Wednesday 30 March 2011

Spree Killers: What kind of killers are they?

On March 28, 2011, I received an email message from a criminology student at the University of Ghent in Belgium. The student asked me eight questions. They are as follows:

1. How would you describe a spree killer?
2 What are the main reasons why these killers murder people?
3. If you draw a general profile of a spree killer, what would it look like?
4. Is our society protected against such murderers?
5. Can we do anything about it so that there are less of them in society?
6. Is deterrence enough for those offenders?
7. What are the punishments for those killers convicted of spree killing?
8. If we can protect ourselves against them, what measures should we take?

I emailed the student back and told the student that I would write an article in my next blog and answer those questions. What follows, are my answers to those questions.

Description of a spree killer

The word ‘killer’ needs no explanation but the word ‘spree’ certainly does. According to Funk and Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary, the word ‘spree’ means (amongs other definitions) “excessive and unrestrained indulgence in an activity” such as a buying spree or killing spree. It has been said that a spree killer is someone who embarks on a murderous assault on two or more victims in a short time in multiple locations. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a spree killing as "killings at two or more locations with almost no time break between murders. I disagree that spree killings having to be in two or more locations. For example, a person going on a buying spree could be indulging in that activity in one store alone. It follows that spree killers could be killing people in one location alone. Another term, rampage killer, has sometimes been used to describe spree killers, but it does not differentiate between mass murderers and spree killers. Spree killers include mass murderers and serial killers.

When I speak of mass murderers, I am not referring to the kind who target their families all at one time, such as in one house when the victims are all together at the same time because that kind of murder is impulsive. The same applies when a mass killer targets fellow employees or students in a school all within a short period of time. In those kinds of killings, the actions of the murders are also impulsive. By saying impulsive, I mean that there is a specific motive such as vengeance that motivates them to kill their families, fellow employees and fellow students. That motive is generally revenge although in fazes where families are killed, the motive is the killer’s silly belief that the victims are better off dead.

Admittedly, actions of these kinds of killers are unquestionably excessive and unrestrained but they are not an indulgence such as a buying spree which can be cumulative over a long period of time. But some of these killers who commit their mass murders on a one-time basis and generally in one specific area and over a short period of time could be classified as spree killers.

What are the main reasons why these killers murder people?

A mass murder could come under the heading of spree killings such as what took place in the Texas Tower case in which Charles Joseph Whitman, 25, climbed 39 floors to the top of the University of Texas tower in Austin, Texas on August 1, 1966 by shooting innocent people in the tower and also people wandering about in the grounds below him. Prior to shooting to death these people, he also murdered his wife and mother at their homes, then he killed three people in the tower and ten more outside the tower when he fired his deer rifle from the top of the tower.

Whitman's frustrations with his dysfunctional family were complicated by his abuse of amphetamines and his health issues including headaches that he reported in one of his final notes as ‘tremendous.’ A glioblastoma, which is a highly aggressive brain tumor, was discovered during his autopsy that experts on the ‘Connally Commission’ concluded may have played a role in his actions. He was also affected by a court martial as a United States Marine, failings as a student at the University of Texas, ambitious unfulfilled personal expectations and psychotic features he expressed in his typewritten note left at 906 Jewell Street, Austin, Texas, dated on July 31, 1966.

I think it is quite obvious that this young man was not what one could say was a normal thinking man. Although many people have suffered from life experiences such as what Whitman was undergoing, they don’t kill innocent people because of it. But coupled with his brain tumor, I think it is safe to say that he didn’t have full control of his faculties.

He was an extremely intelligent man. At the age of six, it was determined that he had an IQ of 136 which placed him in the category of having a superior mind. But even if he had been a genius, this alone would not have prevented him from being a very sick individual susceptible to having the impulse to murder innocent people.

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of cancerous cells or non cancerous cells inside a brain. Its threat level depends on the combination of factors like the type of tumor, its location, its size and its state of development. Brain tumors are commonly located in the posterior cranial fossa in children and in the anterior two-thirds of the cerebral hemispheres in adults, although they can affect any part of the brain.

Constant headaches are one of the symptoms of a brain tumor. Charles Whitman complained of headaches. University psychiatrist Dr. Heatly recognised the latent hostility in Whitman, but was not overly concerned when, during the course of their session, he mentioned a fantasy that involved “going up on the Tower with a deer rifle and shooting people,” as Heatly had seen no signs that he might seriously take action. Heatly was unaware that Whitman had repeated this fantasy to many people over the years, who had dismissed it as nonsense. Heatly suggested that Whitman return the following week for further counselling, but he failed to do so.

Throughout the summer of 1966, Whitman attended classes and kept up work commitments with the assistance of the amphetamine Dexedrine, which affected his sleeping patterns and made it difficult for him to deliver both study and work commitments. This exacerbated his feeling of low self-esteem, and his father’s attempts to embroil him in his parents’ ongoing marital trauma only served to concentrate his mind even more on his continuous fantasies of mass murder.

