Li II by H.R. Giger

"Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table."

- W.H. Auden

Genetics & Background - Classification - Organized vs. Disorganized
Modus Operandi vs. Ritual - Aggravating & Mitigating Circumstances - A Question of Sanity - The Sadist

When I started building this site, I hoped to uncover one defining factor that turned otherwise 'normal' people into serial killers. The more I searched, the more complicated the psychopathology of serial murder became. I've been searching for answers for years now, and it has become no easier.

When it comes to abnormal psychology and what goes on the deviant mind, there are no absolutes. Certain characteristics define killers as 'organized', 'disorganized', spree killers, serial killers, mass murderers. Most of the time, killers transcend one category and display characteristics of another. This is what makes them so difficult to understand, and so hard to stop.

This page will offer clues, but there are no answers. Plenty of people have terrible childhoods and turn out fine. Plenty of people have serious mental illnesses, and do not go on killing sprees.

These people are not 'crazy'. They may suffer from some type or form of brain damage or mental disability, but for the most part, they are not insane. Insanity is a legal term.

One thing that most people never think of when studying these people, is that chances are there is someone out there who cares about them. They were all helpess infants at one time, and learned to walk and talk and play just like the rest of us. A few of them had loving, happy childhoods and good parents. Most of them suffered mental, physical, and sexual abuse, poverty, and lacked in parental discipline and affection. Some of them were truly and completely unaware that what they were doing was wrong....but the vast, vast majority knew exactly what they were doing. They killed, mutilated, and assaulted others because they enjoyed it, and given the chance, would do it again.

I have received several e-mails from visitors, asking me why serial killers do what they do. There is no one answer. It may sound as if I am contradicting myself when describing the different characteristics, but serial murder in itself is a contradiction.

In order to attempt understand what goes on in the mind of a serial killer, a person must take into consideration every aspect of a killer's life. What was their childhood like? How did they see their parents, and how did their parents treat them? Friends, classmates, teachers? Did the killer, as a child, do well in school? Was he 'accepted', or was he considered a social outcast?

Typically, serial killers are white males, with age ranging from the mid-twenties to the mid-thirties. Their childhood may have been dysfunctional and the parents abusive in some way, or they may have had an outwardly normal and happy family life. Within the first few years of life, a child learns to trust parents, siblings, and caregivers, and develops emotional attachments. A child may perceive neglect - see themselves as neglected by their parents - when there is no real neglect present. (For example, a child may become jealous when Mom and Dad bring a new baby brother or sister home from the hospital, and come to believe that they are being neglected and tossed aside in favor of the new baby. However, most children overcome this inital reaction and gain a healthy sense of responsibility for the infant.)

As a child, the killer may not have had many friends and was an outcast in school. They often have difficulty creating meaningful relationships with women, and feel that the world as a whole is against them. (When Ted Kaczynski was identified as the Unabomber, many members of his graduating class at Harvard didn't even remember his name.)

Scientists have claimed that some men, when born with an extra Y chromosome, may be naturally more aggressive. This therory, however, has fallen out of favor, as studies have shown that many men with an extra Y chromosome have no history of violence. However, the vast majority of serial killers are men...with a few exceptions to be noted later on.

Also, there is something called the 'Homicidal Triad', which is used by police and criminal profilers in figuring out a suspect and profiling the case. Many, many times, serial killers as children were late bedwetters, were cruel to animals, and enjoyed starting fires. The Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, admits to setting over 2,500 fires. Jeffrey Dahmer collected dead animals, and tortured living ones. Ed Kemper, the Co-Ed Killer, skinned the family cats.

Sigmund Freud called the hidden, darker corners of the human psyche the 'id'. Modern-day psychologists now refer to the id as the 'R-complex'. Theorists argue that human beings one and all still possess the animalistic, brutish instincts of our primitive anscestors. The only thing is keeping us all from behaving like blood-thirsty sharks in a feeding frenzy is simply logic, the ability to reason, and some measure of intelligence. Serial killers, when looked upon in this light, are stunted emotionally, and never progress beyond the infantile stages of emotional development. This theory may actually be truthful, since serial murderers are usually extremely sociopathic and have what is called an 'antisocial personality'. (A textbook example of this can be found in Ted Bundy.) At the very least, it's an intriguing theory.

