Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 65: International Crime Research: Serial Killers, Mass Murderers and Sociopaths Part 2

This blog is a continuation from:

- Please read for a reference/introduction into how and why I will be walking this series.

Now I will draw extracts from the following document mentioned in Part 1, which will provide us with contextual background information on the Psychological findings behind the 'how and why' of Serial Killers. My next blog will focus on exploring the Childhood, Life experiences and choices of a Serial Killer, together with the Self-Forgiveness and Self-Corrective Statements. I will walk Self-Forgiveness and Self-Corrective statements on a few known Serial Killers to show how the Patterns exist within the Psyche and Mind -Construction of the Human being who takes the backchat as internal conversations to the extent of Self-Mind-Possession.


Author: Cindy A. Pokel

Date: August, 2000

- Research has shown an increase in the amount of serial murders that has occurred in the second half of the twentieth century with a trend that is destined to continue. Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics report that there are 20,000 murders per year and over thepast 20 years murder and manslaughter has increased 300%.

- Dr Ronald Holmes in his book " The World of Serial Killers" has identified four types of serial killers. The first type is identified as a "visionary serial killer". The visionary serial killer is commanded to kill by voices or visions. The second type of serial killer is identified as the "mission serial killer". The mission serial killer is interested in ridding the community from undesirable individuals. The third type of serial killer is a "hedonistic serial killer". Lust, thrill and comfort drive the hedonistic serial killer. The last type of serial killer is the "power/control serial killer". The power/control serial killer is motivated by the need for power and dominance (Holmes, 2000).

- Though their crimes may be sickening, they are not sick in either a medical or legal sense. Instead, the serial killer is typically a sociopathic personality who lacks internal control, guilt or conscience to guide his own behavior but has an excessive need to control and dominate others. He definitely knows right from wrong, definitely realizes he has committed a sinful act, but simply doesn't care about his human prey" (Levin and Fox, 1985).

- For "the serial killer, the motivation is not one of only money or power. The serial killer is simply motivated to kill, as you or I need water, the serial killer NEEDS to kill" (Serial Killers, Online, 2000).

- Levin and Fox (1985) found that a murderer is trying to feel superior over the victim and triumph or conquer by destruction (Levin & Fix, 1985).

- Egger (1985) has noted that the motivational factor of a serial killer seems to be consistent with research on the nature of rape (Egger, 1985)

- Leyton identifies deprivation as a provocation for the multiple murderers' frustration.
Leyton has also argued that multiple murders are a "kind of sub-political and conservative protest, which nets the killer a substantial social profit ofrevenge, celebrity, identity and sexual relief' (Leyton, 1986, p.26).

- Wilson (1972) would agree with Leyton: "Ifman is deprived of meanings beyond his everyday routine, he becomes disgusted and bitter, and eventually violent. A society that provides no outlet for man's idealist passions is asking to be torn apart by violence"

- Dr Helen Morrison, who examined John Gacy for 800 hours feels the serial killer is a new personality type (Berger, 1984).(p.233).

- Theories regarding inadequate socialization and childhood trauma are often found in homicide literature as a possible causal factor of serial murder. Starr (1972) theorizes that human cruelty may be connected to the development of a serial murderer (Starr, 1972).
Willie found the most common feature of the family background of serial murderers to be violent punishing practice inflicted upon the child ( Willie, 1975). Other literature has identified the existence of an unusual or unnatural relationship with the serial killer's mother (Lunde, 1996).
Ressler (1984) found that a number of serial murderers had been fascinated with law enforcement.

- In classifying serial murder four basic questions must be asked, which focuses upon looking at the behavioral background ofthe perpetrator, exploring the characteristics of the victims, examining the pattern of killing and method used and finally the location of the serial murders. The behavioral background examines three major root sources of criminal behavior to include biogenic, sociogenic and psychogenic. Motives can also be extrinsic in that the motives to kill are located outside the individual psyche or intrinsic when the motives are in the psyche of the killer.

- Holmes and DeBurger (1988) examine the social cultural background of
known serial murderers in the United States. There are two basic sociocultural sources that are important to the origins ofmulticidal behavior. One ofthese
includes the persistent culture of violence in today's society that is occupied by continuous change in the nature of society-individual relations. The other significant factor is in the impact of violence in early development in a family setting ( Holmes & De Burger, 1988).

- The Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1985 completed an exhaustive study that found that most serial killers spent their childhood in unhealthy, uncaring and
abusive homes (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 1985). The study also found that family histories of serial murderers highlighted multiple problems to include
alcohol and drug abuse. The study found that most ofthe murderers evaluated had a weak attachment to their family members, and that there was present a parent whom suffered from problems of substance abuse, criminality and aberrant sexual behaviors. A common theme among all the murderers was a childhood with the absence ofthe development of self worth. Fantasy was also a common theme among these murderers as often being isolated they turned to fantasy to escape their unpleasant environment (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 1984).

