Former FBI agent answers the question, “Are Serial Killers Crazy?”

 

Pete M. Klismet, Jr.

Pete M. Klismet, Jr.

Pete Klismet, Jr., a former FBI profiler, says, no, they are not.  “In talking about serial killers, I’ve heard comments from my college students and police officers in the schools where I continue to teach. “What do you mean they’re not crazy?”  Usually followed closely by, “Don’t they have to be crazy to kill all those people?”  And then, “But if they’re not crazy, why do they do it?”

If there is anything we can agree on, it would be that the acts of a serial murderer are, to say the least, a great departure from what we think of as normal.  To put it mildly.  Clearly, most normal people don’t wake up one morning, have some coffee, read the paper, check e-mails, and then decide, “Hmmm…..what am I going to do today?  Awww, what the heck, I think I’m going to start killing people.”  And off they go to their new adventures.

Picture from : www.documentingreality.com

We are all driven to seek answers and explanations for odd behavior.  We want to understand why a seemingly mild-mannered, quiet man like Gary Ridgway (“The Green River Killer”) could kill at least forty-eight women in Seattle.  What creates a monster like law student Ted Bundy who roamed from Washington State to Utah, Idaho, Colorado and finally Florida, brutally killing and maiming women along the way, eventually killing thirty-three women that we know of.  And how do you explain Jeffrey Dahmer?  What could have caused him to strangle seventeen young men and boys in Milwaukee, eat body parts so they’d be “a part of me,” keep their corpses in his apartment for days, and then dissolve their bodies in acid inside his apartment?  And they all performed sex acts on some of their victims after killing them.  If for no other reason, that would seem to be a huge clue that they simply have to be crazy…but are they?

There are a lot of questions posed at this juncture, so let’s pause briefly and take a look at some facts, beginning with the commonly-accepted (except in Canada and England) definition of the term “Serial Killer.”

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A serial killer was defined by the Behavioral Science Unit (now the Investigative Support Unit) in Quantico, Virginia, and combines three basic factors:

          1.    A person who kills three or more victims (most often one victim at a time).

          2.    The killings occurred over a period of time, usually days, weeks, months or years.

          3.    There is a cooling off period between the killings.

The latter point (cooling off) is what separates a serial killer from a mass killer (Columbine, for example, where all killings occurred in a single event), and a spree killer (where there might be a continuing and sometimes connecting series of killings in different locations over a day or several days, but no cooling off period).  With these killings, there is often a long period of seething anger which eventually boils to a point the killer decides to take some form of violent action.

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Many people, particularly the media, want to say they simply “snapped.’”’  It makes it so much easier to understand then.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The anger has typically welled up in them for months or even years, much like a pressure cooker on low heat.  Eventually the pressure builds up to the point where they are seemingly unable to control themselves, to refrain from doing what they do.  It’s nothing like suddenly and impulsively deciding to go to their workplace or school and kill people who they believe have treated them unfairly.

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Next we can pose the question, “Are mass killers crazy?”  And the answer to that is also no.  A more likely explanation is that they finally reached the boiling-over point with anger and frustration and could see no other way out of their dire situation.  What they eventually did was something akin to an irresistible impulse they couldn’t control.  But they certainly aren’t crazy.

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If that’s the case, then we should review what the term insanity means.  In medical and psychiatric terms, the word insanity is avoided in favor of specific diagnoses of particular mental disorders.  The presence of delusions or hallucinations is more broadly defined as psychosis.  Most courts in the United States accept a potential insanity defense when experts can identify
a major mental illness (psychosis), but will not accept the numerous and less-than-psychotic personality disorders.

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Personality Disorders are a separate classification of mental health disorders which include such issues as Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder (this is only a part of a much more exhaustive list).

Commonly-diagnosed mental health disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, Generalized (not chronic) Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Schizophrenia, and Depression are among the classification of mental health disorders termed “Axis I” disorders.  None of them meet the criteria for psychosis.

While the diagnostic criteria and the multiplicity of possible disorders and psychoses can become a bit confusing to non-trained professionals, the key issue from a legal standpoint becomes relatively simple – did the person charged with the crime have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and did he know the behavior he engaged in was against the law?

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This is the difference between someone being legally sane vs. insane.  However, evidence and testimony from mental health professionals as to those issues must be clearly presented to the court or jury who must then make that decision.  And therein lies the crux of the matter when we’re considering serial murderers.  Conjecture, speculation and comments such as “Well, he just acted crazy all the time,” or “He was odd,” won’t work.  The word “crazy” doesn’t exist in the legal or psychiatric arenas, but the word “sanity” does.

