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Understanding Mass Murder: A Starting Point

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 56 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1992) Pages: 53-61
R M Holmes; S T Holmes
Date Published
9 pages
This article defines "mass murder," distinguishes between mass and serial murder, and profiles the typology of mass murder and the mass murderer.
Mass murder is the killing of a number of persons at one time and in one place. There are significant differences between mass and serial killers. Mass murderers often die at the scene of the multiple slayings, either through suicide or police action. Only occasionally do they turn themselves into the police after the killings. Serial killers, on the other hand, go to great lengths to avoid detection and apprehension. The exact etiology of the mass murderer is unclear. The unique combination of the biology, sociology, and personal psychology of an individual accounts for the personality and thus the behavior of an individual. Victim traits are not a crucial element in mass murder. The types of mass murderers are "the disciple" who kills in response to the dictates and wishes of a charismatic leader; the "family annihilator" who kills all or most of the members of his family; the "pseudocommando" who is obsessed with weaponry and is driven by something inside himself to use the weaponry to massacre random victims; the disgruntled employee who commits mass murder of a particular group of persons with whom he has been associated at work; and the "set-and-run" mass murderer who differs from the other types in his use of techniques to allow escape before the act itself occurs, usually with a timer on a bomb or anonymous tampering with food or medicine in a store. The first step in dealing with mass murder is to gain a clear understanding of the nature of the act itself. This article aims to help achieve this first step. 2 tables and 18-item bibliography