The question that comes to the fore is; “Did the tumor exacerbate his desire to murder people?” It is conceivable that it did. The next question that is equally important is; “Would he have committed the murders if he didn’t have a tumor in his brain?” It is possible that he may have but one cannot definitively say for sure that his brain tumor was the main cause of him murdering so many people. Many mass murderers have killed innocent people and they didn’t suffer from brain tumors. Many people who have suffered from brain tumors didn’t kill innocent people.

Was Charles Whitman a spree killer? Since his actions were excessive and an unrestrained indulgence in his activity of murdering innocent people, I would classify him as a spree killer.

In December 6th, 1941, Richard Speck was born in Kirkwood, Illinois. Speck’s father, a religious man who abhorred alcohol, died when Richard was six years old. His mother had married a Texan, Carl Lindberg, who was a violent drunk with an arrest record. The family moved to Dallas, and Lindberg beat Speck repeatedly throughout his boyhood. Speck failed in school and turned to a life on the streets. Speck spent over two and a half years in prison for crimes varying from theft to assault from 1963-1965. Married in the early Sixties, Speck would often rape his wife at knife point. During her divorce proceedings, she described Speck as violent and needing sex four or five times a day. The divorce was final in January of 1966 and Speck, facing more burglary and stabbing charges, slipped out of Texas and moved back to Illinois, staying with friends of his family in Monmouth.

Speck had no intention of giving up his life of crime and promptly was arrested again for burglary and assault. He took off for Chicago to avoid his trial and was fired from a couple of jobs for being drunk, including one on an iron ore ship. Investigators looking into Speck past discovered he was wanted in Monmouth for questioning in the murder of a bar maid and rape of a female senior citizen. In addition, they linked him to the July 2nd disappearance of three girls in Indiana and the murders of four other females in Michigan. Authorities located the hotel room where Speck was staying, but he was not there.

On Sunday July 15th, 1966, patrolman Daniel Kelly was flagged down by a citizen who had noticed Corazon Amuaro, a young student nurse, screaming and sobbing in an apartment window uncontrollably. Kelly, only eighteen months on the job, entered the apartment and exited some time later, vomiting in the street. Inside he had found the bodies of eight young women, all student nurses, strewn about the premises. When Corazon was able to tell her story, she related how an armed man (Richard Speck) had come to the door, forced his way into the apartment and found seven students there. He made them empty their purses at gunpoint and bound their arms and legs with strips of material he made from their sheets. What Speck was about to do would shock even the most hardened detectives and horrify the entire country.

Two other young nurses came home at this point and attempted to flee when they saw what was happening. Speck caught them and stabbed and strangled them to death. He then began a grim routine of going into the room where the other seven were tied up and bringing them one by one to other rooms where he raped, then murdered them with his knife or by strangling them. Corazon, realizing that the only way she could save herself was by hiding, wedged her body under a bunk bed and hoped against hope that Speck would not see her. After he had raped and strangled his last victim, he took whatever money he had stolen and left, having lost count of how many girls were in the room. Hours later, Corazon crept out in a state of shock and screamed for help.

Her description of the man, especially of a tattoo on one of his arms, helped lead police to the Maritime Union Hall, where an employee recognized the sketch artist’s work of the suspect as Richard Speck. With nowhere to hide as an entire city closed in on him, Speck tried to kill himself, but changed his mind and wound up in Cook County Hospital. The doctor treating his injuries, Leroy Smith, saw the telltale tattoo and alerted a policeman. Speck was arrested without incident.

Speck’s trial lasted just twelve days. Found guilty on all counts, he was sentenced to death, but was saved from that fate by the Supreme Court’s temporary abolishment of the death penalty in 1972. To assure that Speck would never see the light of day again, he was re-sentenced to over 400 years in prison. He died behind bars on December 5th, 1991, a day before his fiftieth birthday, of a massive heart attack. He was never charged in the other murders that he was thought to have committed in Indiana and Michigan. He showed no remorse for what he did, often bragging in prison about the killings.

Was he a spree killer? Unquestionably he was. His prime motivation was sex. I think he killed the women so that there would be no witnesses around to testify against him. His actions were obviously excessive and unrestrained. He simply didn’t give a tinker’s dam about the lives he snuffed. The fact that he bragged about his killings while in prison is proof positive that he was an unrepentant killer of women.

On December 7, 1993, as the train pulled into the Merillon Avenue Station, a Jamaican, Colin Ferguson, then 35 years old, pulled out his gun and started firing at passengers. He killed six and wounded nineteen before being stopped by three of the passengers, Ferguson's trial was notable for a number of unusual developments, including his firing of his defense counsel and insisting on representing himself and questioning his own victims on the stand.

Ferguson was convicted on February 17, 1995, of murder for the deaths of the six passengers who died of their injuries. He was also convicted of attempted murder for wounding nineteen passengers. He is serving his sentence of 315-years-and-8-months to life at the Attica Correctional Facility in western New York. His current earliest possible parole date is August 6, 2309. Needless to say, none of us will be around then and neither will Ferguson.