A few specific cases can serve as a reference point. Several years ago a woman in San Antonio, Texas, killed and ate the body parts of her baby, including the brain. Most of us would call that crazy.

Story can be found here:  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32171926/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/investigators-stunned-child-dismemberment/

After lengthy psychological evaluation, this woman was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. The woman believed the devil made her mutilate and dismember her newborn son.  She was subsequently found not guilty of the crime by reason of insanity and was committed to a mental institution until deemed to no longer be a danger to herself or others.

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In a similar case in 2001 Andrea Yates of Houston, Texas, was shown to have been suffering from postpartum psychosis and, in this psychotic state, drowned each of her five children.  She later explained that Satan was inside her, and she was trying to save her children from going to hell. A jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity, and she was committed to a mental institution.

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In 1982 John Hinkley, Jr., was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity after attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Hinkley had a long history of psychiatric care when he was younger, and his statements made it clear he did not have his psychological act completely together. Hinkley has been confined to a mental institution in the Washington, D.C., area for nearly 30 years.  While he’s gained some privileges, it is doubtful he’ll ever be completely free and on his own.  Hinkley will probably never become a person who can function in society on his own.

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So, you might ask, how are the two women noted above different from Jeffrey Dahmer?  It certainly seems they did similar things.  Dahmer killed seventeen people, strangling most, drilled holes in their heads to inject acid in the process of making sex zombies (by his own admission).  He dismembered and disemboweled his victims, ate body parts, saved others, collected skulls and dissolved their bodies in a huge vat of acid.  And he’s the one who is NOT psychotic!  Not crazy?  How on earth can that be true?

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Here’s the difference, why Dahmer was found to be sane despite the manifestly “crazy” things he did.  Dahmer showed planning and premeditation in every one of his killings, and the prosecutors skillfully pointed this out.  A psychotic person does not have the cognitive (or mental) organization to create the detailed plots and plans that Dahmer created.

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He hunted for his victims in gay bars only and sought victims who were light-skinned black males, young and slender. Very specific criteria and not random victims. Thus he wasn’t a killer who would simply murder anyone who got in his way, although some serial killers do.  Ted Bundy was similar to Dahmer in his selectivity, as most of his female victims had long dark hair, parted in the middle, and, we later learned, looked a lot like a girlfriend who had dumped him several years before.  Bundy also brought with him items he’d need to gain control of the victims and would commonly use an arm sling or crutches to make his victims feel immediately safe.  All of these things require some thinking and planning which a psychotic person could not typically accomplish in his delusional state.

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Dahmer constantly fantasized about and was obsessed with killing over and over. His obsession developed into a compulsion and then a need, and he eventually became addicted to killing.  Yet he could compartmentalize that secret part of his life and create the image that he was perfectly normal.  He fit well into society. He was attractive, dressed well (some suggested “dressed to kill”) and used this to his advantage in luring potential victims.  He hunted only on Friday nights because if he was successful, he would have the victim for a couple of days and then would have time to do what he wanted to do with the body.  He never used a car because he knew he could be identified by the type of car he drove.  He installed extra locks and a security camera on his apartment to thwart anyone from entering.  But he also presented a normal side when talking to his parents, the police on a couple of occasions, and people he worked with.  He was able to hide in plain sight, appear perfectly normal, and no one would have imagined it was him committing the horrible crimes he did.  An insane person couldn’t begin to accomplish all of those things.

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On the other side of the coin are several serial killers who were probably insane yet were adjudged to be sane in court.  Richard Trenton Chase, for example, killed several people in Sacramento, California, eviscerated at least one victim, and sat beside the victim, drinking her blood from a cup.  Chase had a long psychiatric history and told investigators he was drinking blood because space ships from other planets were sending radiation down to earth which was turning his blood into powder.

Like Dahmer, he had body parts in his refrigerator and had used a blender to chop up other human organs, mixing them with blood.  While all of that doesn’t sound like the acts of a sane person, one never knows what will happen when a case goes to court.  Chase was adjudged to be sane despite considerable evidence to the contrary.  I’ve researched this case and still am clueless how he was found sane.