- Sears goes on to examine other personality traits that appear to be common among serial murderers. The absence ofthe presence of a loving and nurturing relationship with parents creates great difficulties in developing and maintaining meaningful relationships. The absence of meaningful relationships also impacts the aspect of sexual relationships. Often exposed to abuse and neglect as children, these murderers becomes fascinated with fantasy related to sex and violence. An obsession with pornographic materials acts as an aid for a serial murderer to construct a sexual relationship on his mind.

- The serial murderer may appear to be very normal often pleasant and amiable. There is often the absence of any overt mental illness. Serial murderers
have been found to be usually quite intelligent. Research has found the IQ level of such serial murderers as Ted Bundy, JohnWayne Gacy and Wayne Williams ranged
between 118 and 124. In both an academic and professional life, serial killers tend to be most successful and promising. Examples such as John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy are often cited. John Wayne Gacy was a very successful businessman and Ted Bundy was an up and coming attorney.

- Sears concludes his brief overview of the profile of a serial killer by stating "the serial killer is obviously a distinctive and extremely dangerous criminal". He possesses a superficial charm, whereby he may effectively mimic appropriate socially approved behavior in any given setting, but behind this carefully constructed facade he exhibits no genuine feelings and is insensitive to the welfare ofothers" (Sears, 1991).

- In examining the psychological explanations of serial murder the most predominant theory is he suffers from an antisocial personality disorder. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder display the following characteristics: superficial charm, intelligence, absence of delusions or irrational thinking, lack of nervousness, unreliable, untruthful, and insincere, exhibits poor judgment and fails to learn from experiences, pathogenic egocentricity and incapable of love. The antisocial personality disorder or psychopath is common among serial killers. A serial killer often engages in related criminal acts, experiences anxiety and tension, but experiences no guilt or remorse for his actions.

- In examining the sociological explanations for the existence of serial killers,
Sears makes the opening statement that "environmental factors are perhaps the most influential and very often a permanent affect in the shaping of the later development of a child" (Sears, 1991). Sears identifies seven aspects ofthe sociological explanations to include childhood deprivation, intense frustration, need for power, undercontrolled or overcontrolled behavior, excitement ofthe hunt, societal roles and media influence and pornography.

- It has been theorized that emotional deprivation combined with other environmental factors or damage to the inhibitive centers of the brain can account for the development ofpsychopathy.

- A serial murderer may commit murders in part because a build up of intense frustrations. This frustration buildup theory is similar to the psychodynamic theory developed by Freud. A buildup from birth creates aggressive energy. This energy is generally released in small amounts periodically. Ifnot released it can cause an explosion ofviolent behavior. Frustration can also develop from failed interpersonal contacts, school, military or employment.

- The third aspect of sociological explanations involved a need for power. This is one ofthe basic themes that have prevailed through most serial murderers. The serial murderer seeks a sense of power and control that his life seems to lack. He achieves this power and control by killing others.

- The fourth aspect of sociological explanations involved undercontrolled and overcontrolled behavior. The undercontrolled individual tends to have limited ability to control aggressive behaviors and often engages in violence. This type of individual when frustrated responds by use of aggression. The overcontrolled individual conversely learns to suppress aggression. This individual tends to build up aggression and frustration until one day a small and insignificant event causes a violent and explosive reaction.

- The fifth aspect of sociological explanations includes the excitement of the hunt. This aspect postulates that it is not the murder itself that motivates the crime of a serial murderer, but instead it is the exhilaration felt by the serial killer as he stalks his victim.

- The sixth aspect of sociological explanations includes societal roles. This theory proposes that the serial killer's actions portray the roles that society has assigned to man and women. Men are to be strong, powerful and unemotional. Women are to be weak and submissive. A serial killer looks to maintain society's roles by acting out what he perceives are expected of him.

- The seventh and final aspect of the sociological explanations proposed by Sears includes media influence and pornography. Researchers have completed numerous studies, which have correlated media violence and aggression. 'Thus, violence in the media does play a role in the short-term aggression exhibited by serial murderers as well as the general public" (Sears, 1991). Pornography is now also being linked to serial murderers. Often lacking interpersonal relationships, serial murderers develop an insatiable appetite for pornographic materials. Researchers believe that a serial murderer derives his ideas about torture and domination from the submissive roles he sees women and children play in this pornographic material.

- A biological aspect examined looks at levels oftestosterone and serotonin. It has been found that when testosterone levels are high and serotonin levels are low it tends to lead to increased aggression and sadistic behavior
according to Scott (Scott, 2000).

- Genetics have taught us that the nervous system of a psychopath varies from a normal person's. Psychopaths tend to need higher levels of stimulation and thus they seek dangerous situations. This thrill seeking leads a lot of serial killers to become police officers.

- The psychopath sees the victim as a symbolic object. Psychopaths are generally completely out of touch with reality, but seem to know what is right and wrong in society. Psychopaths are smooth talkers often well versed in psychology and skilled at manipulating evaluators. Serial killers who are psychopathic often blend into society.

- most commonly quoted factor of the making of a serial killer has been exposure to violence. Ed Gein, among others, witnessed the slaughter of farm animals as a child. Not every traumatic experience can lead a child to become a serial killer. But how much is too much. Research has not been able to provide us with a clear-cut answer. One serial killer, Albert Fish ( Bettemann) points a finger of blame at a Washington, D.C. Orphanage. Other serial killers have pointed a finger of blame at reform schools, jails and prisons. Reform school and jails in the 19th century often had stories told of sadistic guards and medieval punishments. Does violence in a confined setting create more violence?

