Signature Killers

The killer's signature is his psychological calling card that he leaves at each crime scene across a spectrum of several murders. If he commits breaking and entry burglaries by using a glass cutter to get through a door and suctions the glass away so it doesn't fall and make noise that's MO. An MO accounts for the type of crime and property involved. It includes the victim type, the time and place the crime was committed, the type of tools or implements used; the way the criminal gained entry or how he approached or subdued his victim. Whether he used associated and any distinguished trademarks he may have left

Many sexually sadistic repetitive killers, for example, go beyond the actions necessary to commit a murder. The MO of the killer can and does change as the killer discovers that something?s he does are more effective. John Douglas former head of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit has said that MO of a killer is only those actions which are necessary to commit the murder

Beyond the MO, there are many killers not just satisfied with committing the murder and going on their way. They have a compulsion to leave their own personal stamp. The killer's personal expression takes the form of his unique signature an imprint left by him at the scene, an imprint the killer is psychologically compelled to leave to satisfy himself sexually. The core of a killer's imprint will never change. Unlike the characteristics of an offender's MO, the core remains constant.

A signature may evolve over time, such as in cases where a necrophile killer performs more and more postmortem mutilation from one murder to the next. The FBI's behavioral scientists say the signature elements of the original personal expression don't change, they just become more fully developed.

John Douglas once described the nature of the signature as the person's violent fantasies which are progressive in nature and contribute to thoughts of exhibiting extremely violent behavior. As a person dreams and thinks of his fantasies over time, he develops a need to express those violent fantasies. Most serial killers have been living with their fantasies for years before they finally bubble to the surface and are translated into deeds. when the killer finally acts out, some aspects of the murder will demonstrate his unique personal expression that has been replayed in his fantasies over and over again.

These are the psychological calling cards the killer actually needs to leave at each scene. These constitute his signature and remain relatively constant from crime to crime, even when the killer deliberately changes his MO because of situational circumstances or as an attempt to throw law enforcement off his trail.

Overkill is the repeated infliction of injuries so intense that murder was incidental to the actual wounds. The infliction of injuries was itself the purpose of the crime.

The acts of stabbing beating and thumping on victims reduces the victim herself to an almost meaningless thing in the killer's mind. She becomes only an asset of opportunity.

The overkill sexual murder is usually incapable of sexual orgasm without performing violent acts. he probably only reaches a climax, if he ever reaches climax at all, when the victim is dead and displayed. It is just as likely that the overkill signature killer is hardwired so perversely in the neural circuitry of his primal brain that sex becomes violence and violence becomes sex, in such a way that the killer never reaches climax at all if he does it's much later and in private many times in cases like these, the fury expanded in carrying out violence is the only physical or psychological release the killer experiences.

Signature killers, the single largest subcategory of serial killer are driven by such a primal psychological motivation to act out the same crime over and over again that their patterns become obsessive. all signature murders seek some form of sexual gratification, and their crimes are expressions of the way they satisfy that need.

In many ways, the behavior of signature so mirrors the behaviors of other types of addicts that it is important to see how the crime plays itself out as a progression of escalating, but linked, violent events. Like all addicts, signature killers work from a script engaging in repetitive behavior to the point of obessiveness. Their calling cards at the crime scene, how they choose their victims, control their victims, mutilate or manipulate the bodies and dispose of bodies all display similar types of pathological deviance and repeat themselves no matter how their method of operation changes.

Signature killers change their MO's often experimenting with different ways of dealing with their victims and satisfy their sexual cravings. They often take mementos or souvenirs with them from their victims. The killers impart to these items a special kind of power to reinvigorate their excitement over taking the victim. when the excitement subsides over time, the killers go out hunting again taking new mementos to sustain their fantasy life after the murder by reenergizing their sexual thrill so as to allow them to continue to experience the excitement of the crime they have committed.

You can very often determine what type of psychological signature the killer has left by examining the crime scene. Understanding the profile of the victims and recreating the process of the crime.

Different killers have different signatures. Killers who pulverize their victims leave one type of calling card, while killers who torture living victims or who play with corpses leaves another. Some killers go through different signature phases during the same crime, smashing or crushing the life out of their victims with many fatal wounds and then posing their bodies as if to play with them after the violence of the attack has been expended.

Some killers are less intimate with their victims than others, or display their hatred of an aspect of themselves in their victims instead of their need to be sexually satisfied.

Whatever the specific signature or signatures we determine from the crime scene, they all fall into one or more of the basic traits of sexual sadism-control, humiliation, progression, posing, torture, overkill, necrophilia and cannibalism. Each of these types of signatures is a clue not only to what the murder does, but what he wants, what he seeks, and what drives him from victim to victim. Hidden among the evidence, often gleaned from the marks and wounds on the victim's body or clues left at a body dumpsite, these signatures are the only ways the killer truly expresses himself.

Richard Cottingham belonged to a subgroup of sexually sadistic serial killers who try to quench their self-consuming need to sexual arousal by torturing their victims. In cases such as these, the victim's pain and terror stimulate the killer, the victim's reactions drive the e killer into a frenzy, which in turn leads him to intensify the level of the victim's torture, so the cycle continues until the killer's lust is momentarily satisfied to reach this level of sexual gratification, most torture killers must ratchet their excitement up to a peak by luring in victim's successfully capturing them and then springing their traps. Most killers in this category are smooth talkers, beguilingly charming but deceitful and ultimately lethal. Torture killers use all sorts of conventional and innovative approaches to con their victims into a false sense of security.

The killers setup for the trap can take anywhere from a few minutes of casual conversation to a plan that takes weeks to unfold and includes elaborate ritual.

