and the UNeXpLaiNed ©Copyrighted by Dave Ayotte & Caty Bergman

SErial Killers: What Do We Really Know (WDWRK)?

TOC (Table Of Contents)


WDWRK: Introduction

Depending upon your definition, it can be argued that serial killers are nothing new. They've been around since long before Jack the Ripper appeared on the scene. Two examples that come to mind right away are Peter Stumpp:

and Vlad the Impaler:

Most everything that we really know today about serial killers comes from them. The rest is highly speculative at best, some of which is probably a result of wishful thinking, which can probably be said about our theories and opinions also.

Wishful thinking, what exactly does that mean?

It simply means that Law Enforcement (LE) wishes it knew as much about serial killers as they think they know.

We're not saying that what they think is wrong, just that the way we are looking at this is from a critical thinker's point of view. Logically, the probabilites are good that maybe they don't know as much as they think, because the flaw in what they know, is that they're not basing their conclusions on all serial killers, but on profiles that are based solely on what serial killers, serial killers that have been caught mind you, are willing to tell them.

It virtually ignores the possible reality that there are more serial killers out there that do not think or act like the one's who have been caught. There is a reason why they haven't been caught yet. And we think it is because they, or their murders, don't generally fit the accepted profile of how a serial killer thinks and acts. In short they don't fit the profile of what they think the characteristics of a serial killer are.

You can almost bet that many, if not all, of the current breed of serial killers that are out there and haven't been caught yet, are reading or have read or watched documentaries (and probably slasher films) on serial killers, taking notes, making list and rules, highlighting juicy parts, and generally seeing the problems with LE themselves, and exploiting them for their own personal enjoyment. Israel Keyes is a good example of this new type of killer, which is not really new at all:,

Many of our theories are based equally on both the Keyes case and also the Ramirez case, although the Ramirez case came to our attention first. Their profiles and MOs should be the new rules, and not the exception. If you follow Ramirez's Modus Operandi (MO):,

he almost made it a point to not use the same (MO) with each murder. He mixed it up. He didn't follow a pattern. It's what most determines if a serial killer is at work, and one of the determining factors used are the original pick-up and final drop-off sites where the bodies are left, many times called "dump sites". That (patterns) and sometimes connecting clues found at two different crime scenes. Ramirez, for example, was connected to two attacks in one day, because the two attackers were described with long curly hair and bulging eyes. This started a media frenzy, but what clinched it was because he left the same footprint pattern at two different crime scenes and bullets from previous shootings matched. Sometimes though, like with Ted Bundy, LE just gets lucky.

After rereading the information about Ramirez, we realize although he did tend to target different kinds of people, old couples, younger couples, different races, sometimes killing both, sometimes letting the female live; most of his killings were done by shooting the victim. Our point still stands that LE didn't finally admit they were looking for a serial killer until the evidence of the footprint pattern and bullets came to light.

Similarily, Keyes liked to mix it up also, and had his own rules:


"Keyes planned murders long ahead of time and took extraordinary action to avoid detection. Unlike most serial killers, he did not have a victim profile. He always killed far from home, and never in the same area twice. On his murder trips, he kept his mobile phone turned off and paid for items with cash. He had no connection to any of his victims. In the Currier murders, he flew to Chicago, and there rented a car to drive the 1000 additional miles to Vermont. He then used the murder kit he had hidden two years earlier to perform the murders... "

This all comes back to the problems with LE's approach to serial killer investigations, although not entirely their fault, much of it is. Before we get into those problems, let's first go over what many people in LE think the profile of serial killer characteristics actually are.

WDWRK: Characteristics

Here are some of the better-known characteristics of serial killers from three different websites, and finally, an FBI webpage that tries to debunk the various myths about serial killers.


"Typical characteristics of serial killers include:

"Generally being described as possessing IQs in the 'bright normal' range, although they are more likely to have low/average intelligence. A sample of 174 IQs of serial killers had a median IQ of 93. Only serial killers who used bombs had an average IQ above the population mean.

"Often, they have trouble staying employed and tend to work in menial jobs. The FBI, however, states, "Serial murderers often seem normal; have families and/or a steady job." Other sources state they often come from unstable families.

"They were often abused—emotionally, physically and/or sexually—by a family member.

