PROFILING SERIAL KILLERS
"God would not have set a punishment like me upon you unless you deserved it" (Genghis Khan)

  Sometimes "classifying" the "types" of serial offenders is a futile exercise, but other times it is not. Those who consider this classification stage of analysis unnecessary are usually those who: (a) advocate inductive (non-FBI) methods; or (b) find that there no hard-core, statistical validity or reliability can be derived from classification.  Godwin (1998) and Canter et al. (2004) are representative of those who consider typological classification to be useless.  Nonetheless, FBI methods of classifying the basic "types" of offenders have existed since 1974 for good reasons, and this approach to "understanding types" is the most frequently encountered source of information about profiling on the Internet (see History of FBI Criminal Profiling; Wikipedia Entry on FBI Method of Profiling) Douglas, Ressler, Burgess & Hartman (1986) recount successful use of the method, best explained in Ressler, Burgess & Douglas (1992), as having value for narrowing down, early on in an investigation, a possible list of suspects quickly sorted by psychological "indicators," much like the DSM-IV checklists used in counseling psychology (Douglas, Burgess & Ressler 1997).  One of the more controversial topics with this FBI method involves the categories of "disorganized" or "organized."  Not only is there debate over whether these terms have any utility, there is debate over whether these two categories are a typology, a dichotomy, or a continuum (Turvey 1999).  Essentially, they are substitute terms for psychotic (disorganized) and psychopathic (organized).  It is also possible to admit they are watered-down psychiatric terms for the benefit of law enforcement training.  Most of all, they are generalizations, not conclusions.  An offender, so categorized, only "tends to" have the characteristics associated with their type.  No magical capture of the offender is expected from use of this typology.  

    The elements of the disorganized/organized typology are somewhat modified and adapted by Holmes & Holmes (2009).  Understandably, there is a certain looseness in the typology which allows modification, but modification in the direction of increased usefulness is always good.  One usually brings to a typology their knowledge, experience, and criminological insight.  In fact, within the field of criminology, a similar distinction is often made between asocial (disorganized) and nonsocial (organized) offenders (Harris 1988).  In this distinction, the labels "asocial" and "nonsocial" can be said to refer to whether a person is a loner because of weirdness or by choice.  While the FBI sourced the typology upon interviews with convicted serial killers, the typology can also be seen as containing an implicit theory of interpersonal (socio-emotional) development, as most criminological typologies do in this regard, seeing offenders as caught up in the problem of having to change a pattern of dysfunctional behavior (a fantasy-reenactment cycle, as profilers put it).  Further commentary and/or caveats could go on ad nauseam, but it is time to start discussing the actual typology.  Its full format is as follows:

THE DISORGANIZED/ORGANIZED SERIAL KILLER TYPOLOGY

DISORGANIZED, ASOCIAL OFFENDERS

ORGANIZED, NONSOCIAL OFFENDERS

IQ below average, 80-95 range

IQ above average, 105-120 range

socially inadequate

socially adequate

lives alone, usually does not date

lives with partner or dates frequently

absent or unstable father

stable father figure

family emotional abuse, inconsistent

family physical abuse, harsh

lives and/or works near crime scene

geographically/occupationally mobile

minimal interest in news media

follows the news media

usually a high school dropout

may be college educated

poor hygiene/housekeeping skills

good hygiene/housekeeping skills

keeps a secret hiding place in the home

does not usually keep a hiding place

nocturnal (nighttime) habits

diurnal (daytime) habits

drives a clunky car or pickup truck

drives a flashy car

needs to return to crime scene for reliving memories

needs to return to crime scene to see what police have done

may contact victim's family to play games

usually contacts police to play games

no interest in police work

a police groupie or wanabee

experiments with self-help programs

doesn't experiment with self-help

kills at one site, considers mission over

kills at one site, disposes at another

usually leaves body intact

may dismember body

attacks in a "blitz" pattern

attacks using seduction into restraints

depersonalizes victim to a thing or it

keeps personal, holds a conversation

leaves a chaotic crime scene

leaves a controlled crime scene

leaves physical evidence

leaves little physical evidence

responds best to counseling interview

responds best to direct interview

EXAMINATION OF THE COMPONENTS

    Looking closely at many of the generalizations within the typology, some of them may seem obvious and others non-obvious.  What usually helps when encountering a non-obvious generalization is to return to (or move up) to a previous generalization.  It is also helpful to keep in mind some generalizations which can be made about the most general headings in the typology, as follows:

