Serial murder is defined as the killing of three or more people over a period of more than 30 days with a significant cooling off period between the killings (Seltzer 18). This cooling off period is the critical factor that separates the serial killer from mass and spree killers. A serial killer usually emerges from the pain and suffering of a life riddled with abuse, neglect, hormonal imbalances, and other numerous situations. Serial murder is a disease. There are valid explanations that help society realize that these individuals experienced events so traumatic in their early lives that they have become dead to their surroundings and have attained no sense of moral autonomy (Levin & Fox 52). To truly understand a serial killer, society must put aside their media-born misconceptions and look upon serial killers with an unbiased attitude.
Serial killers are typically 25 to 30 years in age, with the overwhelming majority being white males; although, there have been several known cases of female killers. Most often, serial killers' choices of prey are white females who are strangers to the offender. Serial killers come from different professions and socioeconomic backgrounds. John Wayne Gacy was an active, outgoing figure in business and society and became a member of the local Jaycees. His fellow workers at the postal office saw nothing peculiar about him and described him as a boy scout type -- courteous, reliable, and helpful (Levin & Fox p. 198). Another documented serial killer said, "It is my belief that the reason I never came under suspicion is because I was so normal in every aspect." (Tithecott 206). These killers attack all over the United States, but western states have much higher rates than those of the north and east. In addition, rates vary over time within particular countries and regions (Seltzer 94-95). As these characteristics point out, a serial killer can be almost anyone.
Several serial killers have had fixations with law enforcement and posed as officers or worked in positions as security guards and auxiliary police officers. Ed Kemper frequented a bar near police headquarters and questioned police officers about the murders he had just committed (Crime Library). John Wayne Gacy had a police radio in his home.
What causes a human being to commit such heinous acts? Many serial killers were often exposed to childhood abuse. Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, was sold off as a slave by his alcoholic father. Others have lived abnormal adolescent lives. Ed Kemper beheaded his sister's dolls while playing execution games (Crime Library). Daydreaming, compulsive masturbation, isolation, chronic lying, and bed-wetting are common characteristics serial killers shared as youths. Research shows great similarities among the different killers, which suggests that they share a common illness. "An understanding of the nature of that illness and the ability to detect the appearance of this syndrome in children are the first steps in preventing the spread of serial murder."...