"Fetishism, partialism, and necrophilia, are paraphilias which involve a strong tendency to experience the object of erotic interest almost as if it were a physical representation of the symbolized body. Individuals engage in paraphilias which are organized along a continuum; participating in varying levels of fantasy perhaps by focusing on body parts (partialism), symbolic objects which serve as physical extensions of the body (fetishism), or the anatomical physicality of the human body; specifically regarding its inner parts and sexual organs (one example being necrophilia).

"A disproportionate number exhibit one, two, or all three of the Macdonald triad (see below) of predictors of psychopathy:

"Many are fascinated with fire setting.

"They are involved in sadistic activity; especially in children who have not reached sexual maturity, this activity may take the form of torturing animals.

"More than 60 percent wet their beds beyond the age of 12. However, recent authorities (see citations in the Enuresis section of the Macdonald triad article) question or deny the statistical significance of this figure.

"They were frequently bullied as children.

"Some were involved in petty crimes, such as theft, fraud, vandalism, dishonesty or similar offenses."


" ...mass murderers, serial killers, and other extremely violent individuals do share a range of common traits.

"Statistically speaking, the average serial killer is a white male from a lower-to-middle-class upbringing. In fact, over 90 percent of serial killers are men.

"Most serial killers are in their 20s or 30s.

"Most mass murderers are single or divorced.

"As children, soon-to-be serial killers often torture animals.

"More than 60 percent of serial killers wet the bed beyond the age of 12.

"According to the A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, many serial killers are obsessed with starting fires. Ottis Toole, George Adorno, and Carl Panzram are just a few of the many serial killers with a childhood history of arson.

"Many mass murderers and serial killers have an extraordinarily high IQ. For example, the Unabomber is a genius.

"A lot of serial killers come from dysfunctional families with an absent father. Marc Lepine (mass murderer of 14 people) is one of the many examples of fatherless serial killers.

"Many serial killers suffered through childhood abuse. 'The Boston Strangler' Albert DeSalvo was even sold off as a slave by his alcoholic father.

"Serial killers often have a history of attempted suicide. Charles Edmund Cullen, the most prolific serial killer in the history of New Jersey, had 20 suicide attempts throughout his life.

"Mass murderers are often loners who have very few social connections.


"Approximately 90 percent of known serial killers are Caucasian males between the ages of 25 to 35. These people have high IQs ranging from 105 to 120. There are some, for example Ted Bundy, who even have an I.Q. of 140, who are considered to be geniuses. Although these people are highly intelligent, they often have poor school performance and are socially inept. They prefer solitude to social environments. They also have trouble holding a job.


"A study was performed by R. Ressler, A. Burgess, and J. Douglas to learn about the histories of several serial killers. They surveyed 36 incarcerated serial killers and found that there were many similar childhood character traits among them. They found that 82% of the serial killers they interviewed daydreamed and masturbated. They also found that 71% were isolated and had a habit of lying. About 68% were bed wetters as children and 67% were rebellious and had nightmares. About 58% destroyed property, set fires, and stole. There were also many other character traits that these serial killers shared. Ted Bundy claimed that Pornography made him kill. Pornography was not listed as one of the childhood habits but sexual fixation is a general problem that many of these serial killers had, so it this survey was an accurate assessment of the personality characteristics of a serial killer. The survey however, is not a strong assessment as it only involved 36 incarcerated serial killers, but it is understandable given that many of the serial killers receive the death penalty so they can no longer be studied."


"The relative rarity of serial murder combined with inaccurate, anecdotal information and fictional portrayals of serial killers has resulted in the following common myths and misconceptions regarding serial murder:

"Myth: Serial killers are all dysfunctional loners.

"The majority of serial killers are not reclusive, social misfits who live alone. They are not monsters and may not appear strange. Many serial killers hide in plain sight within their communities. Serial murderers often have families and homes, are gainfully employed, and appear to be normal members of the community. Because many serial murderers can blend in so effortlessly, they are oftentimes overlooked by law enforcement and the public.
"Robert Yates killed seventeen prostitutes in the Spokane, Washington area, during the 1990s. He was married with five children, lived in a middle class neighborhood, and was a decorated U.S. Army National Guard helicopter pilot. During the time period of the murders, Yates routinely patronized prostitutes, and several of his victims knew each other. Yates buried one of his victims in his yard, beneath his bedroom window. Yates was eventually arrested and pled guilty to thirteen of the murders.