Now let's see how hormones work, and specifically, how they may play a part in the genesis of serial killer. The following is part of a lecture given at North Carolina's Wesleyan College. Sources from this lecture can be found on the bibliography section of this site.

"Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body, produced by the endocrine glands, the brain, gastrointestinal organs, sex organs, the kidney, the heart, the pineal gland, the skin and the hair. They induce certain brain events by their secretions which prompt people to behave in certain ways to environmental stimuli. Hormonal equilibrium or homeostasis is maintained by an organ in the brain called the hypothalamus, which regulates a number of biological clocks: circadian rhythms, running activity, reproduction, menstruation, rapid-eye-movement, attention span, food preferences, migration, hibernation, singing behavior, and seasonal affective disorder. In addition, the hypothalamus is part of the Autonomic Nervous System, controlling involuntary functions. The region it's located in, the limbic system, is one of the most unmapped areas of the brain. It has been called the "crocodile" brain. One study found that 15 of 15 death row inmates had some kind of lobe dysfunction in their limbic system, so criminologists strongly suspect limbic lobe dysfunction in most cold-blooded killers.

Criminologists have been arguing for years (since 1928 actually) that criminal behavior most likely involves a glandular disorder. Males are more likely to suffer from glandular disorders, a few all-male diseases being hyperthyroidism (which causes personality change) and Cushing's disease (which often manifests abnormally compulsive and obsessive behavior). Males are also more likely to be right-brain dominant, which explains why left-handedness occurs one and a half times more frequently in men as well as their hunting and exploring instincts.

Testosterone, and other androgens, have been strongly linked to aggressive criminal behavior. High levels of testosterone reduce a person's social integration, making them more of a loner, freeing them up to deviate from society's norms. In men, testosterone levels peak in the mid-teens, and decline slowly over the life course. Testosterone is highest in the morning right after waking up and decreases throughout the course of the day. For some reason, it's also highest during the months of November and December.

Next to hormones, neurotransmitters are vitally important. They are chemicals that allow for the transmission of electrical impulses in the brain and are the brain's way of processing information, involved with the Central Nervous System and higher-order cognitive functioning. As such, they have become of great interest to criminologists who study things like antisocial personality and psychopathy which are believed to manifest brain systems with neurotransmitter levels "out of balance". It's well documented that alcoholism and drug dependence are associated with differences in neurotransmitter levels. It's quite easy to manipulate neurotransmitters with drugs (medications for the mentally ill, stop-smoking pills, street drugs), with diet (sugar, caffeine, chocolate, food additives), with stress (stressful environmental conditions), and with altitude (hypoxia is a condition mimicking the effect of neurotransmitter imbalance at altitudes above 3,800 feet above sea level). There's not that many neurotransmitters, and the three most commonly studied are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Cool, calculated antisocial psychopaths have significantly lower levels of serotonin than ordinary people. Disorganized, schizophrenic-like offenders have significantly lower levels of dopamine. Cocaine increases dopamine levels, so it's a common way to self-medicate yourself if you're a little bit mentally disturbed. Levels of norepinephrine have also been associated with antisocial behavior.

Then, there's frontal lobe dysfunction. This is the area where both autonomic and central nervous systems come together. It's usually measured by brain wave activity, and the general finding is that criminals have slower brain waves, i.e., slower EEG activity. This is one of the reasons why criminals can beat the lie detector -- their slower nervous systems result in their not being easily stimulated, hence the theory is that they seek out exciting, criminal behavior as a form of "stimulus hunger". This is commonly demonstrated by many criminals who have a lower rate of skin conductance response (SCR), the time it takes the skin to conduct electrical current."

Heavy metals may also play a part in the biological make-up of a serial killer. According to the Internet website, (which is associated with the cable television network CourtTV,) some studies show that violent criminals have higher levels of heavy metals in their system, including manganese, lead, cadium, and copper - all of which are lethal in large amounts. Excessive amounts of manganese decrease the level of serotonin and dopamine, which can lead to aggressive behavior.