His landlord Patrick Denis said Ferguson once told him, "I'm such a great person. There must be only one thing holding me back. It must be white people.” In February 1992, Ferguson was arrested and charged with harassing a white woman on a subway. The woman tried to sit in a vacant seat alongside Ferguson and asked him to move over, prompting Ferguson to scream at her and press his leg and elbow against her until police officers pinned him to the ground. Ferguson tried to escape the police and shouted to other nearby African Americans, "Brothers, come help me.”

Denis, his Flatbush landlord, said Ferguson appeared even more unstable upon his return, speaking in the third person about "some apocryphal-type doom scenario" that included black people rising up and striking down "their pompous rulers and oppressors". (Obviously white people) Ferguson started taking five showers a day and could be heard by neighbors repeatedly chanting at night, "all the black people killing all the white people".Denis became increasingly concerned about Ferguson's obsession with racism and apparent growing mental instability, and asked Ferguson to move out by the end of the month.

As the train approached the Merillon Avenue Station, Ferguson drew his handgun, dropped several cartridges on the ground, stood up and started opening fire on the passengers at random. During three minutes of gunfire, Ferguson killed six people and injured another 19. Initially, some passengers mistook the gunshots for caps or fireworks, until a woman shouted, "He's got a gun! He's shooting people!" Ferguson walked east on the train, pulling the trigger steadily about every half second. Several passengers tried to hide beneath their seats, while others fled to the eastern end of the train and tried to go into the next car. Ferguson walked down the aisle of the train and shot people to his right and left as he passed each seat, briefly facing each victim before firing. The New York Times later wrote the motions were "as methodical as if he were taking tickets".Ferguson repeated over and over, "I'm going to get you." as he walked down the aisle shooting at them.

Was his hatred for whites his motive for killing so many white passengers on that train? Many mass killers have hatred as their main motive to kill so many people. Unquestionably, his actions were excessive and unrestrained. His desire to get even with the whites who he felt did him wrong, made him willing and eager to kill any whites, even those on the train in which none of them had done him wrong. He was definitely a spree killer.

Kunstler and Kuby (his lawyers) proposed an innovative defense that Ferguson had been driven to temporary insanity by a psychiatric condition they termed "black rage". Kunstler and Kuby argued Ferguson had been driven insane by racial prejudice, and could not be held criminally liable for his actions even though he had committed the killings. The attorneys compared it to the utilization of the battered woman defense, post-traumatic stress disorder and the child abuse syndrome in other cases to negate criminal accountability. Kuby said the notes carried by Ferguson on the day of his arrest demonstrated that Ferguson was motivated by rage during the shootings. These arguments gave Ferguson’s jury about as much sympathy for him that a dog would get if it wandered into a flea convention.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ferguson’s hatred of white people is what prompted him to finally shoot them on a train. Why the train? Because there was very little they could do to escape his wrath in the car of a train.

Over the course of a year, in the United States, school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe secretly planted 1 ton of pyrotol inside the Bath Consolidated School. On May 18, 1927, after murdering his wife, he detonated the explosives. As residents were attempting to rescue the dying children and teachers, Kehoe arrived on the scene and detonated his dynamite laden pickup truck. Forty-four of his victims died including himself when he detonated the explosives in his truck.

What was his motive?

While serving on the school board, Kehoe fought endlessly for lower taxes. He blamed the previous property tax levy for his family's poor financial condition and he repeatedly accused superintendent Emory Huyck of financial mismanagement. While on the school board, Kehoe was appointed the Bath Township Clerk in 1925, but was unsuccessful at retaining this position in the election later that year. During this time, Nellie Kehoe was chronically ill with tuberculosis, and her frequent hospital stays may have played a role in putting the family into debt. At the time of the Bath School disaster, Kehoe had ceased making mortgage and homeowner's insurance payments, and the mortgage lender had begun foreclosure proceedings against the farm.

It would appear that he wanted to get even for those who he felt had brought about his financial problems but instead of going after the leaders in his community, he chose to murder their children enmasse. Revenge was his motive. Like the others I described earlier, his actions were both excessive and unrestrained, He was a spree killer.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, spree killers also include serial killers. A serial killer is typically defined as an individual who has murdered two or more people over a period of more than a month, with down time (a "cooling off period") between the murders, and whose motivation for killing is largely based on psychological gratification, such as sex, thrill, profit, power/control and revenge.
Sex is the primary motive of lust killers, whether or not the victims are dead, and fantasy plays a large role in their killings. Their sexual gratification depends on the amount of torture and mutilation they perform on their victims. They usually use weapons that require close contact with the victims, such as knives or hands. As lust killers continue with their murders, the time between killings decreases or the required level of stimulation increases, sometimes both.

Kenneth Bianchi, one of the "Hillside Stranglers", murdered women and girls of different ages, races and appearance because his sexual urges required different types of stimulation and increasing intensity.