DISORGANIZED, ASOCIAL OFFENDERS

ORGANIZED, NONSOCIAL OFFENDERS

    With the words "disorganized" and "organized" and "asocial" and "nonsocial", the latter set of words, "asocial" and "nonsocial" refer primarily to a set of ideas closely related to the history of prisoner classification systems.  These ideas include the notions of Rehabilitative Potential, Interpersonal Maturity, I-levels, Social Competence, and others.  Of these, Quay's IM concept is most relevant because it specifically predicted institutional adjustment on the basis of being unsocial, asocial, antisocial, or prosocial.  The Morgantown, WV model later cut these down to unsocialized, undersocialized, and oversocialized.  Modern classification systems still maintain a remnant of these ideas in aggressive, general population, and nonaggressive (protective custody).  Offenders who are observed to be alone because they are inexperienced and lack basic social skills (weirdness) are regarded as "asocial" in other ways (note that asocial is not the same as antisocial).  Offenders who are observed to be alone out of choice and preference for solitary confinement are regarded as "nonsocial" in other ways.  If we connect these terms with inadequate socialization -- one of the most frequently cited variables in criminology -- i.e., "asocial" with undersocialized and "nonsocial" with unsocialized, then we can also make inferences about the abnormality of the offender's upbringing via the usual broken home literature (Wells & Rankin 1991).

    Now, let's consider the words "disorganized" and "organized" which are considered a false dichotomy by some (Turvey 1999).   It's true that these terms were oversimplifications made for the benefit of law enforcement by FBI profilers such as John Douglas, but there are important differences between a psychotic individual with a diagnosable mental illness and a psychopathic individual with only a character disorder. These differences can be inferred from facts about the crime, or from crime scene characteristics.  A "disorganized" (psychotic, mentally ill) individual is inferred from a chaotic, lots of evidence left behind, disorganized crime scene. An "organized" (psychopathic, knows right from wrong but shows no remorse) individual is inferred from a controlled, planned, premeditated, little evidence left behind, organized crime scene.

WEAKNESSES AND STRENGTHS OF THE TYPOLOGY

    It should be noted that many have pointed out the following weaknesses of the disorganized and organized approach: (1) most crime scenes have mixed characteristics displaying both disorganized and organized characteristics, although Douglas (1998) states that "mixed" ought to be reserved for cases of interrupted offenses; (2) the focus on amount of evidence left behind ignores the context of the situation; (3) the typology has an inherent bias in favor of disorganized for crimes motivated by hate, anger, or domestic strife as well as those committed while heavily under the influence of alcohol and drugs; (4) psychotic is not the polar opposite of psychopathy; (5) the mental condition of a serial offender can deteriorate (Bundy) as well as improve (sadism) over a criminal career, thus the typology ignores this evolution; (6) signature (why) characteristics are overlooked in favor of M.O. (how) characteristics; and (7) the typology presumes the ability to diagnose mental illness without the benefit of clinical interviews.

    In defense of the disorganized and organized approach, the following points can be made: (1) there is a long line of sociology and criminology, starting with pre-Shaw & McKay social disorganization ideas, continuing through the work of the so-called social pathologists, and most recently in the broken windows (decay, disorder, and incivilities) approach to community policing that supports the making of inferences between disorganization of the scene (macro) and that of individuals (micro), so it's all about context; (2) the more important part of the typology is to point to the degree of personality aberration, not the ability to "read" crime scenes and make medical diagnoses, thus whether the typology points to M.O. or signature is irrelevant; (3) there is sufficient evidence (Waldo & Dinitz 1967) that criminologists have been making medical diagnoses for many years,  Yablonsky (1966) for example, characterized the leaders of gangs as psychopaths without actually having met a gang leader, Sutherland (1937) drew generalizations about the psychology of all criminals from a sample size of one (Chic Conwell), and modern psychometry, aptitude and academic testing all presume the ability to make diagnoses without the benefit of clinical interviews; and (4) the whole thrust of criminological usage of terms like "psychopath" (McCord 1983) and related concepts is all about evolution (deterioration or improvement) of mental state, as is clearly evident in the Cambridge-Somerville and other cohort studies (McCord & McCord 1959), thus they are not immutable labels or "profiles" being arbitrarily slapped on people.