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Serial killers are a different class of criminal than mass murderers and spree killers. Serial killings are always premeditated, with cooling off periods of days, weeks, months, and, in rare cases, sometimes hours between crimes. Serial killing is three or more linked crimes, also. Mass murderers take out either several people in a crowded public place or two or more people in one confined area. (For example, Charles Whitman sniping students from the Texas University tower, Columbine High School, a deranged parent killing his entire family.) Mass murderers are usually heavily armed, and plan on either committing suicide once they're done, or committing 'suicide by cop', which is forcing the police to shoot them in a standoff. Spree killers go one from place to another in a short length of time, murdering at random, and usually stay one step ahead of the police, until carelessness results in their capture. Ted Bundy, after he escaped from prison, turned into a spree killer in the three days he was on the lam.

There may also be a fourth class of multiple killers emerging, as society becomes more and more mobile and impersonal. Even though many killers exhibit conflicting characteristics, some psychologists and law enforcement officials believe Andrew Cunanan defied all current classification. He was not a mass murderer at any rate, yet he shared characteristics of both a spree killer and a serial killer. As frightening as the thought may be, Andrew Cunanan may be the first of an entirely new breed of multiple murderer.

Aside from classification, there is also a typology of serial killers: visionary, mission, hedonistic, and power/control. They are categorized by motive and what the killer expects to gain from the murder. The following are brief descriptions of the four categories:

Such killers are psychotic and suffer from 'breaks' with reality. They hear voices or see visions that tell them to kill, and may often suffer from severe schizophrenia. The murders are usually not sexually motivated.

The mission killer seeks to rid the world of people they've deemed useless or undesirable. Victims of mission killers may include homosexuals, prostitutes, runaways, pedophiles, or drug addicts. The characteristics that make the killer single out one particular type of victim may be real or perceived. The killer is not considered psychotic, and like the 'visionary' killer, the murders are typically not sexually motivated.

The hedonistic killer encompasses three subtypes - lust, thrill, and comfort. The lust killer has a rich fantasy life and kills for sexual gain, and may sexually assault both living victims and bodies. Thrill killers must have a living victim to assault, because such a murderer is aroused by his victim's terror, and there may be evidence of torture and sadism. Comfort killers kill for monetary gain and material possessions, and there motive is not sexual.

Power control killers have an intense need for power and dominance over other people, and see their victims as objects. They are sexually motivated and become aroused by dominating their victims, and may commit acts of sadism, necrophilia, and cannibalism.

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A picture is truly worth a thousand words when it comes to evaluating whether a criminal is organized or disorganized. By studying crime scene photographs, visiting the actual crime scene, researching the victim's history, and other methods, investigators can make this judgement based on several factors.

Organized killers, (Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy,) meticulously plan their crimes. Typically, such murders are spawned from the killer's active fantasy life, where he or she imagines the murder over and over, perfecting it in their mind. Strangers and people not likely to be reported missing, (such as prostitutes and hitchhikers,) are most likely to fall prey to an organized murderer, who also trolls for victims in certain pre-determined areas. Such a killer will employ a great deal of chicanery in trapping his victim. Ted Bundy used a papier mache cast and a crutch to lure his victims into vulnerable situations. As Bundy also did, an organized killer will learn from his or her crimes, fine-tuning the problematic aspects of murder and adapting to change. Many will also bring their own 'tools' to a crime, such as rope, tape, knives, etc. Organized killers also typically commit sexual assaults on living victims, enjoying forcing another person to submit to them completely. After the victim is dead, an organized killer will dispose of as much evidence as possible, and may arrange the crime scene to fit a particular fantasy or confuse authorities. They will also take great pains to hide or dispose of bodies, although many will take a 'trophy', something belonging to the victim, with them. Trophies found in the possession of some organized killers have included jewelry, I.D., clothing, pictures, and body parts.