The three D's that gratify him are dependency-the victim is forced to rely upon the killer for each moment of life while in captivity, dread-the victim is terrified at the pain and torte being inflicted and degradation-the humiliated and defeated victim is reduced to begging for life or for the lives of other victim's usually children and acknowledging by word and deed that he or she lives only to serve the killer's pleasure.

To facilitate this perversion of complete control, the killer will often use various props such as leather slave collars, handcuffs, cigarette lighters, whips and adhesive or duct tape.

Acts of picquerism, is the jabbing, stabbing, cutting and gouging through the use of a knife of other sharp pointed instrument for the purpose of sexual gratification. Knives are fearsome and unyielding and their phallic nature as a weapon supersedes any harm the predator can inflict with his peins, knives are therefore sexual weapons, psychologically as well as weapons of combat.

Contrary to expectations in most murders, the sadist is excited by the process of killing not the death. In fact, the death may be only incidental by product or an organized act of post crime efficacy.

Anger Realization Signature

Anybody who investigates sex crimes knows that even the most minor of sex offenses directed against a victim is driven by the offender's anger and his need to express it through control.

The Anger-Driven Offender

Some offenders who commit sex crimes whether they're crimes against women or men, adults or children--commit them out of anger. Anger either excites a sexual reaction and drives the crime, or it is the fuel for a retaliatory assailant seeking revenge upon some ultimate source of his anger but substitutes each victim for the source.

The more violent an attacker assumes and maintains control, the more likely he is to escalate to murder and the murders themselves will escalate with greater violence as the killer experiments with all the core components of signature murder to satisfy his ever-growing sexual needs.

In the world of signature killers, there are two basic categories of anger-driven crimes; the anger retaliatory killer and the anger-excitation killer.

Typically a killer begins as a retaliatory type and escalates to an excitation type as his crimes series progresses. during the course of that crime series, the killer evolves according to the nature of his anger. He leaves a signature which represents one or more of the core components of sadism, control, humiliation, progression of violence and cannibalism.

The anger-retaliation homicide is typically characterized by a violent sexual assault and overkill in which the killer uses more than one weapon. Perceiving his victim to be the symbol of his frustration the predator usually chooses an adult woman who is from his own age group or older. He rarely sexually molests little children. the killer probably has had only circumstantial familiarity with his victims. Their paths cross by chance and she becomes a victim only because the killer may be in the first phase of his murder cycle. In this phase, he trolls or stalks for victims sometimes driving around or aimlessly walking for hours in areas he usually frequents when he's looking for targets.

When he spots a potential victim, he moves into set up the lure. Typically, he'll spot a woman who fits the preferred victim type in his mind and will see where she lives or nearby secluded place where he could grab her without being noticed. Prostitute killers often choose victims of opportunity when they are trolling. Killers who pose as roofers, painters, service workers or anyone else with occasion to go door to door searching for work may remember that a woman who lives in a particular house fits his target group and go back months later to pick her up with this type of killer, the crime may look random but it's not.

Anger-Retaliation Victim Profile

Mostly, they are woman whom the killers believe to be representative of the strong woman who they see as responsible for the difficulties in their own lives. They are the woman who represent the focus of the killers anger, over-controlling mothers, mothers who drove fathers away, mothers who were prostitutes or were promiscuous, or who had a lot of boyfriends that displaced the father, mothers who systematically abused their children sexually or physically, or mothers who inspired fear and terror are at the center of this killer's victim profile. Anger-retaliatory killers generally don't kill their mothers, but they will kill other women whom they perceive to be like her. Female bosses or any women in a dominant position can also fit the victim profile.

The predator builds up a justification for the killing process, for getting even against woman like the is, most anger-retaliatory killers tend not to attack their primary source of frustration. Most will pick substitutes as stand-ins for the source of their homicidal rage.

Killers like these usually choose their victim for her convince, she either lives or works in the area near where he lives, works, or travels, and he has ample opportunity to attack her. The killer next considers the age, vulnerability, attitude and accessibility to the victim based on a prototypical target type he has fantasized about and may have already pre-selected from a pool of available victims.

The angry killer's final victim selection process actually beings after the perpetrator has been angered or challenged by a powerful woman, possibly one closely resembling the source of his rage. When he cannot confront her he substitutes prescreened or target-type victim as the object of his rage. he may follow her home or to a secluded location where he will make his initial contact, or he may simply put her on a waiting list in his mind, reserved for future use.

Most serial killers, no matter what their category, still woo their victims into the trap. That's part of the pattern and it's the way the killer isolates his victim in preparation for the assault. The most common anger-retaliation pattern is the prostitute killer who picks up his victim on a street corner, drives to a private place, begins the assault, and escalates the violence until he's completely sated immediate needs for retaliation.

Even if the signature killer drives to the crime scene with his victim, he often approaches the last 200 feet on foot because he drives he own frenzy with each footfalls, physically stalking and hunting his prey and confronting her face-to-face.

The anger retaliation killer needs a specific event with each victim as a spur to the attack even if he has set it up consciously.

Anger-Retaliation Murder Pattern

These killers don't actually see themselves as committing crimes, only administering revenge. Accordingly, they don't spend time binding and torturing the victim the way predators do who get sexually excited by the victim's pain. Instead, retaliatory killers like the power assertive approach- a quick blow to the face or to the head immediately fueled by rage, many times his emotions are running so high at the point of attack that he can't even perform sexually, making him even angrier and more violent and resulting in an incomplete sexual assault. Nevertheless, the catharsis of what the predator's really after is beating a woman who substitutes for his real focus of anger. That's what he wants and that's what he does until his anger, which has been rising steadily through the beating and homicide is abated.

