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Serial killers 3

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Serial killers 3

At a time when violent crime is dropping, one category of deceptively dangerous people -- serial killers -- is causing alarm from coast to coast with seemingly motiveless murders. These people are not creatures or animals who can easily be identified. Serial killers are hard to find and virtually undetectable until they start murdering the innocent. Like all evolved predators, they know how to stalk their victims by gaining their trust. "Serial killers don't wear their hearts on their sleeve. Instead, they hide behind a carefully constructed fa'ade of normalcy." (Crime Library)

Serial killers have been an integral part of American history and plagued this country for many years. With the hype and myth surrounding the phenomenon of serial murder, serial killers' crimes occupy a high profile category and occur at the end of the spectrum of normality. This paper will examine information on what a serial killer is and why they kill.

Serial murder is defined as the killing of three or more people over a period of more than 30 days with a significant cooling off period between the killings (Seltzer 18). This cooling off period is the critical factor that separates the serial killer from mass and spree killers. A serial killer usually emerges from the pain and suffering of a life riddled with abuse, neglect, hormonal imbalances, and other numerous situations. Serial murder is a disease. There are valid explanations that help society realize that these individuals experienced events so traumatic in their early lives that they have become dead to their surroundings and have attained no sense of moral autonomy (Levin & Fox 52). To truly understand a serial killer, society must put aside their media-born misconceptions and look upon serial killers with an unbiased attitude.

Serial killers are typically 25 to 30 years in age, with the overwhelming majority being white males; although, there have been several known cases of female killers. Most often, serial killers' choices of prey are white females who are strangers to the offender. Serial killers come from different professions and socioeconomic backgrounds. John Wayne Gacy was an active, outgoing figure in business and society and became a member of the local Jaycees. His fellow workers at the postal office saw nothing peculiar about him and described him as a boy scout type -- courteous, reliable, and helpful (Levin & Fox p. 198). Another documented serial killer said, "It is my belief that the reason I never came under suspicion is because I was so normal in every aspect." (Tithecott 206). These killers attack all over the United States, but western states have much higher rates than those of the north and east. In addition, rates vary over time within particular countries and regions (Seltzer 94-95). As these characteristics point out, a serial killer can be almost anyone.

Several serial killers have had fixations with law enforcement and posed as officers or worked in positions as security guards and auxiliary police officers. Ed Kemper frequented a bar near police headquarters and questioned police officers about the murders he had just committed (Crime Library). John Wayne Gacy had a police radio in his home.

What causes a human being to commit such heinous acts? Many serial killers were often exposed to childhood abuse. Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, was sold off as a slave by his alcoholic father. Others have lived abnormal adolescent lives. Ed Kemper beheaded his sister's dolls while playing execution games (Crime Library). Daydreaming, compulsive masturbation, isolation, chronic lying, and bed-wetting are common characteristics serial killers shared as youths. Research shows great similarities among the different killers, which suggests that they share a common illness. "An understanding of the nature of that illness and the ability to detect the appearance of this syndrome in children are the first steps in preventing the spread of serial murder." (Crime Library).

Many serial murderers have intense, smothering relationships with their mothers and often these relationships are filled with abuse and sexual attraction (Furio 21). After a fight with his mother, Ed Kemper, stormed out of his house and vowed to kill the first good-looking girl he saw (Egger 11). Henry Lee Lucas was forced by his mother to watch while she had sex with her clients. Ed Gein's religiously fanatical, notorious mother convinced her son that women were vessels of sin and cause disease. In his own interpretation, Gein made literal vessels out of women and used their skulls for bowls and other domestic objects (Crime Library). Later, Kemper beheaded his mother and shoved her vocal cords down the garbage disposal. He then raped her headless body and placed her head on the living room mantel and used it as a dartboard (Crime Library).

No clear-cut theory has ever been established on why serial murderers kill. Do serial killers lack a moral safety latch? Or are they being controlled by something unfathomable? Most experts believe that serial murderers have a clear-cut perception of reality and aren't insane. As on-lookers, society has the common misconception that people who commit such horrible acts must be mentally ill; however, less than five percent of serial murderers are mentally ill at the time of their offense (Crime Library). Serial killers are always looking to manipulate and will do anything to convince the authorities of their insanity. John High, the Acid Bath Murderer, drank his own urine in front of the jury (Crime Library).

By murdering, serial killers are able to achieve a feeling of superiority over their victims and to triumph or conquer by destruction. Others may kill for thrill or happiness. "I wish I could stop, but I could not. I had no other thrill or happiness." Dennis Nilsen said. "It was an urge?A strong urge, and the longer I let it go, the stronger it got, to where I was taking risks to go out and kill people," said Ed Kemper (Holmes & Holmes 1).

How can these people that commit these senseless acts not be insane? Peter Kurten claimed that his chief satisfaction in killing was to catch the spurting blood from a victim's wounds in his mouth and then swallow it (Crime Library). Jeffrey Dahmer and Demis Nilsen both tried to create companionship in corpses. After mutilating his victims, Dahmer, hoping for a mate that would never leave, kept their body parts in his freezer. Ed Gein tore apart women and wore their genitals around his body. John Wayne Gacy worked in a mortuary and slept in the embalming room alone with corpses. And Ed Kemper's statement, "With a girl, there's a lot left without a head but of course the personality is gone," should confirm insanity (Crime Library).

Five key elements make the serial killer stand apart from others. The central element is repetitive homicide. Serial killers will kill again and again unless prevented. Ted Bundy first killed when he was 15 years old, his last at age 32. Second, the serial killer typically kills alone. Group serial homicide accounts for only 10 percent of all serial murders (Tithecott 38). Third, the relationship between the offender and the victim is generally non-existent. Fourth, the serial killer is motivated to kill. And last, an apparent and clear-cut motive for the murder may be missing (Seltzer 30).

Serial murderers progress through various stages or phases. The aura phase is when the killer first begins losing grip on reality. Next is the trailing phase -- the killer searches for a victim. Third is the wooing phase -- the killer lures his/her victim --and then ...

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