The killer may involve his or herself into the investigation, taking pride in stumping police. An organized offender tends to think of themselves as being physically and mentally superior to others. Many times, friends and family of organized killers say they cannot believe the person committed the crimes they are accused of. They are not mentally ill, certainly not legally insane, and were generally regarded as bright, if troubled, children.

Disorganized killers, (Richard Chase, Herbert Mullin,) are on the flipside. They often suffer from mental illness and are loners, unable to interact normally with other people. A disorganized killer will prey on victims that put him or her at risk of capture. A disorganized personality will grab a woman in broad daylight and throw her into a car, or wander around a playground and then snatch a child away. They will either walk or use other means as a way of getting around, and if they own a car, it will typically reflect their mental confusion by being in disrepair. A disorganized killer may also steal a victim's car and then abandon it later on.

In keeping with the lack of planning, such a murderer will also use whatever it available to kill the intended victim. This includes rocks, bricks, a knife or gun from a victim's home, the victim's own clothing, (used in strangulation). A disorganized type will also leave evidence lying about, such as blood and other body fluids, fingerprints, fibers, hair, and even bodies. This type of killer will also go to extreme measures to depersonalize the victim, sometimes by mutiliating the face or head, or covering the victim with something. Disorganized killers also sexually assault their victims, although rape is usually either incomplete or post-mortem. They may also take trophies, although their significance may unclear.

This particular killer typically had an unstable childhood, marked by poverty, mental illness, abuse, and a lack of discipline. As children and adults, disorganized killers are thought of as loners and introverts, who keep their emotions bottled up inside. They believe themselves to be inferior to others, and usually live alone or with a caretaker, such as a parent or close relative.

Some crime scenes evoke characterisitics of a killer who is both organized and disorganized. This is often true when murder is committed by more than one person, such as the Tate/LaBianca murders. While evidence of organization is present, (such as the cutting of telephone wires outside the home,) disorganization is also present, in that the crime scene was left in complete disarray, with no attempt made to conceal bodies, collect possible evidence, or clean up blood. For example, the word 'pig' scrawled in blood on a door was evidence of an organized killer, who was comfortable enough at the scene to take the time to stop and write in the victims' blood.

However, blood splashed in an entry to the house suggests a killer who disorganized, leaving pools of blood that could contain fingerprints or footprints and potentially lead to the killer. Also suggestive of a disorganized killer or killers is the living room of the house where Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring were found.

Sharon Tate, left, Jay Sebring, right

Note the extensive amount of blood, as well as the lengths of rope visible in the photograph. This points to a killer or killers who were prepared enough to bring their own rope to the crime scene, but who were not concerned about leaving potentially incriminating evidence lying about. The towel covering the face of Jay Sebring is also indicative of a disorganized killer.

All of this brings us to the concept of staging. A crime scene is referred to as staged when it is changed in such a way that at first glance, it appears to be a completely different crime. For example, a killer may ransack a home of his or her victim to make it appear that the victim was killed during a robbery.

Crime scene photograph of murder victim Gregg Smart.

One good example of staging is the murder of Gregg Smart. His wife, a young teacher named Pamela, was having a sexual relationship with a then fifteen year old student. Mrs. Smart convinced the boy that in order to continue their relationship, he would have to 'get rid of Gregg'. With the help of his friends, the boy hid inside the Smart home and shot Gregg Smart in the back of the head, killing him. The boy and his accomplices ransacked the house to make it appear a robbery had occured. Like most criminals who stage a crime scene, Pamela Smart and her teenage cohorts didn't get away with murder. She is spending the rest of her life in prison, along her young lover and an accomplice. (The film To Die For, starring Nicole Kidman, is loosely based on the Pamela Smart case.)

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Modus operandi, or M.O., is the generally unwavering way a killer goes about his crimes. It is just as much a 'signature', so to speak, as what authroties call 'ritual'. (I'll get to rituals in a second.) It is some sort of 'mark' he leaves at the crime scene, identifying the murder as his handiwork, from the way he enters a crimescene to how he binds a victim. For example, if a killer pries open a back door with a crowbar, and then binds his victims with the same type and length of rope, that would be considered his M.O. Ted Bundy's M.O. was asking his victims for help, such as faking a broken arm or asking for directions. M.O. can change, but there are always factors that stay to true to the killer's form.