After the height of the intensity of the beating or assault, the killer's anger starts to cool, In his mind he has avenged the wrongs done by the disapproving female source of the killer begins to feel relief and validation at what he's done, legitimate anger he experienced which triggered the revenge is assuaged. Thus, as an act of real and symbolic submission to his victim who has now-though dead- become his accuser, he tries to keep the victim's face away from him because he cannot look into her eyes. Therefore, when the killer has finished and this is a hallmark for him he will not leave a woman face up or with her face exposed in anyway. He will not walk with her facing him. The killer always has to roll her on her side or drop her facedown or if she's on her back, he'll cover her face with a cloth or something else so that the eyes of the victim, closed or open will not challenge him alive or dead. In the killer's mind once the anger has been satisfied he is no longer the righteous avenger and feel ashamed at what he's done to the victim. he realizes as he completes the crime and momentarily vanquishes the anger that drove him, that his dead victim still has power to inflict shame and humiliation upon him, so he must erase these feeling by obscuring the victim's face. Some killers have even placed plastic bags or pillows over the head so the victim cannot watch him walk out. In his mind, he's just overcome his shame and guilt, both of which reduce him to weakness in his own mind, right before the eyes of a still disapproving woman.

The anger-retaliation homicide is further characterized by what seems the illogic of the killer

Even though the anger-retaliation homicide is part of a sex crime signature, the killer's fury will probably have interfered with sex before death; thus, the expression of sexuality may be through postmortem intentional exploratory mutilation of the body. sometimes the dead victim is undressed and the killer takes souvenirs such as articles of clothing, hair clippings and other personalized objects that can identify with his victim in his private moments. If the killer does partake in this activity, his anger has not yet fully subsided and he is still in the process of the crime.

When all aspects of the killing are completed and the perpetrator has had his catharsis, he immediately feels a perverse sense of justification. Now he has a sense of calm. a sense of completion, a momentary sense of triumph over the disapproval he constantly feels from the real target of his range that keeps haunting him. This becomes a critical issue in how he thinks about the crime scene he is exiting, and so he doesn't clean up very well after himself, because it doesn't really cross his mind that he has to. Once he has covered the victim's face and no longer feels shame and humiliation in her eyes, his sense of wrong-doing in the killing vanishes and is replaced by the satisfaction of having avenged himself on someone who deserved it.

Suspect Profile

The retaliatory type can be under 35, but he can also be much older

The victims are either the same age or older than the perpetrator, sometimes even much older if they're substitutes for his mother. but ages vary.

The retaliatory type can be described as an explosive personality who is impulse driven, quick-tempered, and self-centered. He is not reclusive, but sometimes he may have real trouble fitting into the crowd. Generally, his social relationships are superficial and limited to drinking buddies. he is a person no one really knows because he can put up a pretty good front even if it's only for the short term. He likes sports, he has no close friends, no one in whom he confides, because his closest companion is his constant anger that defines the way he sees the world.

The retaliatory killer is almost always in conflict within himself over his relationship with women. He often feels dependent on them and aggressively resistant to them at the same time, thus setting up the internal conflict.

Often the targeted woman in a retaliatory killer's background may have been a mother, wife, supervisor, or any woman who can situationally ignore or reject the potential killer. given the full backdrop for the motivational intent of the anger-retaliatory type of killer, it is common for the targeted victims to be in the same age range or older than the murder. And also given the fact that the killer may be pathologically related to the intended target it is quite common for this type of offender to search out substitute victims to act out his sexual aggressions.

It is so rare for a signature killer to attack the real woman who is aggravating him that the assault is usually classified as a domestic crime, crime of passion or family crime. And many times it's solved within minutes after the event by the killer's on-the-spot confession. the signature killer who specifically cannot kill the target of his rage because of the power and dominance she holds over him must seek surrogate targets he has stalked or trapped or who crosses his path completely by chance but who best met the offending characteristics of the original target. By looking at the victim profile and knowing who the significant woman were in a retaliatory signature killer's background, you can sometimes figure out who the real target was.

Primary Signature Component

when you look at signature murder through the eyes of a serial sex crimes offender, you look at the single most important issue in the offender's life; control, signature killers, the largest subcategory of serial killers are driven by a basic psychological motivation that compels them to act of the same crime over and over again in such a way that their patterns become obsessive. all signature murders seeks some form of sexual gratification and their crimes are expressions of the ways they satisfy that need.

Control supplies the gratification, and events leading up to the ultimate moment of control supply the excitement of anticipation.

almost all serial sex offenders, especially signature killers need to demonstrate a degree of total control over the victim, whether she's living or dead. They have to; anger drives them to do it. he achieves his conquest by applying specific physical mechanism of control. This is usually a specific series of actions signature killers use to assume and exert control and then a set of potent ritualism that reinforce their thrill of control long after the crime has been committed>

Control-type signature killers can revisit the thrill of control simply by driving by a murder site or body dump site undetected, hearing about their crime on the evening news, or watching how the police pursue the investigation. sometimes they keep small souvenirs from the crime. It is control which creates the thrill of a sexual orgasms and not actual human contact with the victim.

Primary and Secondary Sexual mechanisms as a Function of Control

there are two basic types of sexual mechanisms which offenders use as a function of control. There are primary sexual mechanisms, a specific set of actions, behaviors, and methods used in physical and mental conscious or unconscious tension or relatease to produce an intended ejaculation and or sexual climax such as sexual intercourse or oral copulation.

In other words, whatever the killer does at a crime scene is the purpose of reaching an orgasm right then and there.

