Saturday, December 19, 2009

Criminal Profiling Part One

From Crime and Clues:

Some time ago when my children where young they, like all other children, worried about Monsters. I did the obligatory "under the bed check" and I even had a "magic flashlight which "poofed" monsters. At that time I had been immersed in the study of serial murders and forensic science for several years and dearly wish the magic flashlight existed.

One of the middle children was extremely independent and tended to wander off with her younger brother in pursuit. There were several episodes where I found myself running frantically through my neighborhood in tears searching for the two youngest. I eventually found them playing at a stone bridge near our house. In an attempt to prevent them from wandering off to play at the bridge I told them a monster lived under the bridge. The only thing that could protect them was me. They both remember this story and the youngest still asks if there really was a monster under the bridge. "There could have been." I think to myself. I say "no I just told you that so you would not come down here to play by yourself." I will have to tell him about the real monsters soon.

All mothers and most parents in general know the feeling of panic when your child disappears even briefly. None ever wish to endure this feeling for more than a few minutes. I cannot imagine the torture for parents who have to endure it for months or years. The subject of the next few articles will be criminal profiling. In particular, profiling of serial killers who prey on there victims for sexual or psychological pleasure.

A serial killer is defined as someone who kills and then has a cooling off period followed by one or more subsequent murders. This would include psycho/sexual murderers, hired assassins, many political leaders and so on. For this series of articles we will look at those "lone wolf" killers who seem to be motivated by sexual or psychological gratification.

This instinctive fear that someone has spirited away our child is not new. It is reflected in literature such as Grim's fairy tales and other children's stories which warn of the dangers of wandering to far from home or speaking to strangers. These stories exist in almost every culture and are directed at children and young women as there audience. Stories such as Bluebeard and the Dracula legend also indicate that serial murder may not be purely a modern phenomenon. Both of these stories are based on historical figures who were serial killers.

In past many people were born and lived there whole lives in the same village. Strangers were easily identifiable and probably treated with some caution. In modern times, the rise of large cities affords the individual a certain degree of anonymity. Virtually most of the people you will see in any public place will be strangers. This situation heightens the sense of fear and the possibility that somewhere in that crowd is lurking a killer. The problem is you can't tell by looking at them or even talking to them. The expression "a wolf in sheep's clothing" applies aptly to our modern problem with serial murderers in that they can hide in the crowd undetected until it is too late.

The dangers for children and young women are not as new as some writers believe. Many such as Dr. Elliot Leyton author of Hunting Humans and Men of Blood see serial murder as having increased dramatically over the last century particularly in the United States. Leyton believes that the rise of the modern serial killer is a cultural phenomenon. Others like John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, both founders of the F.B.I. behavioral science unit, believe that it is a phenomenon which has existed for quite a long period but was not recognized as a unique form of criminal behavior(Douglas and Olshaker, 1991).

Throughout time and various cultures mankind has been a hunter. The genetic selection would have been in favor of those men will strong hunting skills and instincts. A man with strong hunting skills is better able to provide for his offspring and they tend to survive in larger numbers than children who are deprived of food. The hunter's genes are passed on to the next generation and so on down through time. Those instincts are still present in modern humans. Some become soldiers or police officers where the hunt is modified by cars and "capture only" rules apply but it is still a hunt. A wolf pack will chase its prey until it is exhausted and then herd it into an inescapable area for the "take down". During a police chase, of any kind, the same thing occurs.

Others join sports which satisfy the hunting instincts. Unfortunately for us the rise of the modern large city has deprived some of us of the ability to satisfy the instinct to hunt. At some point in their lives-usually early- serial killers loose the ability to control the instinct to hunt.

Animals used in experiments which test overcrowding will kill each other and exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior in response to stress (Leyton, 1986). Whether the inability to control this instinct is triggered by cultural factors are physical and mental abuse I am not sure. It could be either in combination with a genetic predisposition for a strong hunting instinct. Since serial killers come from all different backgrounds I suspect it is sometimes one or both which trigger the inability to control the hunting instinct.

In some killers the kill is linked to sexual pleasure and is more likely a product of similar abuse experienced by the killer. Some seem to enjoy the game of "catch me if you can" and the notoriety it brings. Others are truly mentally unable to judge right for wrong. I will discuss the motives for murder a little later in this series.

There are probably hundreds of ways to make a chocolate cake each using standard ingredients in varying amounts. A person can not point to "flour" and say "that is what will result in a chocolate cake if I bake it." The cake is a combination of many ingredients. The amounts of each ingredient used determine the type of chocolate cake. So it is with serial killers. They are not created by one action or factor but by a mix of genetics, cultural encouragement of violence, physical and mental stress factors such as abuse and childhood linking of sexual pleasure with pain, violence or fear.

Full article can be found here.