"The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, confessed to killing 48 women over a twenty-year time period in the Seattle, Washington area. He had been married three times and was still married at the time of his arrest. He was employed as a truck painter for thirty-two years. He attended church regularly, read the Bible at home and at work, and talked about religion with co-workers. Ridgeway also frequently picked up prostitutes and had sex with them throughout the time period in which he was killing.

"The BTK killer, Dennis Rader, killed ten victims in and around Wichita, Kansas. He sent sixteen written communications to the news media over a thirty-year period, taunting the police and the public. He was married with two children, was a Boy Scout leader, served honorably in the U.S. Air Force, was employed as a local government official, and was president of his church.

"Myth: Serial killers are all white males.

"Contrary to popular belief, serial killers span all racial groups. There are white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian serial killers. The racial diversification of serial killers generally mirrors that of the overall U.S. population.

"Charles Ng, a native of Hong Kong, China, killed numerous victims in Northern California, in concert with Robert Lake.

"Derrick Todd Lee, an African-American, killed at least six women in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"Coral Eugene Watts, an African-American, killed five victims in Michigan, fled the state to avoid detection, and murdered another 12 victims in Texas, before being apprehended.

"Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, a native of Mexico, murdered nine people in Kentucky, Texas, and Illinois, before turning himself in.

"Rory Conde, a Colombian native, was responsible for six prostitute homicides in the Miami, Florida area.

"Myth: Serial killers are only motivated by sex.

"All serial murders are not sexually-based. There are many other motivations for serial murders including anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking.

"In the Washington, D.C. area serial sniper case, John Allen Muhammad, a former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant, and Lee Boyd Malvo killed primarily for anger and thrill motivations. They were able to terrorize the greater Washington, D.C. metro area for three weeks, shooting 13 victims, killing 10 of them. They communicated with the police by leaving notes, and they attempted to extort money to stop the shootings. They are suspected in a number of other shootings in seven other states.

"Dr. Michael Swango, a former U.S. Marine, ambulance worker, and physician, was a health care employee. He was convicted of only four murders in New York and Ohio, although he is suspected of having poisoned and killed 35 to 50 people throughout the United States and on the continent of Africa. Swango’s motivation for the killings was intrinsic and never fully identified. Interestingly, Swango kept a scrap book filled with newspaper and magazine clippings about natural disasters, in which many people were killed.

"Paul Reid killed at least seven people during fast food restaurant robberies in Tennessee. After gaining control of the victims, he either stabbed or shot them. The motivation for the murders was primarily witness elimination. Reid’s purpose in committing the robberies was financial gain, and some of the ill-gotten gains were used to purchase a car.

"Myth: All serial murderers travel and operate interstate.

"Most serial killers have very defined geographic areas of operation. They conduct their killings within comfort zones that are often defined by an anchor point (e.g. place of residence, employment, or residence of a relative). Serial murderers will, at times, spiral their activities outside of their comfort zone, when their confidence has grown through experience or to avoid detection. Very few serial murderers travel interstate to kill.

"The few serial killers who do travel interstate to kill fall into a few categories:

"Itinerant individuals who move from place to place.

"Homeless individuals who are transients.

"Individuals whose employment lends itself to interstate or transnational travel, such as truck drivers or those in military service.

"The difference between these types of offenders and other serial murderers is the nature of their traveling lifestyle, which provides them with many zones of comfort in which to operate.

"Myth: Serial killers cannot stop killing.

"It has been widely believed that once serial killers start killing, they cannot stop. There are, however, some serial killers who stop murdering altogether before being caught. In these instances, there are events or circumstances in offenders’ lives that inhibit them from pursuing more victims. These can include increased participation in family activities, sexual substitution, and other diversions.

"BTK killer, Dennis Rader, murdered ten victims from 1974 to 1991. He did not kill any other victims prior to being captured in 2005. During interviews conducted by law enforcement, Rader admitted to engaging in auto-erotic activities as a substitute for his killings.

"Jeffrey Gorton killed his first victim in 1986 and his next victim in 1991. He did not kill another victim and was captured in 2002. Gorton engaged in cross-dressing and masturbatory activities, as well as consensual sex with his wife in the interim.

"Myth: All Serial killers are insane or are evil geniuses.

"Another myth that exists is that serial killers have either a debilitating mental condition, or they are extremely clever and intelligent.

