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PsychologicalProfileofSerialKillers:JessieSmith

JessieJ.Smith
APPsychology7thhour
ResearchPaper
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Whatcomestomindwhenyouhearthewordserialkiller?Formost,theimagesof
horriblepeoplewhohavesomesortofillness,goingonkillingrampagesofinnocentpeopleis
whatfillstheirmindwhenaskedthatquestion.Thedefinitionofaserialkillerissomeonewho
commitsmorethantwomurdersoveraperiodthatspansmorethanonemonth.Aserialkiller
differsfromthatofamassmurderoraspreemurdererbutmanyhavethesamemotivesandthe
sameprofileasoneanothermakingitdifficulttoputcertainperpetratorsintocategories.The
killingof4ormorepeopleatonetimeisconsideredamassmurder,whereasaspreemurdereris
thekillingof3ormorepeoplewithnocooldownperiod(WhittingtonEgan,2008,pg.3).
Serialkillershavefascinatedthepublicwhile,atthesametimerepulsingandfrighteningthe
generalpopulation.Itishardtowrapyourmindaroundwhyaserialkillerdoeswhattheydo.
Serialkillerscomeinallsortsofages,sizes,colors,andgroupings.Forallthehypethatserial
killersreceive,theyonlyaccountfor0.51.0%ofallmurders.(Perri&Lichtenwald,2010)This
isaround70140victimsayear.(Perri&Lichtenwald,2010).Itcanbeextremelydifficultto
profileserialkillersduetothefactthattherearesomanydifferentcategories.Oftentimesthe
public'sideaofaserialkillerarebaseduponmythandfalsepresumptions,notfact.Themain
focusofthisresearchpaperistotakeagenerallookatserialkillers,whytheydowhattheydo,
theirpasts,andtrytodrawparallelsbetweencertaincharacteristicsamongstserialkillers.
TheHolmesandDeburgerstudy(Bartol&Bartol,2011)providesfourdifferent
typologiesforcategorizingserialkillers.ThefirstofwhichwouldbeVisionarythisgroup
basestheirkillingsonavisionthatacertaingroupmustbedestroyed(Welch,2011,pg.01a).
ThesecondtypologywouldbeMissionorientedthisgroupissimilartoavisionary,just
withoutanyvoicesorhallucinations.(Welch,2011)Thethirdgroupisclassifiedas

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Hedonistictheyseekthrillandpleasure(Welch,2011).Theyidentifypeopleasobjectsof
pleasure.Thisgroupisputintothreefurthersubgroupsincluding:lust,thrill,andcomfort.
(Taylor,Lambeth,Green,Bone,&Cahillane,2012)Lustissexualgratification.Thrillis
motivatedthroughinducingpainandfear.Lastly,comfortisbasedonpersonalmaterialgain.
ThelastofthefourtypologieswouldincludePower/controlthisgroupgainssatisfaction
fromomnipotenceoftheact(Welch,2011,pg.01a).
Whilethosearejustafewofthemanytypologies,whichareverybroad,some
researchersinthefielduseafewmoretypologiestonarrowdownthefield.Tostartoffthereare
theMedical/caretakertypeserialkillertheseincludethoseinthemedicalprofessionwho
killlikeserialkillers(Taylor,Lambeth,Green,Bone,&Cahillane,2012).Avarietyofjobslike
doctors,nursesorprofessionalcaretakersfallintothiscategory.Thefemaleserialkillerswillfall
intothiscategory.ThenextcategorymentionedisMunchausenSyndromebyproxy(MSBP)
themotivesbehindkillingsinthiscategorywouldvaryfrompsychotic/depressedstatesallthe
waytoabusive/neglectfulmothering(Tayloretal,.2012).Oftentimesitisdifficulttoplace
peopleintothistypologybecausekillersarewellversedandcompetentliarsorduetogender
stereotypingmanypeopledontacceptthatfemaleswouldbecapabletocommitcoldblooded
killing(Knight,2007).TwoverysimilartypologieswouldbeRandomSerialKillersand
SerialMurderasanOutgrowthofCriminalActivity.(Knight,2007)Oneexampleofrandom
serialkillingwouldbethatoftheZodiacKillerbecausehekilledatrandomwithnopatternor
motivethatisknown.Theserialmurderbecauseofcriminalactivitymeansthatthekillerjust
startsoutwithcrimialactivitywhichhederivespleasurefromthenescalatestokilling.(Knight,

