Different Methods of Murder: The Psychology of a Serial Killer

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There are as many M.O’s as there are serial killers, although they share some similarities their crimes also are as unique and bizarre as they are chilling and unbelievable. Not surprisingly there also appears to be as many theories and debates as to the cause of this destructive and heinous behavior. As with many mental illnesses there is a debate between the genetic and or biological aspects and the sociological contributors being the cause of this disturbing phenomenon. The biogenic / sociogenic debate brings up the issue of which is the cause and which is the effect , or which came first ? Were bad genes the cause of a chemical disturbance which in turn caused the behavior problems or was it the other way around? Is the reason that almost all serial killers have bedwetting problems sometimes reaching into their teens caused by sociological factors, disturbing circumstances that they have been subjected to, or is it caused by some sort of imbalance ? This chicken and egg dilemna has been argued by the psychology faction and the sociology faction. Recently there has been more of a middle ground taken. Each side has begun to admit that there is most likely a blend of circumstances that come together, chemical and or genetic defects added to a unique set of sociological factors which in turn give birth to that set of personality traits and disorders that collectively create the societal monster known as the serial killer. “Causal factors for an antisocial personality include a possible biological disposition, childhood trauma (shown by the vast majority or serial killers), possible neurological factors in the control of impulsivity regarding seratonin levels in the brain , and heredity”(Giannangelo,p 8). Although the biological factors seem to vary widely from head trauma to epilepsy, to abnormal EEG’s and or a combination of these traits and others, there is a definite pattern of sociological factors that most all of the serial killers are subjected to during their formative years. These killers childhoods all have a form of abuse as a key element be it emotional, physical, sexual, and or a combination of the three. The more one reads into the history of the childhoods of these killers the easier it is to see how most were manufactured , a product of their extremely cruel, bizarre , unusual environment. Many of the parents of serial killers were alcoholics and abusive to them and to each other, among them :Albert DeSalvo, Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, and Peter Kurten to name a few. There are unfortunately many more who suffered extreme emotional, as well as physical abuse. “Henry Lee Lucas was forced to watch his mother have sex with various men, was beaten mercilessly daily, was made to eat from the floor, and was brought up as a girl until age 7 wearing long hair and a dress.” (Egger ,p. 146.) Henry Lee Lucas grew up to be the murderer of 10 women between 1970 and 1983, the only thing that stopped his killing spree was his capture. Gerald Stano was the fifth born to a mother who lost all of her children to adoption due to abuse and neglect. When Gerald was removed from his home he was malnourished, physically and emotionally neglected and functioning at an animalistic level.” (Sears,p. 37). Stano confessed to and was convicted the murders of 25 women and was believed to be linked to 40 more. As a child Andrei Chikatilo witnessed the devastation of war firsthand, he saw the gathering of dismembered bodies of both soldiers and civilians, adults and children. “The experience that appears to have had the greatest impact was learning the harrowing tale of his older brother who was said to have been kidnapped and eaten.” (Giannangelo, 58). Chikatilo was convicted of the murders of at least 53 children, he systematically hunted, dismembered, cannibalized, stabbed repeatedly and raped his victims. The list of atrocities against and performed by these monsters is unfortunately much longer. There are many questions than there are answers; one thing is certain as long as children are subjected to the sort of abuse and neglect that warps their personalities into something other than a caring, functioning human being there will be many more horrific tales of murders, rapes, and other atrocities. There is no clear indicator that points to just the biological or the sociological causation of these types of disorders but rather a mixing of the two elements that combine in a mystifying, terrifying way to create the monster known as the serial killer . “For most serial killers, there definitely appears to be a history of physical, sexual, or mental abuse. Finally, and possibly most important, these killers seem to evidence a pervasive lost sense of self and intimacy, an inadequacy of identity, a feeling of no control. These could all be factors in a pathology that manifests itself in the ultimate act of control- the murder , and repeated murder of other human beings.” (Giannangelo ,p 19) .

Egger, S.A., Serial Murder :An Elusive Phenomenon., New York . Praeger, 1990,p. 146.

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Giannangelo, Stephen J., The Psychopathology of Serial Murder A Theory of Violence.Conn. Praeger pp. 8,l9, 22,58.

Sears, D.J., To Kill Again: The Motivation and Development of Serial Murder. Wilmington, D.E.: Scholarly Resources, 1991 p. 37

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