The secondary sexual mechanisms are an indirect defused and sometimes thwarted set of actions that substitute for primary sexual mechanisms. They produce aberrant delayed sexual release through physical torture, bondage, or humiliation. These are some of the major things which turn on sexually delayed gratification, and we see them at crime scenes through such evidence of binding and the display of a body in a humiliating position. Here, rather than just a means to reach an orgasm, sexual dominance is used to achieve and prolong a sense of power. The signature killer won't achieve an orgasm on or in the victim; he waits until he's in a safe place, takes his souvenirs from the victim with him and masturbates until his sexual energy is drained. His conditioned delayed response allows him control over his own orgasm as well as over the victim and allows him to sustain himself sexually for long periods of time between crimes.

Picquerism which is sexual pleasure gained by stabbing, cutting of another person. The killer with this particular form of sexual deviation uses secondary mechanisms for satiating his sexualized power need by penetrating and rendering flesh. This is the specific focus and intent of picquerism is to instrumental power and deviant sexual satisfaction by the process of penetration, be it by cutting, stabbing, sticking or biting or with sniper activity or by cutting animals and or flesh like materials. The killer finds the blood letting, odors and victims screams harmonic and simple supplementary aspect of the primary purpose.

Serial killers operate in the surroundings that they are familiar with.

The more control the killer exerts over the victim, the likelier it is that the killer?s immediate interest in a sexual adult is replaced by his anger and need for overwhelming control. He exerts so much control that he's able to enjoy his sexual release much later when he is completely private.

Psychological imprint of a sadist sex crime offenders gradually escalate their level of violence was the degree to which they became more and more sadistic toward their victims. Sadism is generally a feature of sex crimes. This is principally because sex offenders are exerting control out of anger, and that anger usually manifests itself as a form of sadism, talking pleasure from the pain and suffering of the victim. How sadistic they are depends upon how much pain and suffering, torture and terror they force their victims to endure and how much pleasure of seeing the suffering drives them to greater heights of sadism.

Sexual Sadism

Unlike any other form of sexuality or sexual crimes, including murders, the sadist's satisfaction comes from the acquisition of power over his victim along a learning curve that he extends from crime to crime. In this learning curve he actually teaches himself how to achieve greater sexual gratification from administering what Dr. Richard Walter, forensic psychologist at the Michigan state Penitentiary called the three D's of sexual sadism, dread, dependency and degradation. Each murder takes the form of a vicious psychodrama in what the killer acts out the same script over and over again. Changing the scenery, changing the actors, and the experimenting with that turns him on, satisfies him at the crime scene and then continues to satisfy him through the coming weeks or months.

First the Sadist tries to inflect a sense of dread in his victim, getting a sexual thrill from his perception of the degree of the victim's terror, next he wants his victim to be dependent upon him just as he is dependant upon the victim's reactions. The greater the perceived dependency-and we see this an element in many serial rape cases, the higher the sexual thrill. Finally, the signature killer often degrades his victim and this means breaking her will to resist is integral to his sense of derived sexual satisfaction.

To the sadist there is no thrill in murder, only in the prolonged and process driven destruction of the helpless victim. Unlike other sexual assailants and killers, the sexual sadist enjoys the luxury of the power of emasculation rather than the experience of an on-the-spot sexual climax or even the death of the victim. For the sexual sadist immediate sexual climax may not be what he's looking for because the explosion of his violence and its effect on the victim is what turns him on. The victims death is often the coincidental artifact resulting from the violence of the crime, prolonged until the killer's needs have been met.

Since the sexual sadist attempts to translate fantasy into reality. It can last even after the victim had died.

This is why the killer sometimes continues to assault the victim's corpse, the satisfaction of his needs and a feeling that he has gratified himself through triumph, not of death are the lest of success for the sexual sadist. We can often see this from the types of sexual wounds inflicted on the victim prior to death or from the secluded and secure nature of the crime scene in which the killer spend a long time with the victim without fear of discovery.

Multiple-Victim Signature Killers:

Most signature killers rarely attack two or more victims at the same time. However, in a small category all by themselves are signature killers who do derive an especially intense thrill and sense of satisfaction from exercising control over two more victims at the same time.

So paramount must be his lust for control that the obvious dangers in manipulating multiple victims at the same time are superseded by the thrill of the exercise of control and domination. Killers who engage in this sort of control ritual are few and far between. Even if a killer does get satisfaction from controlling multiple victims and cusioning one victim off the other, its almost unheard of to find one who has done it on more than one occasion.

Because the act of controlling victims in one event becomes more difficult as the number of victims increases, the serial killer must plan for the incapation of two people rather than one.

The Retaliation To Excitation Continuum

While the core components such as necrophilia, torture, humiliation, bondage or over kill remained present among crimes, certain components seem to jump out at you when you look at the crime scene. One focuses on bondage while another killer gets turned on by torture or humiliation. Different killers emphasize different aspects of sadism.

Because the killer was truly a sex offender, he was committing crimes to get his rocks off, arouse him and satisfy him sexually even if the satisfaction was so bizarre as to be ghoulish. Signature killers weren't just playing games with the place, they were playing games with themselves still experimenting sexually to see what types of violence and what kinds of victim reaction would turn them on. This is what made their signature dynamic instead of static.

In each successive crime, the killer still incorporates aspects of the signature from the first case, but his method is gradually evolving to encompass new things he wants to do. By looking at a crime scene carefully enough, you can actually track the entire history of the killer from crime one to the present. you can see what once turned him on, what he's abandoned, and what still turns him on. But worse, you can also predict where a killer will go along psychopathological continuum. If he seems to be expending himself on overkill or if he is a necrophile, the chances are that he will be heading toward cannibalism because he's seeking greater satisfaction from the annihilation of his victim.

One specific direction signature killers takes is they mature, becomes successful at eluding police and abduction victims, and grow more careful in ogrnaizining each of their crimes scenes is that they seem to abandon evidence of retaliation upon their victims in factor of sexual exiitaion. The difference between retaliation and exication is in the way the killer converts his homicidal anger.

