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Serial Killers, Their Crimes, and Stereotypes Essay

Myths about Serial Killers

The serial killers researched and presented in the killers list play well into myths presented in the article. For example, Gary Ridgway clearly fits into myth two as he is a white male in his thirties who killed around his home area. He was also a religious fanatic who specialized in killing prostitutes. These characters play into myth three as shown by Fox and Levin (1999). His other traits like early behavioural problems, lack of remorse, and insatiable sex drive all play into the myths.

Despite being a poor student, he was intelligent enough to avoid being caught by police and was even able to fool the polygraph. It was not until the discovery of DNA that police were able to link him to his past crimes. The other serial killers presented in the killers list also conform to the stereotypes presented in Fox’s and Levin’s (1999) article. For instance, John Gacy confirmed the stereotype that all serial killers are unusual. He had random blackouts and seizures, and obesity resulting from a heart condition that kept him out of sports. Just like all serial killers, he had a bad childhood. His father was alcoholic and abusive. He was careful to avoid being caught (Fox &Levin, 1999).

Social constructivism is the best perspective to look at serial killers. This is because it “constructs” reality of the crime by linking the serial killer to his crimes as opposed to the positivist approach that seeks to explain the behaviour of the serial killer by suggesting influence from external forces beyond his control. Positivism does not add any value to scientific knowledge.

Crimes in Serial Killing

The most typical crimes involved in Serial killing includes: rape, sodomy, mercy-killing, torture, and mutilation of victims. Although these could be the most mesmerizing kinds of serial killing, they are hardly the only ones. Many serial killer cases involved the use of a knife as evidenced by stab wounds in many victims of serial killing. Strangulation was also prevalent in some cases involving elderly victims.

In some cases, the killers used a gun or pretence of gun to force their victims into obedience. Male offenders also use hands or feet to injure their victim’s head and private parts. Several cases of serial killing involve abduction of victims form an outdoor location. Killing is done at that location or elsewhere. Victims killed at home were in most cases familiar with the offender (Fox & Levin, 1999).

Certain crimes were more likely to happen at certain places, at certain times, for example in the hospitals where the patients are vulnerable in their total dependency on their caretakers. This is evident in serial killing which is thrill motivated, where a growing number of murderers committed by hospital caretakers have been exposed in the years; although not in sexual motivation, these acts of murder are perpetrated for the sake of dominance nevertheless. Most self-proclaimed reformists are also motivated by thrill seeking but try to rationalize their murderous behaviour. Donald Harvey who worked as an orderly in Cincinnati-area hospitals confessed to killing more than eighty patients in a few years (Fox & Levin, 1999).

Most serial killers have a more opportunistic method of victim selection. To a certain extent, they are likely to prey on the most vulnerable targets such as prostitutes, hitchhikers, drug users and runaways, as well as hospital patients particularly the elderly and extremely sick. The most probable offenders include hospital caretakers, and those pretending to be after the prostitutes. Serial killers are generally white males in their late twenties or thirties who span a broad range of human qualities including appearance and intelligence (Fox & Levin, 1999).

Sexual sadism and an interest revealed in in-depth fantasies of domination make up the most common motive in serial killing. Serial killers also enjoy watching the screaming and squirming of their victims during torture. Most of the killers also rape, mutilate, and degrade their victims in order to feel powerful and dominant. These motives relate to the theories learnt as different theories explain different motives.

For example; mission-oriented has a motive to eliminate evil in the world while hedonistic is meant for pleasure. Power oriented is for dominance while visionary has a purpose to obey voices from God. The motives vary with age, race, gender, and class. For example, the whites and the youth kill for dominance and pleasure while the aged would kill to rid the world off evil and to obey spiritual voices. Most women kill for passion while men would still do the same for pleasure (Fox & Levin, 1999).

It is common for serial killers to hind behind masks of exemplary skills to avoid suspicion. Most have a personality disorder called sociopathy. They lack conscience, are non-remorseful, and only think of their needs and desires. Many serial killer cases are hard to solve as they lack motive and physical evidence required by police. Thus, the use of motive as a way of apprehending suspects is usually unproductive. Most killers do not leave any evidence making it difficult for police to link several murders as the work of the same killer (Fox & Levin, 1999).

The media plays a great role in reporting the facts of a serial killer to the public. However, covering a speculative commentary debate can be counter-productive and dangerous. Public commentary on an ongoing enquiry with partial or inaccurate information can impact negatively on the case and put people at great danger. The media helps the public to be aware of the serial murderers. They provide information on the serial killers and the type of crimes which they are associated with for the common good of all (Fox &Levin, 1999).


Fox, J., & Levin, J. (1999). Serial murder: Popular myths and empirical realities. In D. Smith & M. Zahn (Eds.), Homicide a sourcebook of social research (pp. 165 – 175). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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"Serial Killers, Their Crimes, and Stereotypes." IvyPanda, 5 Feb. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/serial-killers-their-crimes-and-stereotypes/.

1. IvyPanda. "Serial Killers, Their Crimes, and Stereotypes." February 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/serial-killers-their-crimes-and-stereotypes/.


IvyPanda. "Serial Killers, Their Crimes, and Stereotypes." February 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/serial-killers-their-crimes-and-stereotypes/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Serial Killers, Their Crimes, and Stereotypes." February 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/serial-killers-their-crimes-and-stereotypes/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Serial Killers, Their Crimes, and Stereotypes'. 5 February.

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