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2007)Manykillersmainintention,inthiscategory,wasntmurderbuteventuallygottothat
stagethroughthethrillofcriminalactivity(WhittingtonEgan,2008).
Thelastandmostpopularorwellnoticedthroughoutthepublictypologywouldbethat
ofSerialMurderandMentalIllness.Whenapublickillingoccursnewsstationsandpapers
oftenclaimmentalillnessplayedaroleorthecriminalindefenseontrialsaidthemurderwas
becauseofmentalillness(WhittingtonEgan,2008).Eventhoughsomeofthatmaybetrue,
mentalillnessonlyplaysalimitedroleinserialkillingandisusuallysecondaryto thepsychotic,
behavioraldisorderatthecoreofthemotivation.(Knight,2006)Inallrealitymanyserialkillers
arenormal,functionalmembersofsociety(WhittingtonEgan,2008).Evenwhenmostappear
normalmanyhavepersonalitydisordersanddistortedvisionsoftheworldaroundthem.Inmany
casestheysufferfrompsychoticandprogressestosociopathicbehaviorwhichdoesnotclinically
qualifyasamentalillness(Welch,2011).
Manywhostudyserialkillersoftenprotestthattherearenospecifictypologiesandthat
everykillershouldbeclassifiedastheirownperson.Theysaythatthereisnostandardprofile
foraserialkillerandratherthecommonvariablesorcharacteristicsbetweencases.
(WhittingtonEgan,2008)Itisverydifficulttostudyserialkillersduetothefactthatyoucan
onlystudycasestudies,youcannotperformanexperimentinthisfield.
Between1979and1983ateamofFBIspecialistsintheBehavioralScienceUnit
interviewed36incarceratedsexmurderers,ofwhich25wereserialkillers(Welch,2011pg.6).
Ofthesekillerstheyputthemintotwocategorieswithfurthersubcategories.
Thefirstportionofthegroupisthepsychotics.Theyaretheminorityandaregenuinely
insane(Welch,2011,pg.4).ThesearethepeopleyouseeonshowssuchasCriminalMinds

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wheretheyhearvoices,seevisions,andfailtoperceiverealitycorrectly.Murderendsupbeinga
symptomoftheirmadness.(Welch,2011,pg.01a).
Thenextgroupconsistsofthoseclassifiedasthepsychopaths.Thisgroupknowsright
fromwrongbutintheendtheyjustdonotcare.Theyultimatelylackaconscienceandany
capacityforempathy.Feelingnoguiltorremorsewhentheykillandthereasontheykillis
simplyjustbecausetheywanttoTheyjustlikeit(Welch,2011).TwoMajortraitsofthiskind
ofkillerincludes:lustforpowerandparaphilia,orsexualabnormality,suchasvoyeurism,
undinism,coprophagiaandpiquerism(Welch,2011,pg.02).

TheFBIsBSUfurtherplacesthekillersintothesubcategoriesofasocialandnonsocial.
Theprofileofanasocialserialkilleristhatthepersonofunknownidentitywhoisthesubjectof
acriminalinvestigationiswithdrawnfromsociety,aloner,coward,andverydisorganized.
(Welch,2011).Thistypeofkillerwouldratherknockouttheirvictimsfirstandthenleavea
disorganizedcrimescenethatshowslittleornopreparationformurder.Theotherprofileofa
nonsocialkilleristhattheunsubis:positivelyantisocial,organized,actsquitenormal,maintains
normalrelationshipswithothers,moreimaginativeandcreative,moreadaptivetothe
environment,plansahead,haspreferredtypeofvictim,stalksthevictims,killsvictimswitha
slowsadistickill,alsomoreinclinedtotauntthepolice,lookingtoshockthecommunityand
lastlywillputthevictimscorpseonshowforeveryonetosee.(Welch,2011)
Basedonwellknowncasestudiesthereareplentyofcommoncharacteristicsbetween
eachserialkillerbuttherearealwaysexceptionstotherules.Afterstudyingafewprofilesand
casehistoriestherewerereappearingelementsinmostcases.Someofwhichwere:moderateto
heavyreligioustendencies,apriorhistoryfortorturinganimals,substanceandalcoholabuse,

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lowereducationallevels,unstablefamilybackgrounds,multiplemarriages,andalackof
commitmentinwork(Knight,2006,pg.27).
Almostathirdofallknownserialkillersturnouttohavebeenmentalpatientsor
exconvicts(WhittingtonEgan,2008).Incontrasttowhatisstatedintheparagraphbefore,a
goodamountofserialkillerscomefromagoodsocioeconomicbackgroundaswell(Knight,
2006).Thereisnoexactbackgroundthataserialkillercomesfrom.Everycasevariesbutmany
havesimilarities.Suchasafearandmistrustofwomenmaybemanifest(WhittingtonEgan,
2008).Increaseduseofdrugswiththeadditionofpornography.Somekillersdoittogetoffand
theonlywaytheyachievethatisthroughtheactionsoffrenzykillingortohavesexualrelations
withjustacorpse.Manypeoplewhoaresubjectsofacriminalinvestigationgettheirsatisfaction
fromthehuntforthevictim,whichiscalledtrolling.Eachserialkillerhastheirownfavorite
trollingground(WhittingtonEgan,2008).
Manyserialkillersareinitformorethanthekilling,theyareinitforsexualneedsthat
theyusetheirvictimstofulfill(Knight,2006,pg.22).Someevidenceshowsthatitisnotabout
sexbutmoreaboutpower,theabilitytodominatesomeoneelse(Knight,2006).Thatthethrillis
inmakingthevictimbegfortheirlifescreamingformercy.(Welch,2011).
Mediatakesserialkillersandmakesthemamainfocus,wheninrealitytheareararepart
ofsociety.ThroughinternetandTVshowswearesurroundedwithinformationaboutserial
killers.Duetomanyissues,itisnearimpossibletoclassifyserialkillersandfigureoutwhythey
dowhattheydo.Professionalsinthefieldwillkeeptryingtofindpatternsandtrytopredict
whatmakesaserialkiller.Butforrightnowthereisnoeasywaytoclassifyandknowwhya
serialkillerdoeswhatheorshedoes.

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