The retaliatory killer converts his anger to retaliation upon symbolic victim who represents the ultimate target. The excitation converts his anger into sexual excitation and kills for the sexual thrill, not merely to execute revenge on the victim. Both types of crimes are anger driven and control governed, but it's the distinction of the anger that helps define the killer's signature.

If the killer turned the front of the body toward a wall so as to look away from him as he left the crime scene, then the killer was probably retaliatory. If the crime scene looks as though the killer spent time sexually manipulating the victim after death, then he was probably an excitation killer.

The Anger-Excitation Reaction

In an agner-exciation rape/homicide the signature calling card is usually sadism, and the sexual assault, either by itself or leading to homicide, is completely preplanned. The rape is designed to inflict pain and terror on the victim, and during the commission of the crime, the predator's prolonged torture of the victim gratifies his lust for control, domination and mastery.

The killer's fantasy system is highly specialized we can see this from the victim profile.

The Anger-Excitation Homicidal Pattern:

The anger-excitation killer's homicidal pattern is characterized by a prolonged bizarre, ritualistic assault on the victim. The killer has rehearsed the plan of action over and over again and often implements it with a well equipped traveling murder kit or with tools gathers at the pre-selected murder scene. The thoughtful preplanning is also the mark of the organized murder. The killer chooses a stranger who fits his needs in a sexually symbolic category.

The killer may be also attracted to victims who satisfy such fetishes as long hair etc.

In his approach to his prey. This type of organized killer often displays a disarmingly charming manner that dispels the most immediate fears the victim would have facing a total stranger.

Once he's isolated the victim, the killer will begin to display vacillating mood shifts which confuse the victims who will eventually become terrorized, activating the predator's fantasy system to it's next phase.

Now the killer implements his bondage/domination scenario gradually building up it's intensity and adding to it his various ritualistic components including bondage devices and weapons, clothing or decoration, and specific scenarios including dialogue, submission of the victim and expressions oft error and fear. The killer is always methodical even though specific acts of escalating violence.

Each category of violence has a special sexual significance for the killer and either turns him on or prompts a reaction in the victim that will turn him on.

For the killer, the issue is always sex and sexual control as an expression of anger. The most complete control available to the serial killer is over a dead victim. The various stages of violence leading to the victim's death excite the killer but are only the means to an end rather than the end themselves. Therefore, although the killer may attempt sex with his victim just prior to the point of death or on the verge of unconsciousness a signature which may indicate the vestiges of a rapist turned killer. the evidence of ejaculate in the body is not likely. However, after the victim has been bludgeoned and manually strangled. The likelihood of the killer's post mortem experimental sexual activity will increase.

In most cases, the signature murder will sexually explore the victim's body after death.

In addition a signature killer may leave his victims body in a bizarre state of undress and in a posed position after possibly cutting off clothing parts. In some cases, the clothing could be a fetish item taken as a souvenir or ritualized totem to reinvigorate the killer between his crimes. Just as likely, in some cases histories the killers will leave the clothing neatly folded alongside the body as if to demonstrate not only their control over the helpless victim but a reverence for the act of undressing the victim carefully. In these cases, it is as if the killer has imparted some ritualistic significance to the garments that covered the victim's body.

The amount and level of sexual activity the killer has with his dead victim are very specific indicators of his signature. Depending upon the nature of the killer, his experimentation in one crime may lay the ground work for possible style modification in the next crime. Within limits these violent people can be creative. And their creativity can sometimes throw police completely off track.

The more sophisticated the sadist becomes, the less likely you're going to find ejaculate or any overt sexual activity on the victim or at the crime scene. In an agner-extication reaction generated signature murder, the killer's supreme satisfaction is achieved not at the moment when the victim lies helpless under his control-as in many rape scenarios-but long after when the killer has disposed of the body and goes home alone with his thoughts and trophies. he enjoys what he's doing, and takes such items as clothing or body parts so that he can masturbate later and satisfy himself sexually as an experience separate from the homicide.

The killer's sexual climax most be completely under his control and for that to happen, the victim must be physically inter until the killer is the only one who exists in his universe. the killer needs only the thrill of the victim of the event or the physical items be has taken to stimulate his climax. It is exactly as if the signature killer is feeding emotionally and visually from the experience of exerting control and domination over a victim. The energy derived from the murder itself is only a means to his end- is reinvigorated by the trophies the killer has taken from his helpless victims. Because these items now have a special significance by virtue of their ability to stimulate sexual arousal, they become part of the killer's ritual like primitive totems and literally sustain him from kill to kill.

The predators primal anger energized by his deduced social inhibitions and his proximity to and involvement with a constant victim pool- is expressed as an assertion of the ante-and post mortem control over his victims. Either lower social inhibitions and or a proximity to or involvement with a victim pool increased exponentially by decreased inhibitions or greater proximity to a pool of victims, is converted into an ongoing series of sexual orgasm achieved as a result of that control and sustained from kill to kill by the items taken from his victims and coveted sexually in the privacy of the killers home.

In the killer's vision, the innocence of life in his victims in combination with his anger is transformed into pure sexual energy. This energy is the killer's life force which he lives to sustain.

His motivation for further domination and exploration for new victims may wax and wane depending upon the satisfaction he's able to sustain by reliving his most recent crime, but his drive is always persistent, the predator has linked his satisfaction from the crimes directly to his ego and measures himself by the amount of gratification he receives, the lengths he has gone to and the arc of each crime to achieve that gratification and his ability to sustain it. This is why it is unsurprising that signature criminals are usually loners with only a thin mask of sociability that enables them to play act at life at their very core, these people shun living human contact except for ties when they are stalking and killing their prey.