Jeffrey Dahmer searched for his perfect fantasy lover — beautiful, submissive and eternal. As his desire increased, he experimented with drugs, alcohol and exotic sex. His increasing need for stimulation was demonstrated by the dismemberment of victims, whose heads and genitals he preserved. He experimented with cannibalism to "ensure his victims would always be a part of him".

The primary motive of a thrill killer is to induce pain or create terror in their victims, which provides stimulation and excitement for the killer. They seek the adrenaline rush provided by hunting and killing victims. Thrill killers murder only for the kill; usually the attack is not prolonged, and there is no sexual aspect. Usually the victims are strangers, although the killer may have followed them for a period of time. Thrill killers can abstain from killing for long periods of time and become more successful at killing as they refine their murder methods. Many attempt to commit the perfect crime and believe they will not be caught.

Robert Hansen took his victims to a secluded area, where he would let them loose and then hunt and kill them. In one of his letters to San Francisco Bay Area newspapers, the Zodiac Killer wrote "killing gives me the most thrilling experience it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl". Coral Watts was described by a surviving victim as "excited and hyper and clappin’ and just making noises like he was excited, that this was gonna be fun" during the 1982 attack. Slashing, stabbing, hanging, drowning, asphyxiating, and strangling were among the ways Watts killed his victims.

Material gain (profit) and a comfortable lifestyle are the primary motives of comfort killers. Usually, the victims are family members and close acquaintances. After a murder, a comfort killer will usually wait for a period of time before killing again to allow any suspicions by family or authorities to subside. They often use poison, most notably arsenic, to kill their victims. Female serial killers are often comfort killers, although not all comfort killers are female.

Dorothea Puente killed her tenants for their Social Security checks and buried them in the backyard of her home. H. H. Holmes killed for insurance and business profits. (more on him later) Professional killers ("hitmen") may also be considered serial killers. Richard Kuklinski charged tens of thousands of dollars for a "hit", earning enough money to support his family in a middle-class lifestyle.

Another objective for certain kinds of serial killer is to gain and exert power over their victims. Such killers are sometimes abused as children, leaving them with feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy as adults. Many power-or control-motivated killers sexually abuse their victims, but they differ from hedonistic killers in that rape is not motivated by lust but as simply another form of dominating the victim. Ted Bundy traveled around the United States seeking women he could have control over, especially control over their very existence.

It is impossible to determine what motivated Jack the Ripper because he was never caught. Was it power and control, the thrill of committing such ghastly murders or were they done to get even with prostitutes if a prostitute did him harm such as giving him a venereal disease?

The main issue I wish to present to my readers in this article is the issue of how a a spree killer is defined. The key word is ‘spree’ and it is that word that is the bone of contention between me and the FBI when it comes to identifying what a spree killer is.

You may recall that I described the word ‘spree’ to mean, “excessive and unrestrained indulgence in an activity” and that definition was taken from the Funk and Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary. But that isn’t the only dictionary that defines that word in that manner. The Penguin English Dictionary defines it as; “a bout of unrestrained indulgence in an activity.” The Collins Concise Dictionary defines ‘spree’ to mean; “a session of over indulgence.”

Just as a shopper can go on a spending spree and as such, is undergoing an unrestrained indulgence in spending money, so can a mass or serial killer undergo an unrestrained indulgence in committing murder. Hence, the phrase, spree killer is apt when defining such murderers.

However, the matter doesn’t just rest there. As I said in the beginning of this article, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics defines spree killings as "killings at two or more locations with almost no time break between murders. I disagree that spree killings having to be in two or more locations. It can be in one location.

In Canada, more specifically in the province of Ontario, there was a serial rapist called Paul Bernardo. He was committing his rapes in the City of Toronto. Then he moved to Port Dalhousie, Ontario. Early in the morning on June 15, 1991, Bernardo took a detour through Burlington, halfway between Toronto and Port Dalhousie to steal licence plates. That is where he found Leslie Mahaffy. The 14-year-old had missed her curfew after attending a funeral and was locked out of her house and had been unable to find anyone with whom she could stay overnight. Bernardo abducted the girl and took her to his home that he shared with his wife, Karla Homolka. Bernardo and Homolka subsequently videotaped themselves torturing and sexually abusing Mahaffy. They even subjected her to sodomy. The following day, Bernardo strangled her. The pair put her body into their basement. Bernardo and Homolka decided the best way to dispose of the evidence would be to dismember Leslie Mahaffy and encase each piece in cement. Bernardo bought a dozen bags of cement at a hardware store the following day. Bernardo used his grandfather's circular saw to cut the body. Bernardo and Homolka then made numerous trips to dump the cement blocks in Lake Gibson, 18 kilometres south of Port Dalhousie.

Now if Leslie Mahaffy was the only person he murdered, then he couldn't be referred to as a serial killer or a spree killer.

