants and buried them in the backyard so she could claim their social insurance checks.
Hedonistic lust killers: The serial sexual predator; fantasy plays a large role and their satisfaction depends on the amount of torture and mutilation they inflict on their victims. Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the best-known hedonistic lust killers. He searched for a beautiful, submissive, and eternal lover. Dahmer killed 17 men and boys in this search for his perfect lover; his murders involved rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia, and cannibalism (so that a part of his victims would stay with him forever).
Hedonistic thrill killers: Their primary thrill is to create fear and death. The act is usually not sexual and is not drawn out over period of time, they are solely interested in the kill. Hedonistic thrill killers often work in teams. The notorious “Zodiac Killer” claimed to be responsible for 37 murders but investigators have only been able to pinpoint 7 victims, two of which survived. The Zodiac killer sent taunting letters to the police, and was never caught or identified.

There are four common typologies of serial killers:

1. Visionary Killer: This killer feels compelled to kill because of ‘voices’ in their heads or visions that tell them to do so. For example, Herbert Williams Mullin claimed to hear voices that told him a disastrous earthquake was imminent, but he could save California through murder. Mullin killed thirteen people in an effort to ‘save California’. It was later determined that Mullin suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

2. Mission Oriented Killer: These individuals feel that it is their duty or mission to kill certain kinds of people. For example, Ted Kaczynski, commonly refered to as the Unabomber, started a bombing campaign in an effort to save the environment, which he felt was being destroyed around him. He targeted places that were creating ‘high technology’ such as universities and airlines. Kaczynski’s bombs killed three people and injured twenty-three.

3. Power-Control Killers: These killers seek complete control over their victims. Seuxal activity is almost always involved in these cases. John Wayne Gacy,“The Clown Killer”, would fall into this category. Gacy murdered and raped 33 teenage boys, burying 26 of them in the crawl space of his home.

4. Hedonistic Serial Killers: This is the most common type of serial killer. These individuals kill for the thrill and enjoyment they get from the act of killing. There are three subtypes of hedonistic killers:

  • Hedonistic comfort killers: Killing victims provides the killer with some sort of comfort; usually money. Dorthea Puente ran a boarding house in California where she killed her elderly tenants and buried them in the backyard so she could claim their social insurance checks.
  • Hedonistic lust killers: The serial sexual predator; fantasy plays a large role and their satisfaction depends on the amount of torture and mutilation they inflict on their victims. Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the best-known hedonistic lust killers. He searched for a beautiful, submissive, and eternal lover. Dahmer killed 17 men and boys in this search for his perfect lover; his murders involved rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia, and cannibalism (so that a part of his victims would stay with him forever).
  • Hedonistic thrill killers: Their primary thrill is to create fear and death. The act is usually not sexual and is not drawn out over period of time, they are solely interested in the kill. Hedonistic thrill killers often work in teams. The notorious “Zodiac Killer” claimed to be responsible for 37 murders but investigators have only been able to pinpoint 7 victims, two of which survived. The Zodiac killer sent taunting letters to the police, and was never caught or identified.
Victimology
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.

Victimology

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.

Serial Rape - a study by FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood
The research concerning serial rapists’ behavior during and following the commission of the crimes has determined that:
The majority of the rapes were premeditated
The “con” approach was used most often in initiating contact with the victim
A threatening presence and verbal threats were used to maintain control over the victim
Minimal or no force was used in the majority of instances
The victims physically, passively or verbally resisted the rapists in slightly over 50% of the offenses
The most common offender reaction to resistance was to verbally threaten the victim
Slightly over one-third of the offenders experienced a sexual dysfunction, and the preferred sexual acts were vaginal rape and forced fellatio
Low levels of pleasure were reported by the rapists from the sexual acts
The rapists tended not to be concerned with precautionary measures to protect their identities
Approximately one-third of the rapists had consumed alcohol prior to the crime and slightly less reported using some other drug.
The most common post-offense behavior reported by the rapists were feelings of remorse and guilt, following the case in the media and an increase in alcohol and drug consumption. These characteristics, although not generally applicable to every rapist, can be helpful in learning more about offenders, their behaviors and the heinnous crime of rape
(photo: Douglas Junco, serial rapist)

Serial Rape - a study by FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood

The research concerning serial rapists’ behavior during and following the commission of the crimes has determined that:

  • The majority of the rapes were premeditated
  • The “con” approach was used most often in initiating contact with the victim
  • A threatening presence and verbal threats were used to maintain control over the victim
  • Minimal or no force was used in the majority of instances
  • The victims physically, passively or verbally resisted the rapists in slightly over 50% of the offenses
  • The most common offender reaction to resistance was to verbally threaten the victim
  • Slightly over one-third of the offenders experienced a sexual dysfunction, and the preferred sexual acts were vaginal rape and forced fellatio
  • Low levels of pleasure were reported by the rapists from the sexual acts
  • The rapists tended not to be concerned with precautionary measures to protect their identities
  • Approximately one-third of the rapists had consumed alcohol prior to the crime and slightly less reported using some other drug.

The most common post-offense behavior reported by the rapists were feelings of remorse and guilt, following the case in the media and an increase in alcohol and drug consumption. These characteristics, although not generally applicable to every rapist, can be helpful in learning more about offenders, their behaviors and the heinnous crime of rape

(photo: Douglas Junco, serial rapist)