Signature killers also reinvigorate themselves by returning to the site of their dumping grounds and spending time with their victims bodies. These corpses have become totems-objects invested with a ritualistic magical pull on the killer because they carry the power to re-stimulate the predator. Depending on how organized he is, the killer can move the body 1, 2 or 3 times after the initial kill. Although the body can be buried in a shallow grave, it could also be dumped in a location considered neutral for the perpetrator, especially if the site is so secluded the killer believes it will never be discovered. In other instances he may slaughter the body, butchering it like a meat cutter and keeping the peaces as a souvenir.

The crime scene is of vital importance to the anger-excitation signature killer because it's the place where he can least afford to be careless.

The crime scene is usually very separate and distant from the killer's everyday activities. It is also far away from where he will eventually dump the bodies.

Serial killers troll;, they?re always in motion, because that's how they come upon murder sties, victim pools and body dump sites. Even those who operate in circumscribed areas such as neighborhoods.

The thing to remember about bondage is that it's also a from of control when it's an actual primary part of the crime, and not just a means to restrain victims from escaping or turning on their attackers. Bondage killers also play out the tension of keeping the victims alive and restrained.

The typical signature killer's blows serve only to make him angrier until he works through his arc of fury the suffering of the victim intensifies that experience and thus serves to drive the fury even further, until the anger crashes like a wave and abates.

The general themes driving the killer are anger and power, not the craving for on-the-spot sexual satisfaction.

The Pathological Approach to the Killer's MO and Signature

While preparing their murder kits for organized excursions into their fantasy life and murderous episodes of reality which they consider fun. Most serial offenders keep their goods in mind and sort out what worked in the past and look for methods of improvement for the future. That is, after progressing thorough earlier phases of learning and discarding obsolete MO elements, the killer selects what is and is not critical to him and the crime scene.

For the anger-driven predator seeking retaliation on a surrogate victim, hat the feed back represents was a central core of the killer's pathological satisfaction.

Some serial killers choose to strike a very short time after one murder because they are not satisfied from the last kill.

Picquerism is actually an advanced state of signature, because it requires that killers spend more time with their victims experiment visually with pattern or actually cover a body part with wounds, determine where on the victim's body they're most likely to find satisfaction through inflicting would and penetrate the victim just enough to cause the wound and provide satisfactory sexual feed back without actually hacking up the victim in an over kill signature.

Sexual domination was the overriding reason for all their crimes. This is what signature killers are all about, whether they commit only one homicide or an extended series. They exist in a world of anger-driven sexual fantasy and emerge periodically into real life to thrive upon domination by controlling their victims through sexual degradation and mental humiliation. They may choose to become serial rapists and control their pray by drugging them and creating a living doll or zombie who is totally subservient to their wishes or as fully-fledged serial killers they break and enter, burglarize and bludgeon their sleeping victims, and they fulfill their acts of fantasy with a helpless corpse. Whatever the case the intended result is still the same: domination and control. The sadists goal is to take away the victims mind and then her life. The victim who has been rendered powerless and almost motionless doesn't have the energy or mental clarity to debate or resist. All their mental power is transferred to the killer.

In the killers fantasy, the victim has no identity she is a possession.

Fantasy Appetites

Serial killers will constantly experiment with what works and what doesn't to arouse them sexually and provide them with the greatest thrill and gratification.

They will learn from crime to crime what works best for them to achieve the highest level of satisfaction to achieve gratification, they're pre-scripted their activities from the abduction or break in right through all the stages of terror and mutilation of their victims. They've rehearsed for this. A prolonged torture mutilation of any victim energizes the fantasy system of each killer and temporarily satisfies their lust for domination and mastery.

The one common strand through all the crimes, however, which serves as the basis for the signature is that the killer approaches each victim, exploiting her naivety through torture and mutilation whichever to appease an insatiable fantasy appetite.

In the killer's execution of his crimes, his excitement is at first stimulated and then heightened by his acting out in real time his pre-planned, rehearsed, and even researched scenario of his eroticized anger and power. he carries his anger and the erotic fantasies it drives around with him every minute of the day and in the darkness of each arc may be the memory of a victim which stimulates him or more likely his discovery of a new potential victim.

The implements that killer use themselves have ritualistic significance because they serve to excite the killer sexually driving his anticipation of the stalking and attack about to come or reinvigorating him to a sexual climax in a private orgy after his kill

The MO of a signature killer changes as he becomes more and more proficient at approaching his prey. The killer will employ tactics that are comfortable for him. When preparing to encounter the victim, the killer can evoke a disarmingly charming manner and dispel most fear of immediate contact with a stranger.


Necrophilia is one of the aspects of total control and has three major divisions.

First the corpse's state of decay and odor becomes an acquired fetish for the killer whose need to consummate an imposed relationship with a fantasized memory of the victim capitalized upon the sings and symbols of real death. An extreme form is the cannibalistic act of consuming part of the corpse to get into harmony and or become one with the love object. In another form of cannibalism, the killer who eviscerates the body, climbs inside and wears the carcass. Here the gruesome scene depicts the killer's attempts to fantasies his unity with his victim in another way. Dahmer engaged in all of these practices inside the tomb that he fashioned out of his apartment.

Second is the Jackal who preys upon the dead for forbidden pleasures. Here while struggling with the morality of adultery, incest, pedophilia and homosexuality among other practices, with the living, the death of the victim releases all inhibitions against such acts. The killer can do what he will because the victim will never awaken to see him at his most vulnerable. Now death has transcended the moral plane can allows the killer's unfettered fantasies to become realized with impunity. this process is extremely addictive and seductive to the necrophile who because he is in complete control craves for an increasingly intense gratification from each encounter hence, the increasingly level of violence that becomes evident in the signature from crime to crime.

