The Enduring, Ghoulish Legend of Lizzie Borden

The story of Lizzie Borden has taken on mythical proportions over the years. Despite her acquittal in criminal court in the nineteenth century for the murders of her father and stepmother, Lizzie has always been considered guilty by the public as a result of ghoulish media and cultural representations of her.

Women We Love to Hate—and Why We Hate Them

When a pretty, young, white woman is charged with premeditated murder it creates intense curiosity because their alleged crimes violate sacred norms of gender, race, and even motherhood. Their trials become media events because the public is shocked and outraged by the actions of these norm violating females.

Moral Panic: Who Benefits From Public Fear?

Moral panic is a situation in which public fears and state interventions exceed the objective threat posed by an individual or group who is/are claimed to be responsible for creating it. Central to the concept is an argument that public concern or fear over an alleged social problem is mutually beneficial to state officials, politicians, law enforcement and news media.

Serial Killers: Modus Operandi, Signature, Staging & Posing

FBI profilers examine, among other things, whether a victim’s body was posed to predict whether an unknown offender is an organized or disorganized killer. Organized criminals are meticulous planners, often psychopathic but know right from wrong, not insane and show no remorse. Disorganized criminals are impulsive, irrational, and assault victims in blitz-like attacks.

Diagnosing and Managing Criminal Psychopaths

Criminologists, forensic psychologists and FBI profilers consider psychopathy to be the most important forensic concept of the early twenty-first century. Psychopaths are charming but deadly in their interactions with others. Because of its relevance to law enforcement, corrections, the courts and related fields, the need to understand psychopathy cannot be overstated.

The Birth of Modern Day Criminal Profiling

In the mid-1970s, two supervisory agents with the FBI, John Douglas and the late Robert Ressler, set out to create a centralized computer database where the motives of serial offenders were matched with crime scene information. Their efforts led to modern day criminal profiling.

Is Criminal Profiling a Science, Art or Magic?

Practitioners of profiling share a common goal of analyzing evidence gathered at a crime scene and statements provided by victims and witnesses in order to develop a description of an unknown offender. As conducted by the FBI, criminal profiling is involved in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution phases of the criminal justice process.

Some Serial Killers Commit Murder For Profit

The motivations of serial killers are very diverse. Unlike hedonist lust killers who are motivated by sex or visionary killers who hear voices, comfort/gain killers primarily seek financial gain and an improved quality of life through the act of murder. H.H. Holmes was the early American prototype.

The Suicide-Mass Murder Connection: A Growing Epidemic

Negative and alienating social forces have made suicide the new murder as frustrated and fearful Americans turn their anger onto themselves and take their own lives in unprecedented numbers. These same social forces also explain the sharp rise in mass public shootings as fatalistic individuals increasingly kill themselves and others in catastrophic acts of violent rage.

The Media Made Jodi Arias a Celebrity Monster

Despite all the hype, Jodi Arias is neither a monster nor is she a fallen angel. She is a convicted felon who has taken on criminal celebrity status and cultivated a massive public following due to her appearance, demeanor, and the severity of her crime, which all have been spun and stylized into a caricature by the news media.

The History and Rise of Mass Public Shootings

The U.S. had 26 mass public shootings in 2010, which is the highest number since 1999. There are powerful social forces today that promote mass murder, including financial fears, distrust of government, global terrorism and constant war. These factors have led to alienation, rage and a feeling of powerlessness for many people.

How Mass Murder and Serial Murder Differ

A mass murder often occurs when the perpetrator, who may be deeply troubled, strikes out in a blitz-like attack. Unlike serial killers, mass murderers are often killed at the scene of the crime. They do not plan to escape and kill another day like their serial killer counterparts who are addicted to murder.

Suicide is the New Murder in America

Alienating social forces over the past decade have made suicide the new murder as frustrated and fearful Americans turn their anger onto themselves in unprecedented numbers. Suicide is a tragic and growing epidemic. However, the reality of suicide is invisible to the general public because of the all-American ideology of individualism and Protestant ethic.

Visionary Serial Killers Are Driven By Inner Demons

While most serial killers have an ideal victim they seek out, e.g., white, female prostitutes, visionary killers select their victims seemingly at random based on logic that is indiscernible to either investigators or forensic psychologists. Their murderous agenda is entirely synchronized to their internal madness.

Why Some Women Kill Again and Again.

Sex is much farther down on the list of motivations for female serial killers. Sexual or sadistic motives are extremely rare among females. Instead, female serial murderers tend to take a much more pragmatic approach to their killings, and do so for financial profit or revenge.