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The idyllic beach town of Santa Cruz, California, in the early 1970s seemed to be one of the most unlikely places to become the murder capital of the U.S.A.  Edmund Kemper was a prime contributor to the high murder rate, picking up hitchhikers in the area, killing them and dismembering their bodies.  But Kemper’s issue was not insanity. It was anger, due in large part to his dominant and verbally abusive mother.  Since he couldn’t violently strike back at his mother, he could against other women, which is exactly what he did.  But investigators and prosecutors were able to show the planning and premeditation Kemper went through to both gain control of his victims and dispose of their bodies.

While Kemper was terrorizing Santa Cruz and keeping investigators busy, another killer, Herbert Mullin, was on an even worse killing spree.

Herbert Mullin

Mullin had a lengthy psychiatric history as far back as his early teen years.  His father sought counseling and had him committed, but after each period of evaluation he was then released on the belief that he was no longer a danger to himself or others.  Let’s say that diagnosis wasn’t entirely accurate.  As Mullin’s psychosis deepened, he developed an obsession with earthquakes, and of course California is prone to have them occasionally.

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Mullin then added a delusion to the obsession, namely that he could prevent earthquakes from occurring if he killed people.  He randomly selected victims who, in his delusional state, he believed were telepathically telling him to kill them and the problem of earthquakes would stop.  His victims were simply unfortunate people who appeared on his radar screen on any given day, male and female and even some children. There was no pattern or logic to what he did or the victims he chose.

This is the antithesis of Dahmer’s and Bundy’s process of victim selection by certain well-established and defined criteria.  Mullin was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to the state mental hospital after his trial.  Kemper, on the other hand, offered an insanity defense but was adjudged sane and received a life sentence which he is currently serving.

Son of Sam David

Virtually all serial killers are found to have been sane at the time they committed their crimes.  David Berkowitz, the infamous “Son of Sam” killer who paralyzed New York City for over a year, tried an insanity defense, as many have.

Despite claiming a satanic demon inhabited the body of a dog next door and that the dog spoke to him with instructions on what to do and how to kill people, Berkowitz was found to be sane.

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Kenneth Bianchi, one of the “Hillside Stranglers” in Los Angeles, claimed to be a multiple personality and that the “Bad Ken” was the one who did the killings.  Confronted by a psychiatrist who told Bianchi that people with Multiple Personality Disorder usually had at least three distinct personalities, Bianchi promptly came up with a third one.  That didn’t work, and Bianchi is currently on a full-ride scholarship in a Washington state prison, having also been convicted of killing two women in Bellingham, Washington, after his nefarious murders in Los Angeles.

In conclusion, very few serial killers even come close to meeting the exceedingly strict criteria for insanity. The challenge to investigators is in discovering those things in their lives they did which displayed their true sanity.  They are not crazy as we’d like to think.  A very small percentage of those we’ve identified over the years qualified as being legally insane.  Every year we identify more of them, and the certainty they face is the death penalty or a life in prison.”

Wow! Thank you, Pete, for stopping by my blog this month. Pete has agreed to talk about what a FBI agent really does next month, and he’s going to give us the breakdown of the acronyms they use.

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Pete’s new award winning book, FBI Diary: Profiles Of Evil.

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Remember, when writing a villain who is a serial killer, keep in mind what Pete has taught us. Most are nice looking, very personable and blend in to be the guy next door, someone you would never think could be killing people. These villains, to me, are far more scary because you don’t see them coming. Until next time.

Happy writing,

Diane Kratz

You can connect with Pete at:

Website:  www.criminalprofilingassociates.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pete.klismet

Book trailer for: FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcmgAPGHFbo

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

77 thoughts on “Former FBI agent answers the question, “Are Serial Killers Crazy?”

  1. bellwriter says:

    Fascinating, Diane, Mr. Kismet. Thank you for explaining the psyche of a serial killer. I have a question for you. In a book I read about sociopaths, the author was trying to show a contrast. She explained that schizophrenics make up one percent of the population, whereas sociopaths make up approximately five percent.

    I’m curious if you would view a serial killer as a sociopath. Are they remorseful after their killing? And do you have any idea of what percentage of the population makes up serial killers?

    Looking forward to your answer and to your next blog.

    • dianekratz says:

      I’ll let Pete answer this one bellwriter! I appreciate you stopping by.
      Diane

      • crimeprof says:

        Hi Bell…..thanks for the question, and it’s a very good one. I would definitely say serial killers are socio/psychopathic personalities. But, more than that, they are completely narcissistic in the sense that their own needs and wants predominate in their personality, and basically always have. And no, there is no remorse for what they do. It’s all about finding satisfaction for themselves.