On the afternoon of April 16, 1992, Bernardo and Homolka were driving through St. Catharines to look for potential victims. It was after school hours on the day before Good Friday. Students were still going home but by and large the streets were empty. As they passed Holy Cross Secondary School, a main Catholic high school in the city's north end, they spotted Kristen French, a 15-year-old student, walking briskly to her nearby home. The couple pulled into the parking lot of nearby Grace Lutheran Church and Homolka got out of the car, map in hand, pretending to need assistance. As French looked at the map, Bernardo attacked from behind, brandishing a knife and forcing her into the front seat of their car. From her back seat, Homolka controlled the girl by pulling down her hair.

Over the three days of Easter weekend, Bernardo and Homolka videotaped themselves as they tortured, raped and sodomized Kristen French, forcing her to drink large amounts of alcohol and to behave submissively to Bernardo. At Bernardo's trial, Crown prosecutor Ray Houlahan said that Bernardo always intended to kill her because she was never blindfolded and was capable of identifying her captors.

The couple murdered French before going to the Homolkas' home for Easter dinner. Homolka testified at her trial that Bernardo had strangled French for exactly seven minutes while she watched.

Now both victims were abducted from different areas but they were murdered in one location. Does the fact that they were murdered in one location change the status of Bernardo from being an ordinary murder to being a serial killer and thusly, a spree murder? I don’t think so. His actions were unrestrained indulgence in two murders which in my respectful opinion, defines a spree killer.

As an aside, Bernardo was sentenced to life in prison and it is highly unlikely that he will ever be released from prison. His wife unfortunately was sentenced to only twelve years in prison for manslaughter because at the time of her conviction and sentence, the video that showed their participation in the sexually torture of their two victims wasn’t discovered until after her trial was over. Further, they accidentally killed her sister when they gave her an overdose of a drug so that Bernardo could have sex with the young woman.

To think of Bernardo in any manner but as a spree killer is akin to thinking of this Pit Bull as a Chihuahua.

Herman Webster Mudgett (May 16, 1861– May 7, 1896, was better known under the alias of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. He was one of the first documented American serial killers in the modern sense of the term. In Chicago at the time of the 1893 World's Fair, Holmes opened a hotel which he had designed and built for himself specifically with murder in mind, and which was the location of many of his murders. While he confessed to 27 murders, of which nine were confirmed, his actual body count could be as high as 250. He took an unknown number of his victims from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, which was less than 10 miles away from his "World's Fair" hotel and brought them to his hotel.

He built his three-story, block-long "Castle"—as it was dubbed by those in the neighborhood. It was opened as a hotel for the World's Colombian Exposition in 1893, with part of the structure used as commercial space. The ground floor of the Castle contained Holmes's own relocated drugstore and various shops, while the upper two floors contained his personal office and a maze of over one hundred windowless rooms with doorways opening to brick walls, oddly angled hallways, stairways to nowhere, doors openable only from the outside, and a host of other strange and labyrinthine constructions. Holmes repeatedly changed builders during the construction of the Castle, so only he fully understood the design of the house, thus decreasing the chance of being reported to the police.

After the completion of the hotel, Holmes selected mostly female victims from among his employees (many of whom were required as a condition of employment to take out life insurance policies for which Holmes would pay the premiums but also be the beneficiary), as well as his lovers and hotel guests. He tortured and killed them. Some were locked in soundproof bedrooms fitted with gas lines that let him asphyxiate them at any time. Some victims were locked in a huge soundproof bank vault near his office where they were left to suffocate. The victims' bodies were dropped by secret chute to the basement, where some were meticulously dissected, stripped of flesh, crafted into skeleton models, and then sold to medical schools. Holmes also cremated some of the bodies or placed them in lime pits for destruction. Holmes had two giant furnaces as well as pits of acid, bottles of various poisons, and even a stretching rack. Through the connections he had gained in medical school, he sold skeletons and organs with little difficulty.

He moved about in the United States and once stayed in Toronto. He continued to murder people but not on the grand scale he had done when he was in Chicago. He was finally caught, tried and sentenced to death by hanging. Apparently the executioner shortened the drop so it took 15 minutes for the condemned man to die while slowly strangling at the end of his rope.

Was this serial killer a spree killer? Of course he was. After all, wasn’t his actions the result of excessive and unrestrained indulgence in an activity? His motive to kill his victims however was for profit and of course, to get rid of their bodies.

What are the main reasons why these killers murder people?

The thrill of seeing people die at the hands of their killers, sexual satisfaction, having power and control over their victims, revenge against people in general and getting rid of victims who if they live, may testify against them.

If you draw a general profile of a spree killer, how would he or she look like?

It is difficult to draw a general profile of a spree killer. Most serial killers and mass murderers do not look like killers, until they are caught, then the evil in their faces is all you see, Some are handsome, such as Ted Bundy who murdered young women around the United States. Some look real scary, such as Robert Charles Browne, a convicted killer serving a life sentence for the murder of a 13-year-old Colorado girl. He also admitted to a series of 48 other murders from 1970 until his arrest in 1995. He was heavily bearded. Some look really ugly, such as Robert Pickton who murdered 49 prostitutes at his pig farm near Vancouver, B.C. Some looked just average such as Hadden Clark. When six-year-old neighbor, Michelle Dorr, came by looking for his niece, no one was home, but Clark told the young girl his niece was in her bedroom and followed her into the house where he butchered her with a knife and cannibalized her, then buried her body in a shallow grave in a near-by park. He bragged he killed other women.