"As a group, serial killers suffer from a variety of personality disorders, including psychopathy, anti-social personality, and others. Most, however, are not adjudicated as insane under the law.

"The media has created a number of fictional serial killer 'geniuses', who outsmart law enforcement at every turn. Like other populations, however, serial killers range in intelligence from borderline to above average levels.

"Myth: Serial killers want to get caught.

"Offenders committing a crime for the first time are inexperienced. They gain experience and confidence with each new offense, eventually succeeding with few mistakes or problems.

"While most serial killers plan their offenses more thoroughly than other criminals, the learning curve is still very steep. They must select, target, approach, control, and dispose of their victims. The logistics involved in committing a murder and disposing of the body can become very complex, especially when there are multiple sites involved.

"As serial killers continue to offend without being captured, they can become empowered, feeling they will never be identified. As the series continues, the killers may begin to take shortcuts when committing their crimes. This often causes the killers to take more chances, leading to identification by law enforcement. It is not that serial killers want to get caught; they feel that they can’t get caught."

WDWRK: Problems

There are three major problems that LE needs to overcome in order to effectively investigate serial killings and bring serial killers to justice faster.

The biggest problem to overcome is the budget, which LE doesn't really have much control over, at least this is the excuse that we've usually seen thrown about in most of the research we've done so far, "We don't have the manpower." We think this phrase is misleading. It's not really the fault of the individual investigators, but more because of the mindset of their superiors and their superiors, and these are the same people who throw out that "manpower" mantra like it explains everything, and this is where we have our biggest issues with many of these budget excuses.

When you look at the arguement, it does make sense on the face of it. Serial killer investigations, expecially the way they're done today, can sometimes be prohibitively expensive. The key phrase there is "the way they're done today", but more on that in a minute.

Let's first look at what most LE budgets and manpower really are, but what do we look at and where do we go to look at it and who exactly do we look at? Good question. Most serial killers are mythically thought of as operating solely in big cities like New York or LA, but this isn't always true as any real research into serial killers like Ted Bundy or the Dennis Rader (BTK Killer or Strangler) will tell you.

Seattle, Washington (Ted Bundy started his illustrious career in earnest there) and Witchita, Kansas (where Rader did most of his killing) both have populations (as of 2011 anyway) hovering around 600,000 people. The investigations and budget problems are well documented in both these cases. Sounds like a good place to start, but that doesn't mean smaller LE organizations don't have serial killers working their jurisdictions.

In these smaller communities, budget excuses are more accurate than in bigger municipalities. In their defense, their budget problems are not their fault. Not like the bigger cities anyway. They (big cities) really don't have a good excuse, at least not if you look at the facts logically and honestly.

Although smaller LE organizations do have real budget problems when investigating serial killers, they do have a second problem which they also share with bigger city LE agencies, and that is what we like to call jurisdiction tunnel vision. They don't (meaning most don't, but not all) like to call in outside help unless they have to really have to, and many (if not most) are adamnatly against scaring the citizens with serial killer speculation, but more on that in a minute.

SPD has approximately a staff of 1,820.

The other problem, which is also kind of LE's fault, is it generally has selective ignorance when it comes to the subject of serial killers. They ignore the fact

How do we know this for sure? To be perfectly honest, we can't be absolutely sure about anything we believe either, but let's use our critical thinking skills to look at the facts and maybe we can come up with our own conclusions and maybe come up with our own theories about why serial killers kill.

The wishful thinking part comes into play when they use what little they do know about serial killers to conclusively decide which deaths are or are not the result of a serial killer.

The three major problems with this approach begins with the serial killers themselves. How truthful are they actually being? Can they be trusted? And what about how representative are they really of all serial killers as a whole.

Worst of all, what if serial killers see these problems also and are already using them to commit their crimes?

WDWRK: Conclusions

These conclusions are reasonable enough on the face of it, but it's when you start looking and where this information came from that the theory begins to fall apart.

WDWRK: Our Theories

WDWRK: Etc...

WDWRK: Bibliography

         Copyright ©

         Copyright ©

WDWRK: Related Webpages

FBI Serial Murder July 2008 Report

ARCHIVED: FBI Serial Murder July 2008 Report

WDWRK: Other Subjects


LAST UPDATED: March 5, 2013
by myself and Caty.