        A socio/psychopathic personality isn’t always a predictor of a person becoming a serial killer. By that I mean, there are a whole lot of them out in society, and they direct their efforts into other things (Mr. Madoff in New York might fit here). Also, schizophrenics and sociopaths are horses of completely different flavors. Nothing similar about them and absolutely no connection. Diane can expand on this too.

        Finally, we estimate there may be 35 to 50 serial killers out there at any given time. If one pays good attention, you’ll see a couple or so rearing their ugly heads and being arrested every year. In truth, we really don’t KNOW how many are out there at any given time. One thing they do is what we call ‘hide in plain sight.’ So, the most likely one could be a close friend or neighbor. Scary? Yup.

        Pete

      • dianekratz says:

        I also might add, if they do show any remorse, its because they got caught. The remorse is for themselves, not the victim. JMO!
        Diane

    • bellwriter says:

      Thank you Diane and Mr. Kismet. ~ Donnell

  2. Reblogged this on Not Your Average Female and commented:
    Very imformative

  3. Jenna Blue says:

    Diane, thank you for inviting Pete. Pete: super informative. Thank you!!!

  4. Good post. Psychotic people are tough to spot, unless you’ve had some regular contact with them or some formal training that aids in identifying the traits they exhibit. That’s why they walk among us so easily.

    John M. Wills

  5. Great explanations, Pete. The whole post made me shudder, but thanks for writing it.

  6. dianekratz says:

    Marilyn,
    I so happy you stopped by. 🙂 I’m glad you liked Pete’s post.
    Diane

  7. Diane, thank you for having Pete as your guest today. His book is now a must have for me. The post today was interesting and informative!

  8. M.M. Gornell says:

    Excellent article, Pete! And I so agree about scary because we don’t see them coming…

    Madeline

  9. Lani says:

    As an editor who’s family has several psychiatrists, including one forensic psychiatrist, I’m so glad to have this post!!! I’m going to lead my writers to this page right away when I see a problem in their villains. And writing a believable villain is not easy, and usually mucked up by writers not doing enough research. I have to ask my writers, “So what motivates your killer?” When my writer says, “‘Cause he’s bad, real bad,” I know they need help. Thank you so much!!!

    • dianekratz says:

      I’m happy you enjoyed the post Lani! Please send them my way! I would rather write a villain than a hero any day, because they are so much fun to write. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a message. I hope you’ll come back!
      Diane Kratz

  10. What about Wayne Williams? He was convicted of killing 2 out of 27 children. How does he match the boy next door killer profile? The news media said he was a big mouth and a show off, someone who stood out in society. He did everything he could to be noticed, even led the police on high profile police chases. On August 17th CNN did a story about his attorney Mary Welcome questioning if Williams was actually the Atlanta child killer. Several people are trying to get his conviction overturned. Do you think they will succeed?

    • dianekratz says:

      Lots of serial killers do this Elaine. Ted Bundy even represented himself. He loved being the center of attention. They are narcissist and thrill seekers. Wayne Williams seems to fit that profile. From everything I remember about the case, I believe law enforcement has the right guy. JMO! But I’ll let Pete answer this one. He is the expert. Happy you stopped by Elaine. Thrilled you left a comment.
      Diane

      • crimeprof says:

        Elaine…….They’ve been trying to claim Wayne Williams was not guilty of the crimes for quite a few years. I know enough about the true facts of the case through some of my training, that I am positive he was the right guy, aside from the fact that he admitted it in his trial. That ‘sorta’ helps!

        There’s some information you’re citing that I’m not aware of, and have never heard. Wayne was a success because he was a con artist, a psychopathic narcissist, and fit well into the black community from which he targeted his victims. And, I believe the final victim count was 33? They only charged him w/2 murders, because they were the best cases, and knew they’d get a conviction.

  11. gduzenberry says:

    Great information! Thanks so much for sharing Pete’s wealth of information with us!

  12. dianekratz says:

    This is what L. j. Charles sent me in an e-mail.
    Hi, Diane.
    Loved the article on your blog. I tried to leave a comment, but WordPress won’t let me without wanting to access all my FB information. Here’s what I tried to say:

    Thanks so much Diane and Pete for the very informative post. Having just returned from Writer’s Police Academy and a jail visit, I can truly say it made the experience even more meaningful. There were so many blank faces on the men in orange jumpsuits that stared at us for the entire visit – I now wonder what was going on inside their minds.