Is our society protected against such murderers?

The only way that society can be protected against serial killers is through education and that education begins at home when our children are very small. We must warn them not to speak to strangers and not to walk alone into areas that they are not familiar with. When they are in their teens, they will be more aware of the dangers that lurk but the danger is always there. The prostitutes murdered by Pickton were street-wise and yet he conned them into going with him to his farm where he then strung them up, gutted them and fed their bodies to his pigs. There is no real protection against being a victim of a mass murderer because these murders are committed suddenly without any warning. Certainly how a murderer looks is no real hint of who or what he or she has in mind for people. You can be killed by people who look truly handsome and pretty and at the same time, an ugly person can be as nice as anyone can be. Looks are deceiving. However, mannerisms is something else. If you are aware that someone you know talks strangely and says that some day he wants to kill a bunch of people, take him seriously. Whatever you do, don’t insult him. It could cost you your life.

Can we do anything about it so that there are less of them in society?

Obviously, mass and serial killers are mentally disturbed. They need treatment. The problem is, many of them don’t seek it. I strongly feel that if a serial killer or mass killer is caught, they should never be released back into society under any circumstances. Many years ago, a child killer in Quebec murdered two young boys after he sexually ravaged them. He was sentenced to hang. His sentence was commuted and years later, he was released from prison. He later murdered two more boys after sexually ravaging them. This time he was sentenced to life in prison. Later, he was murdered by an inmate in prison.

Is deterrence enough for those offenders? .

Deterrence is the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from committing a crime. Deterrence is often contrasted with retribution, which holds that punishment is a necessary consequence of a crime and should be calculated based on the gravity of the wrong done.

Deterrence can be divided into three separate categories.

Specific deterrence focuses on the individual in question. The aim of these punishments is to discourage the criminal from future criminal acts by instilling an understanding of the consequences.

General or indirect deterrence focuses on general prevention of crime by making examples of specific deviants. The individual actor is not the focus of the attempt at behavioral change, but rather receives punishment in public view in order to deter other individuals from deviance in the future. The argument that deterrence, rather than retribution, is the main justification for punishment is a hallmark of the rational choice theory.

Incapacitation is considered by some to be a subset of specific deterrence. Incapacitation aims to prevent future crimes not by rehabilitating the individual but rather from taking away his ability to commit such acts. Under this theory, criminals are put in jail not so that they will learn the consequence of their actions but rather so that while there they will be unable to engage in crime. It is ofter simply referred to as warehousing the criminal.

I spent a number of years counseling men and women who were in prison and one thing I learned from them is that if a person has a family that loves them and a good job and friends that respect them, the thought of losing it all by committing a crime is a real deterrence. It is the person who is a loser and has nothing to lose, who is unlikely to be deterred. After all, to many of them, living in prison where they get three meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in is better than living on the street as a homeless man. I remember asking a man who had just been released the previous month as to why he was back in jail. He said that there was nothing outside of jail that would keep him out of jail.

Mass murders are so hell-bent on committing mass murder, no amount of consequences will deter them. Many of them kill themselves rather than be taken alive. Serial killers are never deterred. If they were, they wouldn’t kill people.

What are the punishments for those killers convicted of spree killing?

Ted Bundy was electrocuted in the electric chair in Starke, Florida. I can imagine how frightening that must have appeared to him when he was sitting in it. I know because in 1981, I was invited to visit the state penitentiary in Florida and during my visit, I was asked if I would like to see the electric chair? When I was seated in it, the deputy warden was explaining to me the procedures that are undertaken during an execution. Even though I knew that it wasn’t wired up at that time, I still felt uneasy.

Charles Albright (born August 10, 1933) in Dallas, Texas, was sentenced to three life sentences without possibility of parole for the murders of Shirley Williams, in 1991, Mary Pratt in 1990 and Susan Peterson in 1991. The victim's eyes were surgically removed by this killer.

Richard J. Angelo, a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital on Long Island, was convicted of murdering four patients through poisoning by injection or IV. Psychologists testified he had dissociative identity disorder. After he injected patients, another personality took over rendering him unaware of his actions. Angelo passed a polygraph test. The prosecution agreed that the ''monster in nurse's whites'' had a personality disorder but knew right from wrong. He was sentenced to fifty years to life in prison on January, 25, 1990.

Jeffrey Dahmer had an obsession with death and cannibalism that started in his childhood years. After undergoing several young men and eating part of their bodies, he was captured and sentenced to prison for life without parole. Later he was murdered by a fellow inmate.

John Gacy who lived and worked in Chicago and while he was there, he murdered a large number of teenage boys and was later executed by lethal injection.

