Identifying serial killers is difficult, because crime scenes of serial murders may contain bizarre and unusual features. Each murderer may have different motives, and the behavior of serial killers may change over time. Moreover, the behavior of each serial killer may also change between subsequent murders. Therefore, it is often hard to pinpoint a single motive when more than one offender is involved. However, a killer’s behavior at each crime scene should be used to classify them.
In a study published in 1997, Gil Carrillo, a detective in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, caught the so-called Hillside Strangler, comprised of two cousins, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono Jr. The pair terrorized the Los Angeles area in the late Seventies, rapping, tortured, and killing ten women. The study’s findings confirmed what many people suspected: these killers were not only men, but also women.
The use of media in a serial murder investigation can be detrimental to the investigation. Public appearances of the suspect can cause the murderer to gain further media attention and contribute to the public’s mistrust of law enforcement. Moreover, it can also taint a potential jury pool. The appearance of the serial killer in the media may affect their behavior. After all, a serial killer is unlikely to differentiate between a talking head and a murderer.
The FBI defines a serial killer as a person who kills at least three people in a short period of time. These murders must be separated by periods of at least 30 days. However, a serial killer is different from a mass murderer, who kills four or more people in one day. Usually, they kill strangers and do it for thrills. And they do so for the sheer enjoyment of killing. You can see why these criminals are so dangerous.
The most notorious serial killers of all time have a long list of victims. Some of these killers include: Robert Maudsley (convicted of killing 21 children while robbing a high-security hospital in 1978), Yavuz Hertogs (1949), and Yusuf Khemroo. All of these criminals were not medical practitioners and were sentenced to varying degrees of life imprisonment. This makes them the most frightening.
Serial killers often target people they believe are the most vulnerable to social rejection. In addition to being victims of a murder, they are also often victims of a wider cultural category of denigration. In general, all societies have distinct structures of symbolic denigration. Because of this, these groups are disproportionately targeted by serial killers. For example, vagrants, homeless people, migrant workers, homosexuals, and prostitutes are commonly targeted by serial killers.
Once the murder is complete, many serial killers experience a depressive phase, characterized by an attempt to collect the “trophy” of their crimes. They may keep photographs, news clippings, and parts of their victims’ bodies. Some may even eat and wear these items, reliving memories of their victims. Throughout this stage, they may attempt to medicate themselves with alcohol or drugs. Ultimately, this is a ritual reenactment of the killer’s childhood experiences.