  13. dianekratz says:

    This also came to me in an e-mail.
    Hi Diane:
    Excellent blog post by Pete Klismet.
    Thanks,
    Ellen
    Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D.
    http://www.ellenkirschman.com

    • dianekratz says:

      Thanks for e-mailing me Ellen. I just finished reading your book, Burying Ben. I also pre-ordered Counseling Cops. I can’t wait to read it!
      Diane

    • crimeprof says:

      Hi Ellen…..I think I just ‘friended’ you on Linked In, if that’s what you call it. Networking. Good stuff right thar! Hope you accept my offer.
      Pete

  14. Jo Haggerty says:

    Pete, that was fascinating. The distinction you made in regards to planning this murders makes perfectly good sense and obviously demonstrates a knowledge of right and wrong. Great examples, you did a terrific job explaining the differences.

  15. Great post, Diane and Pete. A very interesting read that backs up research I’ve done over the years. Diane, have you checked out YouTube for their videos of interviews with serial killers and lots of documentaries on them? Pretty enlightening.

    • dianekratz says:

      Hi Linda,
      I have read every FBI book there is out there, on the subject. I’ve researched them though newspapers accounts and interviews as well. I recently gotten my hands on the 1986 video that Pete mentions in his book. Yes it was a VCR tape. After watching it I realized I had seen it before, on YouTube, but in bits and pieces. I’m happy I have the tape to refer back to.

      The criminal mind has always fascinated me. Working in mental health, I always want to figure out the “why” in these cases. But, there is no why, they do it because they enjoy it. It gives them a sense of power and control. And the scary thing is, there no effective treatments for them. In fact research has shown, they “learn” proper emotions cues and use what they’ve learned on their victims, family and co-workers. They don’t actually feel them. Think black hole. The only thing in it is themselves.
      Diane

      • Exactly. They’re wonderful mimics and learn early on how to read cues and give the “proper reaction.” It’s all an act, because they aren’t feeling what they’re portraying. All the claims of finding religion in jail are part of their game. They haven’t acquired religious beliefs, they’re trying to play the system to win their release. I have known more than one psychopath, and they’re a scary lot.

      • dianekratz says:

        Me too. In fact my daughter was in a relationship with one, who rob us, killed our dog, called state authorizes on her for child abuse (it was dismissed). This guy even called her neighbors and told them lies about her. He is currently in jail for robbing someone else in another state. But he was kind enough to send her a letter, blaming her for leaving him as his reason why he had to rob. To pay his lawyer! BLACK HOLE! Unfortunately she has two kids with him, and he will ALWAYS be lurking in her life. There are a bunch of “functioning” (I use this term loosely) sociopaths in this world.

  16. David Wolf says:

    Hi–Great post. I’m working on a novel featuring a man who is blackmailed by a manipulator into killing a series of women for the insurance money. He is “reluctant,” but very careful to stage each killing as an accident. In his background is a disfiguring burn accident that has prevented him from ever forming relationships with women. Does this make psychological sense?

    • dianekratz says:

      He must have a pretty powerful motive to allow himself to be blackmailed. Most sociopaths like to have control. They wouldn’t allow themselves to be blackmailed. They would be the one who blackmails someone. To me it would make more sense if he was doing it on his own. Him not having any relationships with women, sounds like a few serial killers I’ve read about in real life. Tell me about the manipulator and the relationship with the killer. What does he have on him to motive him to kill these women?
      Diane

      • crimeprof says:

        David…..it makes PERFECT sense, and you’re right on target with your thoughts. I could name a number of serial killers (Robert Hansen in Alaska comes immediately to mind) who stuttered or had some other physical issue. That caused them to feel completely inadequate with women, and thus they developed anger, and thus they strike out.

      • David Wolf says:

        The manipulator is a narcissistic sociopath and Don Juan who finds women who adore him, marries them, insures them, leaves them and has his crime-partner Charlie kill them while he’s far away. They split the payout. What he has on Charlie: Charlie himself caused the fire that disfigured him when he was 8 years old. He was jealous and angry about the way his parents fussed over their very beautiful younger daughter. It was a Xmas tree fire the boy caused more or less accidentally, but that fire killed his family and he’s felt horribly guilty ever since. The disfigurement is the visible sign–mark of evil etc. The manipulator learned Charlie’s secret while nursing him thru rehab after a war wound that cost him a portion of a leg.

      • dianekratz says:

        David,
        That sounds like a powerful motivation to me! Your villain will be hated and loved at the same time. Readers will feel a connection because of his guilt. That is the whole secret to writing a good villain. The audience has to connect to them on some level. I would buy your book, cause I love that kind of stuff!