INTELLIGENCE AND OTHER FACTORS

  Lots of progress has been made in neuroscience lately, and one doesn't have to be a hardcore bio-criminologist to believe, as C. Ray Jeffery always said, "I don't understand how you can explain criminal behavior without talking about the brain."  So, forget about brain dysfunction for a moment (the idea that getting dropped on the head as a child causes one to become a serial killer is a myth) and simply look at the components of intelligence, as follows:

IQ below average, 80-95 range

IQ above average, 105-120 range

    The study of IQ is controversial. It's calculated by dividing the score on a paper and pencil test by someone's chronological age and multiplying the quotient by 100. What it measures is a validity question, and some would say it's skill, competence, brightness, or cultural literacy, but these debates are about as insightful as discovering that age really measures experience. In psychology, there are two approaches to the study of intelligence: the g-factor approach (followers of Spearman) which posits a horizontal intelligence that cuts across all abilities (this is the approach taken in works like The Bell Curve); and the multiple intelligence approach (followers of Thurstone, like Howard Gardner) which posits at least 7 different types of intelligence (linguistic, logico-math, spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal).  Analysis of the multiple intelligence approach is beyond the scope of the discussion here, so we'll focus instead on a g-factor approach.  Students of IQ testing should be familiar with the following chart:

0-20 Profoundly Retarded
21-35 Severely Retarded
36-50 Moderately Retarded
51-70 Mildly Retarded
70-90 Slow Learner
90-110 Average
110-120 Superior
120-140 Very Superior
140-180 Gifted
180- Genius

    There's an area of criminology that can be called the "Mental Deficiency" school of thought.  In it would be included the old "pedigree" studies of The Jukes and The Kallikaks by Dugdale and Goddard as well as the modern Learning Disabilities literature (the LD-JD connection).  There's also some fairly well known averages of IQs in the incarcerated offender population (about 75 over the years) as opposed to the more successful, ABLE offenders (about 115 according to some studies).  Let's start with the study of "feeblemindedness" (anything under 75), a term created by Goddard and the basis for the American Eugenics movement of 1907-1937.  Literally, thousands of immigrants to Ellis Island (mostly Irish) were taken aside by "spotters" (looking for things like glassy receded eyes) and sterilized (under the Johnson-Lodge Act) or registered (under Sexual Psychopath laws).  America's use of feeblemindedness was closely related to the Italian positivist studies of Lombroso.  As abhorrent as all this sounds, it resulted in some very fine baseline data (along with the Army beta tests) where we can safely say that nobody with an IQ below 80 ever becomes a serial offender (other than being duped by others into repeat offending).  The upper limit of 95 for disorganized offenders can safely be said to include a 1.5 or 2.0 standard deviation.  This range represents individuals who have had a more "institutionalized" history and may or may not have been steered into certain occupational trades.

    Organized offenders have higher IQs (often in the superior range) not because they are able to escape apprehension easily, but because of the nature of their psychopathology.  Along with paranoia, most (not all) of the character disorders have the positive characteristic of higher IQ, mostly due to the benefits of perceived self-importance, concern for competence, intensity of concentration, and desire to reality-test their delusions (Turner 1984).  It's the same as saying assertive or narcissistic people tend to have higher IQs.  The number range (105-120) can possibly be derived from a series of studies beginning with the Thorazine revolution of 1954, Ritalin studies for hyperkinesis, and the learning disabilities link with criminal behavior.  In this view, the learning disabled can be like an "idiot savant," bad at doing normal things, but really good at doing evil, wrong things.  Let's look more closely at learning disabilities which are essentially discrepancies between ability and achievement (underachievement and overachievement).  LD occurs in 7-10% of the normal population and 26-73% of the criminal offender population (so there's obviously an LD-crime connection).  One hypothesis is School Failure, that LD causes classroom embarrassments which lead to dropout which leads to crime.  This hypothesis has been the basis for much of American crime control policy, and is known as "vulnerability" in some circles because it puts responsibility on teachers, and assumes pliable students.  Another hypothesis is susceptibility, also called "insulation" in some circles.  The causal chain in this model is that LD causes a personality disorder which leads to crime.  It places responsibility on the students.  Either way, the below average and above average distinction holds.  If we cannot make inferences about brightness from the typology, then we can at least safely make inferences about school history, occupational history, the processing of information, and perhaps even what the person is good and bad at.  Our next component is sociological, as follows:

socially inadequate
lives alone, usually does not date

socially adequate
lives with partner, dates frequently

    This component is a fairly straightforward extension of the ideas associated with "asocial" and "nonsocial."  In the case of the organized offender, there are some additional assumptions relating to relationship patterns, serial monogamy, and infidelity.  These are derived from Cleckley's 1950 sixteen characteristic symptoms of a psychopath, particularly the notion of "superficial charm."  Such offenders are more likely to have needs for a regular sex life and partner, but such relationships are impersonal, trivial, poorly planned, and characterized by unfaithfulness, untruthfulness, and insincerity. Disorganized offenders may also have impersonal and repetitive aspects to their relationships, but given their increased tendency to display mental illness instead of character disorder, they are more likely to live under solitary conditions and not have an ongoing partner abuse and makeup cycle going on. Disorganized offenders are more likely to manifest characteristics from Joel Norris' twenty-one item checklist of episodic aggressive pattern (Norris 1990).  Any introductory reading on antisocial personality would be sufficient to become familiar with this pattern.  The next component involves family factors, as follows:

absent or unstable father
family emotional abuse, inconsistent

stable father figure
family physical abuse, harsh

    To understand these components, it's necessary to delve into Freudian and Neo-Freudian psychology.  The major difference between orthodox Freudian and Neo-Freudian thought is that the former position holds that criminals always want to get caught (so called Freudian slips or guilt complexes) while Neo-Freudians (like Aichorn, Redl & Wineman, and Healy) have always denied the idea of guilt as motivator, explaining that Freud only said transference (unresolved trauma) had a tendency to replay itself in the future.  This neo-Freudian position is more consistent with the generally accepted rejection of guilt and wanting to get caught in the profiling community (Ressler & Shachtman 1992).  Both kinds of Freudian psychology are, of course, extremely concerned with love-hate relationships involving parents and siblings, and it makes little difference whether you start with mother or father as we will see in a moment.  Additional sources for these components come from the fields of criminology and victimology, especially the notions of victimization cycles, abuse reactions, and effects of inconsistent parenting.  There's a further assumption that the disorganized type is more likely to be an active abuser (of perhaps other siblings) in the dynamics of family abuse than the organized type, who is more likely (like the rest of the family members) to be rather passive recipients of the abuse.  This is sometimes taken as saying that sibling history is more important than parental history for the disorganized offender, but that may be an overgeneralization.

    The father (absence of) and siblings play important roles in the disorganized type's family history because of the presumed effects of the "Oedipus complex" (attraction to the opposite sex parent). While girls can have an equivalent "Electra complex", the Oedipus complex in boys is associated with emotional and mental disturbances, not of a psychopathic variety, but having psychotic or escapist overtones.  Healy, in The Individual Delinquent, estimated that besides avoidance, displacement was the most commonly used defense mechanism in 91% of his 105-person sample, 49% came from a broken home, and 40% experienced too much or too little (inconsistent) discipline.  Aichorn, in Wayward Youth, also developed a line of thought connecting father absence with mental illness, crime, emotional abuse, and "love deprivation."

    The mother (with father figure as a given) plays an important role in the organized type's family history because the Oedipus complex is less pronounced (child only develops to anal stage of psychosexual development due to consistent and harsh discipline).  Redl & Wineman, in Children Who Hate, discovered that hatred of mother was an important, if not more important, factor in delinquents who were less psychologically disturbed and tended to use defense mechanisms, like sublimation, which were closer to patterns found in the nondelinquent population.  Students of personality disorders should be familiar with the following defense mechanisms:

sublimation normal, healthy conversion of bad news into silver lining outlook
repression stuffing unwelcome info. into unconscious, withdrawal
reaction-formation doing opposite of what really want, ambivalence, acting-out
projection seeing worst of self in others, making enemies, externalizing
fixation irrational fear that blocks development, anxiety
regression retreat into childhood-like state of wish fulfillment, acting on impulse
displacement settling for second best, something better than nothing, sabotaging