Finally, the last category is the series of sexual acts with the dead to bolster or feed the killer's need for unconditional and unresponsive acceptance. here, the killer provides a prepared script out of self-validation without the risk of rejection from a live person. In essence it is the coward's insurance against power emasculation importance and the realization of internal weakness.

In targeting the corpses of the dead, this type of choreographs his ultimate power trip, a drama in five or six acts.

In this most extreme form of control the murder itself is an obligatory process to the real satisfaction the signature killer exercises over the completely submissive body of his victim. It is the victim the necrophile killer fears or his inferiority to his victim, there fore he can satisfy his sexual need only w ith an acquiescent victim who will not rejects him or make him feel less than human. the necrophile must own his victim most never feel as if he can be rejected and must be able to summon up his victim whenever he wishes.

Because extreme long-term successful signature killers consistently evolve toward those behaviors which provide them greater and greater control while as the same time replacing the reality of their lives with fantasy, they seem to live only to reinforce the fantasy as a part of their sexual gratification.

When signature killers are so successful they find themselves at the end of their continuum, they have lapsed into almost completely into fantasy. a part of them remains in the real world only to navigate through the necessities of living, but whatever heart and soul a signature killer may have is committed to the enhancement of his fantasy environment.

Because whatever the basis in early childhood, the lives of signature killers represents a total series of decisions directed exclusively to ward self-indulgence. The murders themselves are acts representing the absolute of selfishness in its purest more refined form.

We know that it all beings with the seed of anger, a kind of algorithm that drives them from the first ideations of fantasy- violence to the full-fledged commission of felonies and ultimately to the complete set of ritualized signature murders.

Prototypical events are the ones that light a fuse of anger that keeps on burning and reveals itself in the how and why a homicide is committed, as well as in the signature the offender leaves at the crime scene. These are crimes that derive from a series of vilitional acts, not the end results of a rage-driven passion that obliterates choice.

Dhamer and Bundy have strong general similarities. In each case, the families may have seemed privileged and strong from the outside but from the inside from the perception of the child growing up in the family, there was an internal weakness. In each case, the child who ultimately became the killer dropped out of that family's structure at such a critical time in his grouping up that for the rest of his life, whatever family was supposed to have provided it didn?t. the way the child ultimately compensated for that deficiency was to become criminally deviant.

The keystone for our model of a criminally deviant cum homicidal personality development is the growth of what we call clinical anger. It's an anger that:

1)Is totally abnormal
2) is constant rather than transient or situational.
3) The child ultimately the adult perceives as beyond his control or bigger than him as in Bundy's entity.
4) The child or adult never really understands.
5) Increases progressively and exponentially as the child matures through adolescence and into adulthood.
6) Cannot be compensated for except by the performance of the defiant or violent acts which provide only a temporary release.
7) Initially becomes the driver for deviant behavior and ultimately violent sexual behavior.
8) Keeps getting worse until an equilibrium is reached one that may include the performance of violent acts, sexual crimes and murder.
9) Incites the predator into violent retaliatory behavior on surrogate representatives of the source of that anger or excites the predator into committing violent and criminal sexual acts even murder.
10) Even at low ebb requires medication by alcohol, drugs and other chemical or physical abuses or deviant sexual outlets such as pornographic fantasy or violent sex with prostitutes.
11) Becomes imprinted psychologically in such a way that the child or adult develops a pattern or s signature behavior throughout the rest of his life through the performance of his crimes.

In it's earliest stages of development the kind of anger we're talking about is probably the natural result of frustration.

When you examine the lives of signature killers you find that there are certain basic similarities in their histories and behavior.

Although their specific signatures may differ, it seems as if many start from the same premises concerning self-worth, relationships with parents, relationships with childhood or school age peers and expectations regarding the outside world attitudes toward authority and adviously attitudes regarding sex and sexual partners.

Diphasic Personality Formation

A dipahsic personality is one in which there is a split development into two [halves. One phase consists of a construction and retreat into a fantasy world where it's safe and the child is in complete control. He can crawl into that world in his mind whenever he wants and never have to confront the trails that are out there in the real world. The other phase of the child's personality development takes place in the real world. He may not commit very much of himself to this personality, because it's only other there as a placeholder. Because there's little or no commitment it's as if the child's not really there at all.

Because the dipahsic personality type has a fundamental inability to admit vulnerability and allow trust, he in fact remains in a form of psychological isolation where the only feedback he receives is the energy from a fantasy system that from adolescences has an anger-drives sexual component that perpetrates his consciousness.

Signature killers don't just stop at one crime and being another. As they evolve along the arc of violence. they experiment with new ways of satisfying themselves to achieve sexual gratification. The general tendency among signature criminals is to evolve because it's through the evolution of sexual experimentation that signature criminals believe that will find their gratification

Sexual Homicide

Sexual homicide involves a sexual element (activity) as the basis for the sequence of acts leading to death.

Performance and meaning of this sexual element vary with the offender. The act may range from actual rape involving penetration (either before or after death) to a symbolic sexual assault, such as insertion of a foreign object into a victim's body orifices.


The victim of a sexual homicide perpetrated by an organized offender is often female. Adolescent males also are targeted, as demonstrated in the case of John Wayne Gacy. A single employed person, living along, is common to this Victimology.

The concept of victim risk is important factor in assessing the Victimology. Risk is a two fold factor. Victim risk is determined by age, life style, occupation and physical stature. Low-risk types include those whose daily life styles and occupations do not enhance their chances of being targeted victims.