        I can see so many twists in your story. You could have Charlie fall in love with one of his wives who he tries to protect from the manipulator. Or the manipulator could actually fall in love with one of his wives and try’s to stop Charlie. I know romance, but hey, I’m a chick. We like that kind of stuff!

        Fiction is GREAT! So many possibilities… so little time! Let me know when you publish, I promise I will buy the book.

        Happy Writing,

        Diane

  17. Excellent post. Thank you so much for all this wonderful information. I went through a period where I did a great deal of research about serial killers and had to stop. I got paranoid and hyper vigilant about my children, they were all college age and away from home for the first time. I kept seeing a Ted Bundy want-to-be stalking the college campus. I guess what you don’t know won’t worry you. So I quit.
    But I’m still fascinated and horrified by these compulsions they have.
    I’ll have to have the book.
    Write on,
    Teresa Reasor

    • dianekratz says:

      Hi Teresa! I’m thrilled you stopped by. You made my day! I know what you are saying! I can’t seem to get enough of them, it’s almost a compulsion to me. You can’t go wrong with Pete’s book.
      Happy Writing my friend,
      Diane

      • crimeprof says:

        Teresa…..thanks for your comments. As I point out in FBI Diary, my first brush with this was when I was a cop, but then I was really thrown into the frying pan when I went thru what I call “Profiling Boot Camp” with the FBI. Not to mention 8 or 10 follow-up, in-services, typically 2 a year. So, in aggregate I’ve been studying, practicing or teaching about this stuff for nearly half my life (a little over 30 years, I’ll let you do that math on that!!). But, I have never lost my interest, and still make my wife, the lovely Miss Nancy, crazy with wanting to watch Inv. Discovery or one of the many ‘real’ shows on TV about various killings. Couple that with being a member and consultant to the National Cold Case Investigators Ass’n, and I do keep my beak pretty deeply in the pond.

  18. crimeprof says:

    Now, my turn to pose a question. While female serial killers are extremely rare, and are driven by completely different motives (sorry girls, it’s mostly about money!), I have found over my many years of teaching, that the students in my college classes who were far more interested in these critters have been WOMEN. I’ve had several meetings with myself about that, and so I will pose the questions to the ladies and see if I can get any good answers.

    Pete

    • dianekratz says:

      Good question Pete! I could theorize that women are more in touch with the emotional side than men are, meaning men really don’t give a crap about these types of guys. We are nurtures and want to figure out how they tick so we can fix them, or stay far away from these types.

      I could also go with the “bad boy” theory, looking for something different and exciting but most women who have ever dated a sociopath (not a serial killer) usually (not always) doesn’t it again. The ones that do, usually are sociopaths themselves. And I’ve known a few women who were.

      But if you are just talking serial killers, for me, I want to understand how a human being can do that to fellow human being. It shocks me. I want to know why it happen. Were they born this way, or were they made this way from society and their upbringing? Research is still debatable on how they are made.

      As a mental health professional, I have had some pretty scary clients, including kids. Are they future serial killers? I don’t know, its possible. Also, how do we treat these clients? That’s my personal interest.

      Diane

    • It’s been in my experience that men are rarely worried about being prey to anyone. They don’t look in the backseat before getting into the car. Or glance under the car before approaching it. They don’t carry their car keys in their hand like a weapon, or have pepper spray on their keyring. But women I believe have a genetic understanding that we are prey. Understanding that, gives us a kind of fascination with predatory behavior.
      Because I believe in nature over nurture. As a sex, females are nurturers instead of predators.(Not all but most.) Where men since the cave man days have always been more prone to violent, predatory, and aggressive behavior. It’s in their nature. And also they have the inherent belief that their will is more important than other peoples. Once they’ve enforced their will over a person the first time, its easier and easier to do so again and again. That’s why they compete in sports. It’s an excepted form of brutality.
      And that’s why I believe there are more male serial killers than women.
      That’s also why men aren’t as fascinated by them either. They don’t want to even acknowledge the idea that they might be just as vulnerable as their female counterparts. It would be an affront to their manhood.
      jmo,
      Teresa Reasor

    • If you are saying that women are interested in hearing about other women serial killers, then I’d speculate that’s because it’s so rare.