Serial Killer Myth #6: They Are All White.

Not all serial killers are white. In fact, serial killers span all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. The racial diversity of serial killers generally mirrors that of the overall U.S. population. A myth that all serial killers are white is routinely fueled and reinforced by the entertainment news media that focus on white offenders who target white, female victims.

Hedonist Lust Killers Must Feed Their Insatiable Hunger

For hedonist lust serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer the act of murder is not an end in itself. They are motivated by the ritual and process of killing. Sex is the primary motivation for hedonist lust killers regardless of whether the victims are alive or dead. Sexual gratification often requires mutilation of their victims, drinking their blood and cannibalism.

Is Criminal Profiling a Science, Art or Magic?

Criminal profiling is a cross between law enforcement and psychology. It is still a relatively new field with few set boundaries or definitions. Professionals who engage in criminal profiling do not always agree on methodology or even terminology. In practice, criminal profiling is involved in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of unknown offenders.

Serial Killer Myth No. 5: All Victims Are Female

Just as not all serial killers are male, not all serial killer victims are female, although females do represent the majority of victims. According to FBI data, women accounted for 70 percent of known victims of serial killers between 1985 and 2010. There are important reasons why serial killers frequently, but not exclusively, target women.

Serial Killers and the Essential Role of Fantasy

In many ways, the key to unlocking the pathological mind of a serial killer lies in the nature or content of his fantasy and how he actualizes it. Driven by obsessive fantasy, serial killers are compelled to murder again and again in order to satisfy their desires. However, the reality of killing never lives up to the perfect excitement of their fantasies.

The Jeffrey Dahmer-Hannibal Lecter Connection

The news media seized upon the cannibalism theme of the Jeffrey Dahmer case in 1991 and created a connection with the fictional Hannibal Lecter from the highly popular film The Silence of the Lambs released earlier that same year. By linking him to Hannibal Lecter, the news media turned Dahmer into a super villain with enduring consumer appeal.

Here’s Why We Love Serial Killers

Why are so many people, including myself, fascinated by serial killers? Highly stylized and pervasive news media coverage of real-life serial killers and their horrible deeds transforms them into what I refer to as celebrity monsters. Serial killers have become the ultimate boogey men in the popular culture.

Serial Killer Myth #4: They Want To Get Caught.

Many people believe that serial killers want to get caught. For the vast majority of serial killers, however, this is simply not true. They love the act of killing far too much. Serial killers gain valuable experience and confidence with each new, successful murder.

The Sociopath-Serial Killer Connection

Any crimes committed by a sociopath will tend to be haphazard or spontaneous. A sociopath who becomes a serial killer will most likely conform to the FBI’s disorganized category of serial predator. Jack the Ripper offers a classic example of the volatile, spontaneous, and disorganized serial killer.

Serial Killer Myth #3: They Are All Men

The news and entertainment media sensationalize the violence perpetrated by male serial killers. Gory tales of atrocity committed by men provide enticing entertainment. However, such depictions do a disservice. Although the graphic images of male serial killers sell countless books and movie tickets, they also perpetuate the myth that all serial killers are demented men.

Psychopathic Criminals Cannot Be Cured

Because they do not respond in a normal fashion to punishment, reward-based treatment seems to work best with psychopathic prisoners. Such management strategies have been used effectively with psychopathic criminals, including serial predators in maximum security prisons.

Serial Killer Myth #2: They’re Dysfunctional Loners

Serial killers are rarely reclusive, social misfits who live alone, despite pervasive depictions of them as such in the news and entertainment media. Disturbingly, serial killers are often married, gainfully employed and live normal looking lives in our very midst.

Why Spree Killers Are Not Serial Killers.

An emotional cooling off period in between murders distinguishes serial killing from spree killing. Otherwise, the two are very similar. However, the emotional cooling off period in serial killing is all-important because it is linked to very different motivations to kill than those found in spree killing.

Self-Defense Training Helps Stop Rape.

Every woman should know how to defend herself. While it is true that men should be taught not to rape, at the same time, women simply cannot count on such training to replace that. It is every woman’s right to protect herself.

When Will We Learn That War is Not The Answer?

President Obama promised a more inclusive U.S. foreign policy—one freed from President Bush’s dangerous us-versus-them ideology. By recognizing the International Criminal Court, President Obama could send a powerful signal to the world that the U.S. is not above international law. For political reasons, however, he will not.  

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