    The next component to be examined is geographical, and although there are many new, modern ways to get a handle on this, the following is what the FBI approach entails:

lives and/or works near crime scene

geographically/occupationally mobile

    It's a known fact of investigative science that, as criminals become more experienced, they gradually expand the territory they operate in.  As they become less confident in their ability, they restrict the area they operate in.  With serial killers, along with improvement in experience also comes the tendency to dump bodies farther away from the abduction site.  This is why if police have a series of unsolved murders all with the same MO, the best thing to do is look at the first crime, because that's usually close to where the offender lives and/or works. "Adaptability and mobility are signs of the organized killer" (Ressler 1992: 132).  Next, the component of news media is examined:

minimal interest in news media

follows the news media

    Both criminology and investigative science tell us that some offenses are crimes of opportunity and others are crimes of planning, although a mix may be possible in many cases.  Usually, those who plan their offenses also crave publicity in the media (Douglas 1998).  Those who seek victims of opportunity have minimal interests in media, and alternatively, have strong "comfort zones" where they stay when they get the urge to kill.  Organized offenders will not only follow the news media but will taunt the police thru it.  The Son of Sam case and many others involved new media manipulation.  The organized type may also be a heavy Internet user.  

usually a high school dropout

may be college educated

    This component is another expression of the School Failure hypothesis discussed earlier under the Learning Disabilities - Juvenile Delinquency connection.  For the organized type, it's important to note that "some college" (not necessarily graduation) may be the norm.

poor hygiene/housekeeping skills
keeps a secret hiding place

good hygiene/housekeeping skills
does not usually keep a hiding place

    The origins of these components have been arrived at inductively from the experiences of investigators who have conducted residential searches.  There's also a tie-in to oral and anal stage development of psychosexuality.  Both types of serial killers will take trophies and souvenirs (more so with the organized type) as part of the post-crime fantasy (reenactment) cycle. The difference is in what they do with these items, the different uses they make of them, and the difference in items taken (Ressler 1992).  The disorganized type may remove a body part, lock of hair, or article of clothing, and have no discernible purpose other than experimentation and masturbation.  The case of Jeffrey Dahmer illustrates a disorganized type offender who tried to keep large items in small boxes, the refrigerator, and elsewhere around the house.  The organized type will take wallets, jewelry, class rings, photos, or drivers licenses primarily as acknowledgements of his accomplishments.  These items will be given to the killer's relatives or friends, instead of being kept at home, because the purpose is when the relative or friend wears the item, only the killer will know the significance.  The case of John Wayne Gacy illustrates an organized type who would dispose of trophies as he saw fit.  Gerard Schaefer, another organized type, donated his trophies to Goodwill.

drives a clunky car or pickup truck

drives a flashy car

    Any type of offender is likely to drive their victim's car for a short while after the murder, but ownership of a car derives from notions about the phallic significance of the type of vehicle.  Disorganized offenders will not care about the visibility of evidence in their vehicle because their state of sexual and mental confusion precludes a image of their vehicle as a sex symbol.  They are more likely to drive something useful for a variety of hauling purposes, like a pickup.  Organized offenders, by contrast, will prefer flashy cars for self-image reasons, but vans, especially customized vans, are also extremely popular with this type.  There's some investigative experience that relates the type of vehicle to how well the offender has perfected his methods.  In this regard, a flashy car would be needed for the seductive or "con" approach typical of the organized offender.

nocturnal (nighttime) habits

diurnal (daytime) habits

    To understand this component, we need to delve into bio-criminology (Fishbein 1990), particularly the areas of metabolism (endocrinology) and brain chemistry (neurotransmitters).  It has long been suspected that glandular and/or hormonal disorders are a cause of crime, and the primary glands are the: (1) hypothalamus, (2) pituitary, (3) thyroid, and (4) adrenal.  How these four glands operate together controls desire for sleep and sex. The hypothalamus resides in the limbic system (the crocodile brain), an area suspected of having a linkage to criminality.  It regulates the organism's survival mechanisms as well as the receptor sites for sensitivity and empathy.  The pituitary communicates with the thryoid and adrenal glands via the same chemicals (TSH & ACTH) that control follicle stimulation and public hair.  The thyroid helps to balance sex hormones but essentially has a feminizing effect. The adrenal also helps balance sex hormones but essentially has a masculinizing effect.  Hyperthyroidism, nervousness, hypersexuality, and gender confusion tend to be associated with glandular configurations consistent with nocturnal habits.  Anger, hostility, and heterosexual sex drive tend to be associated with estrogen/adrogen balances controlled by adrenal gland function which is also associated with diurnal (daytime) habits.  At least one implication of all this is that disorganized types should be interviewed by police at night (perhaps by using a counseling strategy) while organized types should be interviewed during the day (perhaps by using a direct, confrontational strategy).