      • dianekratz says:

        Hi Elisabeth! Thrilled you stopped by. I think Pete is asking why women are more interested in serial killers than men are.
        Diane

      • crimeprof says:

        Elisabeth. Diane is right, I was wondering why women seem to have more of an interest in the topic of serial killers than men. I really like what Teresa has to say in the post just above yours. Another thing I have noted about women (it took me 60 years to figure this out….I have a rather flat learning curve I think!) is that they’re much more perceptive and intuitive than men. I will even go as far to say that you’re smarter than we are – how many men have you heard say that? It’s true, and I find that out every day from my bride, the lovely Miss Nancy. And, she doesn’t ever have to tell me.

      • dianekratz says:

        LOL Pete! And to answer your question, NONE! I’ll have to show my husband this.

  19. I came across this blog whilst researching for (yep you guessed it!) my book, and I would just like to say what an interesting post this has been. In fact, the behaviour of a serial killer has nothing to do with what I am looking for, but this post was so interesting that I have got completely sidetracked!

    A case that I have found particularly interesting, and related to this topic is that of Bundy. This man as a character when he was interviewed, especially around the time of his first arrest comes across as very charming. The first impression was that he was friendly, appeared very together, and seemed very likable. But when you know of his crimes you can look back at the interview, and I think, see small elements of his detachment from reality, and his overriding belief that what he was doing was in his opinion acceptable. This for me is one of the elements that make this topic so interesting because his behavior, whilst tempting to be labelled as insane was controlled by clear planning and premeditation.

    • dianekratz says:

      Another AWESOME answer! Happy you stopped by Michelle! I hope you will come back!
      Diane

      • crimeprof says:

        Michelle…..am I detecting a bit of an English accent? Or Aussie? I’ve been to both places, England just a few months ago with Miss Nancy for 3 weeks. It was my 2nd time, her 1st. We LOVE England. I envy you for living in such a beautiful and virtually violence-free country. We are so similar to you in many ways, yet so different in others. You have 60 or so murders every year (I know this becuz I have an old friend in Scotland Yard), and we have over 15,000. Should we become more like you, I’d be soooo happy. But, we’re a country founded on the gun (Winchester rifles, Colt .45 pistols) and it’s simply a part of our culture we can’t change. I’ll leave it at that, because I don’t want to get some people mad at me and sending hate letters. I’ve just seen too much violence in all my years in law enforcement.

  20. dianekratz says:

    This is from Bobby (Sunny) Cole who e-mailed me. She had problems getting in the blog.

    Amazing interview. It has prompted me to examine my own interest in crime, punishment, and all the peccadillos in between! Lol. For instance, Dahmer does nothing for me, but Bundy and (can’t think of her name) the female serial killer…Aileen Wornall? in Florida are interesting. Thanks, Pete and Diane.

    Sunny

    • crimeprof says:

      Hi Sunny……Thanks for your insights. The woman you’re talking about is Aileen Wournous, who was given the death penalty in Fla some years ago. A very interesting critter was Aileen. She is, to my knowledge, the only legitimate female comparison to male serial killers we’ve ever had. Now, having said that, there have been A LOT of female serial killers. Just so happens I’ve done quite a bit of research and even lecturing to my college students about them too. Having said that, I can now see Diane’s hands reaching for my arm to see if she can twist it into an article about that topic. For the record, Diane is very skilled at that, but I still love her dearly!!

      • dianekratz says:

        You have to do one now Pete! In my book, my serial killer is a woman. I’ve researched them for almost two years. Women are a lot better at getting away with their crimes for a longer period of time then men, because no one suspects them. YES Pete please do one on women serial killers.

      • crimeprof says:

        Ok, maybe I can get to work on it. Now you can let go of my arm! I’m trying desperately to get my next book – “FBI Diary: Home Grown Terror,” completed and submitted to my publisher before we go to South America in mid-Nov. Maybe you can put the bite on John Wills to do the one about FBI acronyms we discussed? I just finished a week of interviews and research down in the 4 Corners area, and am really excited to get back to writing. Plus promoting FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil. And here I was stupid enough to think I was ‘retired’!!!!

      • dianekratz says:

        Sounds like a plan Pete! Thanks so much for your great articles! I’ve had so much fun! I’ve also learned a thing or two. Now, get back to writing!
        Diane

  21. crimeprof says:

    I’d just like to add a little story which I think bolsters my belief that women are much more interested in the topic of serial killers and their behavior than men. This was cut and pasted from a blog article I did a couple years ago:

    “I became friends with the husband of one of my students, an Air Force major, some years ago. We both enjoyed golf, and would get together once or twice every couple of weeks and play 18 holes. After one round, we sat down and were enjoying a couple of cool, refreshing beers. Without any prompting, and literally out of the clear blue sky, Paul said, “By the way, I want to thank you for ruining my love life.”
    “Me? What did I do?”
    “Brandy lies in bed every night with a book about one serial killer or another. I have a hard time getting between her and her books.”
    “Sorry…..my bad.”

