What Is a Killer?


A killer is a criminal who commits murder for one or more of the following reasons: * Crimes of criminal enterprise (gang or drug related). * Murder for power or thrill. * Ideology or terrorism. * Mass murder.

A lone individual who kills several people in a short period of time and follows a pattern of behavior is considered to be a serial killer, according to a definition developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Many people who study this type of crime believe that many serial killers suffer from psychopathic personality disorders, which include a lack of empathy or guilt and an impulsive, self-centered, and predatory nature. Whether a person has these personality traits or not, it is clear that a murderer who carries out a series of killings is dangerous and requires immediate intervention.

While there is no one generic profile for a serial killer, those attending the Serial Killer Symposium agreed that the majority of these offenders fall into specific categories. Generally, these offenders are social misfits or loners who become triggered by some uncontrollable event and then spiral out of their comfort zones to kill for a fantasy psychological need. This includes a desire for control, sensation seeking, and the need to destroy in order to eliminate any possibility of rejection or humiliation.

Many serial offenders have a history of childhood trauma or separation from their mothers. As a result, they learn to suppress empathy and, according to some researchers, may have damage to the brain that affects emotional impulses. It is also believed that these offenders may have a distorted sense of reality and a tendency toward aggression.

Louis Schlesinger, an expert on serial killings, disagrees with the notion that childhood trauma is the main cause of a person becoming a serial killer. He states, “People always look for a watershed event or something that’s going to explain why they became a serial killer. Those are the wrong places to go. Certainly, there are correlations between serial killers and childhood trauma, but they’re not dispositive.”

Attendees at the Symposium also discussed the validity of the term spree murder. A general definition of this crime is two or more murders committed by an offender or offenders, without a cooling-off period, and the majority of attendees agreed that this designation should be discarded because it creates arbitrary guidelines for law enforcement investigations. The group also discussed the number of victims required to be considered a serial killer. Those in favor of a lower number agreed that it would be easier for police departments to monitor and investigate the crimes of serial killers. Those against the idea stated that a larger number of victims could provide more clues about the offender’s intent and plan for future victims. In addition, this definition could allow for the inclusion of non-lethal crimes such as burglary and car theft.