Ritual is something that increases the killer's psychosexual gratification. Harvey Glatman, the Lonely Hearts Killer, bound his victims more than was necessary to keep them immobilized. He was turned on by bondage. Danny Rolling mutilated his victims and left them lying in sexually obscene poses. By believing he was shocking the police, displaying his 'power' over the authorities and his victims, his psychosexual gratification was increased. Some killers record, either with video or audio recorders, their crimes, as Leonard Lake and Charles Ng did. (Lake and Ng's recordings could also be considered trophies.) Torture, placement of the body, mutilation, anything that goes beyond causing the victim's death, is typically ritual.

Ritual is the mark of a serial killer, yet in some cases, it can be part of a 'crime of passion'. This includes adults killing their children, where overkill - or inflicting more injury than necessary to cause death - is seen as a way to vent some sort of anger. It may also include an estranged boyfriend or husband killing his spouse, then maiming her. An example may be seen here, or in the below photo. Both photographs are of O.J. Simpson's former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, who was murdered outside her home in 1994.

Nicole Brown Simpson

With crimes like these, often times the body is covered after death, or the face mutilated. It is the killer's way of showing some form of guilt. In their mind, eyes or a face that has been cut and slashed cannot identify them.

Usually, the more bizarre the crime is, the more apparent the ritual and M.O. are. However, it can be a tiny detail, like the caliber of bullets used, an object placed somewhere around the crime scene, etc. Oftentimes, these factors aids in police in finding out the how's and the why's of a case. By leaving his victims positioned the way they were, Albert DeSalvo was making a statement about women in general, and 'daring' the police, and anyone else, to question his utter masculinity. DeSalvo wanted to prove that he was in total control, and as most sexual predators try to do, that he was more 'man' than anyone else. David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, would return to the scene of one of his shootings and watch the police at work, confident he was slippery enough to avoid capture. Ed Kemper befriended the cops who were working on the Co-Ed Killer murders, never letting on until the end that it was his work that had them stumped.

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Taking a serial killer to trial is never easy. There is evidence, mountains of it or a scant few items, to be looked over. The defense can file motions to bar some evidence from the jury, often making the prosecution's job of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt more difficult. A killer may choose to use the insanity defense, but it is rare that such a plea ever makes it to trial. When and if an insanity plea does stand, it is even more difficult to prove it. Jurors become confused and feel patronized by lengthy psychological terms and diagnoses.

When a killer goes to trial, the juror must also decide if the prosecution and defense have proven any of the aggravating or mitigating factors.

Aggravating factors include:

-Committing a murder during the commission of a robbery or sexual assault.

-Whether or not the suspect has a prior conviction for capital murder or a violent felony.

-The murder was committed in a cold, calculating, and premeditated manner.

-The murder was exceptionally heinous, atrocious, and cruel.

Mitigating factors include:

-An organic brain disorder impairing the suspect's ability to recognize reality from make-believe, right from wrong

-Prior sexual, emotional, or physical abuse

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The question of sanity of almost always arises when dealing serial killers. Occasionally, although difficult to prove and disliked by juries, an insanity defense is used in court. This defense asserts that while a crime is being carried out, the defendant is unable to to appreciate the nature, quality, and wrongfulness of his or her act, due to a severe mental disease or defect. Willfull intent to cause harm is a key part of most criminal offenses, and a person who is insane isn't capable of forming willfull intent. To be successful in court, insanity must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. Remember - insanity is a legal term.

Although the existence of a few of the mental disorders mentioned on this page have been fiercly debated, I have included what I feel to be the most oft-mentioned disorders. Here they are described briefly so that individual opinions may be formed.

Two or more seperate and distinct identities, each with its own way of thinking, feeling, and behaving, within one person. At least two of these identities or personality state periodically take's control of the person's behavior. Symptoms include memory loss too extensive to be ordinary forgetfulness, and it is believed the disorder is brought on by severe pyschological trauma.