    I REST MY CASE!!

  22. Excellent post! Many facts I wasn’t aware of. This is a great reference for the next book I’m writing, which has two killers. Thank you both for the insightful information! It will be put to good use.

  23. dianekratz says:

    L.j.Charles e-mailed me this comment for you Pete:

    All of the above has been very informative. I especially agree with both Diane’s and Teresa’s responses. And just as a minor comment… I find that women are usually more detail oriented than men. It seems that they delve into topics and thumb through details while men look at a more global view. This is certainly true for me and my husband. It amazes him how much detail I’m interested in and retain while I’m totally flummoxed as to how he checks off the broad view and then moves on. Just a personal observation.

    L.j.

    • dianekratz says:

      You just described my husband to a T! Thanks for stopping by!
      Diane

    • crimeprof says:

      That may be ‘just a personal observation,’ but it’s a very accurate one. Of course, some men (engineers, lawyers – I have one of each in my family) are detail Nazi’s. But, were it not for my lovely bride Miss Nancy, I don’t know if I could get out the front door in the morning. We are a great pair, becuz I come up with a million ideas, and she figures out ways to get them done. This also includes travel, which we’ve done a whole lot of. I say, ‘why don’t we think about going here.’ Wham. Done deal. All I have to do is go where I’m told to go, and to do what I’m told to do. Detail people make life so much easier. Those of us who are not detail types probably drive them crazy.

  24. I too have been to the United Kingdom. Loved it there. I’d move to Scotland permanently if they’d have me. Since the combined country is about the size of putting South Carolina and Wyoming together, if we had that small an area and populace ( 63,000,000 with no assault weapons) to police with the resources we have in our country, our murder rate might be the same.
    We can always dream.
    Teresa R.

  25. Candy Korman says:

    Fascinating and concise descriptions!
    Bravo…

  26. Alfie says:

    The reason women are more fascinated by serial killers than men is the same reason they love to gossip and men, in general, are not all that interested. Women are CURIOUS beings. They want the answers. They want the final analysis. They are not satisfied with ‘just the facts, Ma’am.’ They want the why, the wherefore, and the inside out reasons. Nothing feels finished without it. (It’s the same reason they have to analyze every ended relationship with every friend they’ve ever had.) The relationship can’t be put to rest until everyone they know has weighed in.
    And just like the relationship, they might not actually KNOW the reasons for the serial killer, but at least they feel they have all the possibilities. They can choose the one that feels–to them–most likely, and finally, they can move on and consider the NEXT serial killer or disastrous relationship.

    • dianekratz says:

      Oh Alfie I love this! You hit the nail on the head! I’m sitting here rolling on the floor laughing! Girl Power! Yipee! All I can say to Pete is, you asked! LOL!

      • crimeprof says:

        I have to agree with Alfie, and please note I am already on the record as saying women are smarter than we are, or more intuitive, but you definitely get it better. I would say in all the years I taught a profiling class at my college, 7 of my 10 best students in any given class were women. That’s why I posed the question, and some people have come up with great answers to why that is. And it is the ‘why’ which I seek.

  27. Sam Bradley says:

    I have to jump in the fray to say the comments are just as enlightening as the blog! As a paramedic and someone who has done CISM for EMS and firefighters for years, I find the human mind – and how it responds to crisis – fascinating. My work has always been with the “good guys” though, and I have a hard time with the psyche of the bad ones. I hope you keep posting!

    Sam

  28. crimeprof says:

    Thanks for the comments Sam, and I also want to let you know how much we all appreciate the difficult work you and your colleagues do out there to keep all of us safe. There is nothing about your job I envy, and I know only too well how dreadful some of the situations you find yourself in are.

  29. Sam Bradley says:

    Thanks, Pete. That means a lot coming from you. Bad people = bad situations but someone has to deal with them. That’s what public safety is all about. It’s hard to explain why we do what we do, we just do!

  30. Fascinating blog, Diane. This one’s a keeper for future writing reference. Thanks, Pete, for sharing your knowledge with Diane and all of us “Diane Kratz Followers” – All the best to both of you.

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