Charles Milles Manson (born November 12, 1934) is an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders carried out by members of the group at his instruction. He was convicted of the murders through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes his fellow conspirators commit in furtherance of the conspiracy's object. He was sentenced to death but the Supreme Court temporarily placed a hold on capital punishment in the U.S. so his sentence was commuted to life in prison. When I was invited to visit all the prisons in California in 1972, I passed by Manson’s cell on death row. I was told I could talk to any inmate on death row but not Manson. This killer called out to me, “Hey Man. Come talk to me.” I just continued walking past his cell. At the time of this writing, he is 76 years of age and is serving his time in the Corcoran State Prison. He has applied for parole and has been turned down 11 times.

Tex Watson was the leader of the killers from the Manson family and was present at the Sharon Tate and LaBianca murders. He too was sentenced to death but his sentence was also commuted to life in prison. Years ago, he expressed a desire to some day be released from prison. I wrote him a letter and told him that no parole board would risk the wrath of society by releasing him. A month later, I received a letter from his wife telling me that Watson had decided not to apply for parole any longer.

I am against capital punishment for one reason only. I don’t want innocent people executed. I draw the line however with respect to terrorists and people who torture their victims to death. I believe that mass murderers and serial murderers should spend the rest of their lives in prison. Further, they should not be permitted to mingle with other prisoners. They should be totally isolated from other prisoners. Richard Speck was permitted to mingle and live with other prisoners and he bragged to them how he murdered all those nurses. I saw a video of him sharing a birthday cake with his fellow inmates. That is not a suitable way to treat such an evil man. Recently, a Canadian serial killer was permitted to mingle with other inmates and one inmate was told to share the cell with this killer. The next day, this killer’s cellmate was found strangled to death. Bernardo is serving his sentence in a cell in which he spends 23 hours a day in it. Others like him also spend their lives in their cells. This is the proper way to deal with these kinds of killers.

If we can protect ourselves against them, what would be the measures we might take?

First of all, make sure that your doors and windows in your home are properly secured. Many serial killers have gotten into unsecured homes and either killed their victims when they were in their beds or alternatively, abducted them while they were asleep.

Teach your children how to take great care when answering the knock on the door. There should be a means in which they can see who is at the door before they open it. One day when I was serving a civil document on a person in a home, a teenage girl opened the door. In her hand was a cell phone. She had called her mother before she opened the door and then when I told the girl why I was there, she conveyed that message to her mother. That was a good way to protect her daughter. If I was a rapist, it is unlikely that I would have tried to abduct the girl since she had given a description of me to her mother.

Children should be warned how to avoid being kidnapped while walking on the street. When someone in a car asks your child if they would like to help that person look for his dog, the child should run away as fast as he or she can. If a child is seized, the child should remain limp. It is extremely difficult to lift someone up whose body is totally limp. The person would have to drag the child to his car. While the child is screaming, neighbours would be very suspicious of anyone dragging a child to his car.

Some parents walk their children to school when their children are very young. Our children were with a babysitter before school and after school and my wife or I picked them up from the babysitter. The baby sitter walked them to school and brought them back to her home after school. That isn’t always possible for some parents so their children should be taught to go to school with a friend and return home or close as possible to home with the same friend.


It is an unfortunate fact of life that really scary and horrible people are free to walk our streets, people who are mass murderers and serial killers. The term serial killer was coined in the 1970s due to cases such as Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz, the man who shot couples to death in New York City. According to an FBI Behavioral Unit study 85% of the world's serial killers are in America. At any given time 20 - 50 unidentified active serial killers are at work continually changing their targets and methods. Prostitutes, runaways, and others who lead transient and anonymous lives are usually not reported missing promptly and receive little police or media attention, making them excellent targets. The police in Vancouver learned too late that they hadn’t paid more attention to the fact that prostitutes in that city were disappearing. They ended up in Robert Pickton’s pig pen---truly a spree killer if there ever was one such killer.

According to Mike Rustigan, professor of criminology at San Francisco State University:

"With all of them, their motives tend to be total, deep and personal. They feel no guilt, no remorse and have an attitude of total disdain towards their victims.

"There's a self-importance that runs in all of them. With the Unabomber, for example, he demanded that The Washington Post and The New York Times publish his manifesto. You get the feeling that if he had just laid low, he may have remained on the loose to this day. His own brother saw the manifesto in his home and he then contacted authorities. I feel he felt upstaged by the Oklahoma City bombing, which made everything he had done up to that point seem like nothing." unquote

As to mass killers, you should watch for tell-tale signs such as mumbling in an angry manner, making threats. Make sure that you don’t piss anyone off at work. Mass killers have returned to places of employment and killed those persons whom they felt disrespected them. Unfortunately, innocent people have been killed by mass killers simply because they were in the immediate areas where the killers began their rampage.

More efforts should be undertaken to determine what makes these killers tick. Elliott Leyton in his book Hunting Humans said in part;

“We must study them well, for there will be many more such killers in what remains of this century and it should be clearly understood that their intent is to steal our daughters and sons and to snuff out their lives.” unquote

The murder of strangers by serial killers and even mass killers will probably always be with us. We are inclined to dismiss them as freaks and an aberration in human nature but nevertheless, they are still with us. It is even conceivable that sometime in our lives, we have been next to one of these killers or later in our lives, we will be next to one of them but by the grace of God, we have been or will be spared from their insidious acts of violence. It is a scary world out there. Be careful.