- According to the The first Sociological theory (contributing to the explanation of serial killers), related to structural/functionalist approaches: The origins of this theory can be taken from the 1965 work of Durkheim who theorized that deviance and crime is the result of a breakdown in a social consensus regarding society goals and values. (Mitchell, 1996). The serial killer finds himself to be an outcast in society and unable to meet the goals and values of the society as a whole. The serial killer becomes helpless and turns to violence as outlet (Mitchell, 1996).

- Mitchell next looks at the strain theory, which was first developed by Merton in 1968. The strain theory much like Durkheim's theory looks at the fact that social end and means to achieve them are learned behaviors. Some people have high aspirations and others do not. The cultural norm presents a goal of achievement and success. Some individuals within society lack the abilities to achieve that societal goal of achievement and success. These individuals thus feel the "strain" of society. In order to feel a sense of accomplish goals may be reached through illegitimate means. For the serial killer these goals and achievements are reached through killing (Mitchell, 1996).

- According to the subculture Theory: Serial killers who have grown up in an environment filled with domestic violence and physical abuse may view violence as a more "natural" environment. This creates a subculture where violence is an acceptable action that is not viewed as morally wrong (Mitchell, 1996).

- Researchers theorize that violent behavior is often learned in the context of gender roles. Media, family and peer groups teach the differential roles of the genders. Males are taught to "take" and strive for power and women are taught to be passive and subservient. It is clear that serial murder itself is not socialized, but certainly the important precursors, such as violence and power are often socialized (Mitchell, 1996).

- Mitchell has theorized that serial murder represents an "ideological breakage". He explains it as a type of disruption in the status quo (Mitchell, 1996). Leyton has theorized that serial murder may even be a form of social protest (Leyton, 1986).

- The ninth theory examined by Mitchell involves a theory related to glorification. The media has helped contribute to society's intense interest in serial murder.

- The final theory examined by Mitchell looks at the role religion plays in the concept of serial murder. There is a great deal of debate as too how much or how little influence religion plays in serial murder. In the visionary serial killer, God may be telling him to kill. In cases such as Manson, Lucas and Ramirez there was a satanic cult link.

- A psychiatric approach examined by Mitchell includes multi personality disorder. The symptom of dissociation (the lack of integration of thoughts, feelings and experiences into consciousness) is often observed in serial killers. It is unclear as to whether this dissociation is an ongoing symptom or connected to commission of the offense. Bundy often talked about his crimes in the third person. It is not clear as to whether this was a legal ploy or a symptom of mental illness.

- Another psychiatric approach examined by Mitchell includes neurotic disorders. Mitchell quotes Hirose(1979) in associating homicidal behavior with depression. Research has shown that serial killers tend to display higher scores in psychoticism and neuroticism on inventories than other subjects. In the past research mood has not been viewed as a major contributor in serial murder (Mitchell, 1996).

- Sexual dysfunction is often reported by serial murderers, but is that so unusual based on the fact that serial murderers have often become isolative and lack the experience of socialization?

- Studies have found a prevalence of substance abuse as high as 50% in serial murderers (e.g. Dietz, 1990). Sears has reported that in interviews he has had with known serial killers the report of drug and alcohol use is high. It is believed that drugs and alcohol may be more likely to be incidental to serial murder (Sears, 1991).

- Mitchell lastly examines the biological explanations of serial murder. Mitchell looks at five biological aspects that may lead to an explanation of serial murder. The first explanation looks at the evolutionary and ethological approaches. For centuries man has sought to achieve power and control from the early days of the caveman to present day. Society reinforces this evolutionary belief through providing rewards for dominance and power. Power has often been gained through violence. Males have evolved to be effective users of violence to gain dominance and control. This very simple explanation is explained the rare existence of a female serial killer and the over abundance of male serial killers (Mitchell, 1996).

- The next biological aspect examined by Mitchell included the biochemical approaches. Research has shown speculation about the role of serotonin in aggressive behavior. An excess amount of serontonin may play a role in the offense of serial murder. Hormonal factors may also play a role in serial murder. Androgens such as male testosterone may have a direct influence on the brain making a particular behavioral response.

- By far the most startling research related to the development of the criminal mind of a serial killer lies within a theory postulated by Dr. Herbert Strean and Lucy Freeman. In their book "Our Wish to Kill", Strean and Freeman theorize that the instinct or murder can lurk in all ofour psyches and that some people can control those urges better than others. An example of that would be a situation in which you get angry with your spouse, partner or children and you blurt out the comment, "and you make me so angry I could just kill you". Could you really kill that person? It is certainly startling to think that you could actually commit the act of murder, but how many times have we learned of the tragedy of murder and perhaps known directly or indirectly the murderer and questioned how that person could have committed the crime of murder. Research literature simply can't answer that question. Murder and especially serial murder has been a crime that psychologists have been unable to explain....

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