    Neurotransmitters control the neural pathways in the brain, the "reward" centers, the abilities to feel pleasure and pain.  Studies of skin conductance among convicted criminals show that it takes longer for an electrical charge to travel down their arms, indicating a "serotonic uptake disorder". Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that allows for the ability to reduce pain.  If it's too low, the organism gets violent.  If it's too high, the organism seeks stimulation.  Other important brain chemicals are acetylcholine (which plays a role in alcoholism and other attempt to self-medicate) and dopamine, which allows for the ability to experience pleasure.  It plays a role in schizophrenia and has also been linked to crack addiction.

returns to scene for memories
no interest in police work
may contact victim's family

returns to scene to see police
a police groupie or wannabe
may contact police

    The organized offender is what Douglas (1998) calls a "police buff" who is a cop wannabe that enjoys getting chummy with authorities to (ideally) talk about cases which have been created by the offender.  They may go so far as to become an ambulance driver so that after the kill, they can participate in the crime scene pickup.  Other organized types will try to find and frequent the bars that police go to when off duty.  Disorganized types will typically have none of the interests underlying these kind of behaviors.  There's also a difference in whom the offender chooses to "taunt" (play games with).  A disorganized cannibal killer, for example, may call the victim's family to tell them how delicious their child was while being eaten.  An organized killer might also involve the victim's family (both may show up at the victim's funeral, for example), but they much prefer taunting the police, news media, or justice system.  In fact, the organized type is usually pretty well read on police investigatory procedures, and may even be a criminal justice major at a nearby college.

experiments with self-help programs

doesn't experiment with self-help

    The disorganized offender will be fascinated by self-help programs, particularly those of the Alcoholics Anonymous variety which mix religious elements with the group dynamics of self-improvement.  This type experiments with a lot of changes - in personality, residence, career, and religious beliefs.  They are likely to keep a diary.  It is possible for a disorganized offender to improve their mental state enough that they become an organized offender, but that is not their primary reason.  They experiment out of confusion and a dire need for treating some of the more severe symptoms of psychosis and schizophrenia.  The organized type doesn't have time to experiment.  They need something to help them keep their "edge" so they don't get "sloppy."  They either invent their own program or modify an existing belief system so that it doesn't require group participation.

kills at one site, considers mission over

kills at one site, disposes at another

    One of the trademarks of the planning characteristics of the organized offender is that the "drop zone" is rarely ever the "kill zone" which is also rarely ever the "abduct zone."  The disorganized offender is so characteristic of such little planning that all they have is a "comfort zone."   While both types of offenders are likely to have a script they want their victims to play, the organized offender has rehearsed (and more likely perfected) the script down to the smallest detail.  The body is typically moved in whole or in pieces in order to conceal or advertise, depending upon the organized offender's assessment of what is needed at that given time in the sequence.  It's amazing that, once apprehended, these types of killers can remember almost every exact spot where they dumped some part of their victims.

usually leaves body intact

may dismember body

    Wound pattern analysis (Turvey 1999) reveals some distinct differences between disorganized and organized types of serial killers, and in some ways, between asocial and nonsocial offenders also.  Motive and intent can be inferred from the wounds, and medical examiners are often allowed to opine in court on this matter. The disorganized offender will typically produce a victim with a lot of head and face wounds. The organized offender will typically produce a victim with a lot of body wounds, perhaps going so far as to dismember the body.  It is important to realize that either of these behaviors can be considered "overkill" or "post-mortum" since it's not the location of wounds that determine these particular concepts, but behavioral reactions to victim resistance and refinement or escalation of sexual fantasies.  This component is closely related to our next component:

depersonalizes victim to a thing or it

keeps personal, holds a conversation

    Ressler's (1992) observations, Douglas' (1997) comments, and interview data support the idea that these are signature components.  The signature is a more useful tool for profiling serial killers because it stays the same.  It's the why in the offender's attack. The method of attack is known as the MO, but the MO is not static, it's dynamic, and changing as the offender learns from experience.  It's the how in the offender's attack.  A disorganized offender wants the victim to play a fairly rigid script, perhaps be or act like somebody the offender has known previously.  They will accomplish this end by restraining the whole body in a cage, a pit, or by drugging or blunt force.  The organized offender is interested in using the victim's real name, and allowing some victim-initiated interaction in order to further manipulate, con, and eventually gain pleasure from dashing the victim's hopes that they are having genuine human contact.  They will accomplish this end by restraining only the arms and/or legs of the victim, leaving some of the body free and under personal control.