High risk victims are ones who are targeted by a killer who knows where to find them. Low resistance capabilities, as found in the elderly or the young elevate the level of victim risk. Risk also can be elevated by locations where the victim becomes more vulnerable, such as isolated areas. A victim's attitude toward safety is also a factor that can raise or lower the risk factor.

A naive overly trusting or careless stance concerning personal safety can further one's chance of being victimized.

The second facet of victim risk is in the level of gamble the offender takes to commit the crime. Generally, the victim is at a lower risk level if the crime scene is indoors and at a higher risk level if it is outdoors. The time of day that the crime occurs also contributes to the amount of risk the offender takes: An abduction at noon would pose more hazard to the offender than one at midnight.

The victim typically is not known to the offender but is often chosen because he or she meets certain criteria. These criteria are seen especially if multiple victims are involved. The victim is targeted at the location where the killer is staked out, therefore, he or she becomes a victim of opportunity.

Crime Scene Indicators:

There are very often multiple crime scenes involved with the organized killing:
The local of contact/assault, the scene of death and the body disposal site. Weapons generally are brought to the crime scene but are removed by the offender after the completion of the crime.

The use of restraints is reflected by the overall controlled, planned appearance of the crime scene. It reflects a methodical approach with a semblance of order existing prior to during and after the offense. If the offender has time evidence such as finger and foot prints will be removed.

Also missing from the crime scene may be so called trophies or souvenirs which include pictures, jewelry, clothing or a drivers license.

If the offender has enough time, the victim's corpse will be concealed. The location for disposal is generally an area familiar to the offender.

Staging may be present at the crime scene's. The subject may state the crime to appear careless and disorganized to distract or mislead police. He may stage secondary criminal activity to cloud the basis for the primary motive of sexual murder.

Forensic Findings

Forensic Findings may include bite marks and saliva recovery on the body, semen in the body orifices or on the body, pubic hair and brusing or cutting of the sex organs.

Aggressive acts as well as sexual acts will usually have occurred prior to death. Evidence of restraint devices may also be present.

The act of killing may be erotictised meaning death comes in a slow deliberate manner. An asphyxia modality is often noted.

Disorganized Sexual Homicide

The term disorganize when used in reference to a sexual homicide is based on the same factors that define organized sexual homicide: Victim and crime scene analysis, forensic evaluation, and assessment of the act itself. The unplanned, spontaneous nature of the disorganized perpetrator's crime is reflected in each of these factors. This disorganization may be the result of youthfulness of the offender, lack of criminal sophistication, use of drugs and alcohol and/or mental defiecney.

The victim of a disorganized offender may be known to the offender because he often selects a v ictim of opportunity near his residence or employment. The victim is often from his own geographic area because the offender acts impulsively under stress and also because he derives confidence from familiar surroundings.

Crime Scene Indicators:

Depersonalization may be present as evidenced by the victim's face being cove covered by a pillow or towels or by the body being found rolled on the stomach.

There is no set plan of action by the offender for deterring detection. The weapon is one of opportunity, obtained at the scene and left there. There is little or no effort to remove evidence such as fingerprints from the scene. The body is left at the death scene, often in the position in which the victim was killed. There is no attempt or only minimal attempt to conceal the body.

The body may be positioned or deposited in a way that has special significance for the offender, based on his sexually violent fantasies. Body position may be intended to make a statement or to obscure certain facts about the crime.

In such positioning, the offender is generating personal expression (personation) rather than deliberately trying to confuse police.

Another example of the disorganized offender's personation of his ritualized sexual fantasies is excessive mutilation of the breasts, genitals or other areas of sexual association.

This overkill is the enactment of his fantasy.

Forensic Findings
There may be depersonalization that entails mutilation to the face and overkill to specific body parts. The face, genitals and breasts are most often targeted for overkill. Body parts may be missing from the scene.

The blitz style attack is common to his homicide is often manifested by focused blunt trauma to the head and face by the lack of defensive wound there is a prevalence of attacks from behind. Because death is immediate in order for the offender to establish control over the victim there is minimal use of restraints.

Sexual acts occur after the victim's death and often include the incretion of foreign objects into body orifices. This is often combined with acts of mutilation.

Because these acts often do not co-inside with completed acts of sexual penetration, evidence of semen may be found on the victim's clothing and in the victim's wounds.

Most often death results from asphyxia, strangulation, blunt force or the use of a pointed sharp instrument.

Mixed Sexual Homicide

It is important to note that a crime scene may reflect aspects of both organized and disorganized characteristics for the following reasons:

1) More than one offender may be involved therefore differing behavioral patterns will be manifested.
2) The attack may being as a well-ordered planned assault but may deteriorate as unanticipated events occur.
3)The primary motive for the attack may be solely rape but victim resistance of the offender's emotional state may lead to an escalation. This is especially seen with the hostile/retaliatory type of rapist. The victim selection may reflect an organized offender but the body is not concealed or is poorly concealed. The weapon is one of opportunity that is left at the scene, and the crime scene shows great disarray. Forensic findings show a blitz style attack, overkill blunt force trauma and often personal weapon use.
4) Inconsistencies in offender behavior manifested ruing the offense may exhibit varying degrees of organized/disorganized behavior. the youthfulness of the offender and alcohol or drug involvement also contribute to a mixed crime scene.
5)External stressors also may alter behavior of an offender. Precipitating factors that cause a build up of tension may lead to an explosive assault by a person would would normally approach the crime with planning and control.

Source Information--Signature Killers by Robert D. Keppel Ph.D with William J Birnes. 1997 Simon and Schuster Inc

Crime Classification Manual By John E Douglas, Ann W. Burgess, Allen G. Burgess and Robert K Ressler Lexington Books 1992