Boyle and Reburn (2015) define a serial killer as a person who was, or is, actively involved in the death of more than three persons. Many serial killers have been described to have psychological problems that in turn give them the desire to kill. Pratt (2013) also adds that such killers do not take much time between the murders, and it is possible to find a serial killer who murders three people every month. The scholar adds that such killers are very calculating even in their state of mental illness. Additionally, serial killers also take breaks after their rampant killings (Boyle & Reburn, 2015). These breaks have been linked to a critical thinking period to either celebrate what has been achieved or come up with new ways of killing. There have been a lot of debates on whether serial killers can work in groups. Many are of the opinion that serial killers can work in groups, and it is these groups that are then termed as cults. This essay looks at the modern serial killer in American society. It highlights the characteristics, motives, and types of serial killers that are known so far. The graph below shows the killer versus decade ratio. The aim of the table is to highlight years, which the US society was mired with serial killers. However, the table only focuses on black serial killers.
Black Serial Killers
One of the most common features of modern serial killers is psychological abuse during childhood (Boyle & Reburn, 2015). Boschken (2014) explains that people who are tortured when they are children tend to be very defensive, especially if the individual in question did not have anyone stand up for them while they were being tortured. Such children grow up resenting a particular type of individuals who represent the image he or she has of the person that tortured him or her. For example, if his or her father tortured the child, she might grow up resenting anyone that looks like the father, or anyone that has similar characteristics to the father. In the same breath, Pratt (2013) argues that the psychological torture might also damage the child’s self-esteem such that they keep to themselves and devise ways of retaliating. The example of Ronald Dominique can be used to elaborate further. Dominique was convicted in 2008 for having conducted several murders for a period of ten years. His victims were mainly gay men. The trial revealed that Dominique was gay, but had received a lot of backlash in his younger years because of this. He explained that he would go into gay bars and pick his victims who would agree to have sex for money. It is interesting to note that many of his victims refused his deals, and this is when he would jump them, tie them up, rape and strangle them.
Another characteristic that has been identified among the modern serial killers is a sexually stressful childhood. This involves things like childhood rape and even just childhood mishandling. For instance, Anthony Kirkland, who is currently apprehended, was found guilty of murdering five people. Kirkland started his murdering spree after killing his girlfriend and setting her body on fire. He also set the bodies of all his other victims on fire to seal evidence of rape. During the trial, it was revealed that Kirkland had been sexually abused when he was small, and that his mother had not done anything to stop the violence.
Boschken (2014) also reveals that there are serial killers who live off fantasies. This means that they either try to copy one of the serial killers they admire or they come up with their ways of killing other people. In the first scenario, the killers are termed copycats, and they are usually fanatics of serial killers. They mainly identify with one serial killer, and they kill their victims, in the same way, their ‘idol’ did. For the second scenario, many such killers have been linked to expressing weird and murderous intentions towards animals. For example, they strangle and beat up their pets and so forth.
Boschken (2014) argues that the characteristics of modern serial killers and the ones in the past were very similar. They all have gone through some horrific event in their life, especially in childhood, and so killing people is a way of acting out, and proving that they are strong. In addition, regardless of the era of the killings, serial murders often kill people they do not like. For some it would be because these people remind them of other people they do not like, while for others it would be that the people they kill remind them of themselves, and things about themselves that they do not like.
Motives and Types of Serial Killers
Boschken (2014) explains that there are very many motives for serial killers. Despite many arguing that serial killers are mentally challenged people, they are also very calculating and in many cases pick their victims according to a particular criterion. Pratt (2013), however, adds that a modern serial killer does not necessarily have to be driven by just one motive. In addition, unlike in the past where serial killers used one motive for all their victims, the modern serial killer can have a different motive for each killing he or she makes. The scholar explains that when determining the motives of modern serial killers also do not give a direct link to the killer. This is because the motive might not have anything to do with the life of the serial killer, unlike before, but even something that the killer saw somewhere. A hypothetical example can be used to explain further: A man sees a woman burning the hands of her daughter as a form of punishment. The ordeal has been going on for several months and at times the woman throws the daughter out to sleep in the cold. The man sympathizes with the girl and the next time he sees the ordeal, and he stops the mother. The woman does not, however, stop and this angers the man such that he goes into their house and beats the woman to death. The man then kills all other women who mistreat their children. In such a scenario, the motive does not tie the killer to the crime because he was never beaten and tortured by his parents, and he also does not have a child.