Schizophrenia affects about one in every one hundred people. This illness usually begins in the late teens to early twenties, although it has been known to develop later on in life. The earlier the onset, the more detrimental to the sufferer's life. Schizophrenia causes sometimes severe disturbances in thinking, perception, mood, and behavior. Symptoms include; auditory and visual hallucinations, hallucinations of being touched, delusions, and thought disorder. Other symptoms include a lack of motivation, social withdrawal, deterioration in a sufferer's personal hygeine, and inappropriate responses to emotional stimuli. Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenics tend to be non-violent. The disease is treatable with drugs, but relapses are common.

Anti-social personality disorder is one of the most widely recognized personality disorders. Symptoms include; defiance against laws and 'accepted' behavior in society, acute lack of remorse and empathy, self-absorption, irresponsibility, habitual lying, use of aliases, and other 'cons' for personal pleasure or gain, and an irritable and aggressive nature. Mental health experts believe that sufferers have extreme sadness and feelings of emptiness at the core of their personality. People with this disorder often become involved with drugs, alcoholism, illicit sex, or criminal activity. In some cases, symptoms decrease as the person ages. It is estimated that 3% of men and 1% of women have anti-social personality disorder. The disorder is also though to affect 70% to 80% of the prison population. Currently, there is no known cure or remedy for this disorder.

Necrophilia is actually considered a fetish, not necessarily a mental disorder. Even though, I felt it should be included and defined. Necrophilia is defined as "an erotic attraction to corpses, with the most common motive cited by psychologists as the attempt to gain possession of an unresisting or nonrejecting partner." Experts believe there are three types of necrophiles; those who kill in order to have corpses for sexual purposes, those who do not kill but still go the often great lengths to obtain bodies for sexual pleasure, and necrophilic fantasy, where no bodies are actually used. In a recent study, most necrophiles fell into the second category. Necrophiliacs are usually male - about 90% of necrophiles are male - but females do engage in such practices. The two experts who headed the study, Doctors Rosman and Resnick, say most necrophiles are heterosexual, although about 50% are homosexual. In 60% of cases, there is evidence of a personality disorder, while about 10% of all necrophiles deemed psychotic. Necrophiles are also often described as clinically depressed, and feel threatened by normal, interactive relationships. It is easier for them to objectify the corpse, and since their lovers are dead, there is no risk of rejection.

Some serial killers featured on the site practiced necrophilia, including Ed Kemper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Andrei Chikatilo, and Ted Bundy. (Ed Gein denied sexual contact with the dead when questioned by police.) One of the lesser-known but more extreme cases of necrophilia is that of Carl Von Cosel, who never committed and murder and was, up until his clandestine activities, surfaced, was never considered a criminal. In the early 20th century, Cosel, a radiologist, fell in love with a young tuberculosis patient by the name of Elena Hoyos. Upon Elena' death, von Cosel took her corpse from its grave and kept it in his Key West, Florida home. He wired Elena's skelton together with piano wire, replaced her hair with a wig, inserted glass eyes into her sockets, and kept her skin in good condition by using wax and cloth to reconstruct her features and stall decomposition. (He also perfumed her body to cover up the odor of decay.) In an act rarely - if ever - seen among necrophiles, he inserted a tune into her vagina, enabling him to have sex with her corpse.

The body of Elena Hoyos, after its discovery in von Cosel's home.

