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Serial Murder

NCJ Number
Robert W. Dolan
Date Published
88 pages
Case studies of serial murderers are used to examine the characteristics and motivations of these offenders, the challenges that serial murder poses for law enforcement, and the way police profile serial killers and investigate their crimes.
Serial murder has existed for centuries, but the numbers of known serial killers and victims per killer appear to have increased since 1960. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that at least 500 serial killers are at large and unidentified in the United States. Seventy-nine percent of the serial killers are in North America. These murders represent the culmination of an overpowering urge that has been growing until the ritual of murder has been integrated into the killer's life. Most serial murderers have experienced child abuse of some kind. Other research has focused on biological factors. The typical serial killer is profoundly isolated emotionally, has for years had sexual fantasies regarding rape and domination, has committed prior offenses, and commits the first murder after a stressful situation such as being fired from a job. Organized, disorganized, and mixed offenders differ in their criminal methods. Serial murderers make the act of killing into a ritual that includes seven phases that start with the aura phase and end with the depression phase. Police agencies are increasingly using special task forces to investigate serial murders. The behavioral profile is perhaps the most important investigative tool. Nationwide information sharing is another law enforcement tool. Preventing serial homicide would require a massive, coordinated effort by law enforcement and legal, mental health, and social service institutions; such an effort is unlikely. Photographs, index, and 27 references


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