Anonymous said...

Hi! I found your post interesting yet a little confusing. You seemed to be mixing the three types of multiple murderers as one being a part of another. I understand what you said about a spree killer committing mass murder during his spree but that doesn't make him a mass murderer. In fact if you think about it, looking at single serial killing homicide they will be just that, single homicides. We look at the whole MO, the Gestalt part of it, the whole picture and even though during his spree killing he committed mass murder, the whole picture still makes him a spree killer only.

Also the question about spree killers and their convictions and punishments did not match you answer. You talked about Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer and they are serial killers. You also suggested that Ted Bundy was sitting in a chair scared out of his mind because you sat in one of those chairs and had that experience. When we look at the Hedonistic model of a serial killer, death becomes a thrill. Someone like Albert Fish dreamed about the electric chair ever since he was a kid. For some serial killers, their own execution becomes a fantasy and that does not entice fear. Actually, maybe on the contrary.

Also on the question "What are the main reasons why these killers murder people? " You answered about serial killers and the student asked specifically about spree killers. Here the profile is different. It can be political, fanatic, mental illness, etc. Spree killers are not that commonly sexual as you put it out for them to be.

In the question "If you draw a general profile of a spree killer, how would he or she look like?" You put them out to be the same again and they are 3 distinctive different profiles of multiple victim killers.

"Can we do anything about it so that there are less of them in society?"

You said "Obviously, mass and serial killers are mentally disturbed. They need treatment. The problem is, many of them don’t seek it. I strongly feel that if a serial killer or mass killer is caught, they should never be released back into society under any circumstances. "

Not correct. A mass murder yes, but not a serial killer. In fact probably only 1% of serial killers are actually mentally ill. The psychopathology in SOME of them might aid to their cover but Psychopathology is common in general population and most of it turns out to be successful. Picasso and Andy warhol were successful psychopaths.

Anyway I still thought your post was interesting! Any under any way was I trying to step on anyone's toes or offending. That was just my opinion.

Dahn Batchelor said...

Bundy was terrified at being electrocuted. Prior to his execution and even after it, death didn't come easy to some of the condemned men. He tried to stall the execution by admitting to other deaths in hopes that the authorities would prolong the execution date so that the police could check out his claims. The Florida authorities didn't fall for his ploy and executed him as scheduled. When I sat on the electric chair in Florida, I had the option of leaving it at any time I wanted to.

It is true that some killers welcome death. When I interviewed condemned men in San Quentin penitentiary in 1972, some of them said that they were looking forward to being executed because they didn't want to spend the rest of their lives in prison. But they were also terrified at the prospect of being gassed. It was a very slow way to die. That method was later changed to death by injection.

I am not sure that you understand what the word 'spree' really means. It is used to describe someone doing something in excess. It also involves an intense interest in a specific activity. A mass killer is obviously doing something in excess and while doing it, has an intense interest in what he is doing. It is also an unrestrained activity.

It is true that some people have been successful in their lives because they are psychopaths but it is because of their psychopathy that they are suffering from an antisocial personality disorder which is a form of mental illness. They continuously violate the rights of others and have no empathy for the suffering they bring on to others. They have no remorse as to what they have done to others nor to they possess a sense of loyalty towards their friends. This doesn't necessarily make them insane. Their behavior is simply another form of mental illness. Mass and Serial killers are psychopaths as are con artists who steal and con money from innocent dupes.

Anonymous said...

I used the example of Albert Fish for being welcoming to death, and the fact is, most serial killers are comfortable with it. Albert Fish did not want to be in the electric chair just because he was sick of prison. When he was little, his pretend play was his execution. It was a fantasy for him and it is for some serial killers.

I do understand what spree means. But in the context of a spree killer is going on a rampage (whether it is a psychosis or not, whether it is any kind of mental illness or not) eventually the behavior stops whether it is suicidal or cop intervention. Also, you said that they have a specific interest, but unlike serial killers, mass murders have the one target as to spree killers (to some extent), serial killers can kill for years to just feed their "needs". Mass and spree happen in just one event only.

Psychopathology is
You said that Mass Killers and Serial killers are psychopaths and not all of them are. Neither are them insane (like you said, i know) in any way or form.

Mass and Spree killers are completely different from serial killers and within each to its own typologies. Terrorism and fundamentalist bombings (like abortion clinics or the Norway's bomber example) are examples of mass murder and they are in no way psychopaths or have other types of mental illness. (most of them)

There are also certain degrees of psychopathology and the anti social behavior might be present but it might not be damaging to the person and the people around them. It is impairing to a certain extent only, specially because most psychopaths are not criminal, and those who are, most are victimless.

See, spree killers act in one event, serial killers don't. The drives of both types of multiple victim murderers are completely different and you can't put them in the same category or talk about them like they're the same.