It was not until nearly ten years after her death that Elena was discovered in von Cosel's home, in near-perfect condition. An autopsy was performed on the woman's body, but there was no question that she had died of natural causes. The only crime von Cosel could be charged with was grave robbing, and the statute of limitations had expired for that crime. As a result, Carl von Cosel was released from police custody with no charges filed against him. When he died several years later, a virtual recluse, a life-size doll wearing a mold of Elena's face was found in his home.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating, potentially life-long illness that is a natural reaction to abnormal circumstances, such as an accident, war, injury, etc. The onset of PTSD may not be immeadiately apparent, as the trauma may be reborn months or years later, by a similar event, noise, association, or other 'trigger'. About half of all people suffering from PTSD will be chronically affected if the condition goes untreated.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a psychiatric disorder only recently recognized in the field of mental health. The disorder causes caretakers, mostly mothers, to manufacture illnesses in their own children, (or children under their care,) in order to satisfy their own need for sympathy and attention. Almost all MSBP parents have personality disorders that lead them to behave in strange and destructive ways, especially when under stress. Most victims are infants or toddlers. Sufferers have been known to fabricate symptoms, deliberately cause infections and poison their victims, sometimes resulting in death. In most cases, the mother will appear to be completely devoted to, and will continually seek medical help for, the sick child. The mother will also insist she has no idea what caused the sudden illness, sometimes causing the child to undergo unnecessary tests and surgeries. Since the cause of the victim's sicknesses may go undetected for years, the mortality rate for this particular form of child abuse is nine percent.

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"One must do violence to the object of one's desire;
when it surrenders, the pleasure is greater."

Marquis de Sade

Sadism is a sexual disorder present within a very small portion of killers, and is found in less than one percent of all murders. When evidence of sadism is found at a crime scene, it will most likely be a staged murder, (where the victim is posed to suggest an accident, attack by an intruder, etc.,) or one of a series of serial murders. Under current criteria, sadism is defined as intense sexually stimulating fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving acts in which a victim's psychological and/or physical suffering sexually excites a killer. To be considered a sadist, one must also act on these urges with a noncensenting person, and the urges and fantasies must interfere with the rest of the person's life. When sadism is present at a crime scene, it is part of a killer's signature - something that provides not only control, but sexual stimulation. Signature may evolve over time, but there are always key elements present from one murder to the next. The killer will continue doing what gratifies him, as well as discarding practices that do not, and experimenting with new methods of torture. Like a junkie needing more and more heroin to reach the desired high, a sadistic killer will often need more and more violence to reach sexual or psychosexual gratification.

Serial murder is all about the three D's: dread - the victims dreads what his or her attacker will do. The second is the victim's dependency on the killer - for life itself if the killer's rage brings him to that point. The third is degradation, a key element to sadism, where the killer beats, tortures, and assaults his victim.

Unlike other sex crimes, sadistic murder is more about control than a need for an orgasm. The person carrying out the crime will be boiling inside the entire time: throughout the abduction or luring away of the victim, to taunting him or her, to having the victim at his complete mercy. The whole process excites the killer and sends them further toward their apex. Death is merely a by-product, because it is complete control that they seek out, not death. The fact that through obtaining control someone must die is inconsequential. Occasionally, some sadistic killers' anger is so red-hot that they may 'act out' on their victim post-mortem, until they have reached the height of their psychosexual gratification. This separates them from necrophiles, in that a necrophile specifically seeks sexual contact with the dead. Killers may also use inanimate objects or 'symbolic' means of heightening their psychosexual pleasure, leaving behind evidence of sexual assault but no semen or other obvious signs of sexual assault. (One such condition is known as picquerism, or a sexually symbolic stabbing or puncture-type wounds,) For some killers, their sexual peak is reached when reflecting and fantasizing about the crime, after the crime has been committed. For others, they avoid apprenhension and 'hone their skills', so to speak, to the point where experimenting with trophies from the victims becomes necessary to get the same result. Trophies can be anything from a piece of the victim's identification, a torn scrap of clothing, or body parts.

There are also many subcatergories of sexual sadists, some so rare that they occur in only one-tenth of one percent of all serial murderers. These include serial murderers involved in necrophilia, cannibalism, and other extreme forms of sexual deviancy.

When it comes to serial crimes, there are no absolutes. We can identify certain characterists and traits, but the serial killer is a dynamic creature who adapts frighteningly well to his surroundings. The above are merely clues to a killer's behavior. For now, we will do what is possible to understand and stop them, and continue the search for answers.

"What we know is not much. What we do not know is immense."

-French Scientist Pierre Simon Marquis de Laplace