attacks in a "blitz" pattern
leaves a chaotic crime scene

leaves physical evidence

attacks using seduction
leaves a controlled crime scene
leaves little physical evidence

    These are all components that necessarily follow from a basic distinction between unplanned and planned, and they are some of the least debated distinguishing characteristics of disorganized and organized types. They are easily inferred from crime scene characteristics and are also standard MO features of the two types.

FURTHER REFINEMENT OF THE TWO BASIC TYPES

    Although literature can be found elsewhere, Holmes & Holmes (2009) have probably done the best job of refining or expanding upon the FBI types.  Specifically, they have identified six (6) different subtypes, as follows:

ACT-FOCUSED (quick kill)

1 - THE VISIONARY - hears voices or sees visions that tell him to kill (psychotic), the voices tend to be either God or the devil, legitimating the violence.
2- THE MISSIONARY - goes on hunting "missions" to eradicate a group of people (prostitutes, Jews, etc.) from face of earth, seems like "fine young man" to neighbors.

PROCESS-FOCUSED (slow kill)

3 - THE COMFORT-ORIENTED HEDONIST - takes pleasure from killing, but also gets some profit or personal gain from it. Females usually in this category.
4 - THE LUST-ORIENTED HEDONIST - associates sexual pleasure with murder, sex while killing and necrophilia are eroticized experiences.
5 - THE THRILL-ORIENTED HEDONIST - gets a "rush" or "high" from killing, an elixir of thrills, excitement, and euphoria at victim's final anguish.
6 - THE POWER/CONTROL FREAK - takes pleasure from manipulation and domination (sociopath), experiences a "rush" or "high" from victim's misery.

CRIME SCENE CHARACTERISTICS ASSOCIATED WITH THE SIX TYPES

Characteristic Visionary Missionary Comfort Lust Thrill Power/Control
Controlled crime scene No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Overkill Yes No No Yes No No
Torture No No No Yes Yes Yes
Body moved No No No Yes Yes Yes
Specific victim No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Weapon at scene Yes No Yes No No No
Prior relation to victim No No Yes No No No
Victim known Yes No Yes No No No
Aberrant sex No No No Yes Yes Yes
Weapons of torture No No No Yes Yes Yes
Strangulation No No No Yes Yes Yes
Penile penetration ? Yes Not usually Yes Yes Yes
Object penetration Yes No No Yes Yes Yes
Necrophilia Yes No No Yes No Yes

EXAMPLES OF DIFFERENT TYPES

   One of the more interesting cases of serial killers is Edmund Kemper, also known as "the Co-Ed Killer." He's the big, 6'9" guy in the photo.  He had an IQ measured as high as 146, but never really got to apply his intelligence to anything productive because he was troubled by being fatherless.  He had an interest in law enforcement ("police groupie").  At age 13, he killed his grandmother because he “just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma.“  Six female hitchhiker murders later, he eventually killed his own mother and one of her friends.  He is usually classified as a quite organized serial killer, but aspects of what he did with the bodies afterwards (beheading, sexual mutilation) tend to reveal some disorganized characteristics. Some of these more bizarre characteristics played a role in getting him off the death penalty, but otherwise, he is clearly an organized serial killer (and perhaps the smartest guy in the room at any given time).
   A classic example of the disorganized type is Ed Gein (pictured at right), although technically he isn't even a serial killer because he only has two confirmed kills. However, his "type" is the inspiration for Norman Bates from Pyscho, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. He grew up on a farm with an overbearing mother who died when he was 39, and then he began making clothing and furniture out of body parts (robbed from local graveyards at first). Police eventually raided his home because he was spotted at the scene of a murder, and perhaps the belt made of human nipples or the lampshade drawstring made of human lips were the most grizzly. Police abused him during interrogation, so his confession was thrown out. He spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital for the criminally insance.



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Last updated: Nov. 04, 2012
Not an official webpage of APSU, copyright Megalinks in Criminal Justice
Citation: O'Connor, T. (2012). "Profiling Serial Killers," MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://www.drtomoconnor.com/4050/4050lect04.htm.