Despite the difficulty in identifying and even using motives to capture the modern serial killer, law enforcement has come up with several categories that make up the types of serial killers in the US community. Thus, the types of serial killers include the angry, the criminally minded, the self-minded, the sexual, and the psychopaths (Lester & White, 2014).
The angry serial killer is one who is using murder as a way to vent out their anger. These are the types that also kill violently and pick their victims in accordance with the person who made them angry. On the other hand, the criminal minded serial killer is a person who kills and steals from the people he or she has killed. In these cases, one might realize that the criminal minded serial killer also wants to show power over the victim. The self-minded serial killer kills to make himself or herself feel better. For instance, there are serial killers who have killed because they were told they are not as beautiful as someone else. In such cases, the killer then targets people who look like the individual who was identified as the most beautiful. On the other hand, the sexual serial killer is one that also rapes his or her victims. These killers often want to express power, or they might have also been sexually abused when they were younger. It is crucial to point out that the most common sexual serial killers also kill their girlfriends or boyfriends, for one reason or another. Last but not least is the psychopath serial killer. Boschken (2014) explains that this type of killer uses fantasies to kill. Often, such killers are proud of their work and some even leaving signature marks on their victims. Of all the types of serial killers mentioned, it is only the psychopath killer who will also take souvenirs from the bodies of his or her victims.
Psychopathy in Modern Serial Killings
All through the essay, the issue of psychopathy has been hinted at and related to serial killings. The state of the mind of the serial killers has on more than one occasion been determined to be abnormal. Many have pleaded guilty to insanity, and even though they have been arrested, they have also been taken through mental health care programs.
Pratt (2013) argues that psychopathy is the most common trait of serial killers; regardless of the era they committed their crimes. However, for the modern serial killers, the psychosis experienced appears to be on a much unique level compared to the killers of the past. Pratt (2013) argues that serial killers in the past suffered from a psychosis that was direct. This means that it was a mental condition that grew inside them. It was very unlikely to get copycats in the past, as the serial killers were genuinely sick. However, many modern serial killers copy the past, meaning that they do not have the exact mental condition that made the original killer kill. This is, however, not to mean that modern serial killers are of sound mind.
When discussing psychopathy in modern serial killings, it is also crucial to exploit the possibility of social evils that lead to the psychopathy. Boschken (2014) asserts that all psychopathic tendencies that end up creating a being who believes that his or her sole purpose in life is to kill an event or activity cause others, and not born in the person lie other psychopathic conditions.
Many have argued that lack of remorse among the serial killers is a show of psychopathy. Pratt (2013) adds that psychopathy also involves a mixture of charm, manipulation, and intimidation; for instance, many modern killers lure their victims to their death. They appear charming, intelligent and civilized. It is only until the victim gives them time when they strike. Additionally, it has also been argued that modern serial killers rarely target their family members, including the people who were, for example, abusive to them. The psychosis in this is that the person wants to mentally torture the person who is blamed for the events that occurred in the life of the killer. Boyle and Reburn (2015) assert that modern serial killers have also portrayed a prowess in mental torture as compared to physical torture. These killers mentally torment their victims, and at times the families of their victims before they kill them.
The graph below shows the killing methods most preferred by modern serial killers. As can be noted, the use of guns is more prevalent. After the mental torture, quick death is preferred.
Despite the differences between modern and other serial killers, the two groups have some similarities particularly in relation to psychosis. One such similarity is that they all have some form of mental illness regardless of severity. Additionally, both groups also express their interests in a group of people with similar characteristics. Indeed, there are isolated cases where law enforcers have failed to identify one common trait among the victims.
In conclusion, serial killers despite the era of active killings all suffer from one type of mental illness or another. A majority of these killers will, however, lack any form of remorse for their victims. Despite the similarities, modern serial killers in the US have cultured several different characteristics. For instance, they depend more on mentally torturing the victim before killing them as compared to the physical torture the victims of the past went through. In addition, the modern serial killers also do not rely on just one motive for killing unlike in the past. They can harbor several motives, such that each murder has a different motive.
Boyle, K., & Reburn, J. (2015). Portrait of a serial killer. Feminist Media Studies, 15(2), 192-207
Boschken, J. (2014). Serial killers: Organization or disorganization changes over time. College of St. Elizabeth Journal of the Behavioral Sciences, 1-21
Lester, D., & White, J. (2014). A study of African American serial killers. Journal Of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 12(4), 308-316
Pratt, H. J. (2013). Why serials are killer. Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, 71(3), 266-270
Viglione, S. (2013). 9 grim facts about serial killers you wish you never knew. Life Analytics. Web.